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Category: Musings

14 reasons to love the dark

14 reasons to love the dark

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light

—Lord Byron


When the dark time comes, when it swallows us whole, what do we do? Do we revel in it? Or do we cower in terror?

Darkness evokes a primal fear that even the most rational adults can’t completely banish. Whether it’s the outer darkness that shrouds the world at night or the inner darkness that clouds our spirit, we’re always fighting to keep the dark at bay. With artificial lights. With bottles and pills. With platitudes and prayers. Resistance to darkness seems to stem from some potent ancestral memory encoded in our DNA.

But darkness can’t be held down for long. It presses in on us, gathering its shadows at the edges of our lamplight. It waits for its chance, for the lights to flicker, to swell up and reclaim its territory. The more we hide from darkness, the more powerful its hold on us.

Our terror of darkness runs so deep, the gods sometimes use it to threaten and punish the world. Darkness was one of the ten biblical plagues Yahweh inflicted on Egypt in attempt to free the Israelites from slavery.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days.

—Exodus 10:21–23

We’ve entered the dark time of the year—and a dark time for humanity. All the darkness we’ve denied within ourselves is rising up and staking its claim, and there’s no telling what ghouls may manifest within it. Renewed persecution, maybe. Nuclear war, maybe.

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Dear Fall: You give me goosebumps

Dear Fall: You give me goosebumps

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”
And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.
We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.
And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling.

—Rainer Maria Rilke, “Autumn”


Dear Fall,

You linger on my tongue like the tang of apples, cool and wet and utterly alive. Your colors are dazzling, but that’s not why I love you.

I love the way you rejoice in the coming death.

You drop your leaves as though they were nothing, to remind us there is joy in letting go. You expose yourself, naked to the coming destruction, and face it with anticipation rather than fear. Death is only cruel because you make it so, you whisper with the wisdom of the Crone.

Mist drapes you like sheets over unused furniture. Are you preparing for winter abandonment, or do you represent the yet-unexplored rooms of our souls into which we stumble when the veil is thin? You veil our eyes to unveil our hearts, so we may hear the questions to our answers. You remind us of the places between, where Spirit dwells. You restore our sense of mystery, keeping your secrets locked tight.

You are the moment between waking and sleeping, the last gasp before winter entombment. You draw out the energy that weaves all things together. Your scythe makes the world hum with life.

Never change, Fall, and always keep changing.


Featured image by Brandon Godfrey—Ross Bay Cemetery: Fall colors, CC BY 2.0

Stones cast long shadows

Stones cast long shadows

They paced the distance, built an earthen ring,
Split hard rock, pushed up each crushing stone,
And built a doorway for the rising sun
To enter when the Earth turned back to spring.

—Emily Burns


I’m standing on a bluff getting pummeled by wind. The westward sun throws a spectacular gleam on the river below, a shiny ribbon threading through the gorge. Here on the precipice of the light half of the year, there’s a radiance to the waning daylight, as if the veil of winter has finally lifted.

Behind me, to the east, the standing stones stretch their shadows.

I follow the last streaming rays of daylight through a doorway, and I’m inside the stones. Stepping into their midst is like entering the embrace of a mountain. They encircle me like concentric rings of dancers waiting for the first note to strike. I feel as though I’m standing in the center of a neolithic clock whose cogs might start turning at any moment, each ticking in a different direction.

By Justin Hamel, via Wikimedia Commons

But these stones weren’t erected by prehistoric hands. They weren’t dragged from a quarry miles away in a mysterious feat of human ingenuity. They haven’t absorbed thousands of years’ worth of prayers, tears, awe, reverence and magic.

They were molded from concrete less than a hundred years ago. They were poured and cured and rebarred. And they are massive.

Built to scale, they throw a crisscross of shadows toward the central altar. This is what Stonehenge must have looked like when it was new. Before the crumbling set in. Before the stone ranks began to fall.

This sacred ground has a different flavor though. Planted 800 feet above the Columbia River, the stones seem less rooted here. Winds constantly gust through their gaps, stirring up perpetual motion as earth and air fight each other for dominance. Stillness is rare, here among the stones.

There are three of us. We weave between them like cats, exploring, absorbing, chasing our shadows. We bring offerings of wine and bread. We bring candles and incense and water scooped from a nearby lake, whose surface hides the underwater remains of a 3,500-year-old native village.

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As above, so below

As above, so below

Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.

