The Gods, the Darkness, and the Quiet Times

This morning, it’s a cold Valentine’s Day here in the center of Tejas. As I look out in the backyard, I can see the patches of ice that have formed in the yard from the low temperatures. There is a promise of even colder weather, as well as a possibility of some significant amount of snow. Well, significant as it relates to here in Tejas. Currently my coffee is still warm, though I will need to refresh it sometime in the very near future. My speakers currently have Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush with their duet “Don’t Give Up” from Gabriel’s “So” album. Just the perfect stuff under the grayish skies above.

Weather like this reminds me that Winter will grab hold and try its best to cling on to our days for a little longer. However, Spring is nearly here, we just need to be patient for a little while longer. The Gabriel/Bush duet reminds me that there is always struggle in Life, even in one’s Spirituality.

I have walked through many valleys within my Spirituality, most recently during the last three months of this past calendar year. I tend to refer to these valleys as my “quiet times” in my life. Crow will whisper in my ear from time to time during my “normal” times. Abnoba tends to be more direct with confrontation in dreams that will linger long after I awake. Coyote…. well, communication there is far less frequent and tends to be a lot more subtle. However, the “quiet times” feel a lot more disconnected, and as I have learned recently, are tied tightly to my “down” moments with my depression.

I have never been sure why the “quiet times” come about, and aside from tying it loosely to my “down” bouts, these tend to happen without reasonable frequency. Sometimes, these last for a while. Sometimes, not so much. When I first started to experience these moments, I would panic. The world feels so out of touch, out of sync with me – nothing felt like I expected. I would feel like I did something wrong. However, I have learned through experience that these moments happen, and that I will be walking on my own for a while. It still feels scary when it occurs – plus my entire life feels very dis-jointed and disconnected when it occurs.

There are those that come to Paganism expecting to be put under the protective embrace of a God or Goddess, only to be disappointed when it does not happen. Folks, the Gods choose to work with those they choose to work with. Sometimes, They even find a working agreement with an individual and pick those folks as Priests and Priestesses. While I work with Crow, Coyote and Abnoba quite a bit, I am not a “chosen” individual with any of the three. I’m just someone that works with Them. Crow made it very clear that I have a role outside that of traditional First Nations’ aspects. I am not of the People. Their traditions are not mine to work with. My working with Crow is for a different purpose and reasoning. What exactly that is…is not really mine to question or easily discern.

Like I said, many folks come to Paganism expecting a direct relationship with chosen Gods or Goddesses. My relationship with Crow and Coyote is not a direct one. Occasionally, my Path will intersect with Theirs. Abnoba is a little different. I am sure there is something that She wants from me. As of this moment, I am not completely sure, though She is more likely to be directly in my face over things. There is no direct connection there, yet. There may never be. Some will say that I am lucky to have such a “direct” connection to the Gods. There are times I would scoff at the term “lucky”.

My connection with Crow, Coyote, and Abnoba is just – a connection. None of the three play a major part in my daily Spirituality, aside from offerings that I give to each. My daily Path is more about connection to the environment around me, and far less in devotion. The whole point of connection for me is why I feel so disoriented during my “quiet times.” When you have something as integral in your daily practice that suddenly gets “turned off” – well, as I have described my depression before, it becomes a very dark and lonely place.

For those coming to Paganism seeking a connection with a specific God or Goddess, let me impart a piece of advice to you. The Gods and Goddesses are not the Hollywood and Marvel depictions that you see in comics, books, and movies. Those two-dimensional depictions are meant to entertain you for the time you spend in those fictional environments. Loki is not Tom Hiddleston and is a far more complex Being than what those crappy movies depict Him as being. If/When you do encounter Loki, you will find that out.

If you don’t encounter a God or Goddess in your daily practice, continue with your devotions to Them. Its not hurting anything to do that, and who knows, your efforts may yet attract Them to you. If you are disappointed and finding that a lack of a God Or Goddess in your Life is making your daily practice of Paganism meaningless to you…perhaps, this Path is not for you. That does happen. If, like me, you find yourself in a moment of the “quiet times” – persevere in continuing through that dark valley. Trust me, the Light will eventually return, the connections will renew, and you will have made it through. Just don’t expect it to happen right away. The darkness of the long night does not fade so easily. Hang in there. You will make it.

