I started out this December with a nose dive into Christmas cheer. Then, I spent some time exploring what parts of the Christian holiday were still resonant with me, and what I’d happily left behind. Now, the introspection of the Dark Days has set in.
It hit me unexpectedly. One moment I was working my craft, focussing on the task at hand, and the next I was on the verge of tears. Something someone said or some passing action spurred a memory of a younger me, and in that moment I was given insight into just how much time has passed. I didn’t feel old, but I was aware that I was no longer young in the same way that I used to be.
And this didn’t just happen once. It’s as though the entire climate and ecosystem of my personal and professional life has been infused with greater meaning, deeper symbolism, and a heavier tone. There’s been no escaping it. Nothing stills my mind but the repetitious act of knitting, and even in that there are moments where great pause and reflection interrupt the rhythm of the stitches.
What I’m feeling has nothing to with Jesus being or not being the “Reason for the Season” — all of that talk seems like trivial bickering right now. Nor does this state seem to stem from anything related to a recently assumed Pagan tradition that I’ve picked up over the past few years. This feeling doesn’t seem to originate from within me at all. It’s like the entire world is working a stillness into me, and I have little control in the matter.
Perhaps the reason that some of us bicker with each other around this time of year, be that over family dramas or to debate the legitimacy or illegitimacy of one another’s traditions, is that in doing so we experience a kind of spark; an artificial fire that allows us to deny the darkness that is actually setting in all around us, and inside of us. We remain in our heads, formulated better arguments, forging more effective defenses, and all the while the darkness grows deeper. The darkness grows in spite of our best efforts to hold on to the light.
We don’t need to pay attention in order for winter to happen. We don’t create the darkness. The darkness of winter simply arrives, and it transforms us, and we are left to decide whether we will surrender to it, or resist. In the darkness of winter, we are given the opportunity to see our lives from a still position, reflecting on who we’ve become and from where we’ve traveled. We can take that opportunity, or we can argue with one another. To choose the latter is to miss what the Holy Cycle of the World is offering to us.
It may seem that I have no choice in the matter; my emotions are a full cup, with the water just about to crest. But there must be some choice to be made, and I think I made it long ago when I committed myself to a deeper level of engagement with my life, with my beliefs and with the world around me. That’s what Druidry is for me; that is my Paganism. This commitment to my life has led me to — among other things — to a more acute sensitivity to the changes of the earth.
With just a few days left before Yule, before the calling back of the light, I experience a still darkness inside my soul, and through this darkness passes the images of a younger me, a me who was filled with many hopes and aspirations, naive to the challenges I would inevitably face, and unaware of little else besides my own desires and dreams. The darkness shows me who I was, and then without judgement, shows me who I am now.