Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Honoring the Darkness While Remembering the Light

On this winter solstice eve of 2022, I finally put up my Christmas tree!

I’ve previously written of how we can think of the Christmas tree as an icon, one that invites us to contemplate, in the words of Jokhim Meikle, the “one Holy Circle” of both dark and light.

And so along with pictures of my glittery little tree, I share this evening words, images, and music that seek to recognize and honor darkness, something that’s often maligned, even demonized by many religious traditions. Personally, I prefer to use the word “bleakness” instead of “darkness” when referring to negative situations and moods. I do this as I recognize the wisdom in Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney’s invitation to “learn to talk about brokenness in the world without reducing evil to darkness and goodness to light.”

In their different ways, all of the following have helped inspire and guide me in such learning.


The Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, [is almost here]. [Beyond it comes] the birth of a new year. This is a potent time for honoring the darkness that surrounds us, seeking the wisdom it holds, and creating space for light that is making its way into being.

Darkness brings an opportunity to live more deeply in every moment. In meditation, we close our eyes to limit the distraction from the outside world. When we are visited by grief, sadness, and despair, that kind of darkness seems to envelope everything around us. And yet, when we try to escape it, the darkness burrows its way deeper into our hearts.

The question then becomes: How do we honor the darkness while remembering the light?

Darkness is a time for release. We can unburden ourselves of the tethers we no longer wish to be bound by. We can sit with whatever emotions are living within us, feeling their depths and their contours, honoring their power. And then we can release the stories we have built around them that create the architecture that keep them anchored to us.

When we are complete with the honoring of the dark, we can begin to let in the light.

Light a single candle and let the flickering flame envelope your awareness. Begin to dream of what you want to spark the light for in your life. Let the intentions you hold in your heart begin to make their way into the light.

With the power of the cycles of nature surrounding us at this time, our intentions become amplified. Feel the fanning of the flames of your deepest desires and let yourself know the truth of what you are moving toward.

Write down your intentions for this next cycle, the places you will live into with all of your heart. Revisit these writings daily, and remember the sensations you felt while writing them down, the deep knowing that inhabited all of you.

As you go through your days, notice what you are bringing into the light of your awareness, what you are igniting with your attention. Ask yourself if that is what you want to be moving towards. If it is, keep moving towards it; if not, redirect your focus so that with each moment you are moving towards the light that was born from the seed of stillness in the dark.

May we all know how to harness the power of the dark, and move more powerfully toward the light.

It’s unfortunate that we continue to regard darkness as evil when there is nothing scientific or cultural to support the assumption. This belief is often reinforced by religious symbols and texts that emphasize the blessedness of light and the demonic potential of darkness.

Harboring such negativity makes it more difficult to embrace our darker neighbors in the world community.

. . . In the beginning, there is darkness. It is the womb out of which we are born, a genesis space for light and nurture and creativity.

A bird flew by
Sang a melody that made me cry
Turned to dry my eyes
He flew away
Tried to hide
Everybody needs to be alone
Gotta get to know
The dark side of their soul

Ain’t it strange
Morning wakes you to find something changed
In a stranger’s shoes
Nothing seems to fit
All my friends
They seem to handle everything so well
You can’t even tell
They have a dark side to their soul

You’ll never know
That you are strong
Till something makes you fight
If you never know the darker side
You’ll never see the light
Of your soul

Ain’t it strange
Some people never see the light come through
If it’s there for you
Don’t let it hide
It will wait for you
Any morning make your dreams come true
Don’t you be afraid
To know the dark side of your soul

You’ll never know
That you are strong
Till something makes you fight
If you never know the darker side
You’ll never see the light
Of your soul

Little bird flew by
Made me cry

– “Dark Side of Your Soul
by Kiki Dee
(from her 1979 album Stay With Me Baby)

Darkness is not bad. We’re made, not just for light, but for darkness, too. Incredible miracles happen in darkness. In our deep-down being we know darkness well. We began in darkness when we were knit together in our mother's womb. We welcome darkness at the end of day so we can fall into the darkness of sleep. Darkness is the inward place.

Beginnings are always dark. The most creative works we ever do are conceived in darkness. . . . Mystics speak of holy encounters as dark light, the “cloud of unknowing.”

My blackness is radiant, luminous and will not and does not need to be made white as snow. The blood of Jesus will not make me white. We must learn to talk about brokenness in the world without reducing evil to darkness and goodness to light. Blackness is God’s good gift.

Today I’ll sing you a black song
You need to hear about beautiful black things ’cause
Most time we hear about black,
We hear about black magic and black witches
Black list, black book, black market
Black Friday, ya spend off your black riches

. . . They never told us that black is beautiful
They never told us, black is beauty
They never told us that black is beautiful
They never told us, they never told us black is beautiful

– From “Black Is Beautiful
by Jamar McNaughton and Stephen David McGregor
(performed by Chronixx)

Related Off-site Links:
Holy Blackness: The Matrix of Creation – Wil Gafney (AllSaintsChurch.org (December 1, 2019).
Holy DarknessThe Inner Journey (December 17, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Sweet Darkness
Dark Matter: “An Intriguing Aspect of the Universe”
Photo of the Day, 5/3/2015: “Black Is Sacred”
“And Still We Rise!” – Mayday 2015 (Part I)
“And Still We Rise!” – Mayday 2015 (Part II)
God’s Good Gift
Winter Solstice Blessing
Brigit Anna McNeill on the Meaning of Winter Solstice Time
To Dream, to Feel, to Listen
Reclaiming the “Hour of God”
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son
Advent: A “ChristoPagan” Perspective
Advent: The Season of Blessed Paradox
Something to Cherish
The Christmas Tree as Icon, Inviting Us to Contemplate the “One Holy Circle” of Both Dark and Light
Christmastide Approaches

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

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