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.

A Wild Hymn – a poem

a wild hymn 

Their footprints gather around the stone. 

The ancient birthburial ground. 

The place hidden among the lindens.  

It’s as if I can see them here, women in the woodland;

knelt in prayer, anointed, weaving, drumming

through the centuries. 

Maybe                I’ve been here before. 

Maybe                this is from some other time, 

                            some other body. 

Maybe                here I made my plea 

                            to the woman in the linden tree

               

           And she answered. 

She sent out silken soldiers, retrieved my wishes,

 and has returned for me

lifetimes later, to my new body and says

“Come.”

Dark                     Light

Mother                 Lover

                Queen 

I’m back in time, surrounded 

by ancient women and from their goddess’s forest

arose a wild hymn.

It thrills me, opens up my bones like husks

and I’m with her. 

Branches grow from my shoulders, adorned

with emerald leaves, bright berries.

My skin is bark. 

My face, smoothed wood. 

Ancestors. Only as strong as their memories known. 

I stand in their long-eroded footprints around the stone. 

Passion Path Ritual for Sagittarius Season

Winter is beginning to bite at the forests. This morning, I watched as the sun lifted the fog from the valley, and revealed the glitter of the first frost. That was the indication I needed that it was time, right there in the haze of sunrise, to read the Tarot for Sagittarius season. 

Typically I draw and place cards on intuition, and this was no different. It was easy to connect with the Archer. I saw in my mind’s eye a hunter pressed against a birch tree and hidden by ferns, his breath a cloud in the cold air, waiting for the moment to strike. I drew a simple two card spread for the Archer: 9 of Cups and The World. 

The Archer Sagittarius has us cradled in his rough, calloused hands. We are being held in a scared magnetic space between two polarities, and where we fall will determine the work we must do in the season of Capricorn. As we dance between the polarities we can appeal to the deep wisdom and experience of Sagittarius, and have the added benefit of our own wisdom peering back at us. 

What polarities are guiding us? 

Each of us have years of experience of life on Earth. We have danced, cried, hidden, been seen, felt heartbreak and loss, dreamed, and worked. This experiential intelligence, gained from our perseverance, is guiding us each towards something unique and special to our self development. Meanwhile, the other end offers comfort, familiarity, and risks stagnation of our growth. 

Sagittarius has a sense of humor, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the area in which we are being challenged to apply our experiential intelligence and grow is actually the exact same part of our lives where we are, indeed, the most comfortable. Perhaps it’s our relationship with a partner, a steady job, a daily routine, or a lifestyle choice. Maybe it’s how we communicate, make excuses, or self-soothe. Wherever it may be, Sagittarius is asking us to think bigger. 

A ritual for working with Sagittarius Season 2019 

This is my Passion Path ritual; it helps me understand my inner desires and what excites me most about my life and future endeavors. Feel free to adapt as you see fit: you may want to call the quarters, craft sacred space, or cleanse your space. Anointment with oil is recommended, though not necessary. 

You will need: 

  • Paper
  • Pen or pencil
  • Colors, optional
  • A candle, preferably red 
  • Cedar, optional 

Draw 9 cups or chalices on a sheet of paper. In each, write an aspect of your life in which you find the most comfort and happiness. Challenge yourself to consider unhealthy or destructive behaviors that you may be latching on to for escape and ease. 

Then ideate around each cup. How could this area of your life be even more extravagant, rewarding, fulfilling, or exciting? What more do you want to learn? Are there any challenges you would like to tackle? Or is there a characteristic, trait, or habit that you desire to develop?  

Each cup offers you a secret door to a garden of even more abundant and renewed bounties. Visualize what might be found there. 

When you’re ready, light the candle. Appeal to Sagittarius for the Archer’s wisdom; you may want to offer cedar or cedar incense. State any amount of your cups – one, two, maybe all nine – and your vision for enriching each. Close your eyes and listen for the Archer. 

