This year in late September 2022, the new moon in Libra and the Autumn Equinox collide on the Edge of Darkness.
Libra is considered a gentle sign, a sign of harmony, balance, and equanimity. Positioned here at the Autumn Equinox however, there is a different kind of energy at play. We sense the Dark Moon, and the shift into the darkest part of a dying year. A slow descent towards the end of a cycle.
Autumn Equinox is an amplification of the darkness.
We find ourselves descending, moving into territory that is fierce and perhaps unfamiliar. While the Autumn Equinox is a joyful time of harvest, celebration, peace and plenty, cradled within Libra, a balancing and harmonizing time, the new moon underscores the shift into the darkness and strikes a note of unease.
It is at this moment that we begin to feel the call of the bones of our ancestors. That haunting call stirs within us a memory of a far more frightening time. At the Autumn Equinox we must travel back past the memory of our agricultural great-great-great-grandparents. Back beyond the 5000 years of the Neolithic farmers. Back even further into the misty edges of memory when our ancestors were gatherers and hunters. We feel the vibration of a life that wasn’t settled, a life driven by the ever turning seasonal wheel. A short life, lived along the sharp edges of survival, birth and inevitable death.
It is here in this hazy distant memory, this liminal place, half remembered, half repressed, that we meet the Dark Mother, the Earth Mother, the Fierce Mother. We recall the old adage nature is red in tooth and claw. We face images of a peaceful, bountiful, thriving world juxtaposed to a world equally filled with violence, deprivation and death.
The Autumn Equinox, is a precarious moment of balance, that will tip into the darkness. We are challenged to find reconciliation and harmony between The Good Mother and the inscrutable enigma of the Dark Mother.
How do we reconcile our Snow White-esque vision of friendly and gentle woodland creatures with the nightmarish forest of the unconscious, that tears at our clothes, and the vengeful, dangerous witch who offers us a poison apple?
In so many fairy tales and folktales we find the unsettling split between an Earth Mother who is nurturing, kind, protective and a frightening, dangerous, evil hag that seeks to destroy and to devour.
How do we come to terms with the Dark Mother?
How can it be that the one who nurtures is also the one who devours?
Recently, I’ve been studying the genre of folk horror. This is a rather new genre birthed primarily in the early to mid 20th century. It looks at the Dark Side of both our ancient past and most importantly, the dark side of the Earth Mother.
In this genre we find that chaos reigns, that death, our death, is necessary, even required, for new life and survival. All that is nurturing and comforting about Mother Nature is turned on its head. Her darker side is exposed, striking terror and fear into our hearts.
We are very much in danger of both idealizing and infantilizing our understanding of the Earth Mother, and The Feminine in general.
The Death Mother Archetype
For what is more horrifying than a mother who kills her children?
What is more terrifying than Baba Yaga, or the witch who seeks to roast Hansel and Gretel in her oven, or Lilith who refuses to submit to her husband and flies through the night snatching up children and devouring them?
Yet what these archetypes represent is a very real part of the natural world, and it is also a very real part of our own shadow.
We see this proclivity in our own institutional religions and even in the broader spiritual ideas of our time. Love and Light alone are embraced. Good Vibes Only rule our twenty first century dogma. There is no room for the darker side of ourselves or our concepts of the Divine. But if our spiritual truths have no room for the shadow, no room for the darkness, then where does it go? For it certainly exists.
This is why it is so difficult to accept tragedy, to accept unforeseen and sudden loss. This is why people get angry with God.
The Mother Wound
How deeply we are wounded by our own mothers when they were unable or unwilling to love us in the way that we needed. How violently our societies have reacted to women who ignore the prescribed roles of wife, good mother and nurturer. How can we trust and feel safe in an oftentimes perplexing and bewildering world where bad things happen?
This paradox of dark within light, evil within good, shadow within self, wounding within healing, is one of the deepest layers of inner work that we can engage in.
Is it possible for the human heart and the psyche to embrace both the light and the shadow?
The Feminine Darkness
How interesting that it is the feminine, the woman, the mother, the goddess, who bears the burden of this complex paradox, of being both life-giver and destroyer, nurturer and devourer.
It is not the Masculine, the force that often employs violence, domination and oppression in our world, the very things that we consider evil, that holds this stigma. It is instead the more complex and difficult to parse Feminine Principle that carries the burden.
Eve, the mother of all the living, tastes the fruit that brings death and suffering into the world. It is Pandora whose powerful desire to know unleashes pestilence upon the world.
Autumn Equinox and Libra Season, under this new moon, challenges us to find a way to balance the extraordinary and extreme spectrum that resides within the Earth Mother.
This is an experience that resides within our relationship with our own mothers. It is a relationship that we experience in our institutions which we sometimes think of as mother. For example Mother Church or with a nationalistic twist, Mother Russia. Mother Nature is both loving and gentle, incredibly cruel and violent.
How do we make sense of a world, and our experience of a world, in which both extremes exist?
The Autumn Equinox when light and dark in our physical world are in balance for a brief time offers us a flash of clarity before we plunge into the Darkness of winter. It is at this moment we have an opportunity to do battle with the shadow and the light, to make sense of how those two things must be true, and must come together to form a complete wholeness that encompasses all of our experiences and all of ourselves.
Carl Jung said, we must bring the shadow into the light. We must bring that which we repress, ignore and flee from, into the light of our Consciousness and work with it. We must acknowledge it, we must offer it the respect that is due, and we must try to find ways to integrate it in our own selves and our conception of reality, because certainly both the light and the shadow, both good and evil, creation and destruction exist in our world.