Dark Time-by Holly King
irthdays are among the most sacred of personal holidays and more often than not greeted with mixed emotions. Some people await the day with bittersweet anticipation, while others look upon the day with dread. For many there is the apathetic acceptance that it is just another day full of yet more wrinkles with a foot in the grave. Unfortunately, the lack of proper understanding around this sacred day means a missed opportunity for deeply quiet rest and self-reflection.
History has shown that birthday ceremonies of past potentially began as a form of protection. It was believed that people were more susceptible to the influence of evil spirits and demons as the veil is thought to be thinnest for people close to the time of their birth. It is plausible given the vulnerable place that people find themselves in the weeks preceding a birthday. I would also entertain the possibility that it offered an explanation of peoples out of character actions.
As pagans, we live our lives attuned to both the nature around us as well as the sun, moon and stars above us. The more attuned we are the more we feel the impact of the movement of the planets that went into our creation and also affect our daily lives. In our natal charts and daily horoscopes, primary attention focuses on what role the sun plays in our lives with less acknowledgment of the other planets. In this instance it is to the stars we can look to help us understand the science of what we experience as we listen to our intuition to help us navigate this sacred liminal time.
Each year, approximately six weeks before our birthday’s changes start occurring as the transiting sun progresses towards the natal sun in its solar return. The activating presence of the sun normally stimulates us into action and provides the outward expression of our moon personality. It is also an important aspect in foretelling the conditions and activities of the coming year. As it heads toward the same position it held at birth, it slows the stimulation and physical activity as it transitions to a new cycle.
This slowing of the suns stimulation makes way for a period known as the Dark Time. This period is associated with the Moon as well as Saturn. The Moon represents the continuing cycles of ebb and flow and governs our internal dialog. Saturn is the planet of obstacles and self-undoing, destroying false ideals. The two together draw our center of attention inward and perpetuates a need for spiritual and physical hibernation. It is very similar to what occurs during a woman’s menstrual time or the 2-3 day period when our birth moon occurs in the month, though on a much grander scale. When one pays close attention, the very real sensation of the inward spiral can be felt as the protective veil of the birthing womb is drawn around us and the outer senses become numbed. We struggle as we buck the demands of others to engage our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual selves and do what or essence is intuitively inclined to do.
Being renewed and prepared for birth is an exercise in trust and letting go. There is not a choice given as to whether it will happen. Rest assured, whether it is by grace or force, it will. The only choice is how we engage this sacred period proceeding rebirth. Engaged properly we are provided with a period of purging, cleansing, healing and renewal on all levels. It is a time to dream, rest, reflect, meditate and follow the meandering path where intuition often takes us. It is a time to process the old year and listen to what your essence is telling you about what does or does not work in the progression of your spiritual journey. It is at its simplest, the time to just be and allow the natural unfolding of yourself so that recovery of your soul may take place. It is a time to be gentle with yourself. This is not a time to enter in and out of relationships, bind yourself in contracts and agreements, take risks or make big life-altering decisions.
Realistically, in our busy world, it sneaks upon us unaware as we fight what we don’t understand. When this happens we invite chaos, apprehension, anxiety, and feelings of impending doom into our lives. People get divorced, depressed, commit suicide, get into accidents, become clumsy and make bad decisions on a whim-only to find the hole of despair a deeper place than remembered. The Dark Time, no matter how one chalks it up, is frustrating. The very strengths that we rely on are gone.
What does this look like in the real world? I am sure if you look back over the time preceding your birthday a pattern will emerge.
I am both cursed and blessed to experience my Dark Time in the fall. My birthday falls on or near Mabon and this time is extremely busy making the most of the harvest season. My ‘burning daylight, need to keep going till it’s done’ mentality that usually works for me causes me to be slapped upside the head as my hibernation period descends and I’m left wondering what the hex and hades is going on. I move forward in action like everything is normal, unaware that I am losing pieces of myself little by little. Over the years this has expressed itself in many ways as it seems all of the very things I excel at, all of my strengths I take for granted, are gone. I am left feeling defenseless. My ability to organize-gone, ability to cope-gone, language, spelling, communication skill-not happening, my easy going nature:-(limited as it is) not there. I get along with most everyone because I’m only half functioning. Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. The amazing thing is that if you don’t consciously turn inward your body will do it for you. I found myself half functioning like a zombie while my body did the turning inward for me. It’s like walking in a thick fog with droplets of water here and there working like a telescope magnifying the outside world. One also learns that when stripped of the very skills we take for granted we are forced to find and discover one(s) we weren’t aware of. Even while we go within we are still being taught awareness. I have experienced an inability to communicate, I couldn’t write what I was thinking, I couldn’t spell, and my flow of thoughts was garbled. It has resulted in stupid actions such as backing over a bucket of newly dug potatoes in my jeep. It was one of those things where I put them in the way so as to remember to put them away. Needless to say, I didn’t see them as I stepped around them to get to the jeep, them remembered them just before the potatoes went flying and the bucket shot out from under the tire….obviously too late. I have proceeded to blow a small hole in the roof corner of my porch with my 22. in my angry haste to scare the horses off the fence because I didn’t stand out far enough on the porch. Those are just a few highlights.
When I finally started recognizing the signs of my impending dark time and wanting to take that time for myself, it seemed as if there never was any available. In reality, one must make the time. This is not an act of selfish need, but one of necessity. If not, you’re turned in by force. Our bodies will do the work even if we won’t. This ancient call goes beyond any calendar. In retrospect, I always come out on the other side with a burst of energy and a new appreciation for my life. I’ve been burnt and stripped of everything, only to arise from the ashes like the Phoenix, though the beautiful feathers apparently were not included in the packed deal.
Dark Time Oils
The quieter you become, the more you can hear. ~ Ram Dass
Mysteries of the Dark Moon, by Demetra George
Moon Watching, by Dana Gerhardt
Parkers Astrology, by Julia & Derek Parker
Myth, Ritual & Religion, by Andrew Lang