The Queen of My Self

Into the Darkness

By Max Dashu, CA

I love December. It’s a powerful time to absorb knowledge, write, create art, chant, dance. To conjoin and celebrate, feast and rejoice in community or – my great pleasure at this season – turn within to search out the brilliance within the deep night.

What’s there, blazing up on that inner altar? It can be seen only in the dark, just as a campfire hardly shows itself in daylight.

We are in the Winternights, the Modranecht, Night of the Mother, and especially of the Old Woman. To her are dedicated the pagan Ember Nights, the Twölven (twelve pagan days between solstice and new year, or between Christmas and Epiphany). She comes looking in on our hearths to make sure we have spun off all the flax for the year. We’re supposed to make dumplings for her, or some kind of cooked offering, maybe a Hollenzopf (the golden braided loaf of Holle, the beneficent Goddess).

This Old Goddess, under any number of names and titles, rides with her hosts of land spirits and the ancestral dead, in the storms that are the signature of this time of year in the northern hemisphere. They move in the dark of the year, as the plants go deep into their roots, and the animals retreat into the shelter of Earth. The Moon rides highest in the heavens in this season of ultimate Yin, while the Sun is dim.

The great night, the long night

The lowest night, the loftiest night

The thick night, the night to be felt

The night touched, the night unseen

The night following on…

– Maori

We plunge into Mother Night, who annuls all charges and graspings. She returns us to utter Vastness and Totality, to absolute Unity, and in this experience all beings are irreversibly transformed. We get a taste of this washing in deep sleep, a cyclic descent and opening that every animal living must undergo — or die, and be swallowed up anyway. Even emperors and dictators and warlords become, for a few hours, like open-mouthed babies.

There is always the possibility of renewal, to reconceive ourselves bathed in magnetic and rich darkness. After dropping all that binds and weighs on us, we can pass into light and become again, changed like a cloth pulled through dye. A chrysalis dissolves into pre-cellular goo within its cocoon, dreaming deeply, and emerges from the Darkness entirely other than it entered the tiny world it spun. It comes out a butterfly, drenched in lunar honey, blinking with sticky wings into the almost-forgotten radiance.

In Chinese philosophy, the Yang is considered most powerful not at the climax of light during the Summer Solstice but just after the culmination of Ultimate Yin, at the moment when light begins to increase out of total darkness.

It is this possibility of renewal in the midst of Night that empowers us to transform everything.


Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She is the Midlife Midwife™ offering counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to



Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus