I open to the Dark Half of the Year

I open to the Dark Half of the Year

There are some who see Samhain as the beginning of Winter, just as they see Lughnasadh as the beginning of Autumn, but that has never worked for me. To me the Solstices and Equinoxes mark the very beginning of the associated season, with the Fire Festivals the season’s peak. So for me the Autumn Equinox marked the beginning of Autumn, as the leaves began their turning. Now I look outside and storm Brian (he’s not a storm, he’s a very naughty boy…) stripped many of those turning leaves from the trees, leaving some to turn that brighter yellow of late Autumn. By the Winter Solstice they will have all gone, and after that the cold of Winter really starts to bite as we move towards what is the height of Winter for me, Imbolc (although being one who is not so keen on Winter, I will acknowledge the first tiny stirrings of Spring with the arrival of the flowering Snowdrops).

This brings me to the point of this post. Many of you will know (I’ve made no secret of it) that I am not a great fan of Winter. I’m a Gemini June baby and relish the feeling of the Sun’s warmth on my skin. I miss it so much when it’s gone, and it really is leaving now – just the barest glimmer left in the air in full sunshine.

Samhain, and the height of Autumn, is the time I say goodbye to the Sun’s warmth. It coincides with the end of British Summer Time as our clocks change, and that obviously brings a sudden end to the lighter evenings too. It really feels and smells of Autumn out there today. But this year I’ve decided to go against my natural inclination and embrace the dark and cold of Autumn and Winter, because of course I understand that the Earth needs that respite, as do so many of us.

When you’ve been working with the Pagan Wheel of the Year for a while it’s very likely that you will find aspects of your life beginning to slip into sync with the turning seasons. Spring brings with it a new vitality and you start things, or plan stuff for the approaching Summer, literally getting ready for the lighter evenings and warmer, longer days. And when Summer arrives it’s off to camps, or conferences, out walking in the countryside, picnics, visits to the ocean, holidays, a season packed with activity. When Summer wanes and Autumn arrives things begin to naturally slow down. Not too much, but it’s obviously there. Of course Samhain can be a packed and busy time for Pagans, but afterwards, those nights are long, the days shorter, it feels like it’s time to retreat indoors, to bring those activities to an end for the year, and to begin to allow new things to gestate, to form, and be ready to burst into life with the next Spring.

My life reflects that cycle. Of course there are always things happening throughout the year, but I am definitely more busy from March through to Samhain with gigs and travelling. The time from Samhain through to the Spring Equinox is often my time for thinking, for writing, for those creative processes that need the dark, just as the Mandragora needs Wintering before it will come to life. Right now I have just released a new album, Y Mabinogi – The First Branch – the first of four connected albums each telling a part of the Mabinogion. The time has come to begin the research for The Second Branch. What better time than the late Autumn and Winter to begin that process, and it has begun. The dark really does help me reflect as I read the stories of Bran and Branwen. The Corvids are circling everywhere right now. We had a Jay in the garden this morning. The trees stand bare. The Earth is beginning Her sleep.

So this year I will embrace the dark half of the year. I will enjoy the nights in with a glass of single malt. I will go against everything I have said about the dark seasons, and welcome them.

And I’ll let you know how it went next Spring.

10 responses to “I open to the Dark Half of the Year”

  1. I have always dreaded the dark nights. I relish getting up with the Sun on a Spring morning.The newness and freshness of the day fills me with joy. When the clocks go back I get this sense of impending gloom and doom. I have felt a primitive fear of the darkness as I have walked home on a dark evening. However, like you, I have decided to approach this season differently this year and to conquer my fear. Without darkness you cannot have light and the darkness is a time for wonderful creatures like badgers,owls,and bats to be awake.
    It is mankind that has made the dark a place of fear,not Nature. If I encounter shadows then what harm can they do me if I mean no harm to them. I hope to experience the peace of the sleeping Earth this winter and to find joy in the light of the Moon as well as the Spring sunshine.

