The Descent into Darkness
Turning of the Wheel
By Shirley Lenhard
Every year, along with the turning of the wheel, I celebrate my life in sync with the changing seasons. I plan, I plant, I grow, I tend, I harvest, and then I begin the process again over and over, year after year, reaping bountiful harvests, weeding and toiling in the field of my life, and growing in understanding or who I am and how I impact the world around me.
Mabon, the second harvest, just passed and we are only weeks from the final harvest at Samhain. The days are waning while the nights are waxing and this is the time that I refer to in my path as the “descent into darkness” where I retreat to reflect on the year from Imbolc, when I plant my seed, to the final harvest at Samhain, when I celebrate the final harvest. Here is where the germination of my next seed begins.
Like most witches, Samhain is my celebration of a new year, when all of my crops have been harvested, all of the change that I had intended and planted at Imbolc has come to fruition, and I celebrate my successes as well as my disappointments. This is when the wheel turns toward my descent into darkness. I use the dark times to begin contemplating what must change in my life, how I will affect that change, and what has served me well to carry on into another abundant crop. This process usually takes me the entire span of time between Samhain and Yule. By Yule, my journals are filled with ideas and mantras, suggestions for self-empowerment, poetry, prose, and messages to myself. This darkness is a period of growth for me as I take a hard look at who I am, what I love about myself, and what I do not like about myself or what does not serve me or the greater good. At Yule, I reread what I have written since Samhain, and I journey and meditate on those aspects of my life that have not served me well, seeking answers on how I will change those aspects. Sometimes I am presented with a tool or a symbol during a journey, and I journal about the gift that I was given. Often times that symbolism is quite loudly presented and there is no question what I should be doing; yet at other times, the symbolism is so obscure that it is only revealed clearly after I plant my seed.
My last seed work, from Imbolc 2019, did not culminate in a blossom forming on the amaryllis. My seed had four green leaves that were brilliant and vibrant in color, strong and standing upright, yet no bud was to be forthcoming. My seed work in 2019 was: “By Samhain I will have follow through and I will be deliberate in all thoughts, words, and actions – Completion.” This is what I planted along with my bulb. It occurs to me, as I ready myself for the final harvest that there was no way for this seed to produce a blossom, as this is a constant work in progress with no finite ending. I have firm and grounded roots, my thoughts, words, and actions have all been deliberate, this is not a “one and done” crop that I planted, this is an evolving ideology that I must continue to pursue. Strong roots, vibrant color, standing tall. So far, I have stood strong and upright, I have been accountable and present; I have reaped precisely what I have sown. Completion. Completion is fluid with this seed. Maybe by Samhain, my musings and reflections over the last year, when I read through my journals, will result in a better understanding of completion. For now, I am content to reread my journals along with my seed and better understand where I could have made positive changes, where the learning or teaching moments may have been missed, and how to better myself and my life, not only for me but for my family, my community, and the greater good.
This year, as Samhain approaches, I will continue to be thankful for the harvest that I have reaped, I will continue to celebrate the completion of this turn of the wheel, and I will recognize all that I have been blessed to learn since Imbolc. Yet, this year, the descent to darkness seems a little more necessary than any other year as I intend to dig deeper than I ever have before. Honestly, this is a scary idea for me. This year the descent is going to force me to face fears and to learn to be more self-reliant. This is a struggle for me, like it may be for others, to be brutally honest with myself, to call out and name my fears, to face them by making plans to eliminate those fears that hold me back and cause struggle. This descent feels to be in tune with the changing weather patterns and the cycle that the Earth takes when She is readying for a long winter to come. The ideas are brilliant and colorful – the leaves are changing and Mother Earth adorns Herself will brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. The nights are longer and cooler yet the sun continues to shine brightly warming my skin while drifting further away with every passing day. I feel as though I have a foot on each side of the descent – one ready to stretch as far as possible to remain in the sunshine before turning into brilliantly colored leaves and the other firmly planted awaiting the leaves to fall from the trees and the descent to begin.
Today, I am most thankful to understand that the wheel will turn with or without me. My hopes and desires are to be a cog in the wheel that turns for the greater good of all and with harm to no one.