The Darkness by Annelinde Metzner

Collage by Deb Pollard

As a composer and poet, I’m interested in cultural perceptions and assumptions that influence beliefs.  In monotheistic religions as well in some types of more recent spiritual thought, the assumption has been to equate Darkness with evil and Light with good. “Love and light!” we hear often, or maybe “I’m surrounding you in light.”  But this assumption feeds a form of prejudice that infuses all of society. The mind hears “darkness” and associates it negatively with Earth, female, skin color, dirt.

Continue reading “The Darkness by Annelinde Metzner”

Nettie’s Lament by Christine Irving

Reading Elizabeth Ann Bartlett’s beautiful post inspired me to share the following poem. I wrote it many years ago for my friend Lynette Eldridge to honor her love of the darker shorter days of winter.

As a devotee of the Divine Feminine, I have received many gifts that have enhanced and enriched heart, mind and soul. The greatest of these is the friendship of women. I became friends with Nettie during the hours-long drives we made together once a month for nine months from Nevada City, CA to Santa Cruz, CA to prepare for a Vision Quest in the Mojave Desert. Our journeys began in January, in the early morning dark of the short days following winter solstice.

Continue reading “Nettie’s Lament by Christine Irving”

Longing for Darkness by Elizabeth Ann Bartlett

When I moved to Minnesota, everyone back home voiced concern about how cold the winters would be.  Nobody warned me about how dark they would be, nor how long the dark would last.  For years, I complained, but gradually I have come to embrace the dark.  The dark invites us to slow down, to rest, to sleep, to dream.  It is a time to open to our depths, and to others. There is a kind of magic in the dark. Without the harsh light of judgment, in the dark we are more likely to share our secrets and stories, our wounds and our wonderings, our hearts and hopes with each other. As the deciduous trees lose their leaves, the sky opens as well, giving birth to the night sky.  The winter dark gives us the gift of stars, giving me a sense of my place in the universe. They arrive like old friends. The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades appear in the evening, and Orion greets me every morning. When Hale-Bopp was visible from earth, I looked for her on my late-night drives home, and there she would be, my constant companion on those cold winter nights.  The stars remind us that we are not alone, that we are all related, for we are all made of the stuff of stars.

Continue reading “Longing for Darkness by Elizabeth Ann Bartlett”

The Door by Sara Wright

Chaco Canyon


are thresholds that

if opened, become

 Gates to the Unknown.

If invited in

for further instruction.

by kindly Spirits

we tread lightly,

always listening

Symbols and signs

Continue reading “The Door by Sara Wright”

Sweet Dark Mystery of Winter by Mary Sharratt

For many years, I suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder. As soon as the clocks went back in autumn and the nights grew dark, I’d fall into a contracted space. The days seemed too impossibly short to get things done. Even though I still had the same 24 hours as I had in summer, the encroaching darkness seemed to make everything shrink and dwindle into a tiny dark point.

In autumn and winter, my energy levels are lower. I seem to need more sleep and I can’t pack as many things into a day as I can in summer. I came to dread winter as some kind of energy-sucking blackhole I fell into every year.

Katherine May’s luminous memoir Wintering addresses this whole conundrum with deep wisdom. She points out that the fallow seasons of winter and autumn are when nature rests and repairs itself. If we force ourselves to go against nature, we cause endless suffering to ourselves and others. So when the nights darken early, why not just go with the seasonal flow and accept the divine invitation to rest, reflect, and slow down?

In a similar vein, Christine Valters Painter’s book, Sacred Time: Embracing an Intentional Way of Life describes how we can live richer and more spiritually connected lives by living in harmony with the seasons of the year, the cycles of the moon, and the seasons of our lives.

Humans, like other living beings, evolved as cyclical creatures. The monthly cycles of menstruation synch female bodies with the cycles of the moon and the tides. Similarly, the arc of a woman’s life from menarche to possible pregnancy and birth-giving to menopause and the post menopausal years contains its own seasons of growth, ripening, and resting in our hard-won wisdom. Deep in our psyches, we long to surrender to the ancient rhythms of planting, growth, ripening, and lying fallow.

But our dominant culture teaches us to suppress our cyclical rhythms. We’re programmed to live our lives as though it were spring and summer all the time. We are expected to always be in the productive mode of being, bringing forth the blossoms and the fruit. Always doing and accomplishing. But being in summer mode all the time is exhausting. To be healthy and functioning, we need the energies of autumn and winter. The energies of releasing, quieting, and letting go.

