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The Shieldmaiden Blog

Dec - 13

Long Dark Solstice of the Soul

Two years ago on the Winter Solstice, I took a leap of faith that cost me everything. It took me a long time to write about this, because it’s personal and a bit raw and embarrassing, and because it doesn’t make anyone look good.

I was in the dark for a long time, when I look back on it. But you see, and this is why I’m telling this story, you don’t realize it at the time – you’ve been in the dark so long you think you’re just blind, or that’s all the light there is. Dim, dreary, fumbling amongst shadows, knees skinned to bleeding, exhausted but still upright and stumbling along. That was me. I forgot life could be any brighter than that.

I should explain. I’m that girl who thinks she can handle anything. I grew up a tomboy, grew up wilderness camping with my dad and wandering the woods outside our mountain house alone. I learned hammer and nailgun and socket wrench and tire iron. Because I didn’t want to be a helpless female. I admired Disney villainesses and adventurers and heroes and serial killers. Queen Boudicca and Joan of Arc were my heroes. You can’t scare me.

In my late 20’s and my 30’s, I was living the strong-woman life. I was the breadwinner in my marriage. I was involved in leadership in my spiritual community, I had students, I had co-founded a Pagan sanctuary, built a stone henge, hell, built an empire almost. I was a priestess of a war Goddess and talking to the world about autonomy, strength, courage, warriorship, sovereignty. But I was in the dark and running blind.

Art by Aunia Kahn

This is the part where I have to bite the bullet and tell it to you straight out. I was busy showing the whole world how strong, independent and powerful I was, and all the time I was living a lie because I was living with a verbally and emotionally abusive partner, and I was letting myself be bullied, belittled, tormented, controlled and undermined every day. I was eggshell-walking around the rage triggers and justifying it to myself. I was appeasing and apologizing, promising to change myself and become better. I was apologizing just to stop the fighting even when I didn’t think I was being the crazy one, until after a while I was so used to being wrong that I didn’t know what to think, and maybe he was right and I was the crazy one. The confidence I displayed to everyone was a lie. I was deep in the dark. For years.

And I stayed there that long because I was tough, goddamnit. I could handle this. I could not fathom the idea that I could be that pathetic woman who stays with an abuser. That could never happen to me. This was something else. It wasn’t abuse, we just had a really dynamic, fiery partnership. I was a strong, independent woman. And that is why I’m telling this story now. Because strong women have this blind spot and I have now seen it a couple more times in friends of mine. Our self-image as strong women who wouldn’t put up with that leads us straight into the trap.

I was deep in the dark and I stayed there for years, stumbling along. Honestly, I have no idea if I would have saved myself, or how long it would have taken me. What happened is that two years ago, She stepped in.

People who work with the Morrígan have observed that starting in about late 2010 or early 2011, She started to get more active and more insistent with Her priests. That aligns with what happened to me. I had been a dedicated devotee for over a decade at that point, but something big shifted in 2011 and She started wanting more from me. I struggled all that year to understand what She wanted, to step up, to deepen my service, but I felt profoundly confused and in the dark, struggling to translate and visualize what I was supposed to do. My narrowed, starved sense of self no longer had the imaginative capacity or the courage to visualize the horizons She was trying to push me toward. I simply could not imagine being the person who would do the things She was showing me.

Late in 2011, I think She must have got impatient with me, because the visionary possessions and intense dreams kicked in, She sent a long-estranged old flame who was also Her priest to remind me what human interaction should look like, and when I still wasn’t listening, She turned to fits of simply screaming inside my skull. And, you know, I’m not actually stupid, and I finally did get the message. The message landed in mid-December, after a particularly brutal episode of traumatic verbal rage from my partner, which broke through my protective prison of denial with the realization that I’m NOT the crazy one. THIS is crazy. And the next time I was at my devotions, She was there, and huge, a presence as still as the pillars of the earth and as undeniable, and She said, CHOOSE. You cannot be My vessel and do My work while you are selling out your sovereignty. I require a vessel with structural integrity. You need to choose: stay broken, or be whole and do My work.

The long darkness finally broke and the light came streaming in. On the eve of the Winter Solstice, I made a commitment to Her and to myself. I committed to honoring Her in my own sovereignty, and to reclaiming my integrity. I made a pact that starting on the Solstice, I would give myself three months until the Equinox to renegotiate my life in alignment with my sovereignty and my needs, but if it could not be so realigned, I would get out. By Equinox, I would be my own being again and free to do Her work, whatever that cost me.

