Darkness is Good For You?

The Effects of Light Pollution on Magical Ability

It is said in many different cultures that the great powers of priests, shamans, magicians, and witches of the ancients once had are now lost and no longer found in today’s practitioners. This is lamented from Ireland, to Haiti and Hawaii.  If this is so, why? One can’t blame it alone on the spread of Abrahamic religions as many cultures still have Animistic and Pagan beliefs. So what has changed – what exists today that didn’t in all the centuries and millenia before the modern age? One could answer many things but the most obvious is technology and from it artificial light. Imagine a world where when the sun sets, you can’t just flick on a light switch to see or perform tasks, where you are too poor to afford candles let alone precious oil for lamps.  Imagine a world when on average twelve hours out of your daily life are in darkness and in winter only six hours out of your day would have natural light.

This scarcity of artificial lighting meant that a significant proportion of waking and working life would have been spent in darkness or in the semi-darkness of dawn and twilight. Animals could not be left hungry and corn could not be left to rot in the fields because the light was fading or the sun had not yet risen, consequently early modern poor would have lived much of their lives under the powerful thrall of darkness, and their perception of the world and its inhabitants would have been sculpted by its mystery.”

~ Emma Wilby, Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits

Now what does this have to do with magic? Well, while I was looking up some information on the differing cultural beliefs in the third eye I found scientific information along with it that surprised me and led to my theory that light, especially artificial light, hampers innate magical ability. The third eye is located between one’s eyes and anatomically behind this location outside of the blood brain barrier at the centre of one’s brain is the pineal gland. The pineal gland is still mysterious and still being researched today, but what is known about it is that it may be connected to every system of the body and the gland produces a compound known as melatonin which is found in plants, animals, and microorganisms. Melatonin is photosensitive and its creation is prevented by light and aided by darkness -meaning our bodies need a minimum of eight hours of darkness per day, which is still too little on average, to a maximum of twelve hours per day in order to produce enough melatonin to function properly.

Melatonin regulates sleep cycles, the body’s and the organ’s circadian rhythms, your emotional and physical seasonal cycles, a woman’s fertility cycles, it plays a role in the protection of DNA, and is also a powerful antioxidant helping the immune system function. More interesting for us witches, melatonin is very important to REM sleep and vivid dreaming actually causing extremely vibrant and realistic dreams in elevated (or I should say “normal”) levels. Also interestingly, hallucinogens found in nature actually aid in the production of melatonin and increase its effects allowing for dream-like experiences in an awakened state modern psychologists term “altered mental states”. Melatonin deficiency can lead to seasonal affective disorder, ADHD, mood disorders, sleep disorders, lack of dreams, cancer, infertility, and possibly autism if the parent(s) suffers from the deficiency.

All of this from a tiny little 5-8mm gland behind your third eye! Seventeenth century French philosopher René Descartes believed the pineal gland located deep in the centre of the brain was the seat of the soul in our bodies and was what connected the spirit to the mortal coil. Madame Blavatsky taught much the same thing in the late 1800’s and her writings on the pineal gland and its connection with the third eye can be found in her work The Secret Doctrine:

“If the odd ‘eye’ in man is now atrophied, it is a proof that, as in the lower animal, it has once been active; for nature never creates the smallest, the most insignificant form without some definite purpose and use. It was an active organ, we say, at that stage of evolution when the spiritual element in man reigned supreme over the hardly nascent intellectual and psychic elements. And, as the cycle ran down toward that point when the physiological senses were developed by, and went pari passu with, the growth and consolidation of the physical man, the interminable and complex vissitudes and tribulations of zoological development, that median ‘eye’ ended by atrophying along with the early spiritual and purely psychic characteristics in man.

~ Helena Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine (p.298)

She means that primitive man in his earliest physical development was more spiritually developed then we will ever be today and enlarged pineal glands from fossils examined by modern scientists have shown her words to ring true. Also keep in mind that at the time of early man’s development, the earth was further away from the sun and not only colder, but also received less light from the Sun. For me, this importance of darkness explains the sacredness and ritual use of caves along with the animistic practice of placing an initiate in a place of darkness for a period of days or weeks before they are to meet the spirits to gain their initiation –whether the dark place be a hut, a cave, a room dug into the earth, or a mock grave with an air hole. It definitely puts a different spin on mystic Robert Cochrane’s love for spelunking… It also explains the more common occurrence of visionary experiences by people in the recent past than compared to the people of modern society.

So perhaps if you want to develop your third eye and therefore your psychic or “supernatural” abilities, the best thing you can do is sit in darkness and absorb its very essence into yourself. We may not ever be able to attain the states of awareness, abilities, and spiritual connection our ancestors did, but perhaps with their guidance we can try.

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Author Sarah

Illustrator and weaver of words. Witch. Forest siren with talons, succubic tendencies, a love of otherworldly beauty, poisonous plants, wild places and dead things.

