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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 17,509,602  

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Question of the Week: 71 - 12/17/2001

How Do YOU View the Balance of Light and Dark?

As the Solstices approach, what are your views on the lessons that we might learn about darkness and light? What does the natural turning of the seasons mean to you? What insights might you share about the spiritual aspects of light and dark? How does the balance now stand within your own personal spiritual path and in the world at large? What have your experiences of light and dark taught you?

 Reponses:   There are 22 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

When I Was Asked Years Ago By My Hps Why I Wanted... Dec 11th. at 9:31:00 am UTC

Amaranth (Cape Canaveral, Florida US) Age: 34 - Email

When I was asked years ago by my HPS why I wanted to train, I told her that all my life, I'd felt like the third wheel, odd man out -- that no matter how hard I had tried, my efforts to help and be good and kind seemed to misfire. I wanted to be a part of the process, of the great web, and not unwittingly hinder or mar it - to assume my place in the Great Dance with more grace. Fortunately for me, she accepted that answer, and that Samhain, at my first Sabbat ever, just the two of us, she explained many things to me. I don't know if this is the whole truth, but this is what I perceive.

For me, Darkness and Light when speaking of the Craft always dealt with good and evil, known and hidden. She explained to me that people act either from fear, or from love, and that their actions based on fear stem from a perceived threat to the sources of love and security in their lives. This choice was theirs to make. However, while decisions and actions based on fear often did end up safeguarding those things and people they loved, they ultimately led to disconnection; and when they had amassed all the wealth or followers or things they desired, their hearts, being human, naturally turned to the desire to share and pass on what they had gained. And they were alone despite all their efforts. At that point, the paths of Light and Dark converged, for souls who had lived their lives in darkness learned of the light through the slow process of learning to trust, love, and share. It could take many lifetimes, she said, but it happened consistently.

In light of that teaching, I try to shine light onto the dark places of my soul to discover the things I treasure enough to fight for, and I allow my inner light to shine in periods of darkness. Both light and darkness are paths to development. And I know that even when I make mistakes, they are only choices which I can sometimes fix, but always learn from and move on.

I, too, try to tell my daughters that the world in darkness is the same as the world in light, only quieted so we can rest and recharge. I don't want their world to be black and white, good and evil, light and dark, because so much prejudice comes from those things when they are taken as polar opposites. I guess that's really it: I try to balance light and darkness through appreciation and tolerance in everyday life. BB, and Merry Yule!

Many Of Us Find Our Spiritual Path In Paganism Because The Dualism... Dec 11th. at 1:06:41 pm UTC

RuneWolf (Reston, Virginia US) Age: 43 - Email

Many of us find our spiritual path in Paganism because the dualism of the Levant religions just doesn’t make sense to us. Before I ever knew modern Paganism existed, I found myself attracted to Taoism, wherein the necessary balances of Nature are revered and cultivated, and “light” and “dark” are not necessarily synonymous with “good” and “evil.” What Westerners might characterize as the “Wrath of God” – earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, etc. – are to the Taoist merely natural occurrences. Although they may be lethal and destructive, they are not “evil, ” and are certainly not seen as the manifestation of a deity’s displeasure. Such things only become “evil” or “bad” when we attach those labels to them.

A friend refers to Wicca as “Western Taoism, ” and I have always taken that in the complimentary manner in which it is offered. Wicca does indeed have many things in common with Taoism, chiefly the monist perspective that everything is connected to everything else, forming a vast entity that we sometimes call the Web of Life, or the Web of Existence. Within this entity, life and death, joy and sorrow, light and dark are all necessary for the health and balance of the entity. Life is no more “good” than death is “evil.” Both are part of the balance, and necessary to each other, just as they are necessary to the One.

In the practice of Zen, we work to change the way we view and label things that occur in our lives, in the world around us. Instead of saying “I sprained my ankle, and that’s bad, ” we simply say “I sprained my ankle.” It happened, and it hurts, but it isn’t “bad.” It just is. We try to experience what is, without labeling it one way or the other. In doing so, our pain and heartache become as much a part of our life as our joy and ecstasy, and we come to honor our “dark” emotions and thoughts rather than stuffing and suppressing them, such that they reemerge later, magnified and out of control.

The linear, ever-upward schematic of life that our society embraces does not allow for those periods of “darkness” that are so necessary to good mental, emotional and physical health. If you aren’t “on” all the time, you are “falling behind.” We are programmed to believe that anything less than “full steam ahead” is “slacking off, ” and we’ll never “get ahead” if we aren’t relentlessly “climbing the ladder.” Woosh! Just those phrases make me tired! The problem is that we are not linear creatures – we are cyclic, as are almost all of Mother’s children. We can’t be “on” all the time; otherwise, we will burn out. We need to rest, to turn inward, to “get dark, ” to be sad, depressed, angry, slothful and all those other things that aren’t “acceptable” in the rat race. We need to feel those feelings and experience those emotions because they are part of what make us who we are, just as our “lighter” feelings and emotions are. To deny the dark is to deny part of who we are – a big part, if you ask some schools of thought. Recognizing and integrating our “shadows” does not make us less, but rather more, whole.

