It’s hard for me to write a holiday post this year. To say I’m not in the Christmas spirit is the understatement of the year. And yet, this is the time of more than just canned Christmas music and out of control commercialism. I’ve always been bah humbug about that. But the fact that we’re in the dark days, the fact that we’re about to find in each of us newness in spite of all that has happened, all that has laid us low in the past year, the fact that we’ve found a commonality a sense of connectedness in those dark days, well that is something I’ve always found worth celebrating. This year, with the loss of my sister, more than ever, I need what those dark days can offer me, that womb of darkness, a place of being and not doing and that’s why I’m sharing this post with you again.
As I was walking along the canal the other day between rain showers, watching the moorhens leave water con trails across the surface, I was thinking about why this time of year is such a big deal. It’s dark, it’s dreary, it’s seemingly dead. Really, it seems like something we should just want to skip right through as much as possible, and yet we celebrate this time of year more than any other. For several years I celebrated the seasons of the year with a Wiccan coven, and one of the best parts of that time in my life was the effort made to understand and live in sync with the changing seasons of the year. That I’ve held onto long after I left the coven. That ebb and flow remains an important part of who I am and how I celebrate.
Then, as now, the magic of this time of year intrigued me the most. In the Pagan cycle of the year, the winter months are represented by the direction of north, the cold, dark direction, the place where everything seems dead and silent. The days are short and the nights are long and it’s a temptation to go to bed early and sleep late. In the darkest days it’s even a temptation to follow the example of our bear cousins and sleep the whole dreary time away until the spring returns. The holidays aside, by the time January gets here it’s all about the return of the light. We’ve all had enough dark days, and we want sunshine.
So what’s so magical about that? Of course we want the sunshine. Who doesn’t? But the magic comes in the waiting. The dark powers of the north, the dark earth energy of the pagan wheel of the year is dream magic. It’s the time before beginnings. It’s the time when we sit with a cup of tea clenched in our hands and reflect on what has been, while everything in us looks forward to what lies ahead. On the one hand we dream of the past and we say our good-byes to this turning of the year, on the other hand, we dream and scheme and anticipate the future that will begin, just like new life, in the dark place. And we wait for the end that has to happen before the beginning. The time before beginnings. It’s a phrase that has no meaning if we don’t have a past to reflect upon. It’s a phrase that has no meaning if we don’t have a future to anticipate and to dream and scheme for.
This time of year the sun, when we do get it, is never very high in the sky, and it’s often a cold anemic sun. This time of year when everything seems so dead, there are already buds fattening on the trees — the beginnings of the leaves that will shelter the birds and shade us from the sun when it’s at its most powerful. This time of year even the winter visitors, the waxwings and the fieldfares, are anticipating new beginnings, feeding up for their return to the north and for the raising of the next generation.
It’s in these dark days, in this space in between when it’s not quite the end, but it’s not yet the beginning either, it’s in this liminal space that we experience a magic that’s different from any other time of the year, a magic of stillness, a magic of holding ourselves tightly and inhaling deeply just before the sun returns and we’re off once again, running forward into the headroom and the creative momentum that this time before beginnings has afforded us.
Happy Time Before Beginnings!