It’s not all about the snow (but I’d like some)

Spring is whispering its song from underneath the bare earth.The stage is very much still Winter’s: many days of glistening frost, nippy air that bites your bones, fragile sunshine and naked trees. But Spring is twisting and stretching gently like a napping cat about to wake. This unborn season dances invisible in Mother Winter’s belly.

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Image pinned on my Imbolc Pinterest board from nordicwiccan.blogspot.co.uk

Almost invisible. For green fingers push up through and into the air – in spite of the hard ground. In a few weeks they will be boldly nodding daffodils. This weekend, many will be celebrating lunar Imbolc,*  with more celebrating the festival in the middle of this coming week. King Sun is ever so slightly stronger, I tell my son. We are seeing him go to bed a little later and rise a little earlier. I’ve still not seen any snowdrops! They seemed scarce last year, even around Bristol’s wilder edges and crannies.

I’ve enjoyed this winter – am enjoying. (I want to hear the rest of her song before turning my attention to Spring!) It feels like a “real” winter: proper frosts on several hand-rubbingly crisp days. Only one tiniest smattering of snow – enough to delight my son, although how he wishes to wake to see the land tucked up in a proper blanket of soft white like in our winter books full of snowball fights and deep footprints. Such things are quite rare in our part of Britain but I itch to share such magic with him and his little brother. Just thinking (and wishing!) about it, I smile at how their rosy faces will grin and giggle in a state of simple bliss if our wish comes true.

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Mind you, sometimes I think that we perhaps over-depict snow as a symbol of winter, Granted, many of the Waldorf-y books in our home are weavings of writers from more northern parts of the world than mine. Yet at times I feel that Winter’s other players – Jack Frost, the Queen of the NIght / Dark Goddess, the bare trees and earth – that they might deserve a little more attention in the art we make about this season. For me, it’s these symbols of  the outer world’s emptiness and cold that invites us to focus on our inner beauty and riches through learning, soul-work, self-development and stoking our inner fire. When we go outside in winter, maybe we enjoy a view of beautiful buildings (or  have our children enjoy seeing a train going along the tracks!) that is hidden from view by summertime’s clutter of leaves; I feel winter likewise invites us to find that clarity when we look inside ourselves.

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All that barrenness around holds the hope and potential of what can sprout and grow. ♥

 

*the dark/new moon of late January – or early February,

First photo: Ice pictures – on a night when frost is forecast, lay out leaves and others interesting things in a bucket of water outside. Position a string so that the ends will also be frozed into the water to hang your “picture” up in the morning! You can also do this all year round in a plastic tub in your freezer.

Second photo: “Snow garden” that we made a couple of years ago to slightly compensate for our disappointment at a snow-less winter! Use soap powder on a cardboard base, add crystals, mirrors (for frozen ponds), twigs etc. From Earthwise, by Carol Petrash.

Third photo: Our Solstice branches – winter 2016.

Fourth photo: Forest of Dean, January 2015

 

Vanishing

I was blessed with a beautiful glimpse of the vanishing moon – the waning crescent – this morning. The last, or maybe penultimate, sliver before she enters her dark phase. Sadly I have no photo due to our brilliant little camera being away at the camera hospital, having accidentally met with my arm and then the kitchen floor. Can I blame pregnancy for such clumsiness? Let’s go with yes.

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A Great-Grandmother Moon from a less clumsy time in my life. This morning’s moon was leaning back a little more, and the sky a little darker with Venus shining brightly quite nearby.

I correlate the dark phase of the lunar cycle with the Winter Solstice in the solar cycle, so today we’re around similar times in both. I hold the word vanishing in my mind and think about its correlation to my own life right now: the vanishing days before the Solstice and Christmas is upon us (why am I not more organised for these events by this point in December?! And why do I leave it so late every year?!), the vanishing weeks before my baby is due to be born, my seemingly vanishing energy in the evenings. The vanishing sense of anxiety about it all as I realise that, really, almost everything that’s truly important has been done; by the time baby comes, we’ll be ready to welcome them.

Back outside, the colour is fast vanishing from our garden as the last of the nasturtiums have died and the green leaves are pretty few. The piles of crisp, vibrant leaves on the ground are vanishing into brown soggy mud and mush. The light starts vanishing not long after 3pm. “Come inside,” it all whispers sleepily, “find a blanket. Rest and dream”.