Having said all of this, let me close by saying that I do believe that Evil exists. It is in the actions of certain human beings. But such evil is not supernatural, it doesn’t come from “the Devil.” It is willful evil, consciously created. The only way to balance it is through willful and conscious goodness, and no act of goodness is so minute that it does not have an effect on such evil. We spend a lot of time cursing the darkness, because we think our tiny candles cannot possibly make a difference against such massive darkness.

But they can, if we only choose to light them.

I Think Light And Dark Are Perfectly Useful As Symbols Upon Which... Dec 11th. at 9:10:32 pm UTC

Shale (Sydney, New South Wales AU) Age: 23

I think Light and Dark are perfectly useful as symbols upon which to assign meaning. Obviously as anyone pagan knows, night or the dark have their own sets of conotations very seperate from the day. Night being a time of danger, things unseen, and predators out and about (including witches) and yet also a time of introspection and self discovery. Whereas light is a time of expansive growth and action and is much more orthodox time to be out. It can be seen as the time of the Seelie or ordered, and the Unseelie or wild and without order. It is only when people feel a need to assign these concepts with the terms Good and Bad that things begin to run aground. As a Pagan, I feel it necessary to strive not for moral nor immoral behaviour, but always for an ammoral way of life, being completely free of those disasterous Christian ethics which have dogged our race for centuries. Ammorality is an enjoyment of both the light and the dark and the connotations those things possess without a concept of 'doing good' or a wicked sense of transgression. When viewed without the Christian moralistic additions, and viewed in an ammoral and pagan way, both Light and Dark should be appreciated and revered in the constant pursuit for balance.

I Must Admit I Was A Bit Offended When The Essay On... Dec 11th. at 11:06:55 pm UTC

Lupa (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania US) Age: 23 - Email

I must admit I was a bit offended when the essay on the front page of Witchvox this week included a sweeping statement about followers of the Dark that included--get this--"ooky-spooky." Is this how all practitioners of Left Hand Paths are viewed? The pseudo-goth version of fluffy-bunnies? No wonder the Dark is so misunderstood! As I am typing, my loving LHP pagan partner and fiance (and the Dark balance to my Lighter practice) is happily cleaning up our arts-n-crafts room wearing a t-shirt, sweat pants and a string of quartz crystals that he happened to find (gotta love shiny things ;) He has never yet called me a fluffy-bunny; he respects the validity of my path as I do his. He doesn't sacrifice animals or cast curses--and he hardly buys into the victim mentality, for despite life's tribulations he is a person of much inner strength and compassion.For example, when he visits a graveyard it is not to desecrate or invoke harmful things, but to fix turned-over stones, pick up litter, sketch the landscape, and show respect with the aspect of the Life Cycle that he feels closest to--it may not bring much change to the living, but the dead in these places appreciate the honour. Of course, you're just as likely to find him at home with our ferrets crawling all over him. Not very scary, is he? Neither is the Dark, if you don't buy into the "evil" stereotypes. As many other respondents have claimed, the Dark is only the balance of the Light. Between the two, the balance brings about the necessary changes and cycles. Yes, "bad" things happen, but without them we wouldn't appreciate the good. Without destruction, there is no room for new creation. And the keepers of the Dark are as necessary as those of the Light--never mind the "fluffy-bunny" and "ooky-spooky" stereotypes. In fact, the perpetuation of these stereotypes simply escalates. Until each "side" sees the other for what it truly is instead of playing one-upsmanship and pointing the blame for the state of the world the balance will always be off among us.

I'm Still Not Very Comfortable With The Concept That Light=good And... Dec 12th. at 12:03:56 am UTC

Fishgoat (Whitehorse) Age: 37 - Email

I'm still not very comfortable with the concept that Light=good and Dark=bad. I thought that the Wiccans at least were not into dualistic thinking. It also seems a little too racist for me.

Ther are good things in the Dark, the hidden places of our pyshe. There are dangerous and harmful things in the Light. And vice versa.

We need both. We need a balance. We need the dark. Thinking ourselves only of "the light" gives us leave to disown that "icky/scary/disapproved of" part of ourselves we'd rather keep hidden. Once we label that part "not-me" we abdicate our responsibility for it, and our subsequent actions. We create a "boogeyman" (democrats/communists/witches/fate/the gods/my crappy childhood/mom/whatever) on which to blame our problems. Scapegoating becomes a way of life.

