Riding the Darkness

The Wild Hunt

The Wild Hunt: either go willingly, or be taken

So I ran with the moon, and I ran with the night, and the three of us were a terrible sight

— Emmylou Harris – Deeper Well


I realized, reading over my previous entries, that I have mentioned this difference in approaches to Life in Darkness before, whether one is Riding the Dark or being Ridden by it. Some of you may have immediately (or eventually) kenned what I was talking about, but I feel it is something that needs to be fleshed out in detail.

I must warn you, I do not claim to be an expert at Riding the Darkness. I’m still Seeking on my journey, and like any aspect of the journey of life, the further you travel on your path, the more you realize how deep the rabbit hole goes beyond your current point of experience.

So I’ve spoken about balance and personal responsibility before. Knowing how to be aware of what you’re doing (and keep yourself in check if needed) is a key point to Riding vs. being Ridden. But what is Riding really?

Riding the Darkness is all about

  • going deep into the spiritual experience of the Darker Self and/or the Darker World  (whether referring to an inner practice or going out for a more public, shared experience)
  • experiencing an intensity of energy
  • a fine balance between control and abandon, chaos and empowerment: You have the power to reign in the madness, but you don’t. You let it run rampant, and you feed on the resulting energy and excitement until…
  • you reach a point where you are satisfied and spent (somewhat like the climax of a sexual experience).

Now, when you are Ridden by the Darkness, then you also experience that chaos, energy and intensity, but you don’t have control, so the experience goes on far beyond your climax point. It rolls over you, drags you further than you wanted to go, tears into you, and it takes that energy you were just feeding on, that you were drawing up into your center and getting high on, and it drains all that energy away again and may even start feeding on you, your inner reserves of energy or life-force.

When being Ridden, you may even be feeling some remaining pleasure of a kind; or your mind is so far gone out away from logic and control and steadiness that you’ve gotten disoriented, don’t know how to right yourself; or maybe you’re even afraid, you believe that if you stop what’s going on, then what follows will be much worse. But for whatever reason, you are unable to say no, unable to halt the experience and step away to care for yourself, unable to stop for rest, recuperation, and to get back in balance.

What activity will give you an experience Riding the Dark?

Well for one thing, I am not the one to tell you personally where to go or what to do to have this experience. Each person has their own ways of finding pleasure and power. The kind of things that come to my mind as common examples of people having a Riding experience, especially in the Darker areas, might involve sex, risky adventure, chemical enhancement, or very intense spiritual ritual or experimentation. And let us not forget Art in all its forms of creativity, expression, and performance.

Religious practitioners might refer to it as “transcendence” although that may not be entirely accurate, as Riding the Darkness is often just as physical as it is spiritual (transcending is about getting away from and “above” the material and physical – I personally don’t discount physical as “lesser” though perhaps “slower”). Spiritual practices (ie meditation, rituals, whether solitary or group, dances, etc.) to me can be the purest kind of Riding, or alternately, other activities are enhanced to a much greater intensity by incorporating a spiritual aspect.

In terms of art, all forms of creative art or productive skills at a level where they become art, there are equally valuable internal and external experiences. Any performer can tell you about the rush of standing before an exhilarated crowd cheering you on. But there is also that space alone in the studio, at the easel, the computer, the soundboard, fingers on the strings, whatever: that place where the world falls away, where you even lose your sense of self, and you run on pure creation – being in The Zone.

People in the BDSM community talk about “subspace” – this is the kind of intense experience I’m referring to, but subspace is not the only type of intense sexual experience. On the same note, fetishes aren’t only about sex. Pain can create unexpected reactions, especially when you intentionally play with it, meaningfully push past “ow that hurt” and start to explore the different levels of pain and what they do to your mind and how your body reacts. Other fetishes don’t hurt (if they’re done right) but involve a lot of trust between participants. The point of fetish is to push yourself past normal experience, to bend your mind and your body to their limits, until you reach that point of extreme pleasure.

People into mind-altering substances are always looking for the best kind of trip, where the mind is released from its bounds, the body is filled with pleasure (or you transcend the body), the soul becomes more deeply connected to others around you or to the Collective Greater Universe.

And then there are things like extreme sports: it’s all about finding an exhilarating experience, feeling the vertigo, the rush, standing on the edge of danger, maybe even risking death, and then the sense of accomplishment that you reached this point through a great deal of training and effort and have achieved a successful experience.

