The Psyche at Dawn and Dusk: A Look at Crepuscular Moments

Any fisherman or fisherwoman knows that fishing is best at dawn and dusk. Similar to the feeding behavior of fishes, other wildlife is most active at twilight during those precious crepuscular moments. Crepuscular is a term used in biology to describe animals that are active during twilight.  Nighthawks, deer, bats, and fireflies, are all examples of crepuscular species that “come to life” during the transitions of night to day and/or day to night.

The human psyche too has certain tendencies during crepuscular moments. The sacred moments between sleep and waking life are ripe for insights and intuition about things that matter.  Similar to how dreams can provide a window into our unconscious, crepuscular moments can also provide a glimpse into the unconscious.


The transition from night to day, from dreaming to waking consciousness, is ripe with potential meaning. Hypnopompic imagery and lingering dreams can be expressions of the psyche at dawn. Like morning birdsong, there are brief moments too when the psyche can sing a melodious song before the demands of the day arise. It is a good time to take a moment to reflect on your dreams from the night before and to write them down in a journal.


The transition from day to night, from waking consciousness to the dream world, has a different kind of feel from that of dawn. Living in a coastal neighborhood, I witness many people with an evening ritual of going for a walk to watch the sun setting over the ocean. The psyche is still drawn to such rituals. Crepuscular rituals like watching the sun set help to draw us closer to each other, to nature and to the natural rhythms in our lives.

As the photo below demonstrates, twilight is a stimulus to constellate feelings of love and bonding with one another. Lovers embrace as the sun sets over the Pacific ocean in Santa Cruz, California.

As we are falling to sleep, hynogogic imagery and thoughts and concerns from our day may linger. Some people have difficulties falling asleep as they toss and turn struggling to let go of the day and enter into the world of unconsciousness and sleep. Sundowners syndrome, a condition of some elderly people with dementia, can consist of mood swings, confusion and strong emotion, that is correlated to dusk. The reason for this is not all so clear.

What is clear is that the psyche, the mind and the body, has a subset of expressions at dawn and dusk. A brief look at crepuscular moments, those precious and sacred moments on both ends of the sun’s journey across the sky, show that what happens at twilight, such as early morning birdsong and lingering dreams, is special and is worthy of our attention. In other words, if we miss out on the dawn and dusk in our lives, we may miss out on an important window into the unconscious and a window into some of Life’s most precious and insightful moments.


birth and death

of the sun’s journey




© 2013, Dr. Jeff Howlin. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted in Archetypes, Biology, Dreams, Ecopsychology, Editorial, Imagery, Nature, Poetry, Psyche, Psychology, Symbolic, Unconscious and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Psyche at Dawn and Dusk: A Look at Crepuscular Moments

  1. Charlotte Houseman says:

    Crepuscular. My family knows I have a reaction to sunset which shakes my body in a cold shudder, no matter where I am sitting, in Michigan or Florida. I have to put on a sweater. I just laugh and say to myself, “Well, I guess the sun just set.” I feel it is directly related to radiation which goes through walls you know. I like your site. I am currently reading Puer Aeternus, MLvFranz. Char H.

  2. Henry Spencer says:

    I have worked with dementia patients for many years and am in the process of completing a book on Alzheimer’s. I offered the thought that a possible cause, or at least exacerbation of Sundowners Syndrome, are circadian rhythms. In this manner:
    I have spent a lot of time camping in the African bush. And have often noted how animals and birds cluster together in the evenings for mutual protection. Much the same as fish sometimes shoal for the same reason. Could it be that Alzheimer’s victims feel this same apprehension as the sun goes down… and could it be that our care practices of separating them and sending them off to their individual rooms to sleep; of denying them the perceived solace of the herd – makes them anxious? Surely people already confused may become even more apprehensive.

    We are also at our most alert in times of potential danger. I for example write best from 1am to morning (and do so every day?) I love the beauty of dusk and dawn but for the confused and vulnerable it could mostly herald danger?
    I am aware that this is an assumption but then much of what we believe about Alz. are based on assumptions… As a poet once wrote “We dance around the ring and suppose… but the secret sits in the middle and knows?”

    • Dr. Howlin says:

      Hello Henry,

      Thanks so much for sharing your insights about experiences in the African bush and your hypothesis about Sundowners Syndrome. I do not specialize in this area, but it seems that you might be onto something. Will you be discussing these ideas more in your book? I would be interested in reading more about your ideas when the book comes out. I think we have probably only scratched the surface on how ancient patterns continue to influence behavior. Understanding these patterns even better has the potential to help those suffering from mental health and emotional problems. Thanks again Henry.


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