What we fear within ourselves often masks our greatest strength. As Starhawk wrote: "Where there is fear there is power."

Let us delve into ourselves and find our neglected strengths. Let us also abandon the dualistic thinking of Light/dark (white/black, good/bad) and remember polarity, remember that there is a myriad of colourful experiences btween the two extremes.

Between the "words" is truly a powerful place. :)

This Is A Far Deeper Question Than It Might Appear On The... Dec 12th. at 7:22:12 am UTC

John ("New Naumkeag", Ohio US) Age: 34 - Email

This is a far deeper question than it might appear on the surface. And I just don't have the energy to respond to it properly. So here it goes, my very imperfect gist of an answer.

Light and dark represent to me an experience in Nature of the nature of human perception of reality. It's what Hindus call "maya" - the experience that things seem to be separate.

Light and dark thus also are an experience of the fundamental balance in all that is a by-product of being finite: pain/pleasure, good/evil, action/reaction, and so on. That doesn't mean that pain, good, action, etc. are synonyms; it means only that there is a balance in all that we commonly perceive: a kind of echo of perception coming back at us to tell us that reality as we perceive it is a closed-system of finitude.

Light and dark are thus also a powerful symbol to me of the perspective of the One that we who are finite and with our limited perceptions necessarily have: the One as Being that is also Becoming. Some would express this as Shiva-Shakti, some as Kali-Shiva, some as Goddess and God, some as the Yin-Yang, and so on. For me, the Two are just an impression of the One. Put another way, most times when I can see the moon in the sky, I can usually see all of it -the dark and the light-regardless of phase.

Dark and light, especially as illustrated by Nature around us in the phases of the Moon or in the seasons, carry definite physical and metaphysical effects. These can often carry over into times of waning and waxing in human affairs. Treating waning and waxing, Dark and Light, as synonymous with good and evil, however, I think is an error of superficiality, though perhaps an understandable one.

In sum, I treat Dark and Light as reminders to realize the One that Truly is not separate, that is infinite, that is both and beyond Being-Becoming, That Is.

Shanti and Blessed Be.


Those Who Choose To Walk In The Light And Remain Centered In... Dec 12th. at 3:16:09 pm UTC

Alyxandria Rae (Fremont, California US) Age: 29 - Email

Those who choose to walk in the light and remain centered in the midst of tragedy and chaos are the same people who can really help to heal the world. And our world is sorely in need of some healing. The energy that you send out returns to you at least three-fold if not more. The angrier we are and the more aggressively we attack others, the more likely we are to be attacked. In the end, no one wins.

I think the phrase, "Think globally. Act locally." applies here. While I personally may not be able to stop the war in which we are enmeshed as a country, I can certainly help people in my community and send out positive light and energy as much as possible. With all that has been happening in the World, it's not surprising that many groups are forming to send out light: spiritual groups concentrating their energy on healing the world, independent media groups concentrating on shedding light on the real issues (which the mainstream media doesn't want us to know), and community groups working diligently to improve the world by taking one small step at a time.

Personally, I cannot wait to see how much better our world becomes in the next year as more and more people band together and work as a team. Even the crash of the financial market has positive aspects. Instead of thinking in a rigid financial hierarchy, now the playing field is level (in a sense) and we are realizing (again) that we are all human and we are all equal and we are all in this together!

May light and love fill the world.

I'm Happy To See People Taking Issue Less With The Issue (if... Dec 12th. at 4:23:06 pm UTC

Cat (Asheville, North Carolina US) Age: 34

I'm happy to see people taking issue less with the issue (if you'll pardon the usage) than with the language we're using to describe it. (In magic as in many things, language, if not everything, is an awful lot.) I've been thinking a lot about this language lately, in part because of the "Dark Side of the Craft" topic on the essays and in part because we as followers of earth-based religions aren't that much more consistent than our dualistic counterparts in Christian Central. Light and Dark sometimes mean, literally, light and dark; day and night; and in this usage, few of us have trouble saying they're both valid and both "good." Sometimes they mean what is shown and what is hidden; sometimes they mean life and death, both with benefits, but the latter not needing much help from most of us to do its thing (as Barbara Hambly says, entropy always wins.) Still other times, we use them as our counterparts do, to mean respectively what's good (love, faith, strength, comfort, anti-entropy at least during our brief lives) and what's pretty indisputably bad (hurting people just 'cause, seeking power-over rather than power-to, Emperor Palpatine, and so on.) Once-common usages like "the left-hand path" don't add much clarity, especially for the lefties among us.

