Winter Magick and the Elemental Spirit of Ice 

Ten inches fell in 24 hours. Ten inches that weigh down the cedar trees, coat the mossy earth, and bury the dead. Even the hemlocks look heavy, more than they used to. 

 

Curiously, in Western culture we celebrate the birth of a new year just ten days into this season of darkness and survival. I wondered about this from a young age dabbling in astrology. My elder sister is a solstice-portal Aries, making her birthday one of welcoming spring and a new, warm world.  She, like many other Aries folks, lives her life like each day is a fresh start and an exciting new challenge. That springtime energy is echoed in the depths of winter with December 31st; New Year’s Eve resolutions and diet plans. It’s an energy so out of place with nature that something else – some other energy – must be missing from the equation.

 

Shortly into my magical studies I read that winter was the power season of the water witches. Winter, too, was the domain of the water zodiac signs (and, to some extent, their mutable companions). Intrigued, I swam in a very Piscean way through this concept and aimed to consciously experience this affinity. Year after year, I’ve found that my most consistent days and weeks of physical confidence, optimum mental health, general self esteem, and desire to be creative reside in the winter months. Of the water zodiac signs or not, anyone with a particular pull towards the water – holy wells, deep oceans, long seashores, river deltas, lotus ponds, thunderous rain – may find a deep sense of comfort and companionship with the waters of winter. 

 

In some ways, the anticipation of spring pulls our hearts too quickly over this cold, dark sea, and our Oneness with winter – and all the opportunities hidden therein – are put aside for next year. And the next. 

 

What are those lessons, anyway? Patience, for one, I’d guess. Winter feels long because it is deeply still. When temperatures are low, there is less energy on the move – less room for mistakes. Stripped bare down to her most basic of energy needs, the earth mother holds us in deep silence and witnesses the cycle of life and death. Water, an element essential to that life, also drowns, erodes, cascades, and evaporates. Water can leave a desert to die, or be present in such abundance as to create the inconceivable biodiversity of the trench. 

 

This leads to the other lesson: presence in what is witnessed. In our case, that simply means presence in the tale of life – and it’s counterpart. 

 

Outside are ten inches of snow and a cold wind of 26 degrees. Trees have fallen, trapping people on the highway, closing off neighborhoods, and leaving others without power. This is the third time in my lifetime of living here that we have had a weather event like this. In the beauty of this snowstorm there is danger, suffering, and material loss. Yet, where there is death there is life. 

 

Washington State in recent years has seen a dramatic increase in wildfires in our forests caused, in major part, by the lack of snowpack from winter, high up in the mountains. In our short but hot summers, that snow from autumn through spring melts. This slow melt is what has nourished our creek beds and forests while dampening the landscape, protecting it from fires. This year, we may see a less wildfire devastation here – that is, less crazed, uncontrollable heat and energy due to the nourishment of a cold, dark winter. 

 

Ice and snow is water in solid form. Like water, it carries the energetics of remembrance, but more like an archive or library rather than the flow of memory. Ice is water’s way of standing still. The elemental spirit of ice simply asks us to do the same. 

 

In winter,  the stillness makes us vulnerable. Though we’ve adapted to physical stillness from our evolutionary legacy of migratory hunting and gathering, it would be disingenuous to imply that our mental and spiritual experience is anything but still. This is why working with the seasons in the Wheel of the Year can be such a revitalizing practice pathwalkers, as the seasons offer the most present experience we have in modern life to the natural world. Of course our ancestors venerated this cycle and presence too, but they also regularly faced the other aspects of nature on an intimate plane, like the buffalo hunt, collective grief, large predators, natural birth, poisonous snakes, and sleeping under the stars.  

 

Especially sleeping under the stars on cold winter nights.

Journal Prompts for the Aquarius Full Moon

Though not often given credit for her emotional depth, Aquarius has a remarkable talent for inspiring others to look within at their own inner ocean. Much like the image of the water bearer herself, Aquarius is like a therapist; she asks the right questions, guides you with gentle grace, listens carefully – but she never reveals her own emotional sea.

Leo/Aquarius eclipses defined much of the stellar activity in 2016 and 2017. That energy has lingered like mist on our skin, testing our egos and our individuality, while occasionally being enhanced and impacted by other celestial movements. Today that energetic frequency sent by Aquarius, a wise and quixotic cosmic guide, has completed its mission. We’ve had the opportunity to explore new versions of “I.”

Now we enter a new phase of Aquarian guidance.

As we sit down for our therapy session with Aquarius, we need to accept and prepare for its harsh tone. Saturn, Aquarius’ traditional ruler, can be seen in the night sky hovering just above the Moon. Together they aren’t leaving us much space for laziness in our decision making, nor in offering forgiveness. Sometimes, Saturn teaches, forgiveness enables poor behavior more than it releases one from baggage. Sometimes forgiveness is really just being a doormat – especially when the person we need to forgive is ourselves, and our own self destructive behaviors.

Aquarius and Saturn are asking us to be honest about personal integrity. Do we lie? Do we bend the rules? Are we playing fair? Do we gossip, cheat, procrastinate, or speak unwisely? These are the first questions to ask under the Full Moon, and you may find them coming up in your dreamtime if not dealt with while awake. But the culmination is this:

Are you displaying integrity of self in your interactions with others?

