midwinter rituals

Blogmas: Saint Lucia and the medicine of the dark

13 Dec 2021

Happy Monday, y’all! And welcome to one of the coziest days of the year in Sweden. There’s music, candles, mulled wine, gingerbread cookies, saffron buns, and reenactments of Saint Lucia walking through the dark Nordic lands carrying her candles of hope + light. December 13th, today, is the sacred, simple, midwinter celebration of St. Lucia, an Italian saint, known as the bringer of light. Which is exactly what we need way up here in the Nordic countries at this time of year.

As I have written before, the absence of light is extreme in Sweden from November to January, with December being the darkest month of the year. In fact, today we enter the darkest week of the entire year. Seven days before the winter solstice + the shift to when the days begin to grow longer. But, for now, we are deep in the nordic darkness.

Even where I live (in the southern half of Sweden), there is only 5 hours of sunlight. And most of that is often gray, snowy, rainy, misty and dreary. Every now and then, of course, we have a peek of the sun as it glides low and horizontally across the sky for a couple of hours. But, mostly, it’s misty and wintery. So, Saint Lucia… we need her. And she arrives just in time to help us through this last week before the solstice and the darkest days that lie ahead.

Saint Lucia, much like the Italian girl Lucy, comes to us and calls us to not be afraid of the dark. Lucy was a young Christian woman, made a saint by the Catholic church, because she delivered food and aid to Christians hiding in the Roman catacombs. The wreath that the Swedish St. Lucia wears symbolizes the crown of candles that Lucy wore so that she could use both hands to carry provisions to those in need… bringing both, literally and figuratively, light into the dark places of her part of the world.

Today, across Scandinavia, it is a day to remember St. Lucia and the light that she brought to other. And, that even in our own darkest of times, there is light to be found. In fact, we, too, can be light bringers and light bearers in our own lives.

The message of Saint Lucia is that we do not need to be afraid of the dark – whether it be the dark cold of winter or the dark pain of the world. There is a mysterious gift in the dark because it is right here, in the dark, that the light is born. And if we did not have darkness, we would not know the light. We would not gaze in wonder at the stars above or the flicker of the flame of a candle. And, we would know not the depths of love and compassion, if we did not know the pain and grief that life sometimes brings.

It is in these darkest times that we discover, unearth, and experience the deepest hope + the greatest love. It is in the dark of winter that we find the hidden medicine of the dark. Our own wisdom + power + strength is revealed in the darkness. Our deepest, truest sense of knowing + seeing is made real in the darkness. Our calling to love + care for others is sent to us in the darkness.

If there is ever a time to not be afraid of the dark, then it is now. After almost 2 years of a global pandemic, personal setbacks, death, sickness, violence, pain, disappointment, disinformation, selfishness, loss, and sadness, we need the light of St. Lucia. We need the reminder that in the darkest of days, she comes with her crown of candles to remind us of the hope that lies ahead. Of the hope that is right here, right now. The hope and the light that is in you and me.

We are the bearers of light in a very dark + cold world. But we do not need to be afraid of the dark. There is light to be found even here. Within each other, within each of us. And, in order to access our own light, daring to sink down into the darkness of winter is just medicine we need right now. For, it is in the dark that we will find the light.

xoxo. liz.


Here is an hauntingly beautiful song (poem) often sung on St. Lucia Day. It speaks of not being afraid of the darkness. Below the lyrics, is a rendition of this song that I love. Enjoy!

Var inte rädd för mörkret, ty ljuset vilar där. Vi ser ju inga stjärnor, där intet mörker är. I ljusa irisringen, du bär en mörk pupill. Ty mörkt är allt som ljuset, med bävan längtar till.

Var inte rädd för mörkret, ty ljuset vilar där. Var inte rädd för mörkret, som ljusets hjärta bär.

Var inte rädd för mörkret av Erik Blomberg

Oh do not fear the darkness, it is the home of light. Had we not the darkness over us, we’d never see the stars so bright. Deep in the light ring of your iris, you have a dark pupil. For darkness is all that the trembling light longs for.

Do not fear the darkness, it is the home of light. Do not fear the darkness, it is the core of light.

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