All life begins in darkness. All gestation, physical and spiritual, takes place in the dark, in the underground realms of earth, body, and soul. These worlds are not well-understood or frequented by the mind; this is why they seem “dark” to us.. But nothing new under the sun is ever born without a long sojourn in darkness. This is the case for us as individuals and as a collective both.
Once the temperature gets below 55 degrees, honeybees find it difficult to fly. For a season, they remain inside, abiding in complete and total darkness, clustered together to conserve warmth. This is a time of absolute inwardness, a season given to taking a deep and profound in-breath after months of outward focus and activity in the warm and bright fields of life.
Winter is, of course, a vulnerable time for honeybee populations. Like people, honeybees are prone to collapse in the dark winter months.
All transitions, all births, are inherently perilous. The answer is not to minimize risk—creating new life is an inherently risky endeavor—but to strengthen ourselves for the process by laying in rich stores of inner nourishment.
Without darkness, without the unknown, without wintry seasons of difficulty and disruption, as souls we would remain forever outward, depthless, and unable to renew the life that is collapsing within and all around us.
Our human colony does not heed the teachings of winter. We fear the dark. We resist the invitation to return home, to come down out of heads to receive the wordless wisdom of our bodies and of our shared body, Gaia. The dark roots of our souls reach for something larger, something whole, something fruitful, but we resist their pull.
Instead, we exchange gifts. We attend parties and eat holiday meals. We light our homes, we light our streets, we light our skies.
We ignore the wordless teaching of our elders—bear, honeybee, salmon— all of whom surrender to the dark and cold logic of this season and return home. The bear in his den, dreaming. The honeybees clustered into a single, reunited body. The Chinook salmon who swim thousands of miles from the open seas back to the humble steams of their birth to deposit eggs and die, laying down their lives to feed unknown and unseen future generations.
All of these feel the oncoming change in season long before winter arrives. They prepare in order to heed the call of darkness. They all return home to the womb of the den, the hive, or the stream. They do this not only to survive, but to fulfill their deepest purpose: to incubate new life.
To observe the teachings of our elders on this, the longest night, let us yield to the larger ritual that is playing out in the natural world.
Let us leave our houses, even for a little while, to look on darkness. May we taste it, smell it, and listen to Her messages for us. You see, darkness is the realm of the feminine, of the soul, of the receptive and the generative soil within each of us, whatever our gender.
To participate in a celebration of the feminine this night, you might want to forgo lights in favor of candlelight for an hour.
You might choose to stay in your den this evening to dream new dreams.
You might pause from activity in the human colony to recollect yourself into a single, united self.
Or you might choose to take some time to reflect on and set intentions: what is it that you want to spend your precious life energy on in the New Year? How can your find the streams of your birth, your life purpose, and make a gift of your life for future generations?
May this be a wonderfully dark and restorative winter solstice for each of you.