The shadow of ego is the desire to please. Our egos and personalities are here to protect us from pain, guide us through life’s struggles, and help us define our goals, wants, and needs. But we are social creatures under the ever-powerful influence of a larger social collective consciousness. The ideas and opinions of others can cloud our minds, resulting in an “I” – an ego – that is more a conglomeration of the surrounding world than an authentic expression of one’s unique, individual soul. 

Defiance of these norms is exactly what Aquarius is famous for, and exactly what Aquarius is here to teach us with the Full Moon. Dress how you want, regardless of what’s in season. Play with makeup. Cut your hair or don’t. Be proud of your eccentric hobbies and nerding out. Be unafraid of your inner self, and unafraid of how the collective may view and judge it. Aquarius knows it’s a waste of Life Energy to do anything else.

Journal Prompts for the Aquarius Full Moon

  1. What choices have I made based on how others might feel, react, or praise me? What was the result of those choices? Am I making similar choices now?
  2. When I imagine a fully actualized version of myself, what is s/he like? What traits does that version of Me have that I don’t currently exemplify? How can I change this?
  3. In what ways do I rely on the feedback of other people? Are any of these unhealthy?

Under the Full Moon, I encourage you to release the need for other’s approval and determine what is most valuable to YOU in your life.

 

Honoring the Fierce Energy of Lion’s Gate

With the Lion’s Gate today, each of us will receive information regarding the situations around these avatars we occupy. This is a time of Divine and ruthless guidance; it is clarity in the roadmap for the events we have set up for ourselves in this lifetime. Whether or not we listen is up to us.

A few days ago, I was walking to the supermarket down the road from my home and out of nowhere felt lifted off the ground. That particular afternoon, I left my headphones at home. I opted to listen to traffic and the rumbling of the river, now quite full from typhoon season. On my right was the great blue expanse of Osaka Bay, and on my left was the towering green of Mt. Rokko. A warm breeze came off the mountains and twisted around my legs and arms. As I walked, I felt as if it were holding me.

Summer is such a sacred season to me because I can feel the Sun, our beautiful star, generating something tangible. There’s an energy, as thick as a pool to swim in, of leading up to something. And every year, I’m convinced that moment – that special anticipated thing – is the Lion’s Gate.

The Lammas Energy Flow of Lion’s Gate

Like many modern pagans, I utilize the Wheel of the Year to honor and sanctify these times of the year. It’s convenient for anyone living in a standard climate of four seasons. As I’m in Japan at this time, it works – but it’s also a little tricky. My practice is Kemetic, which means I’m honoring gods born of the desert landscape. And, though my spiritual life is a blend of Ancient Egyptian gods, Canaanite imagery, and South Asian transcendental methods and philosophy, I’m also Jewish. Often, sacred days or Beings can feel a little at odds with one another. But this specific day invites all to the table: all traditions, all Beings, all practices, all ancestors; occultists, your yoga instructor, kitchen witches, pagans, and crystal healers. 

Lion’s Gate is a crux of harmonious energy that seeks to uplift, renew, and shift what is within us. Though it’s an astrological time of year that tends to usher in great change, it is also a celebration of a syncretic life – and lives. We are given an opportunity to connect directly with our Higher Selves and evaluate our avatar, our current incarnation, from the lens of our soul’s infinite existence. Our mistakes are valid, our shortcomings planned, our successes honored, and the work to be done is celebrated as more opportunities for deep learning.

Lions are a near-universal symbol. The spirit of Lion lies in the Torah, in Sekhmet, in Vishnu, in Celtic faiths, and is standing guard in front of the shrines of Japan.

Over the years, I’ve adapted the Wheel of the Year to my needs. I want my experience of time and the seasons to represent not only my spiritual practice, but my ancestral background and active experience of climate, ecology, and local wildlife. In Hebrew, Lammas could be referred to as “Et ha-Katsir,” meaning the time of harvest. Lion’s Gate opens during this time. Harvest season is more than reaping the rewards of our hard work; it’s also a deeply metaphysical, honored experience of life eating life. Just as the lion works with her pride to capture, kill, and harvest their prey, we come together to eat of the Earth. 

By eating of life, we create an absence. The fields are empty. Our minds and hearts are filled to their peak while we go with the Earth into a slow descent into the Underworld, to winter, to darkness and hibernation. 

Chapter 57 of the Tehillim, or Psalms, reads:

” 5 My soul is among lions; I lie among men who are aflame; their teeth are [like] spears and arrows, and their tongue is [like] a sharp sword.”

The chapter deals with David’s steadfast trust in the Divine, that all adversity, pain, and suffering has – at its core – purpose. Lion’s Gate is exactly this. It is an astrological and magikal opening through which we eat of our successes and failures, and are presented with a new set of challenges.

As we go into the Underworld over these next months, we will sit with what Lion’s Gate brings us. We will wrestle with it as if we were among flames. And, when spring and the time for planting seeds comes around, we will know exactly what our garden should contain in the following year.

I’ve written a piece before about descent into the Underworld with Inanna and Ereshkigal. Now is no better time to sit with the energies of these Goddesses and explore the Lion’s Gate – preferably with berry pie, cornbread, or some butternut squash.