I am here to tell you that it cost me everything, and it was the best bargain I ever made. Over the next year, I turned my entire life inside out. I used to joke to friends that the Morrígan ate my life… but I wasn’t really joking. I dissolved my marriage, moved from remote wild mountain to city, lost my job, started an entire new career, started a business, and founded a priesthood of the Morrígan. Most of 2012 is a kind of hurricane in my memory. And I would do it all again if I had the same choice given to me. I have never been happier, healthier, freer, or felt more solidly in line with my life’s purpose.

Why did I tell this very personal story on my very public blog? Well, because it’s the Solstice and it’s on my mind. But also, because like I said earlier, I think that the trap I fell into can happen to a lot of us, and not just women, either. And the more we don’t talk about it because it is embarrassing to us, or because we don’t want to make our partner/abuser look bad, the more there is a culture of silence about it, the more that blind spot can operate to hide the trap. One of the reasons I did wait this long to talk about it is because I still share a lot of friends with my former partner, and I’ve felt uncomfortable about making him look bad or poisoning those friendships for him. But you know, this happened to me. To us. It was real, and I doubt he is any more glad of it than I am. And I don’t think people like him who find themselves becoming abusers are helped by the culture of shame and silence either. He is not a monster, he is an evolving human being like the rest of us, and he got lost in the dark too.

And the other thing I want to share from this is about courage and destiny. Meeting your destiny may cost you everything else. And my friends, if my case is illustrative at all, it is WORTH EVERY PENNY. Not every risk that comes your way is destiny calling you. But if you find yourself huddled up inside, in the dark; if you find yourself wondering how you ended up here because it doesn’t feel like your story; if you find yourself turning from opportunity because I can’t, I could never do that, not me… then start looking for a risk. Start looking for something that terrifies the fuck out of you, because that terror is your calling, it’s the light breaking in. And above all, if your Gods offer you a hand, take it. Take the risk, do not look back, do not worry about the cost or what you might lose because there is nothing, nothing, nothing worth letting your soul die in the dark for. And because stepping on the path of your destiny is a life-affirming act, and the Gods love a courageous heart, and the life force will answer and rise in you, and something new will rise and take the place of whatever you have to let go of when you take that leap.

Blessed Solstice to you, and may the light of courage always return for you.

23 comments on Long Dark Solstice of the Soul

  1. Melissa Kinney says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I share a common traumatic divorce experience from an abusive marriage at a young age. Words cannot express my appreciation for your courage in sharing your story of evolution.

  2. Morpheus, Thank you for sharing this very courageous post. You have no idea how deeply this resonates with me. The risk to step away from something damaging, into the unknown, *is* worth it. Blessings to you!

  3. Rhiannon Sunday says:

    Wow, thank you for this. It’s so brave of you to bring your story forward, a story that mirrors my experience and so many others. I agree completely about the trap of The Strong Woman. I had to shed so many things to become free from abuse and addiction, and had to rebuild, rediscover myself so many times. And then She showed up, to push me farther. Sometimes I have to stop and take a breath and look at my life to see, while I’m always looking to learn and grow, I have done more with myself than I could ever have believed possible. When I really listen to the Morrigan, fear falls away and things fall into place somehow. I’m going to go sit at my altar now. Blessings.

  4. Corvus Black says:

    Thank you for this. She is demanding, but also generous to Her warriors/priests.

    You display great courage, and that is the greatest sacrifice of all, the killing of your fear upon Her altar.

  5. Soli says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. Blessings and strength.

  6. Rhyd Wildermuth says:

    Thank you relentlessly.

  7. Jeyn says:

    As Aidan mentioned, this post is a gift. Thank you for showing us your courage by showing us your vulnerability – there are *so many of us*, women and men, who can relate to this part of your story. I’ve also have my experiences with reclaiming my sovereignty, and The Morrigan has *definitely* been instrumental in helping me deepen my relationship with my Self.

    Thank you again for sharing this – Brightest of Winter Solstice Blessings to you as well!!

  8. Nanna Nightshade says:

    I have had a similar experience, after I left my husband (a good man, just not the one I needed) I fell into a rebound with a very different man, he became verbally abusive and I tried to brake it off a couple of times (but I felt I deserved it for breaking my husbands heart) he became physically abusive, spitting on me and breaking my thingsthings, I am a very independent strong and caring woman too and kept thinking if I could help him things would be better, but I was just fooling myself, I finally asked for help and strength from the goddess and I broke free in 2010. My ex husband became my friend again and gave me a safe haven allowing me to heal. Telling anyone about that time is still raw, I understand how difficult it is to put into words. Bless you for sharing your blog with us. Merry Solstice!