And if you need it, reach out your hand. I’ll be happy to hold it and walk beside you in the darkness. Your darkness doesn’t scare me. I am not afraid of being sucked into your depression. I know what it is like to be left alone in your own darkness. And I know what it means to have someone care enough to reach out.

–T /|\

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What Does Shadow/Darkness Mean to You?

Over on Facebook, I have a few folks that ask questions to me via private messages. Usually, I take a few lines to answer – and the questions are typically short, softball questions that are all over the place. However, from time to time, I get a really extensive question that I feel might be a good blog post. This was how this post came to be…

Q: What does Shadow and/or Darkness mean to you

That is a really meaty subject to tackle, and not one I have really gone towards a ton. I certainly hope I can do this some sort of justice. I hit my own moments of darkness. I have spent time with my own Shadow-self. None of those times were pleasant, and I tend to not write about my thoughts during these times, though I really should make a more concentrated effort to do so.

Gizmo hiding…sort of

Perhaps, a better place to start would be a bit of a description of what I mean by these terms. Shadow or Darkness, for me are the tougher times in life. When I have tons of self-doubt of who I am, what I can do, what I am capable of. Many times, just interacting with this particular perspective can lock me up into a non-moving perspective. Where I am afraid to do anything for fear of not being “good enough” to do what is necessary. or that my actions or thoughts will just make things even worse. It is a severe paralyzing perspective, which can have me curled up on the floor of my office, literally, in tears.

Usually, I am fairly confident that I can find a solution to whatever problem I am given. Even when I don’t think I have the “right” skillset to tackle an issue, I am always sure that I can do my best to get around the problem with the skill sets that I do have. The innate troubleshooter that lives inside me is capable of putting things together to attempt a solution, no matter how awkward, inappropriate or offbeat that may be. However, there is always the moment where I have trouble seeing myself being able to solve any problem. Where I am telling myself that I am not good enough to even try and get to a solution. That it might be better that I never would have existed.

Those moments of despair are my moments of Darkness. Those are the moments where my Shadow Self whispers my worst fears into my ear, and my brain buys into what is being said. Those dark moments of the soul are extremely difficult to get through.

There are other sides to Darkness and Shadow as well. Shadow and Darkness are not just markers of despair, anxiety, or other moments of self-weakness. Darkness can also be a veil between the know and the unknown, purposefully keeping you off of information and experience you are not quite ready for. You need only tighten up your belt and courage, and reach through that veil to find what you might be seeking. No matter the distance of the veil, there will always be another opening of light further on. Are you willing to go? Are you willing to take those steps into the unknown? Be careful of stepping forward too quickly and too willing. The darkness can hide obstacles in your path. Gnarled tree roots seeking your footfalls. Slippery rocks seeking to unbalance your walk. Sharp ends of branches looking to snag your hair, your clothing or deeply scratch your skin, so as to alter your sense of direction. Or who knows what else? Those noises you hear may be unnatural things, seeking your flesh.

The true meaning of what Darkness or Shadow may be is truly up to you. For me, it depends on the situation and the momentary experience. There can be the shroud to push through to find those new experiences. But that shroud can also bring despair, confusion, and doubt to those who are not completely prepared for what can happen. Sometimes the shroud obscures the world around you – depriving you of one or more of your senses. Other times, it can show you the world around you in extreme clarity, and provide a sensation of doubt over your abilities. In either case, the Darkness or the Shadow is there as an experience. And sometimes that experience can be so painful as to stop your whole world.

So what to do?? How to get beyond those moments? Well, that answer is different for everyone. But I can promise you this: someone is there to help guide you through things. If you need a hand to guide you, there’s Cat Treadwell’s extremely awesome book Facing the Darkness. Nine Hells, there’s always me. You can always write me (elfster@gmail.com). It might not be the same thing as someone being there, but at least its something. Like I said, there’s always SOMEONE that can help you. You can call a crisis helpline, and talk with someone. It’s something. And something is always better than nothing.

Remember folks, everyone goes through the moments of Darkness in their lives. Everyone has a Shadow Self that whispers those thoughts of doubt in their ears. Some folks are better at telling that Shadow Self to take a hike. For those that aren’t, there’s always help available, somewhere. Those dark moments won’t last forever. Those moments do hurt, but in time the darkness fades, and there’s a hand to hold.