Today is the Catholic Feast of All Souls, and there are a lot of traditions in these early November days – around the Celtic Feast of Samhain, when the gap between this world and the spirit world was considered thinner – in which people remember those who have died. Here in France – and even more so in Italy- it is a day for visiting the graves of relatives who have died, and the traditional plant placed on the grave, – the bright chrysanthemum – is everywhere to be seen. It is a burst of colour at the start of a period of shorter, darker days, a symbol of life on a day which could tinged with sadness.
Moment of darkness and moments of hope; birth and death; both are present in a life. Our culture today prizes birth and growth, dynamic, fast, forward movement and achievement. Periods of waiting or staying quiet are not valued as a process, and standing still is often seen in the same way as going backwards. However, rituals and feast days such as today, which link living and dying, take us back into a deeper, older, wisdom and remind us that even periods of darkness can have value. Moments when we may feel stuck, overwhelmed or lost, can be periods of rebirth. All that is needed is that we have the courage to wait until a new direction becomes clear.
You may be so influenced by the modern demand to make progress at all costs that you may not appreciate the value in backsliding. Yet, to regress in a certain way is to return to origins, to step back from the battle line of existence, to remember the gods and spirits and elements of nature, including your own pristine nature, the person you were at the beginning. You return to the womb of imagination so that your pregnancy can recycle. You are always being born, always dying to the day to find the restorative waters of night. Darkness is natural, one of the life processes. There may be some promise, the mere suggestion that life is going forward, even though you have no sense of where you are headed. It’s a time of waiting and trusting. My attitude as a therapist in these situations is not to be anxious for a conclusion or even understanding. You have to sit with these things and in due time let them be revealed for what they are.
Thomas Moore, Dark Night of the Soul