*Art, sports, and transcendent practices aren’t necessarily Dark of course, but in some ways, anything outside of everyday mundane experience is touching on Darkness because it is abnormal. There’s any number of people out there who look at skydiving or rock climbing and say “oh gosh, I couldn’t do that, it’s too dangerous!” Their fear reaction is a sign that your hobby or passion is stepping over that line, better yet leaping far past that line, and that is a kind of Darkness: being on the fringes, living on the edge.

But Dark experiences are a little different – more on that later!

And also, on the other hand, maybe some people’s intense experience is to create the most excellent chocolate dessert, something that causes something like an orgasm in the mouth of the chocolate lover. Maybe it is driving all night, cross-country, sleeping in your car for an hour, and waking up in a new town. Maybe it’s building yourself a platform on your roof specifically for stargazing and imagining your life on the moon.

Riding the Dark can be about simply having too much of a good thing, but thoroughly enjoying it anyway, even in your overwhelmment.

Also, when I refer to Riding the Darkness, I usually am referring to individuals who tend to repeat these experiences intentionally. I’m sure there are many people who start off with one good experience, and when they try to repeat it, bad experiences follow.

So then what if you have a bad experience?

What if you go into deep trance, and something comes out of the abyss and spiritually eats you from the inside out?

Please, please do not let this color your expectations for any future meditations and practices.

What if you have a mental breakdown? What if part of your body is severely injured?

There’s the old adage about getting back on the horse, but this is frightfully shallow when speaking of experiences at this level of intensity.

There is a range past a certain point, where no matter what your activity was, whether it was more mental, more physical, more spiritual, the results of a bad experience, of being Ridden until you have had everything drained from you, will affect every part of your Self, material and immaterial.

So it is understandable that you do not want to feel that ever again.

It is understandable that, if you did try again, try to do better, you might find yourself in the same place again – because that first experience stands so prominent within your mind that you have real trouble escaping it. You have to escape or release it so that you can begin overwriting it with new powerful experiences.

But I say you have to look for that. You have to constantly reach for the point where you again have hold of the reins. Don’t stop riding full speed ahead out of fear that you will fall and be taken for a ride instead.

Having said that, another aspect too is the old 12 step thing – #1 you can’t help yourself until you admit you have a problem.

Now, I don’t like 12 steps in a lot of ways (your miles may vary), and the main thing being this particular step brings about a strong guilt reaction. It doesn’t matter if you made a mistake that caused the situation. Hanging on to guilt, blaming yourself, beating yourself up for whatever issues you have – this is not constructive, not healing.

But just as important, a wound won’t heal if you keep ripping it open repeatedly doing the same hurtful thing to yourself.

So yes, there’s a delicate balance between continuing to seek out powerful experiences and not running yourself through the ringer again and again. Always, one must have a lot of introspection, a lot of objective thinking, a lot of questioning “Is this really working for me? What could I do differently?”

Obviously, there are bad experiences similar to these that people have because they were being stupid: Playing at “dark” magic and doing a demon summoning ritual because you think it’s cool or you want to look like a badass: that’s a bad idea. And if it works, you are likely in for a bad experience. A simpler, more common example would be going to a party and getting smashed drunk, making your body purge itself all night and all the next day.

I don’t know that I would even call this being Ridden, because you probably didn’t reach that climax of the ideal energy. You probably never tapped into the energy. You just got f**ked up with only a minimal amount of pleasure.

People being truly Ridden by the Dark were probably seeking a real, powerful experience. Even a psychological alcoholic who consistently makes themselves sick by consumption, they seek some kind of escape or pleasure, and they may be an expert in drinking, not just a bingeing frat boy caught up in the chugging-contest culture.

However, I am not advocating overly-extreme caution. Moderation is not nearly the same thing as Abstinence. You can know or learn when to stop. You don’t have to deny yourself the experience of starting.

Riding the waves at the highest level of energy is what Life is supposed to be about: Experience and Expansion.

But how to make an ordinary experience into a Riding experience without being Ridden or just hurting yourself?

