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The Darkness is an ancient evil which has existed along with God since before creation itself. With the help of his archangels, God was able to enter into war with the Darkness and eventually seal it away using the Mark of Cain.
According to Death before there was any life or even an Earth, God and his Archangels battled with an ancient evil known as The Darkness. He eventually sealed it with the Mark of Cain. He then gave it to Lucifer to Guard however it corrupted him. Lucifer then passed the mark to Cain who then millennia later passed it on to Dean Winchester.
The Darkness was eventually freed with the destruction of The Mark of Cain where it rained down destruction and made a move to consume everything in its path.
It is unknown whether the darkness is an intelligent being or some kind of semi conscious force.