—Marcus Aurelius


Back when the ancient race of giants towered over Britain, a giant named Idris was said to read the future in the stars, all the way to doomsday. From his throne on the peak of a mountain, he mapped the dance of constellations across the night sky.

Some scholars believe the great poet Taliesin may have surveyed the stars from the same mountaintop chair. In Hanes Taliesin he says, “I know the names of the stars from north to south.

Throughout history, shamans, magicians, druids and poets have all understood the wisdom of studying the stars. They memorized the wheeling of the zodiac. They recorded the constellations in myth and sought their myths in the constellations. They found similarities between the patterns of the sky and the patterns of the Earth.

Some believed the celestial alignment at the moment of birth revealed a blueprint of the person’s life—the seed that would unfold into their future.

Encoded within this belief is the Hermetic Principle of Correspondence, one of the seven esoteric principles that form the underpinnings of much of Western mysticism. They’re gleaned from writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, who claimed to know the three parts of the wisdom of the whole universe. These, he said, were alchemy, the art of transmutation; theurgy, the art of invoking deity; and astrology, the art of divining by the stars.

The Principle of Correspondence states:

That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.

What does it mean? It means the movement of the stars mirrors what’s happening on Earth. It means the outer world reflects our own inner world. It means the same laws that govern dense matter also apply to subtle matter. It means whatever happens on any plane of existence—physical, mental and spiritual—happens on all the others.

It means that, if Hermes is to be believed, we can understand the universe through its patterns.

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Piercing the veil

Piercing the veil

To find ‘the place where the sky and the earth touch,’ and open the mysterious gateway which separates this world from the other.

—Camille Flammarion


What is reality?

Science has proven the manifest world to be as illusory as ancient spiritual wisdom proclaimed it. What we perceive as solid matter is really vibrating energy. The act of observing something physically alters it on a subatomic level. Our bodies emit signals that escape our notice yet have a discernible effect on the world around us.

Primitive ways of understanding the world, dismissed since the Enlightenment, are now being rediscovered by science.

Magicians, alchemists, scientists and poets alike all seek to penetrate the mysteries that dance just beyond our field of vision. We yearn to draw back the curtain of illusion and glimpse the inner workings of the universe. The paths we walk, the methods we employ, and the worldviews we hold may drastically differ, but our aims stem from the same innate drive to explore and discover. Some of us direct our attention outward, dissecting the mechanical workings of the world. Some are drawn inward to explore the hidden mysteries within.

He would live on those exalted heights, where the seer now dwells. He longs to be above the plane of sorrow and trial and human misery.

—Louis Plante

I believe all paths lead to the same place, eventually.

The Ancient Egyptian mysteries tell us that “no mortal shall pierce the Veil of Isis.” Her mysteries lie far beyond our puny ability to comprehend. Yet we all have the seed of desire within us to try—a spark drawn like a moth back to the flame of its source. So we seek.

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A box full of darkness

A box full of darkness

Someone I loved
once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years
to understand
that this, too,
was a gift.

—Mary Oliver


Darkness has finally fallen.

I seek refuge in a cigarette in the cool quiet of night. Tendrils of smoke circle my head. Sorrow crusts my lashes. The lulling cricket song can’t calm my churning thoughts.

Me leaving him. Him leaving me. My heart is shattered.

I look to the Star Goddess for comfort, but a veil of wildfire smoke hides her domain, shrouding the sky in an impassive curtain of lavender-gray. Against this backdrop a full moon hangs, bright orange and swollen—a reminder of the coming harvest, and how far away I’ll be by then.

Her face grins down at me like a jack-o-lantern, like I’m the butt of some cosmic joke. Her edge is sharp tonight; I’m still bleeding. Can it cut these thick soul-ties for good? They keep growing back when I’m not looking. I need help letting go.

Astrologers tell me this Pisces moon invites me to dream and heal. They say post-ecliptic changes are brewing. They say the messenger will bring new understanding to the swirl of confusion that has been my life these past weeks. They say I’m not the same anymore, and I hope it’s true. Because I’ve been insane for months, doing the same thing over and over hoping for different results. I don’t want to be insane anymore.

I never understood how two people could love each other this much and not make it work. I guess that’s a lesson I needed to learn. Just because someone loves you doesn’t mean they’re willing to do the work. Sometimes the best you can hope for is someone who knows your song. The song that reminds you who you are instead of bulldozing your truth. The song that lulls your demons to sleep instead of whipping them into a frenzy.

He doesn’t know my song. He doesn’t want to learn.

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