Long nights and even longer nights. Short days. Some days without really becoming a day. The sun seems to have disappeared. The last autumn leaves have fallen. Darkness prevails. Sometimes it seems like things have been turned upside down. Summer is full of life but now it’s the opposite. It has become quiet in the forest. Since we can’t see so much we don’t really know what’s going on in the dark. Thus we avoid walking in the dark, if we don’t need to. We place our lights everywhere. However we shouldn’t forget that darkness is a normal state of things. Happy Sunshine is not the norm. Somehow we all still relate to darkness. We even can’t forget our darkness.
It’s surprising how fast we can adapt to darkness. We might not compete with our cat’s super hero night-vision but if we walk in the wilderness for some time we not only revive our older instincts and we begin so sense if there is a presence or danger. Sometimes it might be pitch black but normally we are able to see more as we think we would. Our eyes adapt like the visor of our digital camera to these conditions. And in a clear night even big planets like Jupiter can cast a shadow. No mention how bright moonlight can become, even it’s a different world without the usual colors we know. We are able to detect movements in the dark. However there is more going on as our eyes and ears adapting to the dark.
There were times when light was the extraordinary and darkness a normal state of things. These were times of survival. Maybe civilization came with the knowledge how to make a fire and keep it alive during the endless nights in the woods.It’s interesting that there are so much fears around what would happen if we would experience a long-lasting black-out in one of our well lit big cities. Many people think we will revert to tribal beings and it takes only one thing to make that happen: darkness.
We need to protect the lantern not only because we are afraid what might be out there when we are alone in the dark. It’s maybe because we are afraid of the thoughts which will come up in the middle of the night and what we might become then. It’s ridiculous to say that we have a second identity after sunset. We know that.
After a while, when we are out there in the wilderness, we are afraid more of our own darkness rather than what might be lurking around us. For some people it might be even a danger that darkness becomes an obsession, they become addicted to their second nature.
Today we don’t believe any more in the old folk tales of the wild hunt roaming through the forest in stormy winter nights and the dangerous and often deadly encounters in the longest nights. Part of the myth of the wild hunt is that the wild hunt is not so much about you getting killed or getting sick when you see the lost souls and demons but that you get forced to run with this unholy army and become one of them. And if you run with them you might do certain things.
Swedish writer Kerstin Ekman collected the stories about the old fears in the wonderful book about the forest, “Herrarna i skogen”. Some medieval tales tell us about horrors which are even outside the Christian world of angels and demons. In the darkest of nights chaos reigns.
Maybe that is why we are putting on the lights and why we worship the light. For example Christian tradition’s like St. Martin Day Celebration (Children carrying lanterns) might go back to older traditions and have a deeper meaning even for our days. It’s a ritual to keep darkness at bay and whatever waits in the dark and hopes to invite us to run with the wild hunt. It is also a time to remember where we stand in the cosmic battle between light and darkness.