Hope… that is the word that epitomizes Midwinter for me. The chthonic underworld energies of All Hallows, whilst not yet fully dissipated begin to lull, and across the land there is a sense of peace and stillness. Families across the western world begin to gather to celebrate Christmas, the birth of the Christ child, the Sacred King come to save the people. Children lie sleepless with excitement awaiting a gift from Santa, the All Father. Now is a time to renew bonds of family and friendship with those living and passed, to gather around the warmth and safety of the hearth remembering the year which has so rapidly passed and dream of what awaits us during the warm days ahead. The Sun is reborn, but the worst is perhaps still to come. So far Her Dame-ship has been kinder than previous years and The Downs have sheltered us Southerners from the worst of the cold. Our first hard frost came only last week, a true sign that Midwinter had arrived here in Kent. Since then however it’s been relatively mild.
Midwinter heralds in a time of new beginnings and New Year’s resolutions, energies which will come to fruition around Candlemass…a time of purity, cleansing and starting afresh. Now’s the time to let the dust settle ready to be swept away with the changing of the tides.
A and I left the comfort of our warm cosy sitting room last weekend to select our Tree, a beautiful 7 footer to which I made a suitable libation in thanks for its sacrifice and to ask for the blessings of the ever-green spirit. After which our symbolic Yggdrasil was dressed in lights, baubles and beads, a resplendent 6 rayed star stuck to the tallest tip and gifts laid neatly around its Trunk.
Michael Buble’s Christmas CD plays quietly in the background, one track, his rendition of Ave Maria brings a happy, content tear to my eye. I don’t understand the words but something about this music puts a neat full stop in what has been, in retrospect a year dedicated to Her. I crack out the Frankincense and Myrrh and get the Mulled Wine and Smoking Bishop brewing. The house fills with the heady aroma of pine, cinnamon, baking mincemeat…the sanctity of home and hearth.
A few days prior to the solstice I made the customary Yule Log. Traditionally a log from the oldest Oak was selected to burn in the hearth for the 12 days of Christmas. Mine is in fact a Chestnut log from the coppiced woodland close by and as I don’t have a hearth I decorate it with lavish greenery from Yew, Pine, Holly, Ivy and Cotoneaster ripe with orange and red berries. The Yule log takes centre stage on my Midwinter shrine, underneath a classically Cochranian Wreath of Yew and an Image of Stella Maris and Child…light from the darkness…a single flame within the black Cauldron…potential made plausible… energy clothed in flesh. The three gold candles will be lit every evening from Midwinter till Misrule with offerings to the spirits consisting of frankincense and Myrrh, mince pies and brandy.
Magically speaking there is a charm I adore creating especially at this time of year. Known as a Pomander amongst Grandmothers and Vicar’s wives, I prick an orange with fat fragrant cloves in linear patterns and runic designs to symbolise prosperity, health, protection and happiness. Decorated with Red ribbon and hung in the house, the magic from this simple charm oozes out with every waft of spiced orange, raising the spirits, scenting the air and fending off the winter blues…Magical and practical!
The Solstice itself fell around half past midnight on the 22nd December. A and I travelled up to Bluebell hill, the highest point around, and lit a flying Chinese lantern. He likes to come because we’re setting things on fire (a pyromaniac can be a useful member of a Witch’s Household!) and I like to include him in my doings as much as I can especially around this time of year. For me this lantern was to be a simple beacon of hope to shine over this fair land which in economic times such as these felt like the right thing to do, it felt necessary. As the lantern ascended towards the heavens I muttered a silent prayer that 2012 be a year of positive change, a year of promise for all of us….that all our seeds may grow strong roots in the months ahead. In my mind’s eye I saw the Hermit…the old grey bearded one, holding aloft the lantern of wisdom and experience to illuminate the lower paths of lowly travellers like myself. It wasn’t an especially ceremonial evening but it was poignant and touching… we sat in the cold night air and sipped warm mulled wine out of an old thermos, The worst of the Christmas preparations now over, I can relax and enjoy my peaceful time with friends and family. Pledges will be renewed to those who continue to guide me from afar…the Gods and Ancestors and of course to the land who continues to sustain and support me. All the blessings from 2011 I owe to them…all the struggles from 2011 I am grateful for because they can only lead to a better understanding and a more enriched 2012…
…At least that’s what I hope for!