The Winter Solstice has passed and we are approaching spring, the time of birth and an end to the darkness of winter. The days are growing longer and there are murmurs of life within the melting snow. It is in this world of new birth that we look back on the coldness, harshness, and exquisite beauty of the darkness of winter. We see all around us transformations. The deer and rabbits have given birth to their young and we are gearing up for Beltane, the ancient celebration that turned maidens into mothers.
It is this time of transformation that forces us to remember that there is no light without darkness. The maiden’s voyage to that of motherhood is one of pain and pleasure intermixed. It is this cycle of darkness to light to darkness that pushes the world forward. It is mirrored in all of life. “The light can only be enjoyed because you have seen darkness” is not adequate; light can only exist because darkness allows it and vice versa. Growth happens in the darkness: plants cannot survive without darkness, animals could not be born without the darkness of the womb. Which was first, day or night?
So we must ask ourselves, what role does the darkness play in our personal lives and spiritual evolution? Do we embrace the darkness as the bat and owl do? The common Pagan idea is that darkness is necessary and that we must continuously deal with the darkness in order to grow because we must face that which we are uncomfortable with. It is not so much that we must conquer the darkness, but learn from the darkness, and especially from the darkness in ourselves.
This brings us to the question of what exactly is the darkness in ourselves. Is it the parts of us that we do not like? Or is it the parts of us that we are afraid of? Is it the abused child all grown up and dealing with his/her repressed memories? Is it when the man deals with his primal urges of rage and ferocity? In modern society, these would be considered dark and not things to talk about in mixed company, but why is this so? All people have these things that are unacceptable, so why are they considered dark? What makes them dark and not light? Who gave them the terms dark and light? These are all questions that are difficult to answer, but things that must be answered to understand this world of unknown, this world that we must understand to become the spiritual beings that we wish to be.
The origin of symbols commonly lies with the basic description of the symbol’s actions, habits, and emotions that are felt due to it. Well, obviously darkness does not many applicable habits or actions, so it must be inferred that it is a common emotion felt by mankind because of its presence. As a child, darkness is a time of fear; fear because you cannot see, fear because there are not adults to take care of you, fear because you feel alone, and most of all fear because the things from your nightmares seem to be all around you. Obviously, fear is the prevailing symbol of darkness because the darkness is unknown. But how does this play into the darkness within ourselves? Why are we afraid of ourselves?
For the most clear reason why a man would fear the darkness within himself, we must look to the stories of old, the stories that have become nightmares for children and horror movies for adults. We look to the story of the werewolf. Once a man realized that he had been turned into a werewolf, he would be afraid of this beast that came out. He would not be afraid for himself of course, but for others. This beast would tear and destroy all that he came across. He was fearless, angry, strong and indomitable, and yet the man would wish death upon himself many times over unless he accepted it as a part of himself and dealt with it. How does this old fantastical idea have any relevance, though?
Well, let us take this story and analyze it as a symbol rather than a literal story. What does the wolf represent within the man? The clearest answer is that the wolf represents the repressed primal urges and strengths within the man. It represents the anger, lust, fury, and ferociousness that comes with being a beast rather than a civilized man. Is it this primal nature that is the root of our darkness? The civilized man does not show his anger towards his fellow man, he turns the other cheek and disregards it. This would not have been the case in prehistoric man. If a man shamed or disgraced him, he would retaliate with fierce retribution.
Are we truly afraid of the beast within? Does this darkness really represent the most fundamental genetic parts of us? Is the fear of ourselves actually the fear that we shall lose the facade of civilization and revert back to our true selves who are not afraid?