An excited pre-post-script before I start this entry - for those that read yesterday's entry about Cedarlight Grove's community service project for Samhain.... we were featured in a really amazingly written article in the New York Times. If you're curious about Druidry or Samhain, or ADF or the Grove, I highly recommend this article. Often mainstream media handles these sorts of topics either highly inaccurately or disrespectfully. So refreshing to see this! "If a Druid Rings a Doorbell"
This entry is a part of the Tarot Blog Hop, which happens every High Day - follow the links above to continue on your journey. The topic for Samhain 2013 is, just to be challenging, "Love".
When I was 4, my grandfather on my mother's side died. I didn't know anything about him - later I would realize there were good reasons for that having to do with my mother's relationship with him. At the time, I knew the event had upset her and led to a trip to a small town outside of Cleveland to attend the funeral. I met my grandma - a very sweet grieving woman I liked but would not know in any real way until years later. I met my cousins, and we played and competed with one another as cousins do. I remember a ridiculously creepy clown doll up in the attic in what had been my mother's room as a girl.
And mostly, I remember the funeral reception because what happened there haunted me for a good long while, and cemented that a certain aunt-in-law of mine would never be a friendly relative for me. While my parents weren't looking, this aunt hoisted me up for what has got to be one of the most horrible customs some people practice in this country - kissing the corpse goodbye. Mind you, if you want to do that, that is your business and I respect that - but Aunt Eve decided I needed to do it. She picked me up, dangled me over this strangers dead body and of course I proceeded to turn into a four year old whirling dervish of panic, kicking and screaming and punching her, the coffin and (I will never know if this part is real or the stuff of years of nightmares) my grandfather.
My mother rescued me at that point, but it caused, as they say, a 'strain' in the visit, and I lay awake for the remaining nights we were there, listening to the creaking of the house and worrying that perhaps it was my dead grandfather, come to punish me for (maybe) kicking him and refusing to offer him a kiss. It wasn't the Dark I was afraid of - it was what was in it, and I was under no illusion that the light would be enough to dispel him.
He has never appeared to me in my thoughts any other way. Between this and learning actual truths about what sort of person he was, I cannot even begin to think of any sort of positive relationship with this particular ancestor.
At around age 6 or so I came across an issue of Psychology Today that had Death as its theme. I still recall that cover - it showed a brilliantly green meadow. The sort of green one associates with Ireland, or Middle Earth. In the center of this beautiful sea of grass was a perfectly angled rectangular hole - an open grave, but no mound of dug up earth, and no way to see down into the darkness to see how deep it went or what might be hiding there. It was, for me, heartbreakingly beautiful, and mysterious, and frightening - but not in a spooky terrible way. Instead it felt like the same sort of fearful sensation that a first crush would later feel - fluttery heart, wonder and nervous excitement and trepidation.
I struggled through the long questionnaire in the magazine about attitudes toward Death - the questions themselves as well as the possible answers offered gave me an in-depth (and only somewhat over my head) explanation of what Death might be, and it fascinated me.
Oddly, I never associated any of that with my grandfather - but it did help me mentally lay him to rest.
The magazine thing worried my parents more than the earlier encounter. After the dozenth or so time of removing it from my room only to find I'd taken it again, they sat me down together and asked what it was about it that was so interesting. I think I described the green grass and asked them a couple of questions... I can't recall anymore, but the conversation must have been a good one, because they stopped worrying and I stopped being so obsessed with that issue of Psychology Today.
I was coming to love the idea of mysteries - there was so much potential there. It was as if the ordinary world had this whole extra layer most people never saw. And if much of it was dark and dangerous, that was okay, because much of it was also transcendent and magical.
Sometime around then - I could not have been more than 8 or 9, I had a friend over to spend the night. She also loved Dark Shadows, and we spent an entire afternoon making little paper handpuppets (somewhat like these), drawn to look like the main characters, and then - after we'd spent a couple hours acting out the plots - we decided they all needed a place to live and so we made them all little paper boxes as caskets, and gave each of them little Popsicle stick headstones, setting the whole thing up on a large piece of flat cardboard.