November nature table

Our November nature table / family altar is less colourful than earlier in Autumn (see also this and this post). The oranges, bronzes, and rich reds mostly give way to plainer, darker, more sombre hues, although I find that a little sparkle somewhere (like in the spider-webs on this cloth) doesn’t go amiss. I usually prefer altar cloths of natural fabrics, but at Samhain I make an exception and dig this one out to remind me of the association of spiders with Autumn, with weaving magic, and with the idea of interconnectedness: the webs in our lives of community, of the various aspects of our inner and outer selves, of collective consciousness. Sparkle reminds me of frost, and November is usually the month in which it arrives to where I live. I’m also feeling drawn to bowls, particularly empty ones: symbols for winter where the womb of the crone goddess is empty and barren.IMG_3404

To represent air, I’ve offered a little bowl of black copal; it’s colour and scent seem to me appropriate to this time of the year and to the crone aspect of the goddess. Our offering for Earth here is a little piece of cinnamon bun from a batch made by my husband. He doesn’t bake a lot and this kind of recipe was quite a new thing for him to do. To me this was reminiscent of Samhain being the beginning of a new year, a new cycle and new aspirations. IMG_3410

My mother-in-law spontaneously made this pine-needle angel on a walk in the woods that our family recently enjoyed together. I love it, particularly how the inspiration just came to her to tie a couple of knots to form arms and….voila!IMG_3407

The sweet chestnuts are awaiting a roasting attempt… but I can be quite the champion procrastinator with attempting something new that has strong Fail Potential.IMG_3406

The spoon lives on our nature table. It’s the first of three spoons that my husband has carved, the second being a ladle and the third – carved this Samhain – being around dessert-spoon sized. This one, although so beautiful, wasn’t carved optimally so we only use it decoratively: it reminds me of the idea of process and improvement. The different stages of the cycle of the year (and of the moon) that we see in nature prompt us to consider these stages in the cycles of our inner worlds: our projects, our self-development and other inner journeys. This is particularly relevant at this point in the year where the sleeping Earth calls us to attend to those inner journeys and our psycho-spiritual selves.IMG_3415

The seed-heads below and nasturtium seeds (picture below this) remind me of the “seeds” (ie. things that we have learnt and gained) that we take forwards to replant and nourish us in the new year. The fairy toadstools, the owl and the witch are, to me, symbols of magic and wisdom pertinent to this time of the year.IMG_3420IMG_3418

On our picture wire still hangs a few Autumnal pictures: a couple of the apple and pumpkin harvest that we are still enjoying, a couple reminding us of the falling/fallen leaves that still surround us and our shoes. Another picture, if a lantern procession, reminds me of the light-related festivals of Diwali, Martinmas and Advent that fall in November. The central picture – in the misty greys of typical November weather – is of an old tin mine engine house in my native Cornwall; a reminder of the concept of ancestry honoured and celebrated at Samhain.IMG_3423

Bright blessings in these often-gloomy days!  )O(

A new season

One morning last week brought the first hint of frost to my part of Bristol. Just a teasingly light touch of it on some of the roofs of the streets that surround mine. Winter’s first little stroke, at the end of a grey and chillier week, where more leaves seem to be gracing the ground than the trees now. Autumn’s crispness is turning to a wintery sogginess – in those leaves and in the air. The soil is heavily soggy, clinging to our boots. Damp clings to my coat and condensation to my windows in the mornings. We adjust our routine to factor in putting on more clothes when leaving the house, to get laundry off the line earlier, to draw the curtains before dinner and to spending less time in the garden. We eat more soup. I write in my journal more.

autumn heart stone

I also feel a shift in my own season, entering the third trimester of my pregnancy round about now. The changes to my body tell me that it’s time to sit a little differently, to sleep and eat a little differently, to adjust how I move and how I lift. To make time to be pregnant – for yoga, for breath work, for just sitting talking to the baby and gently poking my bump whilst it pokes me back. To slow my pace. It’s easy to try to fight this, expecting the same of ourselves whatever the “season” our lives our in (for example, when we’re ill, when we’re menstruating, when we’ve just had a baby, when we’re menopausal). Those around us – and wider society – may perpetuate this disconnection and the lack of opportunity to honour these fluctuations and these rhythms. There’s pressure to just put on a brave face, dose up with painkillers and carry on with all your normal jobs and tasks.

I’m trying to listen to what these new seasons are calling me to do.

