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As we near the winter solstice, Josie Jakub looks at how the old traditions inform our winter behaviour today…
Pagans, celts, witches and mystics – how many remain? The further we get away from our roots, the more disconnected we become. But what do you do for solstice, and what is it anyway? You’ve heard the word ‘yule’ – but do you know what it means? What are the old ways about, and how can we learn from them to weather the colder months.
Winter is a time for hibernation and transition
We’re living through a time of extreme change. Despite previous generations having experienced catastrophic global events like wars and plagues, the last time a civilisation lived through the volume of global cycles we are experiencing – including economic, environmental, political, and technological change all at once – was 5,000 years ago.
People are asking themselves ‘what’s next?’ and ‘how can I prepare myself and my family to be resilient?’. Psychologists studying human behaviour have noticed that our ability to bounce back has become a normal part of our everyday lives. To the stage that an alarming number of us have managed to push the boundaries of what we can tolerate so far, that we aren’t even recognising emotional, mental, and spiritual strength as resilience anymore.
…an alarming number of us have managed to push the boundaries of what we can tolerate…
Have you found yourself staying in more? Are we so fearful of the next thing we’re expected to bounce back from that it has become easier to just hibernate? How do we thrive and survive when our very foundations are shaking, and the goalposts keep moving?
A new winter season cometh
As winter approaches for the third time since the first lockdown we can count Brexit, Megxit, furlough, forest fires, floods, and the end of the Elizabethan era as things we took in our stride.
While we were marrying, divorcing, home schooling, protesting, saving, spending, and sharing with the people closest to us, we were either glued to our television sets or hopelessly trying to discern the difference between fake news, publicity, and propaganda. Our mental health suffered; it has felt relentless.
Is it any wonder then as the days get shorter, and the nights grow darker, that we succumb so enthusiastically to the slower pace of the colder months. We retreat into our homes, and within our selves for a rest and to re-charge.
After a summer of joyfully returning to outdoor pursuits and obligations, autumn becomes a blessing and a sanctuary. Hot drinks, woolly clothes, central heating, and cosy coats provide emotional as well as physical comfort.
Winter kickstarts rebirth
Animals, plants, and fungi that thrive in winter conditions are called chionophiles. It comes from the Greek word for snow, chion and lover, phile. The cold weather triggers our subconscious minds to reflect on the cycles of death and rebirth, and reminds us that change is always followed by renewal.
Christmas festivities and New Year resolutions help us to remain optimistic as we transition through the end of one cycle into a brand new one.
The end of the year provides the same restful hibernation and comforting feelings of safety to humans as a cardboard box brings to a tortoise. And is reflected in a number of religions.
Let’s talk about solstice
In Persian and Iranian culture, Yaldā Night or Chelle Night celebrates the longest, darkest night of the year on December 21st and marks the changing of the seasons. Pagans following the wheel of the year mark their Yule on the same day.
Yule is a midwinter festival, celebrated for centuries with its origins in German and is counted as one of the most important sabbath dates of the year.
It’s a time of reflection during the darkest and longest night of the year. Followed by a celebration with friends and family to mark the return of the sun, when the days finally begin to get a little longer.
Christmas for Christians is about birth, death, and re-birth. The story of Jesus’ birth is reflected upon, alongside the miracle of being ‘raised from the dead’ which reminds us optimistically to repot a Christmas tree in the garden so we can watch its dry, brown branches return strong and green again by spring. It’s a celebration in winter of a miraculous event, as is Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday in remembrance of a miraculous event.
So it’s no wonder that we feel such a natural pull towards withdrawing at this time of year. We are tired from the summer, ready to rest and hibernate. Our minds and bodies react to colder days and longer nights.
The cycles of life and nature make the period of autumn into winter that causes us to reflect on a deeply subconscious level making seasonal periods of isolation more about soul-searching and introspection than loneliness. We eat more, and slow down just like our ancestors before us. Except they did it without Strictly Come Dancing and Deliveroo.
Work with the seasons, not against them
Like the Hermit card in the Tarot reminds us, taking a break from everyday life restores our energy, depleted after a busy spring and summer. By reducing the distractions of the outside world in autumn and winter we create space for self-discovery and the ability to re-focus and find our balance again.
Interestingly, Scorpio season, which remains until November 21st, is all about death and rebirth, destruction and transformation. Which is the exact meaning of the Tarot card assigned to Scorpio.
I could go on but I think you get the point. Cycles and transition when regarded as positive change for renewal, allows for an easier transition through the change. Nature and religion, Tarot and astrology, politics, culture, and our own inner wisdom aligns to remind us that there’s nothing more constant than change.
And the opportunity to re-evaluate your personal goals and priorities might lead to unexpected growth and an exciting new direction. Now go and snuggle up on the sofa
Improve your home for the winter months
Josie writes from her cottage in a historic, pirate village by the sea. She shares her life with Mimi, a beautiful Ragdoll cat, and the dazzling variety of garden birds and sea birds who come to visit them every day. Josie writes about the world that we can’t see, drawing from her life experiences as a Tarot card reader, astrologist and healer
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