When it was time to go to sleep, we slid the whole thing under the bed and then kept each other up all night, daring the other to let their hand or foot peep over the bed and risk the graveyard full of dead people reaching out to grab them.
She likely forgot that 20 minutes after she'd gone home, but I kept that paper graveyard for months, and it offered me much nervously fearful entertainment for as long as I had it. My mother hated it.
Eventually the ordinary concerns of growing up took over - worries about being liked and boys and the horror of having picked out the wrong clothes for school trumped vampires and ghosts and then there were adult years of finding out what sometimes really truly lurked in the darkness - of learning about the dark dangers of being in the wrong relationship, of dealing with despair and depression, of learning that it wasn't fangs that were the most dangerous thing about other people.
Now, in my 50s, I find most of those issues past - life is good, and the darkness is once again a magical place with a little thrill of fright and excitement at what might be in shadows. I like to think my early enchantment helped me during truly grim times and also like to think those real horrors help me love and appreciate the darkness from a perspective of safety.
At some point, I'll get up close and personal with that mysterious dark, possibly empty grave - but I don't fear it overmuch. I'm counting on that green, green meadow.
This is a TAROT blog hop, after all, and so I cannot end without a little reading for the occasion. How about a simple spread on the subject of Darkness?
1. What lies unseen in the dark?
2. Why does it lie in shadow?
3. What is there to love about the darkness?
4. What will happen if I turn on the light?
I'm using the Aquarian Tarot, because this was the first deck I ever had and the one I learned on. I'd lost mine many years ago, and just reacquired it last week, so we are happily getting reacquainted.
The question I'm asking has to do with a situation involving a decision a committee I am on must make shortly.
1. What lies unseen in the dark?
IV - The Emperor
The Emperor has to do with power - about who is in charge. This is very much the unspoken element at play regarding this decision. People are urging for their position less because it is what they think is best than because letting go of their position represents a loss of power, and a precedent that will be set. It is 'in the dark' because no one is openly dealing with the power issues that are at play.
2. Why does it lie in shadow?Three of Pentacles
This issue of power lies in shadow because outwardly, the stance is that everyone is working together, with each person operating cooperatively according to their areas of expertise - this is the official purpose of the decision. No one is willing to alter this official stance and be perceived as being more concerned about matters of control.
3. What is dangerous about the darkness?
Five of Cups
In a word - morale. Everyone hears that power monster lurking, but no one wants to acknowledge it's there, and as a consequence, issues and opportunities that should be welcome opportunities are greeted with negativity and moroseness. Everyone is growing more and more negative and less able to see a good thing when we're presented with it.
4. What is there to love about the darkness? How does it help?
III - The Empress
The darkness can be a place of fertile, dark rich earth in which things can grow. For those willing to acknowledge that there is a conflict regarding power and leadership buried in the dark, this period of not directly addressing it can be a time of letting their position grow and develop to the point where it can withstand the light of day.
5. What will happen if I turn on the light?
Three of Swords
Hah...at whatever point the issues of who is actually in charge of the decisions that must be made comes into the light, it is not going to be pleasant, and it's going to be a very unhappy and painful conversation. This is a truth that is going to hurt some people who believe they are in charge of things that are not,but - the 3 of Swords is about Painful TRUTH, and cutting away all the BS that clouds the issue. This is probably going to be necessary before anyone can move on.
Not fun! But maybe needed, and if it is, I might just wind up being the one that flips the lightswitch, because neither the darkness - or the light - scares me all that much. What scares me is watching a group that, at its core, really does care about each other, letting things crumble away out of a fear of dealing with what lies in the dark.
I hope you'll continue around the Blog hop and see what others are doing with the idea of Love this Samhain.
Samhain Blog Hop 2013