  • First thing, probably, is knowing your comfort zone. Everybody is comfortable with different things; don’t let anybody else tell you what’s vanilla and what’s edgy. You know how far you can go without feeling the slightest fear response in your gut, and you know when you start to feel that tingling of “this is IT – this is MORE!” And even past that, that point where you feel like you stand before a door, and on the other side of that door could be the lady or the tiger…or a weretiger…and it’s hungry.
  • Secondly, know your surroundings. Getting smashed drunk in a bar where you know no one, in a town where you have no friends or family, when you have no money for a cab – very bad idea. Likewise you would not practice parkour on an unsound building structure without at the very least checking out its weaknesses thoroughly first. You do not Open your Spirit without walking the bounds, preparing the space, casting the circle. If your experience is intentionally chaotic and doesn’t allow for a clear plan at the outset (most probably do allow for a loose plan) at least have a fail-safe, a safe-word, a DD or a guru, a friend who stays grounded and knows a good time to say “Hey, let’s take it down a notch.” If you can, have the setting of your experience be somewhere, not necessarily in your comfort zone of physical places, but that you are secure in some way, that you are not in danger from something breaking in from outside of your experience and intentions.
  • Have Respect: When riding a horse, you would respect that it is a living animal with its own desires and instincts. It can be very versatile and can direct itself to a large extent, but it can also react to situations with fear. When driving a car, you would respect that it’s a machine with the power to move a large amount of weight at very high speeds. It can be a highly efficient means of travel and transport, but it has no mind of its own and requires your input and skill to function correctly. The same sorts of things hold true for drugs, extreme sports equipment, altered states of mind, body and spirit, and other people involved in your experience. A carefully measured dosage of certain substances can expand the mind, enhance the senses and initiate great pleasure, but a careless overdose or over-use of the same substance can severely damage or destroy the mind and body, permanently.
  • You’re pushing the envelope, moving in leaps and bounds. You are not jumping off a cliff over jagged rocks before your wing-feathers have grown in. You don’t have to go where no one has gone before, you just let go of fear, release yourself, venture into the wilds of inexperience, uncertainty, and powerful learning Within Your Own Mind. And each experience doesn’t necessarily have to be some activity or ritual you never tried before – doing the same martial arts kick thousands of times will make you far more skilled than doing each kick and punch and flip only once. If anything, it is the practices that you have developed more skill with that you will be able to push yourself farther, relax your mind and your control, and slip into that headspace of Just Being, Just Doing.
  • Go where your Passion lies – You’re not likely to get off and have an amazing experience on something that’s “just not your thing.” I mean do try new things, always, as you never know what you will be passionate about before you try it. New things can be blow-you-away experiences, but are they still going to blow you away the tenth or twentieth time you dive in? Mix it up, your new things and your favorite things – even stepping away from an old favorite can rekindle passion for it and drive its value deeper.
  • There may be a few more points, but beyond that, it’s mostly up to your Mind and your Attitude. You will not be able to control every aspect, and if you try, that grasping at control will hold you outside of the Vortex of Experience. It will lock your mind into a fighting stance, when the best thing to do is relax, let the energy flow. Know where your balance point is, like a dancer, find a handhold or a place to plant your feet, then bend, twist, fold your mental state, let everything around you spin free, and go with it.

So far I’ve been referring mostly to specific individual experiences, but Riding the Darkness can also refer to an overall lifestyle. A new learner can have magical experiences, but a Master who takes their passion to a level where it is more than activity and becomes art, they have fantastic experiences often. And they live a life filled with great experience, and they even can share that energy with others by performing, leading or describing their experience to others, inspiring more people to learn and experience.

So most of this has been about Riding, but is it about Darkness?

This whole blog aims to create a general idea of the Higher Dark, so I am unsure that I can qualify for you as an individual what a Dark Ride would be, as opposed to a general Power Trip, if you will. But it may be important to state that even a person who is drawn to the Dark may not always be filled with Dark energy when on a Ride like this. I think in a lot of these cases, the Higher Dark and the Greater Light come naturally intertwined, and of course no experience or energy is going to be entirely one or the other, for that would be blindingly out of balance.

But some experiences will feel more haunting, bring more goosebumps and hairs on end, more resonating at the base of the spine or the depths of the gut…

…more the femme fatale striding by the men whose hearts pound of both desire and fear…

…more the ripple of fur and flexing claws as the predator scents its prey in the night…

In the heart of the Darkness, you may dance upon the Knife’s Edge of Life, feel it just barely breaking the skin on your toes, and you might like it, and you dance on, madly in love with your own blood.

But I hope it goes without saying: this is not the time to trip and fall.

I am a writer/illustrator of various types of speculative fiction but mostly modern fantasy. I have loved magic, and the people and creatures who live with it and use it, all my life, and writing and drawing these people in modern environments makes it all the more real to me. I also like to add an element of Darkness and horror, as well as science fiction, for “flavor”. I am fascinated with everything from unicorns and dragons to vampires and demons.

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