  2. I like your thoughts and feeling space, Damh You make it sound deliciously cozy (single malt scotch…or a cuppa ) and deeply stirring…the cauldron bubbling, bubbling up something magnificent so that all winter long one’s senses are deepened and heightened in anticipation. I appreciate the invitation it is for me to burrow in a little deeper into the Wheel of the Year and the opportunities thus provided as I drop into the cauldron things like resistance, anger, and uncertainty and ladle out wonder and desire (as Caroline Casey often articulates transformations). As always, thank you for sharing…I look forward to forthcoming snippets of clarity and revel-ation ☺️ May this season be deeply luscious for us all.

    Bright Blessings /|\

  3. Well said brother! I am going to do my best to embrace winter as well. Living in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in the US, we have to deal with temperatures that routinely drop to -30 to -40 F through winter, so this is going to take a lot of effort on my part to embrace this time of year, but I am going to give it a go. Blessings!

  4. Being a Capricorn and born in between Yule and the twelfth night, I’m basically the polar opposite. The cold and the night are my natural inclination and I’ve always found the Summer with bright sunlight and hot temperatures rather too much to handle. This year however I’ve done the same – but in reverse – and tried to embrace the summer tide more. How did I get on? Well at the moment I really can’t say. Sometimes seeds planted take their time, but I have definitely increased my perceptions and senses. When I walk now, I’m much more aware of what is around me than before.

  5. Great words, Damh!! I used to dread the shortening days myself; however, I have found myself embracing them as I begin to grow older. While I still love the new possibilities of Spring, and I’m okay with the heat of summer (I live in the Mojave Desert), the cooler nights, longer night skies, and knowing that the rain will bring much needed water to the desert plants and animals to help them last through the year is in itself invigorating.

    Damh, I want to say thank you. I only just last year discovered your music, and it is on constant rotation. I enjoy listening to you as work in the yard, getting my hands dirty in ol’ Mum Earth. Among your songs, Land, Sea and Sky holds a special place in my heart, as it is a great motivator to get me out oh the house, away from the boob tube, and hiking in the local desert. I just wish that I lived closer to the ocean (I miss surfing). But still, plenty of big land and big sky to touch my soul. Thanks again!!!

  6. Great Post, Thanks. I am a “Leo Baby” so Summer has always been my “Time to play, dance & bask in the Sun.” The past few years I have worked on embracing the quiet time of Winter, as I await the Spring Goddess once again. The OBOD Alban Arthan ceremony has helped me enjoy this cold time of the year more. It has inspired me to write songs & poetry about the quiet, glistening blanket of snow, covering Timpanogos (our Sleeping Maiden on the mountain), the shining snow flakes & faeries, the clear, brisk, fresh air, & a Winter Focus on rest, study, & quietude.

    I have always loved Samhuinn gatherings & my connection with the Goddess, the Departed Ones, the opening of the Spiritual Veil, & the Fall season. And, I have often found myself wishing it would STAY Fall, until Spring. I am envisioning a positive Winter season this year, & am working on finding & enjoying the positive aspects of this time. I do prefer Spring & Fall for many reasons, but am doing my best to embrace Winter. The real concern I have where I am living, is that there are many drivers who do not drive safely for the conditions, which tends to create many accidents.

    But once inside, toasty warm, & watching the dancing, white glistening snow flakes through the frosted windows, life can be peaceful, lovely, & delightful. I especially enjoy a roaring fire, a hot cup of spicy chai tea, spiritual books, music, etc. Cross country skiing or snow shoeing can be great too!

    I have often said that Spring & Fall are my favorite seasons (just like Dawn & Dusk are also my favorites times of day). I love the Beginnings of the New Seasons. I can feel & sense the special Goddess Heart Light & energy, shining & flowing to us from the Cosmos. As Winter brings the cold & frost, I plan to focus on the joys & benefits of the Winter season too…

    Bright Blessings to all, on your journeys towards Alban Arthan…

  7. I’m a Virgo and autumn is my favorite time of year although I enjoy all the seasons of the year. Being pagan and noticing the changes in seasons and flowing with it has really helped me, I can appreciate the beauty in all seasons but Nature knows what we need and we live by the seasons and this time of slowing down is what our bodies and minds need and winter sleep of the Goddess is what we need to, extra sleep, pampering and nourishing our bodies and soul. Hang in there spring will be here before you know it. We just celebrated Imbolc here in Michigan and the Earth is stirring.

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