The Fertile Darkness- Dwelling in the Dark Womb
We live in a world obsessed with growth, light and productivity. Capitalist conditioning runs deep within our bones, urging us to behave like a machine rather than a fleshy, sensitive human that requires rest in mind, heart, body and soul.
There is rarely an allowance for receiving, waiting, or incubating. There isn’t much room for uncertainty or mystery. We must always be ‘on’ rather than flow with our creative cycles, which have dormant periods and transitional spaces.
Nature teaches us that growth is a cyclical process with distinctly different phases. While I’ve been facilitating circles and centering my work around these teachings for years, the phase I feel is most important to focus on is the dark season, which we are in now.
The dark season is here to show us how darkness is a source of massive creative potential, healing, and inspiration.
The dark time of year, specifically this time nearing Solstice, the seemingly fallow ‘death’ phase of late autumn/winter, corresponds to the dark moon, old age, the Crone archetype, and the Dark Goddess. In addition to it being an earthly season, it is also an inner season that we may experience for varying lengths of time, during periods of personal transformation, loss, creative dry spells, natural aging or moving from one phase of life to another.
This is the aspect of life I feel we most need to collectively reclaim, and explore in our personal lives, as we typically resist it. It is not inherently negative; we have just been conditioned to think of it as such.
Darkness dwells in us all, and the Dark Goddess teaches us that this is a place of fertility, magick, beauty and mystery within us. It is where our potency and power lie. But we must be willing to do the work of unraveling our conditioning to access its gifts.
Rather than running or numbing out the discomfort of difficult emotions or being in a fallow phase, it is much more empowering to embrace it.
Our darkness may show up when we’re triggered emotionally, when we meet with shadow aspects of ourselves, through life changes or loss. These times can trigger fear, anxiety, ‘fight, flight or freeze’ responses in us.
Perhaps something has ended, and we just want to rush into the next thing- like a rebound relationship, job, or activity. Or perhaps we simply feel stuck or frozen in the status quo as we resist acknowledging it.
We may reach for our favourite numbing agent or try to escape by traveling or distraction. This is fine and human. But the feelings will likely just come back again in the future, as things are cyclic, so we might as well use the opportunity to grow.
If we practice embracing the darkness, the uncertainty, the grief or the fear and shame- if we feel the feelings, sit with the discomfort rather than running or numbing, we actually evolve, learn and heal.
Embracing the darkness begets growth.
Nature’s Teachings on Dormancy
Currently, the weather is getting colder, the sky darker, and it seems as though everything is dying around us or going to sleep. But this is a crucial stage of growth and magick happening behind the scenes.
Many seeds require several months of dark, cold dormancy for them to take root. This is why we plant tulip bulbs in autumn, as they need the dormant period first, to grow in spring. Some seeds take weeks, months or even as long as 50 years of dormancy before sprouting!
Dormancy is not death. It is a waiting period of transformation and uncertainty. This ‘not-knowing’ makes us uncomfortable, as we are conditioned to always have a sense of clarity on where we are going, but the reality is, much of the time life just doesn’t go how we imagine it would or how we want it to.
The dark dormancy period may last a short while or a very long time. It is a mysterious, magickal, fertile stage. It’s where one could say life truly begins. It is where energetic potential and physical potential slowly merge and mingle, doing the actual work that begets visible growth. This is where the roots grow, drawing nourishment into the seed that will one day sprout and grow into a beautiful plant. Even if it seems not much is happening, a lot is. New foundations are forming.
Tending to our Roots
Roots are the most important part of a plant, but grow downwards, not upwards. They’re not always visible to the outside world, but they are essential. We humans are like plants, and tending our roots is a tender, sacred, vulnerable act.
Like plants, so much that is essential for our own well-being and growth goes on beneath the surface and lies within our roots. Our roots are connected to our foundations in life- childhood, home life, family and ancestry, our spiritual beliefs, values, and of course in our physical body. They are found in the basic building blocks of who we are.
When we get triggered, or feel low or in pain, it can be wise to follow the feeling down to its roots. We can follow it into our body, into our childhoods, beliefs or even our ancestral inheritance.
Once we find the root of something, we can bring a tender loving energy towards it and then the pain it holds will lessen. The pattern shifts. This inner work is transformative, healing and has impact not only on us but all those connected to us. It is one of the gifts the darkness brings us- Stronger, healthier roots, which help us personally and collectively thrive in the future.
The Importance of Rest and Retreat
We all began in the darkness of the womb. Our instincts know on a deep level that darkness and retreat are required for living life. As humans, we spend about one third of our lives sleeping! This is our daily dose of resting in the dark womb.
