Candles lining the main corridor of Battery Steele on Peaks Island, Maine, during this year’s Sacred & Profane festival. Photo by Amanda Painter.

I’m not an early riser, making the shortened days this time of year much shorter, especially after we make the dreadful switch back to Standard Time. And yet I often find such value in the darkness when I have an opportunity to just “be” in it rather than racing against it. I was thinking about “just being in” versus “racing against” (or through) darkness at the Sacred & Profane festival this past weekend.

Many years ago, the first couple times I attended this mix of temporary installation art and performance held in the dark, un-electrified, underground tunnels and rooms of Battery Steele on Peaks Island, I missed the appointed ferry and had to take then next one. It meant that I didn’t get to enjoy the processional camaraderie from the ferry terminal to the other side of the island, and some of the performers were no longer performing.

What I did get, however, was a very solitary and focused experience of discovery in the darkness. I had no map, no guide, no sense of others’ pace and rhythms, few interruptions and distractions, and little sense of who anybody near me might be unless we happened to share the same orb of candlelight.

I can palpably recall profound moments of meaning making and insight while taking in certain artworks; at other moments, feeling a tingle of frisson that teased the edge where “exciting” meets the unsettling side of the unknown. Everyone who’s seen even just a trailer for a horror movie knows you’re not supposed to walk alone in the dark, not supposed to descend poorly lit stairs into rooms with only one exit, not supposed to move toward strange sounds in the night. And yet there I was, doing so by choice.

After a couple years, that sense of playing with “danger” gave way to the enjoyment of community at the Sacred & Profane: knowing I would connect with familiar faces on the way to the battery’s tunnels, and then again later to share some soup and live music, perhaps a campfire well after darkness fell.

This year was my first time back in a number of years. I caught the “right” boat, and marveled at how few faces I recognized in the crowd on the ride out to Peaks.

Once at Battery Steele, I moved from room to room jostling with strangers in the dark through narrow doorways; was sometimes surprised to find someone right in front of me in the pitch darkness; snapped photos as usual; engaged in a delightful scavenger hunt that had me traversing the grounds and tunnels several times to gather each clue with my map in hand. I even made one of the “earlier” ferries back to the mainland rather than having to wait until after the gap in service, as was often accidentally the case in earlier years.

I had a really fun time.  

I also realized what was missing for me.

It wasn’t about whether the art and performances were “better” or “worse” than in the past. It was about the time and space I did not give myself to “just be” in the darkness rather than “racing through” it.

I’ll never completely recapture the sense of exploring that edge of (imagined) danger during the Sacred & Profane now that Battery Steele is familiar to me. But this event still holds plenty of opportunities to be surprised by what faces me — and to allow myself to be surprised by my responses to it.

This weekend’s moment of insight was less about the art I saw, and more about realizing just how much I need the experience of myself in the darkness, “alone” to a degree, so I can meet it and myself more fully without simply being carried along by external rhythms. I love the communal experience of joy and discovery; I guess I love it even more when it stands in contrast and balance to the implicit imperative of the darkness: to focus internally, slowly, deliberately on an experience that can only ever be my own, no matter how well I try to describe it and share it.

Knowing that one’s inner experience can never be wholly known by another can feel very isolating. Yet it can also be incredibly nourishing. It is a reminder that we are complete within ourselves, and that those we meet are complete within their own selves.

It’s also a reminder that the surprise we feel when we meet something unexpected, strange, and disorienting coming from within someone else might actually prove to be beautiful food for thought, connection, and our own creative impulses if we can give ourselves the space and time to really see it.


Which all brings me to this week’s astrology. As I write this, Mercury, the asteroid Ceres, Mars, and the Sun are clustered in Scorpio: the heart of autumn, marking the last several weeks until the shortest day and longest night of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere.

Although there are shorter days to come when the Sun is in Sagittarius, Scorpio’s themes — related to Mars and Pluto — hold greater affinity with the ideas of what lies within or beneath surfaces, what we keep secret or do under cover of darkness, and the emotional release and transformation that can occur when we engage actively with these topics and processes.