As well as the outer seasons, we have inner seasons that play out in our psyches, regardless of what stage of life we’re in. For example, after the death of a loved one, you might be experiencing an inner winter. This long pandemic has plunged us into a deep collective winter.

When we go through an inner autumn or winter, sometimes we feel that there’s something wrong with us. Why can’t we just snap out of it, get over it, and move on? We might feel mired in grief or simply “stuck” and burdened with the sense that nothing is happening. Our culture trains us to believe that something should be happening all the time.

But our times of descent and inner darkness are filled with profound potential. They take us into the fertile darkness of replenishment and restoration. If we surrender to the velvet darkness, it heals us inside out. What if we allowed ourselves to just rest in the sweet dark mystery?

Western culture views time as a very linear construct, but the seasons are cyclical. We might think that the season we’re in is going to last forever. But the wheel keeps turning, no matter what. We can learn to trust that everything comes full circle in the fullness of time.

What happens if we learn to pay reverent attention to the rhythms of our day, our week, and the moon and sun cycles? Trusting the great cycles of the seasons opens us to recognize every moment as a divine invitation, a doorway into the timeless and eternal.

Mary Sharratt is on a mission to write women back into history. Her acclaimed novel Illuminations, drawn from the dramatic life of Hildegard von Bingen, is published by Mariner. Her new novel Revelationsabout the mystical pilgrim Margery Kempe and her friendship with Julian of Norwich, is now available wherever books and ebooks are sold. Visit her website.

Winter Solstice: Can We Celebrate the Restful, Welcoming Darkness?

The days are slowly winding down toward Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere, the longest night of the year. Today the sun rose at 7:20 and will set at 5:08 in Crete. In Sweden, the sun will rise at 9:25 and set at 2:12. Though I light candles in the darkness of morning and have lights on my tree, I am not celebrating the “return of the light,” but rather welcoming the restful dark.

In The Spiral Dance, Starhawk writes that Winter Solstice is about the rebirth of the sun. This interpretation has taken hold. For most pagans, Summer Solstice also is a celebration of the sun on the longest day. Few are those mark it as the time of the dying of the sun or the rebirth of night.

In our culture we have learned to celebrate the light and to avoid and disparage the darkness. We have inherited this habit of mind from the Indo-Europeans who, as Marija Gimbutas wrote, celebrated the shining light of the sun as reflected in their shining bronze weapons. When the Indo-Europeans rewrote the myths of the land that came to be called Greece, they placed the “Olympian” deities on Mount Olympus while relegating many of the oldest female deities to the underworld, which became a fearful place. New Age spiritualities follow this pattern, celebrating “light and love.” This habit of mind reinforces racism. Continue reading “Winter Solstice: Can We Celebrate the Restful, Welcoming Darkness?”

Seeking Enlightenment? Let’s Try Endarkenment by Barbara Ardinger

In the version of the calendar I follow, February 1 is the true beginning of spring. That’s because early February is when we can see the light coming back. We know spring is really coming. February opens with a holiday/holy day variously known as Imbolc, Brigid, and Groundhog Day. Imbolc is the name of a traditional Celtic festival. The word is related to milk, possibly ewes’ milk, as lambing starts around this time. Brigid, whose name means “bright one,” is a triple goddess and ruler of (1) the sun and fire (and smithcraft), (2) poetry and inspiration, and (3) healing and medicine. It’s said that the straw left over from making Brigid’s crosses and other charms has healing powers. The newer Brigid is the Catholic saint who refused to marry and became a nun. And, of course, Groundhog Day is a secular holiday that uses helpless animals to make silly predictions. (But the movie is good.)

February (from the Latin word februa, which mean purification) gives us opportunities to become both enlightened and endarkened (yes, another word I invented).

ENLIGHTENMENT: “You light up my life.” A charismatic person “lights up the room.” When we become aware of something, the “lights go on” or we suddenly “see the light.” In cartoons, a light bulb turns on over the head of the guy who has the idea. Conversely, we call someone who isn’t enlightened “a dim bulb,” or maybe we say, “The lights are on but nobody’s home.”

