The Crone of Winter, by Molly Remer

Just for right now,
let the swirling soften.
Exhale into the day,
wherever you are,
whatever is happening.
Allow a cloak of comfort
to settle across your shoulders
and enfold you
with peace and restoration.
Draw up strength from the earth
beneath your feet.
Settle one hand on your belly
and one hand on your heart.
Feel the pulse of the sacred
you always carry within.
Breathe in
and know you are loved.
Breathe out
and know you are free.
Trust that you are carried
and enfolded
as you go along your way.

A chill is in the air and Winter’s Queen has spread her gray cloak across the land. She has stilled the leaves and frosted the hills, has quieted the scurrying, and placed her fingers firmly on the pause. In this waiting place, hushed and chilled, we remember the preciousness of the light of renewal, we remember how essential the warmth of connection. Just as the earth does, let us, too,
lay aside what is unnecessary and draw close to one another once more, rekindling the fire of community, offering one another what nourishment we can. Let us enter a time of deep restoration with intention. Let us listen to the call of contemplation that twinkles in these dusky hours of replenishment and renewal. Let us pause and wait with grace.

Each year, I write at FAR about the twin pulls I sense during the winter season, the draw to what I call “cave time,” to withdrawing and retreat, to stillness and reflection, to contemplation and quiet. And, a matching pull, to “catch up,” to go and do and organize and plan, and to connect with others, to do special things, to make magic, to be involved in the bustle of the (commercial) season. This year, as I write in the mornings, outside on my gray deck, looking at the gray sky and the gray branches of tall and skeletal trees, I have sensed the pull of what I call the Crone of Winter. I see her in the gray landscape and I hear her voice, rasping through the bare branches. I even dream of her. She tells me:“blessed be the bone mothers.” And, so I listen and heed her call.

When the wheel of the year turns to winter, I always feel the impulse 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. The natural rhythm of the earth 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. The structures and strictures of capitalism and patriarchy do not want us to listen to the Crone of Winter. They want us to produce without stopping, to grow with ceasing, to consume without thinking, modes of being and using that the earth reminds us are unsustainable.

One of my favorite quotes about winter comes from Patricia Monaghan, who writes in Seasons of the Witch:

“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.”

What do we see in our winter eyes? What can we learn about our choices for the new year with what we find there? What will we create with our time in the dark?

Between the Winter Solstice on December 21 and Imbolc on February 2, we step into a liminal space, an interstitial time in being and soul. We may be sense the light of renewal and the sparks of new ideas, as well as feel the urge to hibernate in our caves, our silent spaces in which dreams can incubate without pressure to shine.

This is cave time. The darkness divine. The holy black. A time in which we remember that beautiful magic takes root in dark, deep places.

Another favorite winter quote that I return to each year is this one from an unnamed contributor to Sarah Ban Breathnach’s classic book, Simple Abundance: 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.”

Let us listen to her, the Crone of Winter, bone woman, time’s daughter, cauldron-keeper, cave-tender. She speaks in crow call on the horizon and in the frost silvering the deck. 

Her gentle mist rises up from the valley to enfold the trees and soothe busy minds. Hush child, she says, there is much that clamors and calls, I know. There is much to prepare and tend. 

And, even though this is true, when she turns towards the cave, let us let her lead us there, steam rising from the cauldron of possibility and a hearth fire blazing. The tea is on, the flames are bright, and we find ourselves settling instead of scrambling. With a spark of knowing in her eyes, she invites us to sit and we do, suddenly remembering that descent and darkness, stillness and silence are the reasons for the season. We breathe deep and watch the flames. The steam from our teacups rises up to smooth our eyebrows and our shoulders soften as we let go for a time into the waiting place, this slow simmering cauldron of choice and change where we allow wisdom to steep and the flavors of creativity and curiosity to blend gently with the tastes of renewal and restoration.

It is now that we draw close
to the crone of winter,
to her warm hearth
and nourishing cauldron.
We are invited to enjoy
tea and touch and tenderness.
We are invited to remember
that our lives belong to us,
the choice-makers
and joy-birthers.
We are sovereign
in our bodies
and whole within our souls.
We can create
and live
lives we love.

Molly Remer, MSW, D.Min, is a priestess, mystic, and poet facilitating sacred circles, seasonal rituals, and family ceremonies in central Missouri. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of nine books, including Walking with Persephone, Whole and HolyWomanrunes, and the Goddess Devotional. She is the creator of the devotional experience #30DaysofGoddess and she loves savoring small magic and everyday enchantment.

Categories: Earth-based spirituality, Embodiment, Goddess Movement, Goddess Spirituality, Goddess Spirituality, holiday, Mother Earth, Narrative Essay, Nature, Poetic Prose, Poetry, Seasons, Spirituality, sustainability, Winter Solstice

16 replies

  1. A beautiful essay/poetry about the rising of Bone Woman, Queen of darkness, the warmth of the fire…. the place to remember Story…
    One reflection – in the old ways and in Indigenous traditions today liminal space begins around All Hallows and ends with the winter solstice as we move deep into the dark….I think of the pueblo peoples who literally withdraw during the months of November and December… No Dances until the first of the year… and then the dances begin with animals…. honoring the body of nature and self…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I immersed myself in your words and all they evoked in me as I sit before an early morning fire, next to my sleeping dog, with a wild wind and blizzard raging outside. Thank you for this gift. I completely resonate with all that you wrote, and am so grateful for this invocation.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Beautiful words. Even though I technically live in the northern hemisphere, I will have to imagine the Crone of Winter, the gray skies, cold wind and fireside reading and contemplating. I grew up in that northern climate and for almost 24 years, I live in what I call the Tropical Hemisphere, where I experience a mixture of northern and southern hemispheres. The climate here has just transitioned from rainy, gray winter to bright, dry summer and even though that follows the southern hemisphere’s climate, I cannot imagine celebrating the summer solstice. It is not in my bones.
    So I improvise. My Winter Solstice altar has a wreath I made from plants in my garden…kitchen sage, ferns, lavender, oregano, etc. It smelled just as good as a coniferous wreath…maybe better! I adorned it with candles and crystals because in our own ways, we are celebrating “the light”.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderfully evocative. This is so true: “The structures and strictures of capitalism and patriarchy do not want us to listen to the Crone of Winter. They want us to produce without stopping, to grow with ceasing, to consume without thinking, modes of being the using that the earth reminds us are unsustainable.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As usual, Molly, I loved your words. And I, too, love Patricia Monaghan’s thoughts on the seasons. The giving season has become the giving away season for me. It’s called “Christmas in the Closet” for my family. They get to choose a piece of clothing that they would enjoy. It actually makes me feel good to give away something I have loved or, in some cases, still love. And I downsize at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Molly,
    I love your poem! I could see every thing you were describing in detail! You have a talent for painting a visual picture. This is one of my favorite poems of yours.
    I love your essay following your poem. I loved your description of the Crone of winter and how she must choose to let go of those things that we all think we need. I love the idea of liminal time! Thank you for the depth of your poem and your essay.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is so wonderful and full of wisdom. Thank you, Molly!



  1. The Crone of Winter, by Molly Remer – Adventures of A Mage In Miami

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