In what should be a surprise to absolutely no one, I was a theater kid. My life in high school revolved around two big productions every year: a drama in the fall and a musical in the spring. My theater classmates and I sacrificed blood, sweat, tears and countless hours for each of our shows. After the last curtain fell and the set had been struck, it was time to celebrate. Cast parties are the stuff of legend for good reason. There is nothing quite like gathering a bunch of exhausted, excited, dramatic teenagers together for an all-nighter after a months-long pressure cooker experience.
One of my favorite parts of every party came late (or very early, depending on how you look at things). People would gradually curl up and fall asleep, but there were usually a handful of us crazy enough to still be up talking around the fire when the first hint of dawn whispered across the horizon.
Dawn does not start with light, at least not here in the mid-Atlantic. It starts with song. The birds know before we do that the sun is on the way and out of the quiet darkness, a single, trembling melody rises. At the cast parties of old that first song always sparked a ripple of astonishment: “The night is ending? But it seemed like it would last forever!”
More voices join the first feathered singer and soon the air is full of song. The sky begins to pale in the east. Colors start returning. The first threads of dawn’s fire flicker over the horizon and before long, the bright golden rays of dawn light the sky.
I find myself thinking about sunrises a lot right now. About the power of music and light in the face of shadow. It’s a little funny since so much of my own Work revolves around Shadow – around working through our traumas, turning pain into strength, and integrating our wholeness without shame or justification. As important and healing as Shadow is, the other side of that coin is brightness. I am not now, nor have I ever been, particularly white-light-y. ‘Positive Vibes Only’ and other clumsy attempts at spiritual bypassing make me cranky.
And yet. Witches are contrarians. It is why some people still find us alarming – we are full of uncomfortable ideas and inconvenient wisdom. So now, when everything around us is darkness and shadow, I am thinking about dawn.
I am thinking about singing into the darkness.
I am thinking about that first hint of light to come.
I am thinking it is time to dust off the torch and fire it up.
Let go of what’s cool or Avant Garde or mature for a moment. What makes you want to dance? What makes you pull the curtains, kick off your shoes and sock-slide down the hallway?
What songs make you sing along at the top of your lungs? What songs feel like summer? Like riding with the windows down, radio blasting, adventure on the way? Make THAT playlist. Dance in your kitchen, in your living room, on your own, with your pets, with your kids. DANCE. Sing. Sing loudly and off-key and joyfully. The first singer of dawn doesn’t care what they sound like. They aren’t worried about the perfect performance. They just know that they must sing for the light to return. We are the same. Sing and dance some light into the sky.
We have access to so much media right now. Between streaming services, YouTube, Vimeo and other video aggregators and hosting platforms, there’s no end of content we could access.
What if we choose content that makes us laugh? Not a quiet chuckle; go for the belly laughs that make it difficult to breathe. What if you choose to watch your favorite comic and others like them and just laugh until tears run down your face? What if you laugh till your core has gotten a workout? What if you laugh like the first time you watched A Fish Called Wanda and got to see Michael Palin chase Kevin Kline with a steamroller?
Oh, that was just me? Ehm. As you were, then.
What if we choose to share that media with those we are sheltering with? What if our media choices for the day become a sharing of what we find funny and what wakes that blessed, belly-shaking, side-splitting, healing laughter for us?
Have that comedy marathon. Laugh till you can barely breathe. Laugh with your family, your closest friends. Laugh and let it heal some of the places that hurt.
Look around you. Take a deep breath in. How does the air feel? At dawn, the breeze rises. The currents of air begin their dance afresh, whirling through as heralds of the coming day. When was the last time the air danced through your home?
What if you pulled back the curtains and opened the windows? What if you turned every fan on, opened every door, and let your house or apartment breathe?
Turn the air. Let the space in which you live breathe in some sky, some sunlight, some spring breezes.
We all have our Work. We have the sacred tasks that consume much of our spiritual focus. We have the Pantheons we serve, the religious forms we follow. But take a step back for a moment.
What if you shifted your altar dressing over to something lighter? What if the somber colors got a spring facelift? What if you dragged out that ridiculous sequined shawl you’ve got tucked away somewhere and used it as an altarcloth?
New plan for ritual attire: sequins and marabou
What if you turned the burgundy and dark green to gold, pale yellow, bright orange? What if the colors of sunlight, fire, joy, and exuberance framed your Work? How would it feel?
Dust off your altar. Redecorate. Reorganize a little as you are putting things back. Maybe get out the fancy candles, the shiny baubles, the ridiculous sparkly things you do not normally display. Then light it up and share your joy as well as your devotion with your Gods and Ancestors.
When the first bird sings, before the eastern sky pales with the coming dawn, they are not thinking about diurnal cycles. They are not considering the rotation of the earth or its path around the sun. They are not entrenched in science and practicality.
They sing because they must. Because deep within them is a compulsion to break the quiet and the darkness and the cold with music.
Right now, I am feeling the same way. I want to sing, dance, laugh, open and worship with brightness. I want to be the music in the dark.
And who knows? The sun might rise.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
– Leonard Cohen, Anthem
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