A celebration of the darkness on the shortest day

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My portrait of Hel, or Hela, the ruler of the underworld in Norse mythology, and a bit more for those of us not constricted to the åsatru versions.

As readers know, I do love Christmas, or Yule as it’s called where I’m from (spelled Jul nowadays).  The food, the candles, the more or less gaudy representations of nisser, the constant sugar-rush and high flying emotions. Love it. 

But none of these things are for me meant to ‘drive away the darkness’ as the popular phrase goes. I carve out a tiny little den, slightly less dark than the enormous darkness of the long night, and curl up and rest. Without darkness, sleep would be made quite difficult. And sleep is the most wonderful thing. Also, quite a lot of animals prefer the darkness for their activities.

Darkness has a really bad reputation in most current cultures. It is still associated with basically all the stuff humans don’t like, a sort of umbrella term for anything unpleasant or unwanted. Even by those who know intellectually that this isn’t true, and that darkness is as necessary for life as light is, the darkness has a tendency to be pushed aside into, well, the dark.

Without darkness, there would be no renewal. It’s not an opposite, but a prerequisite. Without darkness, life would be a single, unending, hectic rush towards a messy end, probably good for capitalist production values, but an absolute horror for anything else. Without darkness, humans forget that they do not own the planet or has any prior claim to it, no right to mess about with its ecosystems in an attempt of adjusting or ‘fixing’ nature. Without darkness, you will never really experience awe for nature.

For those who pay a bit of attention to the current world, it’s not the darkness that poses the biggest threat to a living earth, but the light. Or to be precise, artificial light made by humans to drive away the darkness. Electric lights, along with pesticides and other weapons you use against nature being nature, is a key factor in the ongoing insect apocalypse, the decimation of insects on earth. And without insects, most known life will struggle to exist.

The aggressive attitude towards darkness, wielded mainly by those who count themselves as ‘good’ is a reminder of the ongoing war against nature that humans have believed themselves to be fighting for some time now. Perhaps they should stop and realize that they’re only fighting themselves, and making everything else suffer in the process. A good place to start is to contemplate and celebrate the vast and important, soothing and covering, darkness.

Lighting a candle makes the darkness easier to see, It doesn’t drive it away, but brings it closer to mind.

So light a candle, or a lovely fire, tonight in praise of the darkness, who will let you go to bed early with a book and a mug of mulled wine without feeling the least bit of fomo or guilt.

Sweet dreams.

2 thoughts on “A celebration of the darkness on the shortest day

  1. Anne

    Thank you for this beautiful post 🙂 I think a lot of people are not used to darkness anymore. I work in outdoor education and children and adults I worked with in different countries usually are surprised and uneasy in the forest at night. I like hiking in the dark, it hides also me and I can move unrecognized. Sometimes, I am far out in the woods by the lake making a campfire with friends we are there for a couple of hours talking. When we leave the fire to watch stars, it can be scary because you got no idea who else is out there in the night. So I prefer having a dog with us who can smell in case bear or moose should come our way. As long as the dog is relaxed, I am.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. tone melbye

      That sounds like a wonderful job. I find that a lot of people also underrate how bright the night can be in the woods when the moon and the stars are out.
      In France, a lot of villages have marked themselves as ‘Village Etoiles’ meaning that they turn off all communal light after 11 pm, so that people can actually see the stars.

      Like

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