Today my altared space is the Winter Solstice. When my children were little I scooped them up, one in each arm, to lay on my bed in the dark and watch rainbows appear on my walls. Now it is my daughter who is holding me in my hour of darkness and showing me the rainbow and the magic of shining a little Light.
Long ago my babes were afraid of what they couldn’t see. I was wakened every night with a bright shining hall light pelting my eyes so my children would never have to face the dark. This I know: darkness provides rest, and without it I was going bonkers. I had to find a way to put some friendliness into the nighttime sky.
I hung a crystal from the ceiling, the kind people put in their windows to capture the sun and send rainbows to the opposite wall. I gathered my children close so they could feel the heat of my breath and then I turned out the light.
“Mommy, it’s so dark,” my children worried. I let the darkness penetrate asking them to inhale and exhale. I spoke about the fairies that were coming and told them if we were quiet they might accept our invitation.
When I shined a flashlight, that spinning crystal spun out rainbows all around the room. The best thing about toddlers is their sense of wonder. A collective “Ooh!” went up as if I’d sent off fireworks.
Everyone took a turn holding the flashlight, making the fairies dance. A flashlight close to the crystal made the fairies giant. Lowering the light created more dancers. A quiet reverence descended, replacing the frenzied excitement. We settled in and enjoyed the rainbows in the dark.
Darkness has friendliness hidden within.
This was the lesson I wanted my children to learn so I could turn off the hall light and sleep through my 2 am waking with that blaring light staring me in the face. Darkness is gentle and kind. There is subtleness in the dark and it allows other wonders to come out and play. Darkness is what allows us to see the Light. It’s what provided room for the fairies to dance on our walls.
This lesson grew. We’ve talked about fear and darkness through the years. As dark moments rain down upon my children we’ve used the metaphor of the fairies to help them find their way out. What I didn’t know when I hung that crystal from the ceiling was how profoundly I was creating a ritual for myself.
Several years ago my daughter announced she is a Pagan. To her mother, who is steeped in all things church, this word is about as fearful and frightening as the dark was to my toddlers. It meant hell was her destiny.
I don’t believe in hell and haven’t for years and years, but it’s tough to rid my brain of all those early baptisms.
Gandhi understood this difficult task and once asked a Hindu family to take in an orphaned boy and raise him Muslim, because when we live with the thing we fear, we can no longer be afraid.
My daughter is Love embodied. She is tolerance squared. Living with her I am melting all my prejudices and words like pagan that once terrified me like demons in the dark now have the softness and reverence of rainbow fairies dancing on the walls.
One of the fundamental tenants of my daughter’s life is not eating animals. She believes everything with a face has a soul and, all souls being equal, who are we to eat another? She lives with her brother, a hunter. And how does she treat him? Not with the smug disdain some might expect, but with hugs and laughter and love.
She sees that he comes at life with a different lens. Consequently, she does not expect him to see life as she sees it. She lives her life and accepts him as he is.
This is the pagan thing the church taught me was so horribly awful and bad? My daughter and her zest for celebrating the earth and its changing seasons? I’m supposed to hate pagans?
Today in yoga I learned a new word: tejas. It is the Sanskrit word for Radiance within. There is a reason for darkness looming externally: because especially then can I concentrate on locating the Light within. This is the Light that never can be extinguished. It is the Light that, when fostered, grows.
It grows to love and embrace those who are different from me, not merely tolerate them.
I am grateful to this daughter of mine who is the reason I made friends with the night sky and first saw the spinning fairies. She is the one also, who taught me to look more deeply within and not settle for what some have taught me to believe is darkness. I’m so glad she’s come to shine in my hallway and chase away my nighttime fears.
Tonight we’re climbing the side of a mountain in the town where my daughter was born and diving inside a star.
How are you celebrating this auspicious solstice with a lunar eclipse and full moon? Are there words and labels that frighten you? What does tolerance look like in your life?
PS: if you would like to read some more about the beauty of the solstice I recommend Lindsey’s words at A Design So Vast.
The picture of the star on Boulder’s Flagstaff Mountain was taken by BoulderPhoto.