By Molly J. Anderson-Childers | Updated September 12, 2018
Ah! The dark time of year arrives. Who will see the dark beauty there, feel the lovely enchantment of a forest at twilight? What lingers here? There is a shape, beckoning me. I must go, follow him wherever he leads, the Shadow-Man. The Wild Muse calls, and I answer. There is no other choice for me but to run after her, and try to catch a-hold of her gossamer gown of light. She may lead me into the deep deep dark, but I trust she will lead me out again.
During a recent correspondence with a new friend artist and Goddess of Light and All Things Silly, Lilly Fluger), I was asked a series of thrilling questions about the dark side of creativity. After sharing an unpublished short story I wrote (a dark meal, indeed) with her, she wrote to tell me that she had enjoyed it, but didn't understand my fascination with dark places. Here is an excerpt from her email to me:
I keep trying to figure out why people like the dark side. Dark is just SO IN. Even Jim Henson did the Dark Crystal. So, is it cause it makes a good dramatic plot and adds intensity? And why are skulls so in with teenagers? Why is that cool to them? Do you know?
In answer to these questions, I meditated and wrote on the topic of darkness and the shadow side extensively. I wanted to here share some of those words with you. As I write this, it is a few days before the Winter Solstice, and the Return of the Light. As the Wheel of the Year turns through its darkest cycle, enter the darkness with me dive deep, and we'll find treasures galore!
I keep trying to figure out why people like the dark side. Dark is just SO IN.
Why does the dark enchant me so? Even though it is dangerous and far away from the light, I hope you will see the indigo beauty there, feel the lovely enchantment of a forest at twilight. What lingers there? There is a shape, beckoning me. I must go, follow him wherever he leads, this Shadow-Man.
The Wild Muse calls, and I answer. There is no other choice for me but to run after her and try to catch a-hold of her gossamer gown of light. She may lead me into the deep dark, but I trust she will lead me out again. There is beauty there, a dark dancer.
And why are skulls so in with teenagers? Why is that cool to them? Do you know?
I cannot speak for all teenagers, but, as I was one of those odd and frightening creatures no so long ago, I can say that it was a dark, scary time for me. I dressed in the "Goth/grunge" style, skulls and crosses galore, (Skulls are COOL! I don't know why, they just are death symbolism is very happening right now, and Halloween has always been my favorite holiday), pale-pale makeup, stockings that looked like spider-webs, earrings shaped like toads (I still wear those!), the whole deal.
Why did I do it? Several reasons. I felt, first of all, that it expressed my darker nature, which I was just discovering at that age and beginning to control/experiment with. Also, it raised plenty of eyebrows at school and I like to shock people out of their complacence and make them sit up straight and think. Third and best reason: My parents hated it and I couldn't stand them at that age so I thought, this is perfect! I get to look fabulous and THEY get to yell! (Laughs.)
I still remember faking them out by pretending that I had gotten my nose pierced, using a false nose-ring that I purchased at a head shop. They freaked out, and hit the roof. And they hit the roof again when I got my eyebrow pierced a few years later (for real), and told me they "didn't appreciate my self-mutilation" and I was "an embarrassment," and they hollered, "What's wrong with you? Are you depressed?" And then, when I came home with my tattoo, well, you can predict what happened! Although, strangely enough, my mother did end up getting a tattoo of her own a couple of years later, a simple image of a crescent moon and stars. Maybe she was exploring her own dark side? I like to think I inspired that little act of rebellion, but I will never know.
Honestly, I think my last and best reason is this: I was born in the middle of a storm in Montana, in February, after dark. And it rules my soul. That great howling darkness is the first thing I knew and I am at home there. When I deal with depression, Churchill's black dog, I think that dressing scary, watching horror films, or writing frightening things down is a way to save myself from keeping all the blackness inside. It will not fit. I have tried I cannot do it, I cannot keep it all inside, or I am frightened that I will go insane.
I see it as a similar behavior to cutting/self-mutilation, which is ever-popular with unhappy teens. Research shows that this is a way for depressed people to control or release negative emotions. It is a way to let the pain out and go on walking the world.
And, so, I write to stay the hand that wants to turn against me. I take up a pen instead, and I begin to write of dark and frightening things. Why? I do it to keep myself sane, to keep the dark tide from rising too high in my heart.
Cutting is a dangerous release for bad feelings, much like drinking and drugs, or other forms of rebellion. I feel that writing, drawing or otherwise creatively entering the Dark Zone is a better (and much safer) way to release those feelings of depression, rage, or just being fifteen in a cold uncaring world. It gives those feelings a safe container, a blue bottle to hold them all a place to exist that is not within me, where they can hurt, tear, rend, destroy. I find that once I let them out into the light, they are quite beautiful in their own clumsy way, and they are glad to be free.
I have been giving this topic much thought lately darkness, and the transformative power of the shadow side, especially for artists, writers, and other creative types. It seems we go darker and deeper, at speeds much faster than most people can bear, and I wonder what sustains us I wonder, too, how and why we keep making that long, deep dive?
The treasures of the darkness are myriad, pearls brought up from the depths. As the wheel of the year turns back towards the light of the sun on the upcoming solstice, this is an interesting time of year to ponder the inspirational, richly creative forces of darkness and the light that blinds and dazzles you when you re-emerge, clutching shells and keys and pearls and buried pirate's treasure.
After reading my meditations on the darkness, Lilly wrote:
That is so exciting... thrilling... enticing. I have been so curious about this topic for so long, about how the 'dark side' is so enjoyed. You gave me such a great sense, that now I can love it more and see what a great adventure it can be for you. And the tremendous importance of it as an empowerment bridge to feeling better!
I think as adults we are told we are not supposed to rage and rant and scream and be angry, that it is just not nice. But that is so important and it is the only bridge from despair into more empowerment. Little kids know this intuitively and do it all the time, and get themselves right back into better feelings when they scream I hate you! Then they can move into the 'you make me nuts,' 'why can't you be' and 'screw you, I'm living my life', 'I don't care what you think.'
What you gave me was really valuable to me. It was so neat to finally understand or make a link to the commonality of the rebellion of the kids today with my own rebelliousness past.
I encourage you to go adventuring with me — take a deep breath, and plunge into the unknown depths, the abyss, the still waters of your heart. There is no knowing what treasures you will find there, or what adventures await those bold enough to go a little deeper into the Great Darkness Within. Follow the Shadow Man, The Dark Muse — they will lead you home.
Plunge into the water
Under the water
Go down further, as far as you can
You will sing the rapture of the deep
And meet strange creatures down there in the dark
Pressure-cooker animals who cannot rise to the surface
Push yourself down, deep down,
Heart palpitating, heaving galvanically
Still you have not reached the end of these waters
You look up and notice you can no longer see the sun
Finally you are carried up by your body's struggle for air
Brought up to the cold surface, kicking and clawing at the light
Ragged joyous laughing breaths
Gasping at the oxygen like a fish freshly hooked
You dive again and again, hoping to touch the sandy bottom just once
This is what it is to write a poem
Writing a book involves special training and scuba gear
You must be able to string words together like a pearl necklace, two thousand miles long
You must navigate the darkness somehow
Let the pearls light your way gleaming in the deep cold blue
Walk upon the bottom of the endless sea that is your mind
Sing the songs of the rapture of the deep.
Next Muse: A Treatise on the Light
©2007 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.
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