I started drumming a little over a year ago, though I would say the drum has called to me since I was very young. I began attending Jaime Meyer’s drum circle last October after I moved to the Twin Cities. One of the first energies we worked with was that of the Dark Mother.
I’m remembering this now because, unfortunately, I did not get to work with the Dark Mother this year, and I very much would have liked to. As summer loses its hold on the world and the dark of winter approaches, it comes to be the time for the Dark Mother to do her work in the world. The songbirds migrate, and we are left with the Mother’s crows cawing in the bare branches.
All things die; it is the way of the world. It is not a bad thing, or an evil thing. It is simply part of the balance. For new life to begin, and for healthy life to continue, death must be a part of that cycle.
Yet it is not enough simply to die. If things merely died and then stayed forever where they fell, our world would quickly become toxic as it is overrun with things that are no longer a part of this world.
This is where the Dark Mother comes in, with her crow companions as earthly representatives of her presence among us. I remember her being also the Destroyer, the One Who Consumes. She moves through this world and devours those things that, if left alone, would poison us. Just as her crows eat the carrion and garbage, the Dark Mother comes and takes what is necessary so that we might live.
Look at the trees, for example. As the sunlight loses its energy, as the earth continues on its path around the sun and tilts towards the darkness, the trees let go of their leaves. First, they stop producing chlorophyll, which is what gives the leaves their green color; underneath the green are the colors we see in the fall. So we might say that, in the autumn, the trees allow their true colors to show in one brilliant display of natural beauty before bowing to the way of things and letting their leaves fall to the ground. Or, to look at it another way, the Dark Mother takes their leaves and devours them.
It sometimes seems like such a sad thing, watching the trees become barren and, to all appearances, lifeless. But in truth, it is an act of mercy and compassion from the Dark Mother to take these things. She knows that the winter snows are coming. If the trees kept their leaves, the weight of the accumulated snow on the leafy branches would become so heavy that the branches would snap off, and the tree would die. Without its leaves, the tree survives to bud and blossom in the spring.
So it is with humans. The Dark Mother never takes anything we need for survival. She takes that which weakens us; in her wisdom, she knows what we need to let go. Our problem is that sometimes we humans hold on to things for much longer than we need to.
To quote Mary Oliver:
To live in this world, you must be able to do three things:
To love that which is mortal,
To hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it,
And when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.
So as I look out at the newly barren trees and watch the crows huddled in their branches, I thank the Dark Mother for her presence in this world. And I offer a prayer:
O Dark Mother, who knows me better than I know myself, who cares for the world by consuming those things that would harm us, I trust that your keen eyes can see further down the path than mine can. Take from my heart those things that I must let go. I release my finished burdens into your holding, that I might move into this period of darkness and healing, and emerge into the spring ready to blossom.