Howl: Reflections on light and darkness

Howl: Reflections on light and darkness

“A certain darkness is needed to see the stars.” – Osho

Organizers of Les Grandes Dames Salon in Vancouver asked me to present a short talk at an event inspired by the salons of the enlightenment.

In the early 18th century, upper class Parisian women invited guests to a “salon” to engage in socio-intellectual discourse. The host would invite guests to speak at these informal events. And commoners were permitted to attend as offshoots of the royal court—provided that they adhered to established rules of court.

Through the Salons, women emerged as leaders in discourse. Intellectuals shared pieces of their souls. The Grandes Dames who hosted these eclectic events became as famous as their guests, and often more revered.

An unprecedented shift occurred.

The salons became instrumental in developing a new hierarchy of class, gender and society—a world in which access to intellectual ideas would reign supreme and begin to carve away at society’s more restrictive roles.

Cut to March of 2017, a friend of mine held a revival of sorts—born of the desire for women of all walks to integrate, share and connect.

As salonniere for this inaugural evening, my friend asked me to share something I was passionate about.

No rules. No structure. I was excited and nervous.

A million topics spun through my head. It felt like I was flying down a rabbit hole. I took a breath and asked myself what was on my mind. And there it was.

I would talk about darkness.

Darkness is something I consider a lot.

I’ve spent an immense amount of time seeking “the light.” I think of that as the place where we feel balanced, if only momentarily. It’s where we’re tapped into our potential. Our truth. Our joy.  We might seek it through yoga, meditation, mindfulness or prayer. For some, the light represents peace; for others, positive action.

We set up the light/darkness binary in our language and cultural constructs—jokes about “the Dark Side” or the idea these may be “dark times” give us a clear definition and imagery.

We tend to associate light with goodness and peace; and darkness with pain, anger, fear, or even fetish.

As is the nature of a duality, one can’t exist without the other. We prefer to ‘do the work’ to avoid the dank, sludgy darkness of our souls and make an effort to move toward the light. Just breathe.

So just as sunshine can be warm and full and comforting, I challenge you to reclaim the darkness. Don’t be so quick to dismiss it.

Light may be what we seek, but darkness is our inner landscape.

In eurocentric western society, we equate darkness with fear, anger and sadness. But if we embrace its depth, maybe we’ll find wisdom, healing and freedom.

Because darkness can be beautiful. Think about it.

Darkness allows us to rest and sleep. Without it, how would we recharge after a long day? People do it every summer in the Yukon; I think it would be challenging for me.

We need it to see the stars and the moon.

It’s where transformation occurs: be it in our dreams or in terms of the physical and cognitive restoration.

We frame a variety behaviours, moods and traits as acceptable or unacceptable, but maybe they just are.

Darkness embodies magic in some cultures. Some cultures celebrate women who embrace their darkness as goddesses.

Goddesses of twilight, magic, dreams and protection are bound not for destruction or madness; but for healing, sensuality and the circle of life.

It’s the antithesis of the Salem witch trials of the late 17th Century.

At their origins, Greek, Egyptian and Hindu texts, Slavic traditions, and Indigenous peoples the world over acknowledge and respect powerful women.

Lithuanian tradition features a Goddess whose job it is to protect the people from sunset to sunrise. She sleeps and is protected in daylight. That’s inspiring to me.

Carl Jung wrote about the shadow self which refers to a person’s unconscious. It can personify everything they refuse to acknowledge about themselves.

“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is,” Jung wrote.

It sounds dark and daunting and fearful, especially if we remain determined to remain one-dimensional in our journey.

“In spite of its function as a reservoir for this human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow self is also the seat of creativity and freedom.  For some, even, it may be that the dark side of their being represents the true spirit of life,” Jung wrote.

I love these contradictions in reclaiming the truth of what darkness can mean.

I believe that when we accept all our parts, our light and our darkness, our souls intertwine and that allows us to transform.

In art, especially in sculpture and painting, darkness and shadows are what transform the work. They create dimension and depth. I think it’s the same for us.

Without delving into our darkness and sitting with it awhile, it can manifest in projection, addiction and fear; it’s in reconsidering its value that it becomes magic. At that point, so can we.

There was indeed a magic in the Salon that evening as eight of us shared pieces of ourselves, our passions. It allowed a diverse group of women from a thousand different life experiences to open up, in a way that felt new.

We each had a light and a magical darkness. Both were freedom.

We need to take the opportunity to share pieces of ourselves with one another. When we stay open to others’ light and darkness, our souls (or whatever we call the thing inside that sets us apart) become strong. When we support and accept each other, we rise.

As I looked around at each open spirit, now fearless and connected through discourse, music and a little wine, my heart was full. And we realized that so was the moon.

Spontaneous and perfect, we embraced the magic and each other. We went outside to stare up at the moon in the darkness. Then we howled.

Image credit: Portia Favro

Wine-lover, sunshine-seeker & International woman of mystery, Megan is passionate about people and what makes them tick. 

She was a dancer and performer for many years, has travelled extensively throughout the world and currently works as a Communications Professional in Vancouver.  She holds a BA (Hon) from the U of A, has a strong background in fine arts and communications and is fluent in French, Spanglish and sarcasm. 

Megan is a frequent speaker on social media strategy and is also the Creative Director of locally-run, Wink Productions.