In the Celtic spiritual tradition, some speak of Orchil, the Weaving Goddess. She sits in the Underworld at two looms. On one loom, the warp extends down into the fiery heart of the planet; on the other loom the warp goes up to the blazing stars. Poised between Earth Light and Star Light, partaking of both Up and Down, Orchil weaves the weft on Her two looms, connecting every star to every other star, generating the infinite fabric of our planet and ourselves.
Within Orchil’s sacred mystery, we find that light and darkness are not opposed. Many Nature-centered traditions are based in this truth. In the Four-Directions Wheel, a ceremonial and spiritual foundation used by ancestral peoples for thousands of years, the North (in the northern hemisphere) is the place of night and winter, the place of the Dark. But this nourishing darkness inevitably contains the seeds of light, of life, of rebirth. As the wheel turns into the East, these seeds sprout into dawn, every morning, and spring, every year. This truth is also expressed in the ancient Chinese yin-yang symbol, a circle in which black and white swirl around and interpenetrate, thus complementing, not opposing one another.
Opposition, not complementarity, seems to be the default setting of the modern world, rooted as it is in the twin dualities of patriarchy and human supremacy. In mainstream western religious belief, the male Father God lives up in the sky—in Heaven—which is the only place of light. From there, God rightfully dominates Nature and the dark, dangerous Feminine down here on Earth. Once this dualism was firmly entrenched in human culture, it took only a handful of centuries to launch the unsustainable extraction industries that are ruining the biosphere around the world. Clearcutting, mining and oil drilling, large-scale grazing, enormous dams—these couldn’t possibly have taken root in a society and economy where humans understood that Light and Dark, and Up and Down, continuously interpenetrate and sustain each other.
Today, right now, Orchil still sits calmly at Her looms in the Underworld, balancing and connecting all the starry realms of Gaia’s reality. How can we assist Her in Her weaving? How can we do our part to support the beauty and resilience that She weaves into the universal fabric?
We can begin by challenging this dominant, dualistic conception, in the world and within ourselves:
Up = Light = Good
Down = Dark = Bad
First, we need to fully realize, in the depths of our being, that Up and Down, Light and Dark are not “opposites.” When something is the opposite of, or opposed to, something else, this immediately brings in exclusivity, the idea that both things cannot exist together. With complements, on the other hand, we let in space for both of them to exist fully, for them to complete each other. These principles of inclusion and complementarity are alive in every wild ecosystem, in every organic garden, and within each of us, ready to emerge as we attune with Gaia.
Next, we must grapple with the human-created duality of good and bad. Is the dark really bad? Is “down there” really the source of evil and fear? Does redemption lie only in ascension—up to “heaven,” to the true and only light, to the “good”? And is the Masculine somehow associated with the “good,” while the Feminine is inherently “bad,” or at least suspect? These ideas, sometimes writ large but often quite subtle, have been part of patriarchal, human-centered thinking for several thousand years. They are the building blocks of the conviction that exploiting the Earth for human benefit is not only permissible, but actually part of our destiny. How can we challenge this duality’s grip?
And, meanwhile, Orchil still sits at Her looms, weaving, weaving. Let’s approach Her with respect and curiosity, with the willingness to learn different ways of being, thinking, and believing. Then, perhaps we can weave a few beautiful threads of our own into Her magnificent weft.
With gratitude to RJ Stewart and Anastacia Nutt for introducing me to Orchil and Her mysteries, through the visionary writings of Scottish mystic Fiona Macleod.