Towards winter, and stoking fires

Obviously, the days are less bright and more cold now. Night comes sooner, leaves later and has a depth that echoes the secrets of many souls. Ours, our ancestors, the land. Although where I live is unlikely to get a frost yet, I feel frost linger on the fringes of each morning, waiting for when the land is finally too tired to fight it back anymore. Then it will pounce, victorious, and tell us “now it has ended. Now the time for growth and for harvest is over. What isn’t done must be left; goodbyes must be said to it. Take my icy hand and I will show you the rich rest and magical dreaming of winter”.

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From last winter, near the Forest of Dean.

If I’m outside in the evenings now, I smell the odd wood-stove. (With a little envy, I confess; all of us in this house have a wish for a wood-burner of our own). Of course the lighting of these fires holds a practical home-heating purpose. For me it’s also symbolic of bringing flame inward; the warmth and glow of the sun and the land is weakened now, so we ignite an indoor fire – we kind of substitute the sun with these flames. Recently I learnt that the connection of dragons with the two equinoxes – and with Michaelmas and St Georges Day in the Christian calendar – is because the dragons’ fire is the symbol of the warmth of the sun and the earth. At the Autumn Equinox, the dragons retreat underground for their winter rest, taking their fire with them (ie: we enter the dark half of the year). At the spring equinox they return, bringing back their fire as well (ie: the warmer earth, longer days and stronger sun).

With both the dragons and the wood-stoves, there’s symbolism not only for stoking the fires in our homes but for tending our own inner hearths too: for using this time of year to shine the light inside ourselves and do some self-development, spiritual development and/or some magical work or journeying. To nourish our own inner light.

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welcome winter

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The first frost has kissed Bristol this week – the “scrit-sshhhh, scrit-sshhhhh” of neighbours scraping ice off car windscreens called me to the window to see. I, in turn, called my little boy to witness this seasonal magic trick from nature.

The air certainly has a chilly bite. Most of the trees are bare and eerily skeletal. Their vulnerability, beauty, ugliness, wisdom, intricacy, strength and true form is all revealed and these themes remind me of some of the chambers of my soul that I seem to have visited lately. Leaves lie in the shadows of their trees on the ground beneath them like worshippers at an honoured teacher’s feet. My garden is a soggy, rotting tangle of the year’s debris some of it probably gangrenous by now. Even our hardy nasturtiums, who have clung on this long, now surrender to the chilly blanket that winter pulls over the earth to tuck her up to sleep.

Welcome winter. For me, like many, the year begins at Samhain. Although I celebrate this festival on October 31st for the sense of communal festivity with everyone else marking that date, I personally celebrate Samhain as a turning of Autumn to Winter when I feel that shift for myself. This day is kind of my New Year’s Day. However, In the practicalities of busy day-to-day life, it’s not quite possible to drop everything to party! On the day this week when I really felt that winter had come, I was able to go for a walk around my local park with my son noticing the signs of the season, the weather, the light etc. During this week we’ve exchanged the autumn books for the winter ones in his seasonal book basket, cleared, cleaned and started to re-decorate our nature table, changed a few things in the house to better suit our winter needs, and begun organising festive gifts.  Simple things that hopefully will become familiar seasonal rituals, grounding our family in natures rhythm.

This weekend I intend a little more celebration – a simple ritual and bit of special-ness to greet the New Year. On a weekend when many in the US may well be extending their Thanksgiving festivities, I like the thought of many of us engaged in celebrations of different kinds – it’s a good vibe to be going around the world. Welcome winter: may we be open to your insights, patient with your challenges and touched by your magic! ♥

November

November is a faded – and fading – image in my mind. Like one of your grandparents’ childhood photos. The light is fading, the calendar year is fading, the temperature is fading and most of the leaves are usually off the trees and starting to rot into the ground. People often describe November as grey, bleak, damp, miserable; rarely anything flattering. It always seems a short month to me and I wonder if really it’s just outshone by its neighbouring months of Orange October and festive December.

WInter starts for me in November, around the vanishing (last quarter) moon, or when nature gives me enough signs to welcome the season in. My favourite season. I learned yesterday that the Anglo-Saxons believed 7th November to be the official start of winter; although where I live hasn’t yet had a frost, this week has certainly felt winter’s kiss.

I’m sure some would argue a case for November glowing rather than fading. A-glow with the bonfire flames on Guy Fawkes Night, the lantern processions at Martinmas, the lights in the windows of homes in the long nights (and dreary days!), and the twinkling Christmas lights in shops windows. In my head, these glows and twinkles create a kind of blurriness around and behind them. Rather than the lights, it’s that fading, blurred image of the background that is what I remember in November. ♥IMG_2546