If Love Be Blind, It Best Agrees with Night

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Edmund Dulac, “Night, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”

Act III, scene II of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet begins with a breathtaking monologue of Juliet in which she beckons the night to come faster so that she can start her “amorous rites” with Romeo. There are quotes from literature that haunt us and I particularly like this monologue and the line that I made into the title of this post. Romeo and Juliet is an alchemical play that contains a rich interplay of pairs of opposites, the central being the pair of lovers themselves. Juliet meets Romeo (his name means “pilgrim”) at the age of 14, he sees her at night. She is the Moon, the feminine principle, and the Moon at the fourteenth day of her cycle is full, while he is the pilgrim, i.e. the Sun that wanders across the sky, the masculine principle. In the longest night of the year we all await the rebirth of the Sun and Light. But we can also choose to celebrate and rejoice with the Queen of the Night, the Greek goddess Nyx, by turning inwards and reflecting, dreaming and resting. The Norsemen used to call the Winter solstice night “Modranect,” which meant the Night of the Mother. On that night she gave birth to the solar Frey, one of the most crucial gods in their mythology. In ancient Egypt, Nut was the night goddess famously depicted as a woman arched over the earth. This depiction actually may have its roots in winter solstice, as a scholar Ronald Wells speculated:

“… in the predawn sky at winter solstice in predynastic Egypt the Milky Way would have looked remarkably like a stretched out figure with arms and legs touching the horizons in exactly the manner in which the goddess was often later depicted. Furthermore, at the time of the winter solstice the sun would have risen in the area of the goddess’s figure – her pudendum – from which it would be imagined to be born, just as nine months earlier, at the spring equinox, the sun would have set in the position of the goddess’s head – suggesting it was being swallowed.”

Richard H. Wilkinson, The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt

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Image credit

I hope you enjoy my collection of quotes meant as a tribute to Night.

I.

“You, darkness, of whom I am born —

I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.

But the darkness embraces everything:
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations — just as they are.

It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me.

I believe in the night.”

Reiner Maria Rilke, from “Book of Hours,” translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

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Gustave Moreau, The Fiancée of the Night

II.

“I turn away from the light to the holy, inexpressible, mysterious night. Far away lies the world sunk into a deep vault, its place waste and lonely. Across my heart strings a low melancholy plays. I will fall in drops of dew and merge with the ashes. Distant memories, the wishes of youth, the dreams of childhood, the brief joys and vain hopes of a long life – all arise dressed in grey, like evening mist after sunset. In other lands light has pitched its merry tents.

Are you pleased with us, dark night? What is it you conceal under your mantle, that grabs invisibly and powerfully at my soul? You raise up the heavy wings of the soul – darkly and inexpressibly we are moved.”

Novalis, “Hymns to the Night,” translated by Simon Elmer

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Gustave Moreau, “Night”

III. “Nyx, the forgotten primordial Greek goddess of night, is calling for resurrection. And there are unexpected gifts to be found in the darkness she brings, if we choose to be more nightminded. Night has been celebrated and sanctified with rich social and sacred rituals across cultures and time. Whether it is the initial transition through the dusk, the experience of sleeping and dreaming, or the coming of dawn and awakening, each phase of night offers sacred and healing possibilities.

We suffer today from serious complications of psychospiritual night blindedness – a far-reaching failure to understand the significance of night in our lives, health, and spirituality. Over the past century, “civilized” nights have grown significantly shorter. A culture of zealous industrialization has polluted the night environment with excessive and pernicious artificial illumination. Blinded by this light, we have lost our regard for the natural milieu of dusk, dawn, and the intervening darkness of night.”

Rubin R. Nayman, Healing Night: The Science and Spirit of Sleeping, Dreaming and Awakening

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From Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” The Arrival of the Queen of the Night, stage set by Karl Friedrich Schinkel

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32 Responses to If Love Be Blind, It Best Agrees with Night

  1. Oh, I love the references you used here. 🙂

  2. the words, message and aesthetic of the images in this post just jive so magnificently….beautiful to read and see…

  3. Casey says:

    Beautiful ideas and images.

    “Nyx, the forgotten primordial Greek goddess of night, is calling for resurrection. And there are unexpected gifts to be found in the darkness she brings, if we choose to be more nightminded. Night has been celebrated and sanctified with rich social and sacred rituals across cultures and time.”

    I am not sure if it’s because I’m a Cancerian, or not, but I absolutely adore the night. For me, the night is magical and the moon is a dear companion to me. It’s tranquil and I love taking night walks. I spend a lot of time in the summer outdoors at night, going for walks at my favorite park with a pond. I love it best at sunset, and second best around 10 pm at night when hardly anyone is there.

