How to embrace the darker months

It’s funny how autumn – particularly its accompanying light changes – seems to take us by surprise every year. Even after several decades on this planet, sunset at 4 pm always sneaks up on me – do you find the same thing?

This year, the darkness and gloomy weather has hit even harder because of lockdown or other coronavirus restrictions dictating we can’t meet indoors. That wasn’t so bad earlier in the year as (especially as here on the south coast of the UK) we enjoyed warm and sunny weather for months, even if people were poorly, weddings were off and everything else was just pants.

We tend to react to the light and temperature change by just carrying on the way that we normally would do, just switching our lights on earlier and turning up the central heating, but then so many people wonder why they’re feeling particularly tired. Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) is a real thing, but I wonder whether we’re not making it worse for ourselves by pushing on through in our linear, 21st century way, rather than going with the ageless natural cycles that affect us all as mammals, whether or not we’ve got an app for that. 

Our ancestors were so much more in touch with the changing seasons, marking them, honouring them and altering their routines around them. It wasn’t only that the seasons dictated what to do on the land – planting, harvesting and so on – but also they felt they mirrored the spirit world too. As autumn in the northern hemisphere represented an ‘edge time’, a time of gathering in and hunkering down in the hope of surviving the winter, it also represented a time when the veil between this world and the spirit world is at its thinnest (hence the celebration of Samhain, appropriated by Christianity to become Halloween and All Souls Day).

How to embrace the darker months ~ Sussex celebrant Claire Bradford of Creating Ceremony
Image by Witchgarden from Pixabay

What does that mean for us though, living our lives and buying in food from ever-abundant supermarkets? I’m not suggesting that we hoard food and live on preserves all winter (although it’s a lovely time to make chutney!), nor that we go to bed at 5 pm. However, I do think we could take inspiration from our pagan past and take more notice of the old wheel of the year, which marks the seasons passing. 

Well, what can you expect, I am a celebrant after all!

You don’t have to be a pagan to mark the seasons passing in your own way. Follow your gut instinct and do what feels right for you. For example, this time of year is a good opportunity to go inwards a bit and get in touch with our intuition. Perhaps you could spend some of those longer nights snuggled up on the sofa with a notebook and pencil – journal, draw, create and make. Go with the season by wrapping up warm and getting out into nature to collect leaves or conkers, spend some time making and enjoying fresh, warming soup, light a fire, talk with your elderly relatives (via Zoom – sigh) about the family that has gone before, and go to bed a little earlier than usual. 

If your ceremony plans for this year were thwarted and you’ve had to postpone a wedding, big birthday or memorial service, now’s a great time to review your plans, reflect on what is really important to you and alter things accordingly. 

Rather than cursing it, wrap the darkness around you like a blanket, and use it to make a cocoon of creativity and thought. This is a great time of year for sudden inspiration to strike – be ready to catch it and make space for it when it does. 

And if you want to share those ideas with someone who can make your ceremony come to life, give me a call