Where are you getting most of your light these days?  A spectacular sunset or the glare of a computer screen?

The days here in the northern hemisphere are slowly getting shorter making the presence of light all the sweeter to us.  I’m a winter-light kind of girl: love a candle and a hearth fire but less crazy about the blazing Sun.  Last year I was diagnosed with severe Vitamin D deficiency which has made me much more aware of the importance of light.  

Both the Sun and the Moon are known as gladdeners of hearts in the northern tradition, their light brings hope and connection to purpose.   This morning in the fair town of Biggleswade we had one of those special skies where the Sun and Moon are both present.  In Norse myth the Charioteers of these two celestial bodies are brother and sister and it always fills my heart with gladness to see them together.  Manni (the Charioteer of the Moon), in particular is said to love humanity and I am reminded of the times when I am parted from family by land and sea and have asked the Moon to carry my love home to them.  My invitation to you is to find, each day, a moment where you simply celebrate the light.  

In the absence of light dark things reign.  Remember all the legends of trolls and giants turned to stone when the light returns?  Light is safety, hope and the promise of nourishment from the harvest time ahead.  Most of the time Sunna (or Sol) and Manni are separated from each other; the very purpose that drives them (or should I say which they drive!)  keeps them apart.  One of the central events in the northern story of the end of days is the devouring of the Sun and Moon.  To our ancestors living in the northern regions before the age of electrical light the annual descent into darkness brought with it very real terrors.  The time of solstice when the Sun rose once more was not just about celebration, it was genuine relief that the light promised to return.  Ragnarok, the twilight of the Gods is the ultimate expression of that fear – a point of no return.  In an age where electricity is available to most of us at the mere press of a switch it’s easy to believe ourselves immune to the fears that plagued our ancestors.  Yet I know there is fear, real and genuine fear for the times to come.  The descent into darkness is our time to name it, work through it and find our way back to the ‘gladdener of hearts’ once more.  

In the Hearthspace at the moment we are exploring the Danish practice of hygge.   The term is difficult to conceptualise but has been described as ‘the art of intimacy’ and ‘a hug without touching’.   Both seem very relevant and useful things for us to possess at the moment!  The origins of hygge can be traced back both to the word ‘hug’ and to words for ‘well-being’, ‘comfort’, ‘joy’ and ‘thought’.  The name of Huggin (thought) one of Odin’s two ravens comes form the same root. One of the essential components of successful hygge is our use and interaction with light.  Meik Wiking author of The Little Book of Hygge says that in a space filled with hygge the position and gentle glow of the light makes a series of ‘light caves’.  Imagine a log cabin with a glowing fire, candles set in jars and a big but gently glowing lamp in the corner and you’ll get the picture.  He also says that:

“the lower the temperature of the light is, the more hygge.  A camera flash is around 5,500 Kelvin (K), fluorescent tubes are 5,000K, incandescent lamps 3,000K while sunsets, wood and candle flames are about 1,800K.  That is your hygge sweet spot’.  So next time you’re at your computer screen remind yourself that an evening spent in the gentle flicker of candlelight could be just what you need.

The practice of hygge reminds me how important light is to our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.  It supports the production of vitamin D and governs our sleep patterns (and I can tell you first hand screen-time does not produce the same results as Sun time).  Emotionally the light of the Sun and Moon, a hearth fire, a candle flame, a sunset, starlight are hugely impactful for us – and you’ll find at least some of them cropping up in pretty much every religion.  In many spiritual traditions the birth of the light is the birthing of consciousness – the rising of something self aware and beautiful held within the arms of the darkness.

So if you want to bring some consciousness to the role of light in your life here are some questions:

  • What proportion of your day is spent in the light of a computer screen/ TV/ mobile phone?
  • What proportion is spent in sunlight, moonlight, candlelight or starlight?
  • How does the way light features in your life promote/ detract from natural rhythms for sleeping/ eating/ working/ playing?
  • What could you do in the coming months to maximise the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual benefits of light?

2 Replies to “Northern light”

  1. Hi Maggie,
    Great post!
    What proportion of your day is spent in the light of a computer screen/ TV/ mobile phone?
    I spend about 2 hours-6 hours depending on the day. Wow, when I think about it.. sounds like maybe I want to reduce it.
    What proportion is spent in sunlight, moonlight, candlelight or starlight?
    Sunlight.. since I’m at the beach now, as much as possible!
    Moonlight.. not as much though the moon is amazing here!
    Candlelight: 0
    How does the way light features in your life promote/ detract from natural rhythms for sleeping/ eating/ working/ playing?
    If there is light near me, I cannot sleep. Must have complete dark. Eating, is always nicer with soft lighting, working is best with natural light (fluorescent lighting irritates my eyes). Playing.. like to play games in lamp light or with a fire in our fireplace. So hygge!
    What could you do in the coming months to maximise the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual benefits of light? Get out as much as possible, try lighting candles once in awhile and enjoy our fireplace. Maybe make a goal to stand in moonlight more.
    Thanks!’

    1. I’m the same on needing it to be dark to sleep. I also need to stop screen time an hour before sleeping. I’m very far away from the beach but am making efforts to get out in the garden even in the rain! It makes the return into the warm all the better :). Thank you for sharing!

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