When we write and talk about Pagan values, I think there’s a tendency to focus on those values that we think others who are not Pagan will understand. While they may not be at the top of other religions’ lists, values such as honor, hard work, open-mindedness, etc. are the sort of things that most people, religious or not, consider “good.” Lots of people honor their ancestors, even if doing so isn’t particularly a religious value for them and being devoted to a deity is, even if it’s not your deity, something that, again, we expect other religious groups to understand (although some religions are very wrapped up in proving that their deity is the one, true diety). I’d like to talk a little bit about a value that I consider to be, if not a generally Pagan value then, at least, a Wiccan one. I’d like to talk about darkness.
It’s the nature of Patriarchy to set up good/bad dualisms. Man/woman, soul/body, heaven/Earth, abstinence/sex, and, lightness/darkness. The darkness is mysterious, uncontrollable, messy, and, as a result, scary. So it’s not surprising that most religions value the light, use it as a metaphor for all things good, and shun the dark, considering it evil.
But Witches value the dark, just as they value mystery, women, bodies, Earth, and sex. Witches refuse to buy into Patriarchy’s dualism, at least beyond a certain level. It isn’t that Witches aren’t afraid of the dark; it’s that they’re not scared of being afraid. Witches are willing to tolerate that scary feeling that we’ve all experienced in the dark (and, of course, by “the dark,” I don’t only mean nightime) in order to gain wisdom, experience, power, strength. Witchcraft teaches techniques that can help a Witch face the dark (grounding and centering, being present, magics and spells for protection, etc.). But, in the end, Witches have to master, use, and be willing to experience their fear in order to learn from the dark.
Facing the dark includes, in my practice, facing my own shadow issues. In fact, it means seeking them out, deliberately, in dreamwork, meditation, journaling, discussions with other Witches, and, when needed, through therapy. When Witches (like other Pagans) say that they want to “Know Thyself” they mean “all of myself,” including those parts that hide in the darkness, both terrified of and desperate for revelation. If you want to view night-blooming flowers, you’ve got to go outside at night. If you want to meet and dance with your own shadows, you’ve got to be willing to walk into the dark.
And so I value the ugly old crone as I value the beautiful young mother. I value what goes on in my compost bin as I value the white daisies and Queen Anne’s lace growing in my cottage garden. I value the part of me that approaches challenges certain that my efforts won’t be rewarded as I value the part of me that goes ahead and takes on challenges.
What do you find to value in the darkness? Do you consider darkness as much a Pagan value as honor or connection?
Picture found here.