Dealing with the Darkness, Post-Samhain
In many of our traditions, most of us agree that the start of the Samhain season and the ushering in of the “Celtic winter” is a time to “deal with the darkness”-as my old priestess called it. As the wheel turns to October, then November, we begin to turn inwards and allow our spirits to rest until the light comes back again. Rest is an important theme for the dark half of the year, but not one that should debilitate us.
As Pagans, we relish and celebrate every time of the year. Yes, it is time for our spirits and emotions to take a break, but our practice shouldn’t. I don’t know about you, but after October 31st, I tend to get lazy. The running shoes get kicked to the back of the closet, the outdoor altar comes inside for the frost season, and the inevitable winter weight gain starts to take its hold. I tend to catch up on my reading this time of year, but I must admit that my daily practices, my daily devotions, often get pushed to the back burner in favor of holiday shopping and cookie baking.
Letting our practice ease up takes a toll on us in more ways than you might imagine. Do you ever get the winter frowns? There is a reason why 36 million Americans suffer from Seasonal Mood Disorder. The days get darker, the wind gets stronger, and the air gets colder. Solar energy that normally provides our bodies with so many essential vitamins and nutrients, are scarce. The ancients weren’t the only ones who struggled with the winter months. We may not constantly face the threat of starvation every day, but our spirits can feel starved. There can become a cold void in our vital essence and energy, affecting everything we do.
The question then becomes; how do we face the darkness of the season, but keep just enough light alive to see us through?
The ancients had many ways of doing this that have worked their way into some wonderful modern traditions. Building a roaring hearth fire and telling stories used to be a staple of the winter season. Unfortunately, this has fallen in favor of television and video games, restricting us from vital human contact and communication. Though it is important to reflect in the time of darkness, communication with both people and the spirit world is extremely important.
Communication-ruled by mercury-is the lead archetype of western magick. Keeping your practice and communication alive is one of the best things you can do to keep your chin up, and your magick a sure-fire zap. Here are some ideas that come to mind:
Family Gatherings: On Samhain, we honored our ancestors and beloved dead, those who-by blood or friendship-were a part of our family units. Gatherings are still wonderful and important traditions in the winter season, but why just limit it to one or two? Plan a potluck with your family and friends. Instead of sitting around the TV, sit around and share stories of your family, of the season, and anything else that comes to mind. If you have a Pagan family, say a dedication in honor of Lady Brigit, goddess of the home and hearth. Dedicate your time to her and she’ll be sure to make your “warm and fuzzies” stick around. There’s nothing like a party to ease your winter woes, so keep em’ coming!
Holy Water, Sacred Flame
Brigit we invoke your name
Bless our head, our hands, our hearts
Source of healing, song and art
Staying Active: It is proven fact that exercise can heal depression and make your feel better. Honoring our health and activity is just as important to our magick and spirituality as it is to our physical bodies. You don’t have to do anything crazy. Are you in a snowy area? Brush off the old plastic sled and get to it! If you’re just not a fan of the cold (like I am) , try taking up yoga or some other fun indoor activity. Just keep your body moving. When your blood is flowing, your magick is flowing. Dedicate your practice to Nike, goddess of bodily activity and athletes. She can keep you motivated. As the company she’s named after says, “Just do it.”
Blessed Nike, take it home
Grant me strength from blood to bone
Vital earth and health embrace
That I may live past winters face
The Written Word: As I mentioned, I love using the chilly weather to catch up on my reading. It takes my mind off the icy darkness for a little while and gets my inspiration pumping. Writing is also a great way to take advantage of the seasonal theme of the year. Writing connects us to our divine mind, the “inner flame” of our spirit.
Birthday Party for the Sun: I discovered this idea from a neighboring coven many years ago and have incorporated it into my seasonal activities every year. Though it seems to fit best on the Winter Solstice, you can do this any time that you wish to give the sun props and thanks for its blessings. Try baking foods associated with solar energy like lemon squares, cranberry cookies, and anything with orange in it. This can be incorporated into the “Family Gathering” idea if you invite a few friends over. Wear party hats, play games, and sing “Happy Birthday” to any of the solar deities (Apollo, Helios, Lugh, Ra, etc) .
There are many other things you can do, so just let your imagination be your guide. Let these things become habit and as always, include the great work of Spirit in everything you do. It’s fine to park it on the couch with a steamy mug of cider. It’s fine to take a break. Just don’t take a break from your connection with the divine. The dark half of the year doesn’t have to be painful and icy if you don’t let it.
Remember, the coming fire of the new year is right around the corner. Even if you can’t see it, it’s still there, ready to light up your life.