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Your Own Celebrations of Winter
Can you feel the chill in your bones? In the coldest, darkest of times, perhaps that’s when we enjoy warmth the most.
From Autumn’s gentle cool, we turn to the extreme of Winter. Winter sorts out those things which are strong enough to survive the harsh cruel times, to sow their seeds again in Spring. After the new birth of Spring, the growth of Summer, and the fruition of Autumn -- Winter brings a cold dark sleep to the busy Earth. Likewise, our own lives “chill out” a bit during Winter, as we put away our Summer toys. We turn inward; we renew our love affair with hearth and home.
In Winter, we need to make our own warmth and light, rather than merely find it in the Summer sun. We proactively create warmth in our home. Blankets and boots, sweaters and scarves, heaters and hot cocoa – these are the magical tools of Winter, with which we evoke the warmth that we crave. Whether you use a wood-burning fire place, or modern-day furnace, you invite the powers of fire to enter your home. To make an analogy, for food we can hunt and gather what is already available, or we can farm -- and actually create the food that we eat. Likewise, in Winter, we create the “fires” we need to survive, warmth that otherwise would not be there. Creating something is one of the most magical events we ever do. How do you create fire and warmth? How do you relate to the warmth-making tools you use, year over year? Celebrate the people, places and things which keep you warm when you need it most. See them as a magical part of your life, and honor them for the gifts that they give. Say a few special words each time you light your flame, set your thermostat, or prepare your warm wooly clothes.
In Winter, the outdoors looks much different than it did just a few weeks ago. The trees stand naked. They let us see their true shape, expose the gentle curves of their branches, unclothed by leafy green. Look at your favorite trees now. See them right down to the bone. As each individual tree becomes leafless, the entire forest opens itself up to be seen. In the lush green of Summer, leafy trees are so full that they hide what stands behind them. They let us see only a few feet ahead of us to what is on the surface. But in Winter, we can see much further, much deeper into the forest than any time of year. What do you notice now that otherwise was hidden? See your favorite places in a new way, in a way that only Winter can show you.
Winter’s apparent lifelessness takes away so much foliage, that we focus on those few plants left. Perhaps it is no accident that we associate Evergreens with this season. Even in the darkest of times, what parts of you always seem to hang in there, no matter how rough life gets? What within you manages to cope with your bleakest moments, pulling you through till brighter days appear? Perhaps we all have a spark within us that is truly ever green!
I always marveled at how nature gives us a great big refrigerator, at the same time our special holiday foods roll around. Growing up, I remember my Mother used our chilly garage to store left-over turkeys, big pans of lasagna, soups, pies and other holidays treats -- perfect timing to keep those treats from spoiling.
Likewise, citrus crops brought in from warmer places, peak in the Winter months. Mother Nature gives us a healthy dose of Vitamin C, just when we need it most! Winter also brings the warmth of chestnuts, which hold magic like no other season can offer. Chestnuts are the seeds of a tree, coming straight from the Earth, in their own natural wrapper, unprocessed and unadulterated. Once roasted, they tickle your nostrils, (burn your fingertips) and let you take a tasty bite out of Winter!
What holiday treats do you find only during the cold months of December, January and February? Don’t limit your treats to just food. On February’s Valentines Day, the roses are red and the violets are blue! Do you have a special someone, an old love or new? See your Beloved as a unique form of the God or Goddess within your own life. Worship them; thank them for their many gifts. Then snuggle close, and warm a Winter night…
In the northern hemisphere, we celebrate the dawn of Winter near December 21. This is the darkest day, but marks the point where daylight begins to grow again until reaching its peak on the Summer Solstice. Solstice days remind us that the annual cycle waxes and wanes, just like any other cycle. If you attach special meanings to the moon’s waxing and waning, what long-term magic might you find in the months between the solstices? What things in your life do you want to grow, like the daylight increases, just a smidgen each day over the next six months? What things do you wish to rid yourself of, just as the darkness fades away? Imagine Summer is like the peak of noon, and Winter is like the dark of night. What similarities do you find between all the different cycles you encounter? Day to week, week to month, month to year – the cycles in nature show us how things which may seem unrelated are actually all linked together, woven into an interrelated tapestry -- of which you (yes, you!) are a part.
Perhaps the lessons of Winter might benefit us in other parts of life. Stock up on what you need, because it won’t always be readily available. Stay close to what warms you. (And always wear your protective “mittens” when you go out to play!)
What special forms of magic might work best during Winter? Try using the things that are unique to the season, like pine cones or holly, or even snow and ice! Snow and ice are special forms of water, and very close kin to Winter. Whether you gather a bit of the first gentle snowfall, or chop off a chunk of a raging blizzard, try storing a piece of Winter in your freezer for the water you use during rituals. Add a bit of it to the special collection of waters you may already have from the rain, sea, and rivers. If you enjoy crystal gems, try scrying into a crystaline piece of ice, naturally formed by the energy of the season.
Why not use Winter’s chill to create something magical out of ice? Find a suitable container, fill it with liquid and forge an icy shape by letting it set outside on a cold Winter night. What aspects of your life might you want to cool down, or maybe strengthen and solidify into something more tangible? What obstacles do you want to just melt away, out of your life and into thin air? A tool formed of ice can be the most versatile tool you could ever ask for, whether it’s a special magical charm, or just a home-made fruit-juice popsicle! As children, we bring Winter to life via the Snow Man “poppets” we make in our yard. If you skate, Winter lets you literally walk on water. The magic you make with ice and snow is limited only by your imagination!
Sometimes even the most mundane Winter activities can be very magical. Winterizing you car or salting an icy walk can be spells of protection. If you exchange gifts over the holidays, bless those gifts, empowering them with something magical in addition to their physical form. Shopping, wrapping and giving: is this any different from raising and focusing energy to cause magic? Feel the energy within your gift be released in a sudden magical “whoosh” when someone special peals off the wrapper.
New Year’s Eve
We mark time by celebrating not only each new year, but the passing of the old year. How we celebrate this ritual often describes who we are, and which chapter we are living within our own personal life’s story. Look back over your journal, even if it’s only the memories in your head. How did you ring in last New Year? Two, five, ten years ago? Who were you with? How have your priorities changed over time? What resolutions did you make, and how have those resolutions changed you? See how you progress within your own cycle, whether waxing or waning into what you are today.
January is named after the Roman God Janus, who looks both ahead toward the future, and behind to the past. He is the “doorway” which unites past, present and future. How fitting for the New Year! Look back to where you have been, and build upon what strengths you have earned. Then dream on…seeing what you desire for the coming year. Resolve to make those dreams come true, whether something simple or a major life change!
For something special this New Year’s Eve, chill your bottle of champagne by placing it outdoors in the cold. Toast both the old and new year, and drink in a bit of Winter’s magic!
The Four Seasons
Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter all join to form a wheel that keeps on spinning, year after year. Each year, look for new ways to see the sacred and magical side to each season, as part of your everyday life. Go to your favorite place, at least once during each season and notice how it changes. Look for similarities in the changes in nature, and the changes within your own life as you move from season to season, from phase to phase. Create your own celebrations of the seasons, finding them everywhere you look!