Darkest night

I do not need to be in depression to write about depression.

The words were carefully lettered onto a sticky note, which I affixed to the top of my old roll-top desk as the first step toward writing Empty Cauldrons: Navigating Depression Through Magic and Ritual. If depression is a spirit, as I have come to believe, then invoking it by diving into research and interviews was a possibility against which I wanted to guard. If depression is a disease, which I also believe to be true, then the peril was in taking on the condition with the intention of healing it within in order to heal others, as well. This, my first opportunity to write a book for a major pagan publisher, in no way felt safe; inviting the forces of darkness into one’s life never should feel safe.

Photo by Lucas Pezeta on Pexels.com

At no point did I believe that my life was at risk, however. Depression does kill, and it’s nearly killed me more than once, but we understand each other better now. This was nevertheless a crossroads, and depression could send me down the wrong path. I was risking becoming completely overwhelmed, crushed by the sense of obligation, and unable to fulfill my part of the contract. I was also risking the stress of this new venture exceeding my threshold, resulting in a short temper coupled with a sharp wit: such are the tools for destroying relationships personal and professional. My life would not be ended by trying to write a book about the worst suffering I and many others will ever experience, but it could be irrevocably changed for the worse by this willing plunge into darkness.

I do not need to be in depression to write about depression.

Using language is not the most efficient way to reach the deeper parts of the mind. Those words need to be digested, broken down into component symbols, and absorbed. Reading the same phrase dozens of times a day is needed. I did this, but there are better ways to reach the deep self.

It’s appropriate to write about this on the darkest night. Depression is likened to a form of spiritual darkness. It was also on a winter solstice night, not long too long before the turn of the century, that I was given the gift of a spell box capturing the light of the summer sun, the triumphant sun that was shining in full glory on the other side of the world. A dear friend had seen that spell, written by Silver Ravenwolf, and assembled it with care before having the members of our circle charge it for my use. It was the first magic I ever successfully used to shift my relationship with depression, and it’s my honor to be able to include that spell in this book.

Understanding comes in part from engagement, and engaging is difficult with depression, because it’s inside. It wasn’t until I was well into the research phase of my writing that I was guided to create a process to allow the separation of depression from the body, by inviting it into instead inhabit a totem. Rather than being some sort of cure, this is a means to allow depression to be appealed to and appeased, as one might do with any spirit. Walking beside depression rather than within it, I was thus able to foster dialogue between my deep self and this intense spirit, this depression. I do not need to be in depression to write about depression.

Now, there is darkness. There is cold. There is quiet. All of this is familiar, but also different: the darkness, the cold, the quiet is outside the walls of my home. They are outside the walls of my heart. The darkness of the world is a cycle of the seasons, not a metaphor of a hopeless existence. I have cycles as well: good days and bad, with spirit, body, and mind moving through peaks and troughs. My thinking self recognizes that cycles are the way of the world, and my deep self sings gratitude for the knowing.

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