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Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Value of Darkness

So I write a lot about the value of darkness and recently I've been making memes about it as well, such as this one:
and this one:


When I posted the first example on facebook yesterday someone asked me, privately, what exactly I meant by 'darkness' which got me thinking about the larger issue of what I was trying to say and why.

First a bit of backstory. This all began a bit tongue in cheek, because I was tired of seeing so many posts and memes about the Light, be the Light, look for the Light, and so on all of which played into and reinforced the idea that darkness = evil or ignorance. Personally I have very light sensitive eyes and am prone to migraines so the Light (tm) isn't exactly my favorite thing in a physical sense. I also am not a fan of the either/or dichotomy that is so very pervasive and tells us that if light is good then darkness is bad, when the reality is that both contain good as well as bad qualities.

I started to think about how undervalued the Darkness is, how many people fail to appreciate it as a force in itself that has many positive qualities. Our senses are sharper at night and we become more aware, not less, of what's around us. We pay more attention. Many animals are active at night, and some people are naturally nocturnal. the night in many ways is a time of beginnings, and indeed Caesar tells us in his 'Gallic Wars' that the Celts reckoned time as beginning in darkness and proceeding into light: "...they compute the divisions of every season, not by the number of days, but of nights; they keep birthdays and the beginnings of months and years in such an order that the day follows the night" (Gallic wars, 6:18).

This idea of the darkness being the beginning of each new day is related, in Celtic thought, again according to Caesar, to the belief that the tribes of Gaul descended from the god "Dis" or Dis Pater, a chthonic god of the underworld, the dead, fertility, and wealth who is often thought to be Secullos viewed through the lens of the Interpetatio Romana. In Ireland Dis would be equivalent, I think, to Donn, as the primal ancestor and keeper of the house of the dead. Many people these days are at best wary of so-called Dark Gods and at worst phobic of them but the chthonic, psychopomp, and death deities deserve a place as much as any other Gods. They've suffered from the same bad PR that darkness in general has gotten, but rejecting the Gods of the underworld and death doesn't help us in any way, it only encourages us to fear the Powers associated with an inevitable transition that all living things eventually face. I have found an amazing amount of peace in establishing relationships with these deities, and in connecting to them I've come to better understand the connection between the balance of good and bad that is found in all things.

The darkness and dark times are often endings but they are also beginnings, and represent the starting point of new things, the dark of the womb and the dark of the seed buried in the earth. The darkness of the very first stirring of a new idea or project, before it has physically manifested at all. Many death and chthonic Gods are also associated with fertility in one way or another and I think this is a logical association both between the cycle of birth, life, and death and also between the darkness as a source of life and growth.

The darkness is a time of rest and renewal, the time when many people sleep; a time of dreams. There is a healing, soothing quality to darkness both physically and mentally. The night can be a time that offers physical rest from the activities of the day, and the stillness that comes when the rest of the human world is sleeping can offer a time of peace and introspection. And some people find the night and its energy empowering and exciting.

The darkness is strongly associated with the unconscious mind and with the negative qualities people can have or experience including anger, fear, pain, hatred, and jealousy. However rejecting these things doesn't make them disappear, anymore than turning on all the lights in your house makes the night cease to exist - it only creates for us the illusion that the things we fear or dislike about ourselves or others are gone. The only way to truly conquer negative feelings is to confront them directly and own that they are part of us, that we as people are not perfect or filled only with the feelings we want to have. I caused myself more misery when I was younger trying to pretend to be happy when I wasn't than I ever felt when I faced the sadness head on and let myself feel it. We can understand that we have negative aspects to ourselves, that we strongly feel negative things, and that these are part of us but that they don't define or control us.

The darkness represents the unconscious and that's part of why we fear it, I think, because it holds an honesty that the consciousness of light and day do not, but does our fear of what we might find at night, or in our dreams, or in our mind really make the darkness itself bad? Or is it instead a place where we can grow by facing the things within ourselves that, once overcome, can make us stronger? We are taught, many of us, at a young age to avoid pain and fear and negative emotions, as we are taught to fear the dark, but avoiding them only hides them - we must deal with them in order to make them part of us, so that we control them and they don't dictate our actions.

There is as much negative in the Light as there is positive in the Darkness. There is balance. The Light can overexpose and destroy, it can burn, it can dissect what it focus on. The Light in its way is a better illusion than any Darkness, and the monsters of the Light are the fiercer.

To me the Darkness is beautiful. It is comforting, nurturing, protecting, accepting; it offers a chance for growth and empowerment. So I write about the positive qualities of Darkness, how it nurtures, how it strengthens, how it protects. We all begin our lives in Darkness, in the womb, and ultimately return to the Dark in the grave, in death. Darkness is with us throughout our lives, and there is much good to be found in it, if we are willing to see beyond the old ideas of light = good/ dark = bad.

copyright 2015 Morgan Daimler


  1. There were other cultures which also started the new day at sun-down, the ancient Hellenic and Judaean/Hebrew to name but two. In addition, they are both lunar calendars. I keep a separate religious calendar entirely (what with the occasional intercalcary month ;-) !-) things could get really confusing. I really hate the creeping black/white dichotomy of Zoroastrianism which infected much of Near Eastern religion. They just could not deal with cultures who did not so divide the world.

  2. Oh how I love the gifts of "synchronicity"!!! Next week I will be presenting a workshop on the Dark Goddesses. And these things you just wrote here is basically how I plan on opening the workshop.

    Blessings! And Gratitude!

  3. This is such an insightful and beautifully written commentary to which I identify, even down to the "Sun sensitive eyes" I inherited from an Austrian Grandmother! I read your posts at night, but always with a soft light and candle burning! I write my best at night. I think best. Even as a child I would sneak out to the yard in good weather, sit under the Moon and drive my mother nuts calling me "in from the dark." I am most nocturnal, learn, read, study and pray at night. So much physical work to accomplish, so many distractions in the day. And like other nocturnals I have met, we do not need much sleep. And I have an inner alarm clock...never owned one in my life, as I wake up when I tell myself to wake.When you think about it, Europe of the ancients was a thickly forested land, and our ancestors lived in dark woods, shaded areas. Or stayed in caves, huts that had to be rather dark to be sealed for warmth, and those castles were dark! They of needs adjusted to the comfort and peace of darkness, else they would have gone mad with fear. Only possible comment, "underworld" has a connotation of "Hell" or scariness to many modern readers, and perhaps more a Mediterranean concept? I think of the Celtic concept as "Otherworld" which exists right alongside this incarnated one, "through the veil" and is not really a scary concept, just like this world but spiritual. At least that was my lesson from my Welsh (and pagan) father.