Now that the Yule season is over, a lot of my friends have a hard time as they wait for spring. The days are getting longer, but we still have a stretch to get to Spring Equinox.
Here are some things my family and I like to do this time of year, in case they help you. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comment section below.
I set up hot chocolate or tea to be ready when I come back in from some bundled fresh air, yes even when I’m tired.
We light candles, even if overhead lights are on. It’s surprising how they can change the mood in a room.
I always have three or four books going. You don’t need to hold yourself to false moral reading standards. I usually have a comedy, fantasy, and a couple nonfiction books going on in the winter.
Stillness. We use winter to encourage myself to slow down, monotask, and to say “no” to lots of things. This is one of the ways we try to tap into the natural cycles that are so easy to forget with modern technology.
Darkness. I love it and I’m unafraid of it. I shower in the dark all the time and turn on as few lights as I can, both out of silly, childlike “can I manage to put my earrings away, find my pajamas, and get to bed without being able to see anything?” and because the dark allows other pieces of me to surface and flex.
Extra sleep. My Nan talked about how our Nordic ancestors told stories of how people would sleep more in the long dark and less in the endless day, so I often indulge in nine hours a night. I have a lush relationship with Dreams, and when I sleep as much as my body wants, it nurtures that relationship, and it is deeply nourishing to me. This is where the power of “no” comes in handy, because if I said yes to everything, I would not have the time to get this much sleep.
These are just a few ideas that carry us through the dark, cold days of Winter. What are some of your favorite activities, whether playful or self-care-ful?
Within the pattern of the Wheel of the Year, Winter Work is a specific area of self-work we engage in during the dark months of the year. As the lessons and wisdom of our time together at Twilight Covening settle within us, we turn our attention to the path ahead. My own Winter Work generally runs from Samhain to Ostara, but there’s a lot of room for variation. Winter Work is often spiritual or magical, but it can also be related to career, family, mental health, or the home.
Tarot is so much more than a tool for looking into the future. It can also be used to support a project or direction in life. Here are two ways you can use Tarot to enhance your Winter Work: a spread and an altar working.
As I contemplated my own Winter Work this morning, I realized I could use more information, and turned to my deck. The layout I developed is called the Inward Spiral Spread, and should be usable with any sortilege-based system – Tarot, runes, oracle cards, Kahina stones, etc.
The Inward Spiral Spread
Begin by holding the divinatory tool you’ve chosen to use and think about your Winter Work. If you already know your area of focus, visualize what that might mean in practice and how it will impact your life. If you are still settling on your Work, visualize the turn of seasons ahead of you.
Then, beginning at the outer edge of a spiral, lay your cards down:
One: Your Winter Work, or an aspect of it that needs to be focused on
Two: What is slowing down your progress or getting in the way of your Work
Three: What information/resources you need to access to support your Work
Four: The next step to take
Five: How to best support your Work within the rest of your life
Six: A message about your Work I’ll share my own reading with you so you can see how this spread can play out:
One: My Winter Work: The Four of Swords: Deep rest and solitude. The need to listen to my inner voice rather than the many voices that surround me. I’m dangerously close to burnout and need to do some reevaluation/prioritization as well.
Two: What is slowing me down: The Two of Swords: Indecision about how best to proceed. Both mind and heart need to have a say here, and consciously sitting with this fork in the woods (and all its pros and cons) is necessary in order to determine the path forward.
Three: What information/resources I need: The King of Wands: I need to delegate more in order to create space for my own Work. I’m surrounded by people who can help, I just need to ask for assistance. My vision is what’s needed, and some of the busywork I spend time on is getting in the way.
Four: The next step to take: The Ten of Wands: Prioritize tasks and spend energy on the highest-impact ones. My workload is heavy, so targeted application of energy is important here. And, just do the Work. Get started now.
Five: How best to support my Work: The Star: Know that this Work is a time of renewal, of recovery after pain and challenge. Prioritize activities that are spiritually anchored, include rest or beauty, or are uplifting in nature.
Six: A message about my Work: The World: This Work is the end of one cycle and the beginning of another, and will place me in a very empowered position when it comes to choosing what comes next.
A Winter Work Altar Practice
Another way Tarot can support our Winter Work is by acting as a focus point on our altars. Select two cards from your deck. The first card corresponds to where you are right now. Choose a card that resonates with how you’re feeling. The second card corresponds to where you will be once your Winter Work is completed. Try to visualize how you will feel and what your life will look like on the other side, and choose a card that resonates with that visualization.
Place both cards on your altar, with the first card, the one representing you now, on top so that it completely covers the other card. In the coming days, when you visit your altar, slide the top card (now) to the side a little bit, beginning to reveal the future card underneath. Perform this action mindfully, contemplating both where you are now and where you are headed.
In time, the cards will be side by side. Sit with that balance as your life begins to change through your Work.
Then, day by day, slide the future card over to cover the starting point card. Again, perform this action mindfully. Feel the way your Winter Work is changing your life. Feel how far you’ve come. Consider how best to continue supporting this transformation.
When the future card has completely eclipsed the starting card, take a moment to celebrate how far you’ve come. Then, evaluate: where are you going from here? If you feel like your end goal card is not quite where you are now, start the cycle again. Choose a new card for where you are now and either the same card for your goal or a different one if the shape of that goal has changed for you. Then, begin the pattern once more.
If you find that your Work is complete, congratulations. Shuffle your cards back into your deck and reset your altar for whatever magic is next for you.
May your Winter Work be nourishing, healing, and transforming. May the deep roots we send down this winter stabilize and support us. May we emerge in spring time better and brighter, and ready to connect with community as our best selves.