    We only took our daughters once, but we attended a Full Moon Fire Jam in a park near the lakefront of Chicago. They had a drumming circle, didgeridoos and fire poi.

    http://thesprightlywriter.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/its-time-for-another-full-moon-fire-jam/

    It was an amazingly beautiful nighttime celebration.

    Our local arboretum is started to host night activities last summer. They had some local amateur astronomers come out with their powerful scopes so we could see the moon and Saturn. Then they also had a professional hoola hoop dancer who used a glowing hoola hoop for a performance.

    • I am happy the quotes and images spoke to you. I am also a nocturnal creature, I love to stay up very late.
      I agree that there is nothing more poetic than the fire at night. Makes me think of yule logs and makes me want to get the fireplace going this weekend. Perhaps I will.
      Happy winter solstice to you and your family.

  4. a nocturnal delight!

    happy Solstice,
    Linda

  5. ptero9 says:

    “But the darkness embraces everything:
    shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
    people, nations — just as they are.”
    Your post is a feast for contemplation. There is so much that can be said of the dark, as if the darkness is an invitation for creation. The dark presents us with potential, or is the potential – isn’t that it? For all us come from the womb and the darkness of space beyond our planet earth.
    Happy Solstice Monika!

  6. kimfalconer says:

    Beautiful post, as always. Thank you! It feels perfect for the eve of the Solstice. Here is a fragment of Sappho to add. Translation by Edward Storer:

    Night, you who gather in your lovely lap
    The things the shining dawn flung far and wide,
    The ewe-lamb you brink back, the straying goat,
    The child you lead unto its mother’s side.

  7. That last image is so amazing. That may be my new desktop background. 🙂

  8. shreejacob says:

    Loved the images and as I read your description of Romeo and Juliet in symbolic language…I just realised how wonderfully surreal it could be to perceive the symbolism in almost everything!
    Is that so?

  9. wonderful thought provoking post full, as usual of the most exquisite paintings and images – the thought that has been provoked, Monika, is this – the longest night ( shortest day) is at the winter solstice – night that great comforter, for entering the realms of sleep, we rest and dream and more as the Upanishads said in dreamless sleep we attain our true immortality – this is however in Hindu lunar astrology a time of darkness when everything slows down including the growth in plants and is therefore also inauspicious for beginning any worthy enterprise – India land of perpetual marriages is allowed none till 14 of January when the great harvest festival is celebrated with joy ( the most auspicious date in the Indian almanac) because the sun leaves capricorn and enters the northern hemisphere of growing light with each passing day – I made the mistake some years back to ignore this prohibition and erected a memorial pavilion for my father during this dark phase despite the pundit’s prohibitions at some cost – 2 days later a truck hit the pavilion and nothing of it remained! well well – that did teach me not to ignore astrology. – but then the eighth house of death is also the house of salvation.

    • Fascinating, as in the West we would treat such thinking as superstition. For me astrology is more like a tool for deeper understanding and much less as a tool for predicting the future. Of course, there are periods when sowing does not make sense because the moment is not appropriate… But then the truth is somewhere in the middle, I suppose.
      I would love to hear more about the dreamless sleep of the Upanishads. I remember that it was Krishnamurti I think who also praised dreamless sleep because it truly regenerates.
      Thank you for your valuable and most welcome input.

      • dreamless sleep is explained in the Mandukya upanishad – you have already seen my posts – Upanishads the real Atman & Vedant and non-dualism – they speak about dreamless sleep – that is the gift of night

      • Oh, thank you, it is still completely new stuff to me.

      • indeed what you say is true – it is a window to a deeper understanding – but it incidentally has the power to predict phases when it is appropriate to do certain things – like we need coffee in the morning – right time for it – and that the eighth house is just not about death but also transmigration and even salvation – astrology is beautiful – like lord Saturn bringing you terrible trials but only as a way to help you discover your soul’s true journey

      • Well, yes, astrology is amazingly beautiful!

  10. dripping with essence, Monika. Deep gratitude.
    Night is mother, source, womb and tomb. Night is more powerful than all else, in that emptiness, void, infinity is (these are one) inexhaustible. The Sun and the stars will one days complete their expressions, but Night – space – emptiness never will. And, if it is conceivable that Night – void – infinity were to complete, it would complete into Non, but that is inconceivable. This post sings the mysteries of dark womb. Thank you.

  11. Pingback: Dark Womb Solstice Being | The Practice of Living Awareness

  12. karinvandenbergh says:

    Beautiful post. Thank you for the insights.
    “What would we see if we learned to see beyond sight;
    What would we hear if we listened to the primordial tongue of darkness?
    How would our lives change if we trusted the dark, loved her surprises, worshiped her depth?”
    http://karinvandenbergh.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/into-the-darkness-2/

  13. H3nry J3kyll says:

    Got some catching up to do, but definitely enjoyed this. The post itself was rather surreal. I was also especially struck by the line “You darkness of whom I am born.”

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