The whisper of fall is already humming in the leaves along the city streets. Cool air curls around corners, brushing dust off bricks and sending it hailing along sidewalks. The breeze sculpts our bodies into existence: some open sleeveless shirts to its caress; others pull jackets tighter: some prepare to embrace the encroaching darkness; others hurry against the tinge of fear rising within. The balance of light and darkness has been breached, and the northern hemisphere tips towards winter. The season of deep roots has arrived.
This year, as is sometimes the case, the difference between one day and the next is subtle but noticeable. On Saturday, the weather was unexpectedly warm. On Sunday, chill had already arrived. By the clock time of actual Equinox in late afternoon, layers of shirts and jackets were becoming standard.
In the old story, the Oak King (or Grain King, or Queen, however you title these natural forces) is weakening. That monarch will die to be reborn on December 21st, Winter Solstice. As the Holly Queen/King strengthens from birth on June 21, s/he will ascend to full power on the throne just as the Oak King is reborn. And so the cycle continues, year after year, decade after decade, from the songs in the distant mists of time and on into the future, where the past has yet to arrive.
This Saturday, the 21st, we re-enacted that tension of Equinox. A long rope was stretched, as in the old game often played for fun on muddy fields, when you try to pull the other team over the line. The two youth at our assembly, crowned and with large finger rings, became our Grain King and Winter Queen. The adults divided and lined up behind them and exerted enough force to feel the tension. Then, by happy acclaim, the Winter Queen’s team pulled the Grain King’s team over. The dark goddess has won again.
And the entire assembly embraced the darkness, that delicious place of roots and dreams deepening in preparation for Spring’s arrival next year.
The dark is embraced in animism. We need it. In the dark we can release our obsessive hold on distinctions and relax into the softening of edges. We can sleep in it. In the dark, we feel how things merge. In the dark, more so than the light, we understand “the ubiquitous and integrated mindedness” which is nature itself. By embracing the dark, we honor the darkness of the universe (which is 95% dark matter and dark energy), as well as the profound darkness inside ourselves, from which emerge intuitions, inspirations, fears yet to be faced, and all forces that lead us to grow. In this and other ways, the dark serves a healthy world of which we are one facet.
The world here is becoming fragile. Things will break. The darkness triggers the trees to push their leaves off their bodies. Snow will blanket and hold the cold world together. Welcome to the days just after the Equinox and the journey into the darkness we may all take for our wellbeing.