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  • Well. Very interesting. I have fibromyalgia and that comes with a sleep disorder. The more sleep I get the deeper I go, the better I dream, and the easier it is for me to get into trance or that sense of connection with source. Melatonin is a big part of my FMS but I never connected it with my third eye, which I should say I can physically feel at all times. Love having a scientific reason to justify the time I spend sitting and dreaming awake in the dark.

    • Sarah says:

      I’ve always been very light sensitive and can see in the dark… makes me wonder about the the minimum of six nasty blows I’ve taken to the third eye in my life. I can feel my third eye too, but it’s mostly just sore as the sixth time happened fairly recently, lol!

      This just fascinates me – who knew something as small as a grain of rice could be so important to our body, mind, and spirit? The applications of darkness to witchcraft practices and rituals have me quite excited… time for some experiments!

  • Minako says:

    This reminds me somewhat of research involving sleep habits, sleep disorders, depression, and seasonal affective disorder — I’m thinking specifically of light therapy and light boxes, as well as sunrise and sunset simulators. People respond to both natural light and darkness in really important ways, physiologically. This makes plenty of sense to me.

  • Jen says:

    This makes so much sense and makes me remember that my cravings for darkness are important to honour.

  • Ivy says:

    Fascinating! I’ve found lately that I rarely dream. Sometimes I’ll have a spell of dreaming, usually after a major ritual like this past Samhain, when I aspected a deity for the first time, but most nights no. I’ve also found that I’m increasingly tired, even when I get plenty of sleep. I wonder if this is a contributing factor–although I don’t use a nightlight or anything, the security lights from the building next door shine into my bedroom even with a blind and curtains!

    More and more I read things like this and just can’t help thinking…we’ve really got this whole thing wrong. We need to stop, take a serious look at how we’re living, and start changing things.

  • Mugami says:

    I can see that as a possibility, in part. I was going to disagree by citing myself as an example, but then I realized that I work nights and black the sun while I sleep and my house is dark inside. Still, I must not fully comply to that either as earlier in my life I was the same, albeit without Raphael, and artificial light play little effect.

    Perhaps some are less affected by artificial light, or perhaps possess too much “talent” to be adversely effected.

    But that aside, if like to add a thought to the subject:
    Perhaps magic and the people who use it are not as powerful as we once were because the strength of Disbelief has become so much greater than the strength of Belief, thus inherently weakening Magic at its core.

    So we nowadays are pretty much stuck with a remote that has almost dead batteries, in other words.

    And no matter how strong we get we can’t reach the maturation level in abilities that our ancestors once held. Magic is much thinner now and I think even the veil between worlds is thickening, as we become more removed from other planes by mass consensus in the disbelief that neither people like me & you have any “real power” nor that The Supernatural exists at all.

    But as quantum physics advances, especially The Holographic Theory and M-Theory, along with more advanced understanding of The Quantum Laws and it’s effects like Superposition and Electron Tunneling, we may start to see an (albeit newly logical) approach and resurgence in The Occult. It’s no coincidence that most physicists believe in a higher power, more so than any other learn’d profession nor mere coincidence that Yale has a whole building that concerns itself with The Observer Effect and other scientifically geared more or less occult studies.

    I think you found something with that little gland, but I’d not say it was anything more than one contributor among many. The Magical World, like the Quantum is too highly convoluted and complex for just one thing to aberrate it both so dramatically and drastically.
    The Mage Effect is nothing more than The Observer Effect on crack. Maybe one day Mages and scientists will catch up to that.

    I wrote a short 6 page Rebuke of Crowley on My Occultcorpus Blog you might find an interesting read. It’s a pdf. I don’t think you have to be a member to download it from there but I could email it to you sometime, if you want. It covers The Observer Effect in a round about way and shows Crowley most grievous error in a very harsh light. You might get a kick out of it, since you’re no these topical grounds already with this.

    • Sarah says:

      I completely agree that darkness and the tiny pineal gland are just one factor among many – just one more puzzle piece to put back together to figure out how to be who and what we are by living in harmony with the natural cycles of our world and the universe….

      I suffer from SAD during the winter and also noticed that when I lived in large cities like Montreal and Toronto that at night the sky never gets dark – the smog or clouds always reflects back a dull pink glow of the city lights. I noticed I did not dream or sleep well in these big cities. Now I live on the outskirts where I can see the stars at night in a sky that is actually black. I know people who have lived in big cities all their lives and do not dream.

      I have met so many with natural abilities of late and throughout my life I do not think magic is on the wane. I personally think the contrast between worlds is thinning. As the earth spirals closer to the sun with every age the difference between the seasons will lessen – the two worlds will lessen in strength eventually becoming one – first everything will cease to die and then everything will die as the dark and bright worlds cannot be in the same place simultaneously without destroying one another… But this is not for a long time – the changes we see now are tiny in comparison.

  • Mugami says:

    It’s not hard to find me there, by the way. Same name, plus I’m the only shinigami/
    psychopomp there.