To go into the dark with a light is to know the light
To know the dark, go dark, without sight,
And find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
And is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

- Wendell Berry, To Know the Dark


Some personal knowledge of the Dark Goddess and the way in which she works is essential for all those who seek a deeper understanding of the Mysteries. While not as obviously welcoming as her gentle sisters of healing and life, the goddess of darkness has other gifts to offer. But what does it mean in our own lives that the Dark Goddess brings Death, Transformation and Regeneration? These are not comfortable concepts to entertain: our bodies and minds are uneasy with separation, change, and journeys into the unknown. In particular, when we hear the word, ‘death,’ our minds automatically think of the body dying. Death is to be feared like an unwanted guest at the party; life must be preserved at all costs, extended artificially if need be, to keep the terror of the ‘bournes from which no man returns’ ever at bay.

Yet this is only one kind of death. Dying is happening all around us at each moment of every day – in fact, each moment itself dies as it gives birth to another. What Buddhism calls ‘the ten-thousand things’ continually rise into being and disappear into the past. A sound, a single note – from a voice, or a violin – blossoms and decays. Light, coloring the sky or sea, is continually in motion. Each living creature, whether insect, animal or human being, experiences life as a unique, continually unfolding story of beginnings and endings. In the world of time, change is the only constant. Life yields to death then is reborn again in an endless spiral dance throughout the universe.

The Gift of Changes

When things that we took for granted end in our lives – a relationship, perhaps, or a job – we may feel trepidation because what was familiar and predictable is gone, like a well-trodden path that has suddenly, unaccountably, petered out – or worse still led us to a precipice. Endings bring up our worse fears and imaginings about the uncertainty of the future. They remind us that things do not go on for ever, that we must also embrace change. This is one gift of the Dark Goddess: She shatters old, outworn structures in our lives and forces us to die to old ways of being that do not support our growth. The Gift of Changes tempers our strength and courage, the qualities associated with the North on the Wheel of Life, and, above all, makes us grow and evolve. Through her, we eventually emerge reborn into a new state of consciousness, one that can perceive and partake of deeper mysteries that lie hidden in the invisible realms.

At such times, she teaches us the wisdom of letting go of attachments, dying to old, outworn patterns so that the new may come forth. For the truth is that we cannot progress spiritually unless we are willing to sacrifice something – and that something is our ‘smaller’ selves – the everyday self that feels most secure living on the surface of life, immersed in all its little comforts and pleasures, involved in the family drama, or the gains and losses of the marketplace, the joys and pains of body and mind. This is the ‘little story’ of our individual human lives, that, sooner or later, we must put aside for the ‘big story’ of spiritual development, if we wish to wake up from our sleep to the higher realities of existence.

Before you decide that all this sounds rather alarming, let me assure you that it is not so much a matter of giving up all that you and know and love in your life and world – it’s more a question of where you place your emphasis. You can certainly enjoy all the pleasures of earthly existence, but know that beyond the little You – the ego self – there is a Higher Self, and beyond your everyday experience of life, there is a reality that is greater and more beautiful by far. Your willingness to let go of your attachments to the world of appearances to embrace the reality that shines behind and through all things, is the sacrifice required of you, and it may be helpful to remember that the word ‘sacrifice’ means literally ‘to make holy.’ You do not have to ‘give everything up’ and become a hermit in order to see the world transfigured in shining glory, but you do have to learn that you are connected with all living things in a great shining web of Light, which is hard to do when you are identified solely with your ego self. As the 17th century poet and mystic Thomas Traherne wrote,

You’ll never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself floweth in your veins
And you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars.

Knowing this, and knowing also that it is the deepest desire of our Higher Self to have us wake up to Reality can often make it more bearable when we experience losses and grief in our lives. Although I am certainly no advocate of deliberately choosing suffering as a path towards higher consciousness, it is certainly the case for many, myself included, that difficult times can help us penetrate to spiritual understandings we might not otherwise have reached, cocooned as we often are by the comforts of a routinely-lived life. Such times might be said to be periods of initiation by the Dark Goddess, who ‘breaks in order to make.’ Certainly, I and many others known to me usually emerge stronger and wiser from such times of trial, which usually occur at particular astrological cycles in our lives, often around the ages of 28-29 or 39-42, although individual horoscopes will often reveal other important aspects, if the occurrence takes place at other ages. Frequently, this is indicated by the position of the planet Pluto, whose influence, despite being named for the underworld god in the heavily-patriarchal Roman symbol-system, is truly that of the Dark Goddess herself.

Recently, depth psychologists and theologians have tried to point out the importance of this stage of the spiritual quest, called by medieval mystics ‘the dark night of the soul.’ Theologian Matthew Fox believes that all people committed to awareness today taste the dark night of the soul ‘because we are all mystics, and we all undergo deep darkness. Entering the dark constitutes a necessary part of the journey beyond despair and numbing.’ The Dark Goddess teaches us that we must descend into the darkness before we can win through to the light. This ability to balance both the dark and the light within yourself and your world, to navigate your way through the abyss and to emerge transformed is also the hallmark of the initiate of the Mysteries. As Goethe wrote:

So long as you haven’t experienced
this: to die and so to grow
You are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth [1]

[1] Goethe, Johann Wolfgang Von., translated by Robert Bly, The Holy Longing, in News of the Universe. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1980, p.70.
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