“Darkness is not simply a lack of light. Darkness is alive, and its life is obscured by the light. Darkness puts out its tentacles and touches your face; darkness licks at your eyes and grants you a different kind of sight. Darkness is the voice of the shadow, a voice which words can only fail. Listen.” - Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted
I’ve been thinking a lot about darkness. As we approach the Winter Solstice and Great Conjunction next week. As we’ve been moving into darker days. Darkness and I have been in relationship for some time, particularly through my experience with and relationship to depression.
I think of the shame I once felt about my experiences of depression. Of how I kept it secret. Of how I smiled through it. The antidepressants I took to help me feel ‘normal.’ To help me be productive. To help me fit in. To fix what I thought was broken inside of me. For much of my life darkness equated to brokenness. Darkness was something to avoid.
So I avoided the darkness. I self-medicated. I stayed busy and “productive.” I overworked myself. I fed into the systems of capitalism and white supremacy I was socialized into. I avoided the darkness until I was introduced to my ancestors. Through my relationship with my ancestors (and therapist/healers/community) I stopped taking the antidepressants I had taken for 13 years (which was the right choice for me but I acknowledge how helpful & supportive antidepressants can be for folks).
And then I went into the cave.
“Caves: portals to an entire unfathomable world which is hidden from our view…Caves are the black, chasmal mouths of the Otherworld; the gateways to transformation – the deep and enduring transformations which are delivered from exposure to the darkest of places. The night-filled, fecund womb-places of the Earth – out of them we are reborn.” – Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted
I went into the cave, into the portal and discovered sexual abuse from my childhood. Something that had been hidden from my view for nearly 25 years. I was in the cave and thought I was going to there forever. I couldn’t see a way out. Until I did. Thanks to my ancestors, the plants, my teacher Kimmy, and my community. I emerged from the journey through the cave more whole. I emerged transformed. With more work to do, always, but understanding the healing power of darkness. That the darkness has much to teach us and that when we surrender to it, when we ask for help & support, when we remember that we don’t have to navigate it alone, we come back to our humanness again and again. That the darkness is beautiful.
I was reminded that we all come from darkness.
That we begin our lives in the womb. That we plants seeds into the dark Earth.
It’s a story I come back to often. This year, and in particular the last couple of months, feeling the most intense experiences of depression since that time five years ago. It’s been a hard fucking year for all of us. And I’ve had it easy compared to most.
So here we are. Just a few days from the darkest day of the year. Just a few days before the beginning of a new 200ish year cycle. After a year that’s forced us to reevaluate so much of our lives. A year that’s reminded us how little is in our control. A year that has shown us with the most power & privilege the deep & horrific racial & class inequities in this country (if we didn't already see them).
And I’m coming back to the wisdom of the Bear. The wisdom of hibernation. The wisdom of our ancestors. The wisdom of caves. The wisdom of the darkness.
It’s hard to slow down. But let’s slow down. It’s hard to be in the darkness. But let’s be in the darkness.
Capitalism does not want us to slow down (special thanks to the Nap Ministry for their wisdom on this). White supremacy has taught us that darkness is evil. These systems don’t want us to be reborn, they don’t want us to go anywhere near the darkness. They don’t want us to experience winter. They would rather us be in summer all of the time, in the light. They’d rather we self-medicate, put on our smiles, and get to work. Year round. They’d rather we not be human.
Moving with the cycles is part of our humanity. Slowing down is part of our humanity. Being in the darkness is part of what makes us human.
“Scream if you will, but let yourself fall. We have to let ourselves fall…In order to kick-start the process of transformation to which we’ve now committed ourselves, we have to destroy old ways of thinking, remove old limits. So grope your way into the darkest cave, let yourself sink to the bottom of the deepest lake…It is this Descent…which destroys outmoded forms of being and prepares us to develop the wisdom we need to give birth to our most authentic self.” – Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted
May our descent into the darkness destroy the systems of oppression we live in and the ways in which they live in our bodies and in our psyches. May our descent, our time in the cave, birth us into what’s possible for ourselves and the collective. As we enter into this new cycle, may we be grounded in who we are so we can show up for collective liberation. May we dream of a future rooted in the restoration of balance, rooted in liberation & equity. For us white folks, may enter into this new cycle committed to healing & repairing the harm we and our ancestors have caused. May we commit to being co-conspirators in the movement for Black Liberation and Indigenous Sovereignty. May the darkness transform us.