Someone recently came to me with a story about how he was planning to battle the Darkness. That story told me it was time that we shared some thoughts about respecting the Darkness.
What’s the Darkness?
But first, a definition. What do I mean by “Darkness?” Do I mean things that are unseen? Evil? Energies that want to harm us?
Some say there is no Darkness. Animism is a complementary dualistic system, so if there is Light there must be Dark. It certainly is unseen, but it can be illuminated. I wouldn’t call it Evil because I believe that everything that exists is sacred.
That said, everything is not healthy, wholesome or desirable. (How could it be if we can’t have what’s healthy without something that is not healthy?) Everything doesn’t use its consciousness to help. Some things do harm. So by “Darkness” I could be referring to things we don’t see, but am most certainly referring to things that are not easy, kind, or warm. In fact, they can be downright dangerous.
I’m not talking about Shadow, or things that are within you, but things that are separate from you and not of your own creation or control. I’m talking about things like banshees, faeries, dybbuks, aswang, nuckelevees, vampires, wendigos, zombies, and kelpies. I also refer to the places where these things dwell and the practices of things like curses and soul stealing.
Flirting With the Dark
With magic, demons, and “shamans” appearing regularly in stories and mainstream entertainment, lots of people are now seeing things in the Darkness that they didn’t see before. There also seem to be a lot of people who think they can pick up a cookbook of spells, procedures, or rituals to barge into the Darkness to do battle. Or many people want to work out their anger, jealousy, or insecurities by cursing others.
Ask any indigenous animist and they will tell you that this is foolish!
You don’t go into battled unarmed and ignorant hoping that you will figure it out. I see lots of people who either wandered there inadvertently while on a plant medicine journey, or intentionally, who came back truly damaged. The risk is too great to bumble around the Dark – regardless of the purpose.
If you want to live in the animist world, you have to understand Darkness. From that understanding, you can build a culture of respect. This is something even indigenous animists have to cultivate. Animism is not a utopia. Culture and society is something that lives, breathes, and changes as we change. We can move towards balance or imbalance depending upon our choices.
How to Respect the Dark
To gain a respect for the Dark and keep the energies around you in their easiest, most helpful forms, these tribal animist concepts may be useful to know. Modern animists may choose to not adopt these beliefs, but they are valuable to acknowledge when dealing with the Dark regardless.
Everything is conscious. Everything is sovereign and has the power to harm or help. All things want to be nurtured, protected, and appreciated. When you stop acknowledging the boundaries, contributions, or value of a person or thing, it may harm you. When spirits are happy, they tend to share that happiness in the from of blessings. Everything is related. So at the very least, do no harm.
Order and tradition are important. Rituals help people to know who they are, bind us to the ancestors and society, and create belonging. Rituals also exist to protect the community through honoring the land, ancestors, harvest, natural world, and spirit world. Codes of conduct and taboos are implemented to preserve order. (Examples of this are things like restricting menstruating women from rituals, harvesting sustainably, using all of a slain animal, and defining when or where sex can be enjoyed). When this is done, the relationship between the Dark and Light is sustained.
Everything has a nature and will act according to its nature. Some energies are naturally Dark and will harm you. It’s what they do. You cannot alter this. It’s beneficial to know the nature of all things in your community and interact accordingly.
Balance results in harmony. Harmony is achieved through things like sacrifice, ritual, reciprocity, gratitude, respect, and having healthy boundaries.
Create protection when open and vulnerable to spiritual attack, such as when you are having sex, grieving, sick, angry, or are intoxicated.
Everything has power. “Don’t take a knife to a gun fight.” Know when you are out gunned and don’t go into a battle that you can’t win. At the very least, consult someone who is experienced and trained to act as a intermediary between the physical and spiritual worlds. It’s not something you can learn to do in a weekend.
If you come up against something scary, ask for help. There are many energies that are willing to help you if you need it. Stay within your comfort zone. Don’t blunder foolishly into something dangerous because you were too proud or ignorant to ask for help.
It’s Not All Love and Light
The modern animist world is not all love and light. Every day is a walk of balance between the Light and Dark. We don’t ignore, fear, or neglect the Darkness. We acknowledge and respect it. This is the path to wholeness.