The winter solstice is coming up – a time for many across the world to celebrate, whatever their spirituality, if they are religious or not. For many pagans, and many Druids, the winter solstice is an especially important time of the year, marked in the public eye by the historic landmarks such as Newgrange or Stonehenge.
But it’s the more private celebrations that call to me at this time of year. Tired after a long year of hard work (with over 30 performances from our dance company, as well as workshops, classes, and filming dvds, on top of writing the next book, Zen Druidry, and oh – yes, my marketing job for a music company…) I am really, really, really looking forward to a couple of week’s rest at the end of December.
This is a time of year when I really connect with my European ancestors and gods – Frigge, the lady of the hearth and home, stands by my shoulder as I spend the evenings baking for my friends and my husband. I think of my mother’s beautiful hands, remembering them when she was cooking, or stroking the cat – how graceful they are, how unhurried and loving no matter what it was she was doing. I think of my grandmothers, with their laughter and love, as I drink a toast to them with a little snort of advocaat. Freya smiles as I snuggle into the warmth of the bed with my husband and cats.
The house is often bathed in the glow of candlelight, with pine scented loveliness drifting through, or the smell of woodsmoke as the fire crackles in the hearth. Though it is often dark and cold out, the home takes on special importance at this time of year. A big cleaning is undertaken in readiness for the months where more time is spent indoors, and everything is made just so, for comfort, ease and security. That feeling of preparedness still hits me late November, early December – make sure everything is good for the next couple of months, for when we will be spiritually, if not physically, snowed in.
For at this time of year, it is the best time to look inwards, to discover your self once again. Taking the time during the long dark months is perfect – a little meditation instead of the television, for instance, in front of that altar glowing with candles and the smoke of incense drifting through the room. The nights are so long – what will you do with them? Please, please please – do not watch more television. Go out with friends. Meditate. Bake. Make love. Walk in the frosty night. But whatever you do, make sure that you take time for yourself.
For me this is the dreaming period, an incubation of sorts. Time to dream it all up again. Think on the coming year, and make some plans – holding to them lightly. Protecting the seeds of your dreams in the darkness of winter, to slowly unfurl when the light returns in the spring. I absolutely adore it. There is nothing better than sitting indoors with a cup of hot chocolate, watching the snow fall, if you are so lucky, and simply being in the moment – or walking out with the snow and evening falling silently all around, the smell of winter thick in the cold, swirling air. Taking inspiration from it all and dreaming, dreaming deep – so deep that when you awaken you are refreshed, and ready for anything.
Take a step back from the manic lights and piped music in restaurants, pubs and shops, and step into your home, touching the frame of the doorway with a soft prayer to the household spirits for their sanctuary. Let yourself slip into the darkness, lit only by soft candlelight, and let the mind and soul rest for a while. And may you truly enjoy the holiday season.