“When winter comes to a woman’s soul, she withdraws into her inner self, her deepest spaces. She refuses all connection, refutes all arguments that she should engage in the world. She may say she is resting, but she is more than resting: She is creating a new universe within herself, examining and breaking old patterns, destroying what should not be revived, feeding in secret what needs to thrive…
Look into her eyes, this winter woman. In their gray spaciousness you can see the future. Look out of your own winter eyes. You too can see the future.”
–Patricia Monaghan, Seasons of the Witch
When the wheel of the year turns to winter, I always feel the call to retreat, to cocoon, to pull away. I also feel the urge for significant de-cluttering—my eyes cast about the house for things to unload, get rid of, to cast away. I also search my calendar for those things which can be eliminated, trimmed down, cut back on. I think it is the inexorable approach of the winter holidays that prompts this desire to withdraw, as well as the natural rhythm of the earth which so clearly says: let things go, it is almost time to hibernate.
This shift toward winter is a time of discernment. A time to choose. A time to notice that which has not made it through the summer’s heat and thus needs to be pruned away. In this time of the year, we both recognize the harvest of our labors and that which needs to be released or even sacrificed as we sense the promise of the new year to come.
Three years ago, at winter solstice I was cocooned away with my new baby. I have four children, but my last baby was the first child whose development and arrival perfectly mirrored the wheel of the year. Conceived during the first month of the new year, taking root in the darkness of winter’s end, beginning to bud during the springtime and coming into full bloom during the summer. And, then, with the season’s spiral turn into fall, when many beautiful things are harvested, his birth: October 30, into my welcoming hands in the sunlight bright morning in my living room. Then, with the steady approach of winter, we curled together in a small, new world. Cocooned in the cave of our own home, the size of the world re-sized to the size of my bed, kitchen table, and rocking chair. The fourth trimester, the time in which the baby continues to develop his nervous system and continues to live within the context of the mother’s body. I was his habitat. His place. His home was in my arms.
This sinking in, this cocooning, this safe, small world is perfect for the call of winter. While my to-do list continues to clang in my ear and the clamor of my children surrounds me, the early nights, cold temperatures, and gray skies, reminded me to nestle, remember, and grow.
Beautiful magic takes root in dark, deep places.
I recognize that I am feeling a little sad and wistful that this month feels so “sped up” to me. I welcome the hibernation and incubation of winter, but the to-dos keep on coming faster and with more urgency than ever before. However, as I sit with that feeling for a while, I recall from many past turns of the wheel that this is my usual feeling in December: the anticipation of and longer for hibernation and slowing down. A longing for rest, contemplation, and restoration. But, then really, more to do than ever before! But, then in January and February is when the hibernation actually comes. We travel to the beach on a small island for the month of January and the pace of life becomes slow and on “island time.” January feels open and full of promise and in sync with the call of my heart. I’ve decided this year, right now, I’m going to release the idea that I should be resting and reflecting at this very moment (which is its own kind of pressure) and trust the memory of restorative darkness and the promise of winter’s incubation which is still to come.
In Womanrunes, the Seed rune is the rune of pregnancy, ripening, assessment. The Seed reminds us that beautiful things take root in the darkness. This is a rune of deepest wishes and it indicates that something new is taking shape.
What will you be growing in the deepness of this season?
The Winter Solstice is also considered one of the most magically auspicious and energetically powerful times to set new intentions for the year. Each year for 15 years, I’ve set my intentions on the Winter Solstice (15 years ago, when I did this the first time on Winter Solstice 2002, one of the goals was to have my first baby. He was then born at the 2003 Autumn Equinox! Carefully considered, ritually sealed intentions are powerful! Set them with care!).
Each year during our family winter solstice ritual we review our lives from the past year—things we’re proud of, things we’d like to let go of—and then set new intentions for the coming year. We write the new intention down on pieces of paper that I then roll up together into a manifestation ornament. The following year, we each open our papers and read what we wrote the year before and see how/if these intentions manifested over the year. It is very interesting to see how we rarely remember exactly what we wrote and yet, how often those things have come to pass.
After this goals review process, we get our candles and walk a solstice spiral of tinsel garlands laid out on the floor in turn to symbolize the setting forth of our new intentions and the goals we would like to carry forth into the light of the new year to come.
If…we fill our lives with things, & again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit & watch the stars as did the shepherds?…For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life.”
–Author Unknown, quoted in Simple Abundance
May you enjoy a rich, peaceful solstice with your family and loved ones! May you be blessed by light and may you find wisdom and solace in dark, deep, places. May you make space within for your own long, slow journey. And, may you remember not to be so distracted by the promise of the light to come that you forget the great value to be found in endarkenment as well.
- Free five-week Winter Magic course with me (includes online winter solstice ceremony/circle and a complete ritual kit download):
- Full family winter solstice ritual outline
- The Seed oracle card layout (plus audio ritual recording)
Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and finished her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Brigid’s Grove.