This post continues from where this one left off. I am very grateful for the comments that post received which gave me lots of philosophical and psychological directions to explore in future posts. But it seemed logical to start by describing what I mean by darkness.
Some people associate darkness with all things bad and evil. I don’t. I do however think there can be dangers and bad things lurking in the dark and creeping in the shadows, but that unless you are prepared to confront those things you are going to miss out on much of the beauty and many of the lessons that life has to offer.
Even as a child I loved the night-time. I remember as a small girl sometimes creeping out into the garden at night. All the familiar things of the daytime took on dark, shadowy forms. There were strange sounds and movements everywhere. Yes, it could be frightening, but it was also exciting and magical. Sometimes I saw hedgehogs scurrying about or heard owls hooting. Other times I glimpsed completely unfamiliar creatures and undefined shapes moving in the shadows and my imagination went into overdrive. There might have been fairies, pixies or goblins. There might have been monsters… It was thrilling to be slightly afraid and in truth I was never more than a scream away from getting help. But whatever real or imagined dangers may have been lurking in the garden, when I looked up the darkness held it’s biggest prize; the stars! I was always transfixed and awe-struck by the wonders of the night sky. First of all the stars were just beautiful to look at. Later, as I learned more and became interested in astronomy I grew ever more amazed and pleasantly bamboozled by the facts associated with those precious pin-pricks of light. Thus, if I hadn’t ventured into the darkness (like billions before me) there is so much magic and beauty that I would never have known.
As a teenager and young adult the night-time held a different kind of excitement and allure but there were many parallels with my experiences in the garden. I loved the bright neon city lights and the foggy street corners with an equal passion. These were new worlds to explore. In huge stadiums and dark smokey bars I first heard the music and met the musicians that really moved me and stayed with me. Under cover of darkness I made my first adult decisions and developed a taste for things which were not always coated in sugar. Yes, these included the pleasures associated with that old cliche song title, sex drugs and rock’n’roll. And just like in the garden during my childhood, I often fell down, got lost and got hurt. Yet from all my misadventures there were lessons to be learned that played a part in forming and shaping me. I could have played safe and avoided the potential dangers of the night, but then I would have missed out on some of the most pleasurable and magical experiences of my life.
I would like to emphasize that these two pictures of darkness; the child in the garden and the girl in the city at night both still hold equal importance in my heart and soul. Innocent awe and wonder and the more knowing, wanton pleasures sit side by side without detracting from each other. The landscape of darkness is a great leveler. It is a place where we can be naked yet unseen, a place where we can expose and unleash aspects of ourselves that hide away in the daylight. However it can of course be a frightening place where our fears and demons lurk; and that is perhaps the best reason to explore it. Left alone our shadows grow bigger and secretly sap power from us. But if we confront them in the dark their hazy outlines solidify and become something understandable and perhaps controllable. In facing our fears and confronting the shadows that haunt us I believe we become more whole and more in control of our own destiny.
One of the first magical workings I did on my own when I started practicing witchcraft was in order to overcome a fear that had shadowed me all my life till then. I might have been brave enough to explore the garden at night and the seedy clubs away from the city lights, but if I saw a spider I would run a mile and scream uncontrollably. It was really quite a strong, embarrassing and disabling phobia. I wanted to be rid of this fear. I won’t go into much detail about the magic I performed but I can say that it worked spectacularly well and unnervingly quickly. It was night, it was dark apart from the flickering light of a couple of candles on my alter.Moments after I had performed the first part of the ritual, I was sitting alone and naked inside a circle I had cast in my room. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I spied movement and sure enough, there was a spider crawling across the carpet. My heart began to race. I tried to focus on the intention I had encapsulated in the magic I had just performed. The spider began to crawl around the rim of the circle. I willed myself to invite the spider in. The spider seemed to hear and crossed the threshold and started crawling towards me. My heart stopped beating so fast and I felt a strange sense of calm. I placed my hand on the ground and the spider approached it. For a moment it hesitated and then it crawled over my fingers. I wanted to scream, not with fear but with euphoria because I knew my fear of spiders had gone! The spider then lived in my room for a few weeks. The only thing that worried me was that I might accidentally step on it. I can’t say that I wouldn’t be startled if I suddenly found a large spider in my bed. But they no longer scare me as they used to. I have learned to appreciate them and if I see one in the bathroom I can simply take it outside without getting hysterical.
Thus I see darkness as a landscape where fears can be confronted, pleasures can be discovered, hidden beauty and magic can be glimpsed and where people can be themselves without shame or embarrassment. Moreover, without the darkness there are many lessons it would be difficult, if not impossible to learn. It is not in itself good or bad; but as night is to day, dark is to light a place with it’s own marvels and mysteries to explore.