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  10. Jen says:

    I echo the responses here. A similar story. A similar intervention. “…fits of simply screaming inside my skull.” – exactly this. I’ve not for a second regretted my choice.

    Thank you for sharing your story – you’ve no idea how much it means to others who aren’t ready to share theirs.

  11. Kristina says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I was in a similar relationship around the same time and am.still trying to regain my self love, worth and forgive myself for staying as long as I did. She has helped me tremendously and continues to help make me more whole everyday. Reading this hels more than you will ever know.

  12. Dane says:

    Wow, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were writing MY story of the last decade or so. Even the timing lines up spookily well. It seems like all the major deities (and perhaps a lot of minor ones) are getting quite impatient with those among their servants who are “dragging their heels.” Perhaps this kind of “kick in the pants” is the universal language for, “wake up and choose!”

    Thank-you for posting this. I was beginning to wonder if anyone else had gotten it quite as bad as I did. Before a few years ago, I would have never guessed that a deity would go to such lengths to get me to pay attention–or that it would be so worthwhile to do so, despite the “crap storm” that followed.

  13. Clamhan says:

    I too had similar experiences and the part of your blog that focusses in on 2010 and She being more demanding resonates with me such a lot. I too lost everything and have subsequently built it all back up again in part. Shes a harsh Goddess but shes worth it.

  14. Gina says:

    Thank you for sharing this. In a lot of ways, with a few little tweaks, this could be almost exactly my story, too. In 2003 I was living with my coven leader and his partner. My coven leader was also verbally abusive. I got to the same point, and when I prayed, I got a similar response: “You can stay here and die, or you can leave and live.” They were absolutely right.

    And you’re right, too. The risk was absolutely worth it.

  15. Happy Solstice to you as well.
    I have to say that your realization and experience is much like my own. I lost EVERYthing, including my home, my huge Witch’s Garden… Everything. I lived in the country, too and moved to the city. I lost my mother and was chosen by the Morrigan.
    And, if I hadn’t known it was Her calling me, testing me, strengthening me, I would never have survived it. Yes, She is a demanding Goddess / Mother. And, YES, the rewards are great. I never have looked back, not once, because I know I am here, right HERE, where She has put me.
    No, it is NOT easy. But, it is worth it.
    I am where I am supposed to be and things keep happening that reinforce that knowledge.
    It is good to read of another persons experience. It is good to see Her in another life and it is exceptionally good to know She is calling, testing, HONING, those who will be Hers; it’s not just me.

  16. Di Gatchell says:

    thank you for sharing. I too am a student of the Morrigan.. and have had similar experiences with her and the message she wants shared in the past couple of years…. You are strong. You may have lost but I think you gained more.

  17. This post is a MASSIVE gift to a lot of people, and I do hope it gets spread far and wide, as it is incredibly important. I thank you for writing it for those who need to hear it.

    May your Gods bless you, keep you, and care for you always.


  18. Niki says:

    This is amazing and beautiful. While I have not been in an abusive relationship, I too have suffered and had a voice from the gods scream CHOOSE at me. I too present an unconquerable self. I’m on the edge of tears now, debating if I also ought to share my story. Our paths are not linear nor just about Being Awesome. Thank you for sharing, I am feeling all the feelings now.

  19. Stephanie Hartzell-Brown says:

    Morpheus…this is so courageous of you to write this and I am sure it is a relief to do so also. Many of us who have been in such relationships can identify with what you have so succinctly written here. Bravo my dear and I am so glad you are happy, healthy and in a much more loving and sacred place in your life!

  20. Lon Sarver says:

    Thank you for sharing this. There are lot of us who need to hear it.

    Being Strong can be a trap. I’m not in that exact place, but I can see it from here. My variation is the I Must Be Strong For Others trap. The I Must Care For Others Before Myself thing.

    The thing that really holds me back is that I do not know who I am when I’m not The Host or The Supportive Partner. There’s a dark door of being nothing to pass through, and it’s more terrifying than death.

    So thank you for sharing. Hearing about those who dared the abyss and made it through inspires.

    1. Rayven says:

      Like many others you could be telling my story….I have walked that rocky road and came out on top. The Morrigan was indeed screaming at me to wake up. Everything shifted and I didn’t care what happened – stood my ground, left battered and a bit bruised but I was ALIVE and FREE…and no one had a clue at what was happening. I sit in gratitude for your sharing. Blessings to you!


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