Reposted from Kali-Ma: The Darkside of Parenting
During this time of year, the dark of the year, we as Pagans have a fairly unique opportunity within our spiritual wheel of the year. We have the opportunity to grow, spiritually, internally, rather than externally. The Wheel of the Year shows us how to use the energy of Nature to develop in a healthy cycle.
The Dark of the Year is the time of introverts, when humanity as a whole goes from exuberant, exo-energetic creatures to inner-focused beings who welcome the dark and calm of semi-hibernation. We don’t sleep the season away like the bear, but rather we enjoy a certain lethargy of the body, which allows us to grow our mental and emotional selves. We embrace the Yin in the world, the Feminine in ourselves, the dark/cold/wet/gestational parts of Nature.
In animals, a “false” hibernation is often called torpor or languor. I, for one, like “languor,” or “languid.” The word (words are power, remember) calls up in my mind an image of sensuality, of liquid, passive, flowing, small movements. Isn’t that what we crave during the Dark of the Year? Lying in bed, snuggling with family and blankets, lounging around the home with warm, liquid foods and drinks. Celebrating life and survival while death (dark, cold, wet weather) prowls around the periphery.
Death and gestation are two faces of the same coin. They bracket life like not-quite-identical bookends, giving us the time of dark and wet and quiet before we start going, going, going as life demands far too often. The season of winter, the Dark of the Year, allows us to pause in this rat-race of work and family and action, action, action. Winter is a small death that gives us a moment to breath, mentally and emotionally.
So how do we take advantage of this time when we can get back in touch with ourselves and those closest to us during the major holidays of the season of the Holly King?
Samhain is the Final Harvest in the Wheel of the Year. This is the time when we finalize our homes, families, selves, and plans in preparation for the Dark. We get that last little bit of psychological food in our metaphorical bellies before we chill out for the season.
It is also the Death of the Sun/Oak King, a god that represents produce/production/action/Yang. He is that force that gets us out of the house on the first Spring day, who has us doing sports, crafts, and vacations with rock climbing, water slides and snorkeling. Now, he’s dead, giving his body as the Final Harvest to supply our Languor during the Dark of the Year. His death gives us permission to be languid, to do nothing more (physically) than get by.
Samhain is the time for looking back and celebrating death and those who have died, apropos for the festival of the Death of the Oak King. It is the season for remembering what and who has come before. It is the time for embracing those people who have changed you, for better or worse, and have passed on, either in death or simply by moving out of your life.
It is especially appropriate to look back at the “life” of your personal Oak King, your activities for the year, and remember them and how they have changed you over the course of the year. It is a good time for assessing what you’ve done and how that is working for you, or not. It is a time of recollection and evaluation. It is time to appreciate how you have grown, by your own motivation or by the influence of people and circumstances.
I would argue that Thanksgiving is the natural extension of Samhain. After celebrating the time of Death and what has passed, we move on to appreciation for what we still have. We gather with friends, family and food to embrace our emotional and physical wealth. We gather in groups to pool our resources, reveling in the duel affluence of luxurious, sensual foods and the emotional plenty of friends and family to share it.
What better follow-up for the Death of the Active Year then to celebrate those who we want to be languid around?
Of course, no Thanksgiving is complete without the sensual experience of those treasured, beloved foods shared with all, and the languid aftermath of the feasting, when everyone sits around and indulges in some light conversation or gossip, or enjoying games that don’t get played during those times when we are all too busy being active.
I think that a lot of people make a mistake during Thanksgiving. They forget the purpose of celebration. This is not the time for taking up the responsibility of supplying everything; it is the time of pooling resources. It is not meant to be spent among those who bring out negative emotions; it is a celebration of gratitude and love. Pressure to be perfect has become part and parcel of the holiday season, but allowing that pressure to choose who and how you participate is still a choice. Choose to make it the celebration it should be.
The last holiday before the return of the light (Imbolc) is Yule, the Birth of the Sun/Oak King. This is the time when the days stop getting shorter, and begin getting longer. The promise of sun and warmth and activity is made as Mother Nature/Goddess births the God-child that will return these to us.
Yule is the time of the Promise of Life. The plants will bloom again, the birds will sing, creatures great and small will make themselves known once more. The Dark will fade into sunlight. It isn’t here yet, but it will come.
Imagine if the days didn’t get longer ever again. Imagine our sorrow if there was no promise of spring to come. If we couldn’t “see the light” of summer on the way. The promise of returning life/spring is just as important to us as the actual return. Even as the weather gets worse in the heart of winter, the sun shines a few minutes longer each day as evidence that we will not be cold forever.
Yule is the perfect time to make our own promises. While this is often done at New Years (a mere ten-day after Yule), this is when we feel the need to plan and affirm the actions we will be taking when the Oak King returns in full power. This is when we chart our course for after the thaw of spring releases our languor into animation.
Take the time to consciously prepare yourself for the coming year. You have taken the time to remember what has passed at Samhain, to celebrate your present at Thanksgiving. Now is the time to create your future at Yule. Use the knowledge of the past and resources of the present to conceive your best future, to invest those resources in the next step of your life. The Oak King will return, and as the flowers bloom, so your chosen course of action may use the energies of spring to bring your life into greater fruition.
Many blessings during your Languor in the Dark of the Year!