Until we've got this linguistic difficulty sorted out, misunderstandings are almost inevitable. I took Wren's use of "dark" to mean Stuff That's Bad for Most of Us--not the practitioner who seeks to confront the hidden side of her psyche, nor the very kind-hearted person who cleans up the graveyard, nor those who worship the divine in its aspect as Reaper. And the Stuff that she said was Bad For Most of Us was pretty reasonable, boiling down as it does to apathy and despair. Worshipping those is a personal choice people have a right to (and certainly isn't limited to pagans!) but I don't think most of us approve of the choice.

So...(plot summary coming up) I think language has a lot to do with how we view this balance, and which definition we're using determines which view of the balance I'd give you, if I had room. Speaking for myself, no, I don't think apathy and despair are necessary to any "balance" in any faith (though I'm way too prone to them myself) and I don't think they deserve worship. I think it's good to oppose our lives to those things whole-heartedly, and, if they were what comprised the "dark", to align ourselves with the light.

The Balance Between Light And Dark Is Just Fine For The Salesperson... Dec 13th. at 10:21:51 am UTC

self (St.Petersburg, Florida US) Age: 34

The balance between light and dark is just fine for the salesperson who sells both Wiccan "white light" bath Crystals and LHP Demonic Sigil Tee-shirts.

As The Solstice Comes Nearer This Year, I'm More Looking Forward To... Dec 13th. at 2:48:04 pm UTC

Lynne-Renee (rural STL, Missouri US) Age: 30 - Email

As the Solstice comes nearer this year, I'm more looking forward to the pendulum swinging toward the light than any other time.

I'm usually comfortable with dealing with the hidden things and in-looking and I see the release and relief in destruction. This doesn't mean I don't grieve for people or things. It means I hold hope.

This year I'm sure I've had enough of the violence of transformation; the pain, pressure, and passage of birth; the culling. I need to be reassured there will be a new day, the first steps which become jubilant screeches and whoops of laughter and running and growing strong and new.

Cerridwen is my Mother but I find I'm enamoured with Mary as I look at my Christian friends' decorations. I won't, though, "become" Christian due to my own and the world's tragedy.

Luckily I was taught a Way which allows me to embrace That Which I need.

Regarding the opening article, I understood Wren to be talking about those who focus on being/creating negative/negativity. There's a difference between change, rebirth, and "I'm sending this flaming sack of poo to you." "Oh, and while I'm at it, 'Screw anyone who has a different idea than I.'"

My interpretation, of course.

I View The Balance Of Light And Dark On A Personal Level... Dec 13th. at 8:48:58 pm UTC

mik63033 (ferguson, Missouri US) Age: 41 - Email

I view the balance of light and dark on a personal level. Read: character and ethics. I'm mainly referring to myself trying to find the right mix 'cause I do believe there's a time for both.

With the solstices, We can enjoy the beautiful blend of literal life with symbolism. Yuletide brings us the longest night - Midwinter. It also brings us the hope and promise of a brighter tomorrow, even more the next day, and so on. 'Til We get to Midsummer - which reminds us to make hay while the sun shines, so to speak.

What the natural turning of the seasons means to me is time to check my internal clocks. Out with the old. In with the new. Review. Phases.

What insights might I share about the spiritual aspects of light and dark? I dunno about "insights" so I'll give my opinion. And it goes back to the personal. The personality. And the need for both light and dark therein; sometimes the need for violence or righteous indignation in self-defense or the defense of others (really have to watch this one, don't want the cosmic boomerang coming back at me trip'ly hard). More often, the need for healing, by spreading the love and light. People who have an even peace about them never cease to amaze and usually humble me. I'm like, what kind of Yoga are THEY doing? Or are they simply walking their walk.

But as I say, I do see the need for both, not equal amounts of course, but both. My own balance can be pretty precarious. I always keep my Majick clean, even during a Binding (non-violent visualization). It's my personality I've got to tap from time to time to keep the right perspective I find (and maybe tap into some Bio-feedback)? It's just that being Glenda the Good takes so much energy! For me anyway. Still, I know The Rede is important so I try to follow it.

As far as the rest of the world goes, let's just say I hope Nostradamus was wrong. That and, generally, humanity is out of balance. Always has been, always will be (hopefully). The world's scale is stuck and in need of some serious W-D40.

My experiences with light and dark have taught me that the two can indeed compliment each other at times. And everything in it's time, in due course. Hold on.

Smooches and

I've Pondered Upon This All Week And I Drew The Following Conclusion... Dec 14th. at 3:50:00 pm UTC

Ciarrai (Somewhere In Middlesex County, New Jersey US) Age: 34 - Email

I've pondered upon this all week and I drew the following conclusion: I'm in the dark and I guess I fear the light. I think that the current state of the world at large is making me more aware of the light; not the dark.

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