Every autumn equinox, I imagine the goddess of light and the dark goddess meet in a forest clearing.
The young mother-maiden swings a picnic basket, and lays down a blanket, bread, and cheese. The old crone pulls a bottle of cyser mead from her carpetbag, and pours it into glasses. They clink and make a toast to Mabon, or the autumn equinox — the day when the light and darkness are most equal.
I imagine the goddesses speak of the things that happened in the past six months. The maiden tells the dark goddess of human events and earthly occurrences, of devastations and accomplishments. The dark goddess speaks of the world of emotions and subterranean forces, of feelings beneath the surface. They nod, laugh, and shake their heads.
When the afternoon light turns strong and warm, they hear a satyr’s pipes and a distant faery song. They dance to the music, their skirts brushing the forest floor. Finally, when orange and coral clouds line the horizon, the goddesses hold hands. They close their eyes and envision a better future for the earth and humankind.
The goddess of light yawns. She gazes lovingly at her bronze scepter with the glowing golden bulb, propped against a pine trunk. She picks it up and passes it, with the utmost love and respect, to the dark goddess. Upon her touching it, the metal oxidizes to black. The globe turns white and becomes cratered, like the moon.
The goddess of light seems to fade a little. She curls up beneath a tree, yawning, and falls asleep. The earth rearranges itself to cover her. It will keep her warm until her rebirth in March.
The dark goddess glows. A flush of power flows through her skin. Her hair becomes electric and wild, and a cool breeze blows. It is her time now. *
The dark goddess archetype is a rich amalgam of the crone, the dark moon woman, the unseen transformative fire beneath the rich earth, wild magic, and the intuitive subconscious. She is Baba Yaga, Persephone, Hecate, Lilith, Hel, Maha Kali, the Morrigan, Tiamat, Cerridwen, and many more. These are not your mother goddesses. These are the aged, the hidden, the untamed, the transformative, and the magical. Now, at Mabon, it’s finally their season.
People who have a relationship with the dark goddess have a certain vibe to them. They know more than what’s spoken aloud. They are ‘old souls’ — people whose eyes are like portals into another realm. They’re most comfortable in deep conversations with other old souls. They can sit with their own pain or another’s pain and not run away, screaming. They know the twists and turns in the dark alleys of their minds and souls as well as they know the lines on their own hands. They face their own darkness as well as that of the subconscious of the entire human race. They are the people who say, ‘I see. What can we do about it?’
You’ve probably heard the call of a dark goddess, since you’re reading this. You don’t have to be a crone to relate to her. Women and men of all ages have felt their hearts and souls stir at the mention of one of her names, or at the changing of the seasons. Perhaps you’ve had an experience with her, or dreamed of her, or maybe your journey with her is just now beginning.The autumn equinox is a perfect time to make room in your heart for the dark goddess archetype. If you’re willing to face your own shadow self and do the work of the dark goddess, read on.
Just before sundown, perform ritual preparation — physically and mentally cleanse yourself. Practice intentional breathing and don ritual clothing. At sunset, call the directions. Light a non-floral incense and an autumn-colored candle (or black). Think of your dark goddess, and say,
“Goddess, I call upon you, and humbly ask for your insight.’Be aware of your surroundings — you may receive an omen, such as a flock of ravens, symbolizing the Morrigan. Repeat the phrase as many times as you feel necessary to invite her insight into you. Still your thoughts and follow your intuition. The dark goddess may tell you to meditate or dance. Perhaps you’ll feel the desire to embrace a tree or bow and press your forehead to the ground. Don’t be surprised if you’re moved to move. After all, integrating the body-shadow is a journey in and of itself. Perhaps you’ll spill your heart out, or maybe you’ll be still and silent. In any case, go deep. Go within.
The dark goddess demands that you look at yourself — all parts of yourself. Look at the parts you show to others, the parts you keep to yourself, and the parts you don’t even want to acknowledge. Sit with the entirety of yourself. Sit with the pain. Feel it. Acknowledge it. Cry if you need to. After you are in touch with your shadow self / selves for several moments, say,
‘I release my pain. I trust that this energy can be recycled into a better possibility.’
Take several deep breaths and release the emotion. Repeat the mantra above until you feel the energy is truly gone. Bring new energy from the earth up through your chakras. Balance your chakras as the energy travels upward, and consciously hold them in place. This will help to integrate your shadows. To close out the ritual, give thanks from the bottom of your soul and your heart.
‘Thank you, goddess, for your insight, and for any other gifts you choose to give me.’
Make any additional movements or sounds you feel appropriate. Release the goddess and close the circle.
Welcome to the tribe of the dark goddess. We’ve been waiting for you.
You’ll want to practice good post-ritual self-care. Drink clean water. Eat clean food. Breathe deep breaths and be good to yourself. Write your experiences down in your Book of Shadows to have the option to repeat the ritual again next year. This can be an exciting marker to see how much you’ve grown.
If you’re new to working with your dark goddess, perform this ritual a few more times over the next few months. Sit with your pain or darkness so you can integrate it before you ask for anything besides insight. Any requests for specific gifts or boons without laying the groundwork may not be appropriate, and may not be granted.
For the next six months, meditate on your dark goddess from time to time. If she bids you to create an altar for her, do so. Buy her statue, or a stone, or print a piece of artwork of her. Build the bridge.
Until the March equinox (where we’ll experience the rebirth of the maiden), revel in your new depth and intuitions. You’ll find yourself following your gut more and more. The more you listen to the intuitive voice within you, the closer you’ll be to her. You’ll know you can’t always trust what can be seen, but you’ll be in touch with something deeper — a whole world hidden beneath the skin. That’s a good thing.
Per aspera ad astra is an ancient Latin phrase that’s quite fitting for working with a dark goddess — through the dark and rocky road, to the stars. The way forward may not always be clear or easy, but integrating the dark and unseen parts of ourselves can be deeply rewarding and makes our lives infinitely richer. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
* There are many other stories of the changing of the light guard, such as Persephone transforming from a maiden into the Queen of the Underworld and the Oak King and the Holly King, etc. While my story certainly isn’t historic, it’s from the heart and resonates with my beliefs.