During the dark season we require more sleep, more solitude, more time in the dark womb.
In the dark times of our lives, we often feel this pull by our soul. Just like our body gets exhausted at the end of the day, our soul gets weary over time and longs to come home. Our soul requires rest and renewal too.
When we feel we are going through a dark or fallow period in our life, it is often because an old part of ourselves is changing and a new part of ourselves is taking root. This requires a lot of energy and can make us feel weary and tired.
We may feel disoriented, confused, like everything around us is dissolving. We don’t know what to do next, or how to manage or control the situation. A relationship, project or dream dear to us dissolves. Things end, and we may be carrying grief, confusion, frustration or give up hope as we descend into what seems like a dark chasm, meeting a void of nothingness, as we cannot see ahead or even understand where we are now.
But in these times, we are in the Dark Womb of the Great Mother, or The Dark Goddess. We are held by Her warmth, and by the grace of Her Mystery. We are beneath the soil, letting go of our previous form, to become something new and beautiful.
Like the tulip bulb, our growth can only happen if we are willing to surrender and rest in the darkness for as long as is necessary. We must trust in the process, let go of our need to control it, and have the courage to be present to the magick unfolding, as quiet or subtle as it seems.
The Art of Surrender
While the process of transformation often requires surrender, I don’t think of surrender as passive or powerless. Surrender, I am discovering is quite an art. It requires our active participation and presence. It may require extrapolating our perception of surrender from powerlessness, which for some of us go hand in hand.
When in a process of change, we are meant to surrender by letting go of certain conditioned habits, stories about ourselves or ways of doing things that are holding us back. Often the resistance to change is more painful than the change itself.
Surrendering doesn’t mean we do absolutely nothing, give our power away or self-victimize. It means we consciously soften into a new way of being that our soul is longing for. When we choose to soften into our soul’s longing, stay present with all that are feeling, and accept all that we are experiencing, we are practicing the art of surrender. This is a courageous act.
In times of darkness, it often means we are simply taking root. We are incubating a new birth. We are meant to trust the process, and trust that we will know when it’s time to come up into the light of day again.
How to Embrace the Darkness as Your Ally
If you feel called to work with the darkness this season or anytime in your life you feel in a dark period, here are some practices to work with:
-Turn the lights off completely or light a single candle as you just sit in the darkness as a nightly ritual. You may wish to do this while you relax in the bath, or at your altar, or sitting up in bed before going to sleep. Rather than reaching for your phone or another activity to ‘unwind’, try just letting the darkness enfold you, and imagine it holding you like a mother. Feel its peace.
What feelings come up for you when you sit in the dark?
-Go for a nighttime walk. Perhaps you already walk in the dark with your dog in the evening or just coming home after work, but instead of it being routine, let it be an intentional, sacred walk for your heart and soul. Look up at the stars and moon. Feel the energy of the trees whispering in the night, notice the night creatures- raccoons, cats, possums, bats and the nightlife that surrounds you.
What feels different when you walk at night vs in the daytime?
-Get to know a Dark Goddess and work with Her. What makes a goddess ‘dark’? She may be associated with harsh weather such as winter, storms, wind or cold. She may also be associated with war, strife, or death. She may be associated with transformation, nighttime, old age, wisdom, or healing. Dark goddesses’ myths may depict them in frightening ways; however, they are often the strongest, most protective and healing goddesses that come to help us when we are going through the most difficult times in our lives. Some examples are: Hecate, Persephone, Medusa, Nyx, Kali, Sekhmet, Nepthys, Nut, Ereshkigal, Lillith, Hel, Pele, Baba Yaga, Cerridwen, The Morrigan, An Cailleach.
Is there a Dark Goddess you are drawn to? How might her story or personality reflect your own?
-Go to bed earlier and pay attention to your dreams. The longer we sleep the better chance we will have more dreams to remember! Often our dreams communicate to us the truth about how we are feeling, and deeper wisdom coming from our Spirit and Guides about our life. Keep a dream journal. Notice how you feel when you awaken.
What emotions or symbols come up in your dreams? How do you feel when you get more sleep?
-Practice acceptance and the art of surrender. What part of your life is asking you to soften and change? Is there something that you need to accept but are resisting? Perhaps there are signs in your life that something has come to an end or needs to shift for greater well-being. What isn’t worth fighting anymore? One way to embody surrender is to move your body. Put on some music you enjoy and move in whatever way feels good. This can help prevent us from getting stuck or rigid and open to ways of being.
Where in your body can you invite in some more softness, gentleness or acceptance?
May your journey through this dark season be rich with healing, rest and the love and protection of the Dark Womb and the Dark Goddess.
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