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Crossing the River, Embracing Darkness

Today I walked to work amid a very heavy Pacific Northwest rainfall. As my feet reached over the currents of water gushing along the curb I was thinking about the river Lethe, one of the rivers bordering the Greek underworld, the river of forgetfulness, over which one must cross to pass to the other side. The other side of what you might ask?

Submersion in Lethe - Gustave Doré

Submersion in Lethe – Gustave Doré

This time of year offers us a unique opportunity. For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, this is the season, following the autumnal equinox, that the solar year begins to die. The sun rises and sets lower along the horizon each day and darkness infiltrates our lives. Today in particular we experience a solar eclipse as the sun passes into the Eighth House—Scorpio. Always coinciding with a new moon, a solar eclipse further enforces the energy of the underworld journey I was contemplating as I waded over puddles on a gloomy, grey morning. The new moon marks a monthly dark night of the soul, when the moon, having waned from full, seemingly disappears into the dawn. With no nocturnal light, the new moon offers us the darkest night, a night of deep reflection into the psyche. Today the new moon passes before the great solar disc to eclipse from sight even our great star itself. Ancient cultures the world over perceived eclipses as rare events when the sun was eaten by the dark shadow of the moon. This story of consumption speaks deeply to our mythological selves, our primal selves, through the story of Jonah swallowed at sea by the great whale, or even the nocturnal journey of the sun itself passing through the body of Nuit—the Egyptian goddess of the starry night sky. Furthermore, this image of Death prevailing is embodied in the cosmic energy of Scorpio itself. In the vernacular of Tarot, Scorpio is Trump XIII—the Death card—harvesting bodies like wheat from the field. This, of course, is symbolic death, metaphoric death, all that which must be sacrificed in order to make room for new growth. Just as the sun is now daily waning, it will be reborn at the winter solstice as the child of light, a fragile promise. Death and sacrifice must not be construed as ending or demise. Rather, the spiritual death for which Scorpio is a harbinger, marks the ending of all that which no longer serves. We can seize this energy in our lives by going within to recognize our Shadow, the aspect of ourselves that has long remained hidden for the fear of the power it may release if acknowledged. Addiction, pain, grief, anger, jealousy, etc. are all shadow energies better shed than secretly closeted. We cannot deny their presence, and function, in the human psyche, indeed becoming acquainted with and engaging these energies is often the best way to harness them as teachers during our brief incarnations on earth, the three-dimensional kingdom—Malkuth.

This season is also particularly auspicious as the holiday we popularly know as Halloween approaches. The night of October 31 is the traditional Celtic festival of Samhain, one of four great fire festivals marked by the ancient European tribes. The spooks and tricks of our contemporary, mainstream practices are a reflection of the original significance of the pagan festivities to mark the deepening darkness of the solar year, the death of the agricultural season. This night is an opening of the veil, so to speak, between the realms of the seen and unseen, the physical and the astral, life and death. On this night we can reach between dimensions. It is during this period of darkness, enforced strongly by the eclipse, that we are given a window of opportunity to align with the celestial hierarchy to work to actively affect change in our lives. Darkness is not the maligned cloak of night our medieval ancestors have taught us to fear through distorted fairytales, nor is it the hellish pit where dwells greed, avarice, lust, anger, etc. It is only by feeding darkness these personal demons do we allow them to thrive and fashion around us an imposing cell. Rather, darkness is the great regenerating void into which all things must flow in due course, to there decompose and be reformed into new structure and so drive the cyclical wheel ever onward, fuelling the evolution of Yeats’ great widening gyre: the spiral of our galaxy, the helix of our DNA.

Mark this season with small personal rituals and affirmative actions to align your conscious will with the great universal energies already at work, the energies we are all an innate part of, but often are cultured into switching off our perceptions of. By participating in this energetic co-creation we imbue meaning and subtlety into our daily activities. Go into nature to meditate, consider the fallen leaves as organic matter in the act of transformation, feeding the insects and fungi. Develop a healthy relationship with death as transformation so it no longer holds sway as the final plunge before eventual uncertainty. Use this time to transform energies in your life that are no longer fuelling your growth, which have survived perhaps unacknowledged for far too long. By sweeping away these influences we create space for newness to emerge. Be intuitive and creative with these rituals and ceremonies, paint a symbol on a rock representing that which no longer serves your evolution—be it a habit, a worry, an unhealthy relationship, an argument—and cast it into the sea on the ebbing tide to be washed away by the tenderly transformative energy of water. Write or draw your intention for release on paper—a simple phrase, a poem, a monologue—and offer it to the radically transformative energy of fire. Burnt offerings invoke the mythic power of the phoenix, reborn through fire and ash, rising on wings to the sky. These are acts of sacrifice, not a sacrifice in the crass sense of slaughter, but in the true sense of the word. From the Latinate roots sacer and facio, the word means to make holy, to transform something from the mundane into something special, to endow it with sacred meaning.

Fire-on-the-BeachIf nothing else, use the darkness as a mirror to reveal the husk that can be shed. Wade across the river Lethe. Allow the slough to fall from your being and emerge on the other side refined and focused for what is to come. This morning I was acutely aware of the aspects of myself left behind to be carried away by the dark water gushing along the curb beneath the low-hanging grey clouds. I watched as it flowed, mingled with sticks and leaves, into a small whirlpool as it found the nearest sewer drain.

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