A few weeks ago we celebrated the autumn equinox, the time of the year when the night and day are exactly equal in length.
Now, with the moon barely new above us, a mere glimmer of light in the darkness, we find ourselves fully in a season of deepening, darkened nights. It’s a time for turning inward, of quieting down from long summer days with appointment planners and to-do lists that stretch for miles.
Where I live, in the San Francisco Bay, this is the time of pumpkin spice lattes for some and pumpkin chia smoothies for others, carrot cake (possibly gluten free), newly-planted kale in the ground and reddening leaves on the trees, chilly nights and warm afternoons finally free of fog.
I may be a summer baby, born in June, but cozy-sweater-and-hot-cocoa autumn has always been my favorite season.
At the same time, fall can be hard for me. I get moody, quit jobs, wake up too early, fall asleep too late, gain weight, and mull over relationship woes long forgotten by my partner (generally ones that I, too, had forgotten but that suddenly, and with great passion, rear up). Often, I feel an intense longing in my chest that is almost like physical pain, cutting me to the quick, which no amount of coconut sugar or half-caff lattes can take away.
To the ancients, this was a time sacred to the goddess Hecate, also known as Dadouchos (She of the Three Ways) and Phosphorous (Light bearer, torch bearer).
She is awakening magic and the dreams that whisper our secret desires in the night. Hers were the in-between places, the places of choice, Crossroads. Hers were long nights and the sky dark with starlight, or sometimes, glowing silver with the heavy moon.
In my own life, I feel Her crossroads as the difficult choice points before me: dive forward, drop back, or let go; focus on lucrative career moves or serpentine creative passions; invest in yet another promise-filled program or allow my autumn afternoons breeze open with emptiness and the perfectness of my imperfect life. Which is easier said than done.
The cool sunny days feel moody and demanding, as usual. I can’t be easy inside for any notable stretch of time. But maybe that’s only what might be expected, if it’s true that we are in her liminal realm, most of us still attempting to navigate by ordinary means and hold to a sense of time dictated by email, syncing calendars and stock tickers.
“The only way to gain power in a world that is moving to fast is too slow down,” Marianne Williamson tells me this morning, by way of my friend Tara’s status update. “The only way to spread one’s influence wide is to go deep. The world we want for ourselves and our children will not emerge from electronic speed, but from a spiritual stillness that takes root in our souls. Then, and only then, will we create a world that reflects the heart instead of shattering it.”
It’s true. With the summer’s strength and sunlight becoming mere memory, I feel more in touch with my vulnerability than ever, the shattering my heart experiences every day, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.
But even were it not so, one doesn’t usually linger long at Crossroads, with the paths before, behind, and beyond all beckoning.
Stopping to breathe, feel, pray and play at the essential choice points of our lives is the wisdom. She gave to her initiates, those who knew her sacred words and her sorcery. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been here so many times that all I have to do is close my eyes and navigate by feel —other times, lately especially, I just feel lost.
It’s at least interesting to be lost — you’re never bored. I like to notice what I do and how I act, being lost. One thing seems to be a lot of free life-coaching calls. You know, those beautiful thirty minute sessions that coaches offer up to tease you with the taste of another map or process or transformative philosophy with so little commitment required (after all, if I was in the right mindspace for committing to things, I wouldn’t need the coaching calls nearly so much).
I’m pretty fortunate, being in a coaching program myself, because I have access to a seemingly endless supply of free thirty minute sessions with well-trained, wise people who want nothing more than to be the person that guides me through the dark crossroads. A revolutionary life, thriving career, authentic creative expression, time for rest and dreaming: they all assure me that I can have it all.
And the beautiful thing is, they’re right. When I’m connected to the infinite, to love, to mystery, I know that is true.
The hard thing is, I don’t want them to help me find my way — not this time. I want to go within, light a torch and find my own way through my lost recesses — and in doing so, find my radiance.
I don’t sign up for any new programs, but I do allow the sense of potential and mystery to infuse my feeling of being lost. It reminds me of what one of my local heroes, Rebecca Solnit, writes in her book A Field Guide to Getting Lost:
“That thing which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is just a matter of getting lost.
The word ‘lost’ comes from the old Norse ‘los’ meaning the disbanding of an army. I worry now that people never disband their armies, never go beyond what they know… To be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery. And one does not get lose but loses oneself, with the implication that is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender.”
I like that Rebecca reclaims being lost as a conscious choice (by the way, I’ve never met another Rebecca that I didn’t like). This is something I can get behind — which isn’t to say that there have not been times when I was physically lost, or emotionally, and it did not feel choiceful. But I suppose even when being lost wasn’t my first choice, going on the journey, was.
I chose to live this unconventional, creative, purpose-driven life, and to marry a broody Capricorn with strong opinions, and pursue dreams and ideals rather than security and respectability. I took this path, which has led me to the crossroads now before me — new in some ways, and in other ways, the same as before. The path is a spiral, circling down into the dark.
This is another of Hecate’s faces — the guide deeper into dark places, into the unknown.
Her wisdom is the wisdom of plunging beneath turbulent waters in search of the gold that lays in barnacle-covered, seaweed-tressed treasure troves rather than splashing and flailing around and begging for someone to throw you a white foam doughnut.
As the archetypal queen of magic whose sacred texts detailed love spell after love spell, she is also the guardian of desire. It is desire that pulls us forward, down, beyond, through, outside the box. Sometimes that yearning feels like a prayer, other times, a curse.
Solnit says this about Desire:
“We treat desire as a problem to be solved, address what desire is for and focus on that something and how to acquire it rather than on the nature and sensation of desire, though often it is the desire between us and the object of desire that fills the space in between with the blue of longing.”
Here’s another good one:
Desire is the absurdity that holds open the infinity of possibility.~ Wendy Farley, The Wounding and Healing of Desire
We are desire. It is the essence of the human Soul, the secret of our existence. Absolutely nothing of human greatness is ever accomplished without it. Not a symphony has been written, a mountain climbed, an injustice fought, or a love sustained apart from desire. Desire fuels our search for the life we prize. Our desire, if we will listen to it, will save us from committing soul-suicide, the sacrifice of our hearts on the altar of ‘getting by.’ The same old thing is not enough. It never will be.~ John Eldredge, Desire
She is stirring this up in me now: the desire for greatness, for mountains, for fighting for freedom and fairness and a kind world, and for navigating by starlight towards absurd, infinite possibility.
When I hide from it, when I close over-illuminate the early evenings with fluorescent light and turn away from the nip in the breeze so that I can tackle my to-do list and flash too-sunny smiles at my colleagues, its like pouring gray ash on my white-hot, brimming, vulnerable heart. My heart, my desire, the blue longing that fills the gap between all that I’ve been and known and held fragilely in my arms, and all that calls me onward to her new moon.
I’m not going to do that anymore.
With each dark moon between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice, we enter Her time. It is not always easy, soft, warm, bubbling. But it is rich: in the traditional seasonal cycle, we are leaving behind the the harvest festivals and moving towards the longest night of the year. There is so much here to reap, if we are able to open to it and stay open.
So tell me, what is being stirred up in you, and what are you sacrificing on the altar of ‘getting by?’ What waits for you to harvest?
What greatness is desire pulling you towards?
What magic is She calling for you to bring forth, that only you — with your small, imperfect, beautiful and potent life — can create? Will you answer the call?
If you do, I will stand with and for you. Together, we can orchestrate symphonies, and create lives worth prizing beyond reason.