This past Sunday ushered in the month of Beltaine (or Bealtaine, as it’s spelled on modern Irish calendars), and for the first time in a long while, we gathered in person at Glenwood Farm, EarthSpirit’s home in Western MA, to celebrate. More than 70 people joined us for the Sacred Land Walk and the Beltaine ritual. The day was glorious and warm, and we visited shrines, danced a Maypole ritual, sang, and shared food and conversation.
But not before burning away Old Man Winter. Kate Richardson led us by eulogizing the old codger, and then burned his effigy in the ritual fire. We share her eulogy with you here, and wish you the brightest of Beltaine Blessings!
Eulogy for Old Man Winter 2022
We’re gathered here for a joyful occasion: to welcome the spring and the summer to come. But before we can do that with our whole beings, we have to dispose of the Winter that has passed. The old man that was Winter stands here before us in effigy, and we should take a moment to remember him before we dispatch him. As he burns away he can take with him any ill luck and bad feelings from the past season, leaving us free to celebrate what’s to come. Each year between Samhain and Yule a new Winter is born. We welcome him with feasting and songs, gathering with friends and family to remind ourselves of the bonds of community which will keep us safe and warm through the hard and cold times. As this Winter drove us indoors, he still kept company with the pestilence of the last two years. Although the Rona seems now more ubiquitous but less deadly, it managed to sow discord, anxiety, illness and distress. We were reminded more than ever to take care of each other, even if that meant keeping a distance. As the Winter reached maturity, going from Yule to Imbolc, he showed off his strength by biting the extremities of hopeful apple tree wassailers, and casting snow in the way of gatherings. And yet, for folk who can enjoy the outdoors, there was snow enough for skiing, and ice enough for ice fishing, as is right and proper for our climate. Waning in strength after Imbolc, and on to the Vernal Equinox, he still maintained an imposing presence. But there were cracks in his mansion when warmer weather peeked a toe, a finger, a nose, through for just a moment. Winter gripped tight but the trees knew, the birds knew, that his end was coming. The sap flowed sweet, as it is supposed to. The snow and ice melted in the sunny places. Finally, after Equinox, he came into his dotage, a cranky and unkempt being. The mud season he bequeathed us was the stuff of legends. He petulantly threw late-season frosts and snowfalls our way. But now we declare that he is well and truly gone. Any lingering chills will be in his memory, and not from his presence. But let us not forget the lessons of Winter:
★ That we must turn to each other to get through the reign of tyrants with hope intact. ★ That we have strength and resilience, fed by songs and stories, by gathering and breaking bread together. ★ That we can get through tough conditions if we plan and prepare, and help each other out. ★ That kindness matters, and can counteract the cold. ★ That there can be great beauty in difficult conditions.
What lessons and blessings has the Winter brought to you?
All that said, we are properly glad to see him gone. He was cold and nasty, and we are ready for the warm and growing times. We may mock him for the bully and codger that he was, for he is gone, and we are all still here to see this turn to the warm times. Go ahead and make fun of him; this effigy will carry the bad words and feelings away. Then we will sing and dance our way to the tide of returning life, taking our place in the turning of the season’s wheel.
by Sarah Rosehill — At our December Stories of the Season event, we featured some wonderful books for Yule and the winter season that focus on nature and pagan traditions, and we wanted to share that list along with a few other favorites in a way that would be easy to find later!
The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren (and the sequel, The Tomten and the Fox) These lovely, lyrical stories are based on the poetry of Swedish Romanticist Viktor Rydberg and feature the Tomten (a little gnome-like being) going through a farm and reassuring the animals that spring will come. This one is appropriate as young as 2 and enjoyable for much longer.
Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven This rhyming book tells about a baker who makes “sun bread: to lure the sun back to the skies after a long streak of wintery weather and includes a recipe you can try at home. (We did; it’s pretty good!) Also aimed at the preschool set, this has colorful illustrations of a town filled with animals of all types.
Grandmother Winter by Phyllis Root This story for young children tells of Grandmother Winter, who lives alone with her flock of geese, and how she makes and then shakes a quilt to bring the snow. It has beautiful illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Beth Krommes and shows what people do when the snow happens and then how Grandmother Winter passes the winter herself.
Cozy by Jan Brett A musk ox grows a thick winter coat and several animal friends come to shelter in it through the winter, requiring an increasing number of “house rules” that will sound familiar to any parent: quiet voices, gentle thumping, claws to yourself. This book is a little longer and aimed at the 3-5 year old set. Other Jan Brett winter favorites in my family include The Mitten, which is a shorter story about animals climbing into a mitten to keep warm (and comes in a board book for toddlers!), and The Snowy Nap featuring a hedgehog who desperately wants to stay awake to see the winter.
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen This meditative book follows a young child on her first owling trip with her father. It’s longer — probably best for kids 5-8 — and evokes a peaceful, flexible relationship with the natural world. Sometimes there’s an owl and sometimes there’s not!
Solstice Badger by Robin McFadden This longer book for early elementary schoolers tells the story of how the solstice and seasons came to be. The sun is lonely and finds a true friend, and then begins to spend more and more time out of the sky with his friend. When he realizes what he has done, his friend brings the problem to Grandmother Pine, who gives wise and measured advice.
The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper This is a beautiful illustrated version of the beloved poem: “And so the shortest day came and the year died/and everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world/came people singing, dancing/to drive the dark away.” We read it every year in my family!
Do you have a favorite we haven’t included here? We’d love your contributions to this list in the comments!