Continue reading “Seeking Enlightenment? Let’s Try Endarkenment by Barbara Ardinger”

“Light and Darkness” of the Goddess by Carol P. Christ

Carol Molivos by Andrea Sarris 2“Light and Darkness” is a song written and arranged to one of the oldest known European melodies by Ariadne Institute founding Co-Director Jana Ruble, following her first Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. Every year since then, we have sung it in the caves of Crete during our rituals. A pilgrim told us that she learned it at the (Christian) Re-Imagining Conference. Last spring another pilgrim said that she knew it because her choral group sings it. You can listen to “Light and Darkness” and see pictures of an altar in a cave on a new video created by Goddess pilgrim PJ Livingstone after the 2015 spring tour.

In our culture we have been taught to fear the dark. We have been told that monsters come out in the dark, and that they will eat us. Such fears have not always been part of cultural memory. Continue reading ““Light and Darkness” of the Goddess by Carol P. Christ”

In Praise of Darkness by Adam F. Braun

Adam Braun Twitter4f6abe6_jpgThis reflection was initially a part of an attempt to create radical liturgies that might connect the frequent theological bias towards ‘light’ and the implicit White Supremacy that such theologies perpetuate.  In addition, this particular reflection was inspired by a friend’s resistance to societal gender norms.




In Praise of Darkness

Bless the Darkness, o my soul,
that part of me that is hidden from the light
The darkness holds me before I am born.
And the moment the light hits, I want to return,
to the darkness.
In the light, I am ever analyzed
every part of me is laid bare
to identify
to categorize
to be understood
Under the light, I am but a mere object to be synthesized
into someone else’s meaning,
into a supporting role in someone else’s story.

There is no light of truth.
The light only manufactures facts and knowledge.
Damn you, light,
I do not want to be understood.

Only in darkness is there truth,
There we are forced to pay attention to that which we cannot see
And there’s nothing like SEEING  to distract from truth.

In the light, I am individual.  Separate and compartmentalized.
But in the darkness, I am and we are more.
In the darkness, we rest.
In the darkness, we transgress the gaze of the Big Other.
In the darkness, we celebrate life.

The darkness is a messianic web,
for in It I do not know where you end and I begin.

Adam F. Braun
is a PhD candidate in New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.  Previously, he has worked in Emergent communities: a small congregation in NC, a Campus Ministry in Chicago, and most recently as co-facilitator of Boston Pub Church.  His interests are in the Narrativity of Religions, Materialist readings of the Gospels and Paul, and the Deconstruction of Theism within the Christian tradition.  He is completing his dissertation on a deconstruction of “Kingdom” in Luke’s Parable of the Minas.

Entering Winter, the Season of Darkness by Barbara Ardinger

Halloween used to be spelled “-e’en,” with the apostrophe replacing the V in “eve.” The N was probably added so the word ends in a consonant and we don’t have “hallow-wheee.” But people get lazy, and since the late 20th century, both the V and “eve” have disappeared. This holy day is the true beginning of winter. In pre-Christian Europe, it was celebrated by the wild Celts, who called October 31 Samhain (pronounced approximately SOW-un). Today it’s a major sabbat, or holy day, celebrated by most modern pagans. Although religious fundamentalists keep trying to convince us that Halloween is an evil pagan festival (emphasis on the evilness of pagans) and pressuring retailers not to sell little collectable witches, the name of this day is in fact Christian: it’s Hallowed (or Holy) Evening, or the Eve of Holy Days. In the olden days and still today in, for example, the Jewish calendar, a holy day begins when the moon rises on the evening before. October 31 precedes All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2). Like Christmas Eve, it’s a holy (but seldom silent) night.

All Saints Day, the Catholic Encyclopedia informs us, was instituted in the fourth century when dioceses began to divide up and exchange the relics of martyr-saints. At first, only martyrs and St. John the Baptist were recognized, but in 609 Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all martyr-saints. The theological basis for All Souls Day is the doctrine that “souls that have not been perfectly cleansed from venial sin are debarred from the Beatific Vision.” With prayers, the living can help the dead pass through purgatory. To commemorate “the faithful departed,” the Catholic Encyclopedia further tells us, the priest recites the Office of the Dead and celebrates a Requiem Mass. The vigil for All Saints, or Hallows Eve, was also first celebrated in the fourth century. The Mexican version of this holiday is Día de los Muertos, which is also celebrated on November 1 and 2. That’s when we see the wonderful costumed skeleton figures and the sugar skulls. Like similar festivals in cultures around the globe, this is a celebration of family and ancestors.

Continue reading “Entering Winter, the Season of Darkness by Barbara Ardinger”

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