The Darkest Month

As if seen through the wrong end of a telescope, blurred and dimmed around the edges, the darkness of December beckons as November draws to its end.  For the general non-pagan public in America, December is the brightest month of the year, a gleeful blending of commercialism, family ties, and food comas.  For many (if not most) pagans, it is a conundrum of sorts,  a season when non-pagan family obligations directly or indirectly conflict with the allure of like-minded spiritual gatherings.  Historically, for Europeans throughout the middle ages, especially in northern Europe, it was a time of gathering the family tightly together against the outer cold, of taking in travelers and guests with generosity but caution (for who knew what–or Who–might be wandering out there in the freezing gusts, hobnobbing with the trolls), for lavishly feasting the gods–pagan or Christian, depending on the time and the setting–and the dead, but at a careful distance, ever mindful that the next hand on one’s doorknob might not be a human one, that the skeletal scraping against windows might not be the branches of dead trees, that the dead walk this time of year, and that things and People far more dire walk alongside them–or worse, fly through the stormy night skies–keeping careful count of debts accrued throughout the year passed, and demanding Their due.

For me, as for my spiritual ancestors, December is the darkest month of the year, with the traditional twelve days of Yule–the “smudging nights,” so called in folklore because you had better be smudging your home with protective herbs against the wild spirits that roamed the long nights–beckoning at its black heart.  It is the most precious month of the year for me–for it was in this month that I took sacred marriage vows to my Husband, Odin, that darkest of gods, at this darkest of times.  But it is also the most dreadful month.  It is a time when the air is filled with ghosts and the trolls spill upwards through the cracks in the earth, freed from their underground lairs to walk among humans.

For me it is, beyond all else, Odin’s month–although that is certainly not limited to December.  Although I feel and honor Him equally, yet somewhat differently, throughout the other seasons of the year, during the period of late September through the beginning of January we see His darkest face, the face of Yggr (the Terrible One) who sacrificed Himself on the World Tree, the face of Wilde Jaeger (the Wild Hunter) who rides His flame-eyed steed at the head of the Furious Host.  Perhaps I am biased, but although I do have special festival days throughout the year for Him, and especially in late September through November, for me December is all about Odin, from beginning to end, even though several of the actual festival days within it are goddess-focused.

Continue reading over at my PaganSquare blog…

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