You may want to enlist the help of Goddess in order to see and visualize your path. Some Goddesses who are appropriate for this ritual working include: 

Parvati, Isis, Inanna, Psyche, Cerridwen, Juno, Frigga, Lakshmi, Artemis, Bronwen, and Kali Ma. 

A short word of Jupiterian caution 

Though Sagittarius can bring us to a place where the path to abundance is illuminated, its ruling planet Jupiter has a reputation for promising more than it can deliver. For this reason, any manifestation of the visions acquired with the help of Sagittarius or spellwork to achieve your ends should be put on hold until Capricorn season.

Meeting Arianrhod in the Full Moon

Two weeks ago, I began my schooling in druidry through the British Druid Order. The decision had been on my mind for a long while, tempting me further with every gust of wind through the trees overhead. After a year of sitting with it as a desire, I figured it was genuine and enrolled.

Being of a Goddess-oriented persuasion, though, I think what held me off from beginning the druid path earlier was my desire to have a close connection with a God or Goddess while walking the path. My altar is already quite full. I’m a polytheist and, though I’ve worked with and worshiped the Divine in other pantheons, the Kemetic god/desses are where I’ve settled. I kept wondering to myself how on earth I could mix these Divine Beings of the Nile River Valley, the desert, and the primary resource-rich past with the the Divine Beings of the rainy British Isles, of whom very few pagan records exist.

During my year of casual research into druidry, I gave a lot of attention to learning about the Gaelic, Brythonic, and Celtic gods. Brighid seemed like an obvious choice and I tried to connect with her, but it didn’t take. Then Cerridwen. All the while, the name Arianrhod tempted me – much like the wind in the trees. I think I resist Divine Beings who have little information available about them, like Atum. It’s very frustrating for me to build from scratch. I’m by no means a reconstructionist, but I do prefer to know what archaeological and historical foundations I’m building from. With Arianrhod, there wasn’t much – just a story and name etymology.

Last night with the aid of the Full Moon in Pisces, my favorite full moon of the year, I set my altar and lit a candle for Arianrhod, surrounded by a few stones I associated with her as a representation of a small henge. I did my usual Full Moon routine: drank some booze, made some sacred music, painted, and divined.

I also meditated. I’ve been under a lot of stress recently, and I wanted to project my spirit away from this world and into my happiest, safest place. Within moments, I found myself at home. Not here in Japan, but in the woods by my parent’s house, seated on the mossy fallen tree I used to meditate on, right off the path in the cedars. I was listening to the trees while keeping one eye on the candle flickering in the distance at my outdoor altar.

I felt so deeply, completely at peace. I realized that the place I missed most in the world (home) was accessible within my own mind. My heart was full. Then, on the path, a woman appeared – as if she had been standing there all along and I hadn’t noticed her. It was Arianrhod.

She was looking at me with a soft, almost curious expression. She wore a white dress with silver embroidery, and had thick white fur around her neck. Her face gave me the impression of a woman in her forties, and her hair was shining in highlights and lowlights of white and silver-grey. Jewelry made from small beads and shells hung in her hair and from her dress. Her eyes, too, were grey – and piercingly clear, as if nothing physical could obstruct them, or as if she could see another dimension simultaneously to the one within which we met.

I was so shocked at the clarity of this appearance, the sudden tangible realness, that I opened my eyes and was back on the floor in front of my altar. The moment was gone.

There is so much gratitude in my heart this morning for such a clear connection to have been made, and I’m hoping to repeat the exercise soon. Until then, I’ll simply read the Mabinogi.

Flow of Awen – a poem

In the depths of the green, a light shines through.
Soft, at first, but carrying a kind of terror too.
A glimpse is all I can handle. It rattles me;
bones and blood and hair and feet,
I’m overtaken, vitalized like a storm upon trees
and when the blaze and shine of Awen passes
the landscape has changed, my form is made new,
birthed, once more, into a summer afternoon.