(Sagittarius, by contrast, seems to be more about getting perspective on what we’ve learned and preparing to take it out again into the world.)

In the wee hours of Friday morning, Nov. 10, Mercury moves on to Sagittarius.

The waning Moon will then enter Scorpio the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 11.

Later on Nov. 11, Mars in Scorpio makes an exact opposition to Uranus in Taurus at 4:11 pm EST.

On Monday, Nov. 13, at 4:27 am EST, the Moon meets up with the Sun in Scorpio for a New Moon, conjunct Mars and Ceres — and opposite Uranus in Taurus.

I mention these events all together because they unfold so closely in time. Mars events in particular tend to be palpable as they approach, often signaling us through desire, irritability, or the need to take action, and so a heads up can be useful. Uranus events usually indicate surprises and disruptions, and the resulting discharge of energy often spurs (or benefits from) some change-oriented action.

An especially Scorpio-themed participant sitting at an art installation, Sacred & Profane festival 2023. Photo by Amanda Painter

Yet New Moons are traditionally low-energy, introspective events. So there’s some tension inherent these next several days. On the one hand, a natural pull toward one’s inner world and the mysteries of self; on the other, a need (or provocation) to interact with disruptions in one’s external environment and the suddenly expressed will and energy of another person.

I’d even say this astrology comes with a warning from now through Monday regarding how you handle misunderstandings, erratic action, impatience, and various surprises in one-on-one encounters. “Expect the unexpected” is an oxymoron, but it also serves as a useful alert that you might need to tap your well of flexibility more than usual — especially if you find yourself in a confrontation with anyone or anything that you feel has been holding you back.

However, if you are ready to take a new direction with something in your life, encountering the unexpected could feel like a burst of inspiration that helps you see how to get free of stubborn habits and act with greater self-determination. Or the unexpected actions of someone else might show you elements of your intentions and desires that you haven’t been fully conscious of yet.

That’s one of the benefits I see of these planets opposing Uranus as we approach a Scorpio New Moon: an opportunity to fully take in, recognize, and process what had previously been flowing just below the surface of awareness. If Uranus is the startling, incongruous piece of performance art suddenly in view after turning a corner in the darkness, the New Moon is the time and space to breathe it in and grasp what it means to you, and to allow it to open up your sense of who you can be in relation to it.

Ceres supports the sense of being nourished by what you discover — about yourself, about the “other,” about the circumstances allowing the unanticipated meeting — and the ability to nourish others on their own, never-fully-knowable-by-you journey. Mars becomes the willingness, desire, and energy to take actions that might normally feel too intimidating, difficult, or strange. Note that repressed Mars energy can come out reactively or through an accident.

What about Mercury? In Sagittarius the planet of mind and communication can be wonderfully quick, forward thinking, and ready to pivot. It could also translate to being “thoughtlessly honest” (i.e., putting your foot in your mouth or giving an unintentionally backhanded compliment), especially if one is caught off-balance or already upset.  

Potentially cushioning all of this is Neptune in Pisces, harmonizing both with the Scorpio planets and Uranus, offering some empathy, creativity, imagination, idealism, and psychic support. And yesterday Venus entered its home sign Libra, offering grace and balance to our ability to relate to another.

As we move through the heart of Scorpio season, attuning to the darkness, where are intuition and instinct guiding your steps? What do you want?

If you meet resistance, an obstacle, or a shocking disruption, can exploring it become an adventure internally and externally? Can you pause and breathe so its deeper layers of meaning might emerge?

The Scorpio New Moon will mark two weeks since the final eclipse of 2023. What is coming to completion for you? What is ready to be seeded so it can germinate or regenerate in the spring?

Where in you do the sacred and profane meet?

With love,



Place setting detail from the candlelit table inside Battery Steele, Sacred & Profane festival 2023. Photo by Amanda Painter.


Simplified chart for the Scorpio New Moon. Bottom left: the Sun, Moon, Mars, and Ceres in Scorpio, plus Mercury in Sagittarius. Upper left, Venus in Libra harmonizing with Mercury. Upper right, Uranus in Taurus. Lower right, Neptune in Pisces harmonizing with Uranus and the Scorpio stellium.

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