Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Dark of the Year: In Praise of Past (Part 1)

Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3

During this time of year, the dark of the year, we as Pagans have a fairly unique opportunity within our spiritual wheel of the year. We have the opportunity to grow, spiritually, internally, rather than externally. The Wheel of the Year shows us how to use the energy of Nature to develop in a healthy cycle.

The Dark of the Year is the time of introverts, when humanity as a whole goes from exuberant, exo-energetic creatures to inner-focused beings who welcome the dark and calm of semi-hibernation. We don’t sleep the season away like the bear, but rather we enjoy a certain lethargy of the body, which allows us to grow our mental and emotional selves. We embrace the Yin in the world, the Feminine in ourselves, the dark/cold/wet/gestational parts of Nature.

In animals, a “false” hibernation is often called torpor or languor. I, for one, like “languor,” or “languid.” The word (words are power, remember) calls up in my mind an image of sensuality, of liquid, passive, flowing, small movements. Isn’t that what we crave during the Dark of the Year? Lying in bed, snuggling with family and blankets, lounging around the home with warm, liquid foods and drinks. Celebrating life and survival while death (dark, cold, wet weather) prowls around the periphery.

Death and gestation are two faces of the same coin. They bracket life like not-quite-identical bookends, giving us the time of dark and wet and quiet before we start going, going, going as life demands far too often. The season of winter, the Dark of the Year, allows us to pause in this rat-race of work and family and action, action, action. Winter is a small death that gives us a moment to breath, mentally and emotionally.

So how do we take advantage of this time when we can get back in touch with ourselves and those closest to us during the major holidays of the season of the Holly King?

Samhain is the Final Harvest in the Wheel of the Year. This is the time when we finalize our homes, families, selves, and plans in preparation for the Dark. We get that last little bit of psychological food in our metaphorical bellies before we chill out for the season.

It is also the Death of the Sun/Oak King, a god that represents produce/production/action/Yang. He is that force that gets us out of the house on the first Spring day, who has us doing sports, crafts, and vacations with rock climbing, water slides and snorkeling. Now, he’s dead, giving his body as the Final Harvest to supply our Languor during the Dark of the Year. His death gives us permission to be languid, to do nothing more (physically) than get by.

Samhain is the time for looking back and celebrating death and those who have died, apropos for the festival of the Death of the Oak King. It is the season for remembering what and who has come before. It is the time for embracing those people who have changed you, for better or worse, and have passed on, either in death or simply by moving out of your life.

It is especially appropriate to look back at the “life” of your personal Oak King, your activities for the year, and remember them and how they have changed you over the course of the year. It is a good time for assessing what you’ve done and how that is working for you, or not. It is a time of recollection and evaluation. It is time to appreciate how you have grown, by your own motivation or by the influence of people and circumstances.

Many blessings during your Languor in the Dark of the Year!

Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3

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