Greetings friends,
It’s New Years Eve! We are at the turning point of this calendar year, sending off 2022 with blessings and stepping into the New Year ahead. As it so happens, in tomorrow’s Tending The Hearth class, we are exploring folk calendars and the season of winter festivals, all on New Years Day. I love this threshold time of year; the week before the new year always holds this strange air of an extended dream state for me. I take the week off from seeing clients. I make time to dig into the big stack of books next to my couch. I flip through my journals from the past year with curiosity, taking notes on themes and ideas I want to carry on. I drink a lot of black tea. I go to acupuncture and invite the feeling of deep, slumbering quietude that can only come from the post-acupuncture nap to stay with me into the evening. I slowly tidy up the apothecary, straining out any remaining tinctures and medicines that need to be strained from the past year. The tidying isn’t really any kind of real cleaning; it feels more like a slow dance. I linger with each mason jar, taking pause to feel into the medicines floating inside. Holding the medicines with my two hands, what a sweet way to touch in with all of the medicines made this past year.
As always, I think of the older ways that my people would celebrate this particular point in the season, placing myself in the one of the many swirling ancestral calendars for context. This dream-state quality feels aligned with the older celebrations of the 12 Days of Christmas (beginning December 26th and lasting through Epiphany on January 6th). Throughout Europe, the British Isles, Russia and beyond, these twelve days of the calendar year were a divinatory time; using these long nights for visioning into the year ahead. There are so many divination games and fortune-telling activities that would help a community foretell not just weather for the coming agricultural year, but also times of war and times of peace, sickness and health, famine and good harvest. Personal fortune-telling would also take place, such as trying to see the face of a future lover by scrying into the flames of a fire. These divinatory nights were often communal gatherings, a way to keep warm in winter and survive the brutal cold of winter, together. 
I don’t have consistent rituals that I use to mark this transition from one year into the other - no banishing fires, no ball drops, no opening all the windows of the home to welcome the energy of the new year in. I’m not exactly sure how my day today will unfold. The weather is strange this winter, the past three days have been almost 50ºF, too warm for this time of year. On yesterday's walk, I could smell the springy scent of the Willow tree by the creek; it is somewhat startling to smell this particular sappy sweetness so late in December. While I am someone who tries to hold great reverence and inspiration around how my ancestors experienced embodiment in relationship to the seasons, I also feel clear in my belief that the ever-shifting climate is asking for new calendars to meet and mark this moment here on earth. But the dark is still here, the long nights are consistent. So here I am, staring into the dark, listening for the emerging rituals of these days. This past week feels like I have been incubating the New Year already, slowly dreaming it into this becoming. It feels like the most important thing I can do to mark this transition is to hold this time as a sacred opening; a place for listening deeply with my whole body to what is simmering, what is slumbering within these days that are outside of time. 
Image item
The ritual of making tea always helps me slow down and listen. A brew that I like to drink to enhance this capacity for scrying, for visioning into the dark is a blend of 3 tbsp mugwort, 1/4 c oatstraw and a cinnamon stick (or replace the cinnamon small sprinkling of toasted & crushed fennel seed). Boil your water and pour over the herbs into a quart-sized mason jar. Let sit for at least 25 minutes, the longer the better. Sit with a candle in the dark, sipping slowly and see what emerges.
Another herb I love at this time of year is Thyme, Thymus vulgaris. Thyme supports the immune system, it's a very cleansing anti-microbial herb. I believe that what thyme does physically it also does spiritually: Thyme cleanses. Since this is a potent time of year for evaluating what we have accumulated/harvested from this year, we have the opportunity to release what we don't need, what isn't going to serve us in deep winter. Drinking a lightly-infused thyme tea, or making a tasty thyme-infused honey or just cooking with as much thyme as possible are all things that feel good to me at this time of year and help me assess what needs to be released. Thyme is also a potent herb for facilitating communication with passed ancestors. I like to burn it as an incense when I am working in this way. It actually expands our own sense of linear time and moves us into the more multi-dimensional realm of spirit. This realm is always present for us but sometimes we are too busy to really pay attention to more subtle messages. Thyme enhances the subtleties of spirit; softening us into the feeling of kinship with everything around us. 
Image item
As I sip my tea here this morning, I wanted to also say that tomorrow is the last day to submit an application for the year-long flower essence program, Flowering Round. We will be working a lot with our own folky, seasonal calendars and ways of keeping time with essences. We will be going into floral devotion, practitioner skills, essence proving, formulation & flower myths. It’s going to be rich and fun and full of magic. There are only 14 available spots.  You can read more & apply here.
I also wanted to share the work of another Herbal Mystery School alumnus, Casey Zabala, of Wanderer’s Tarot and is the founder of the Modern Witches Confluence. Casey was in the very first Herbal Mystery School cohort many years ago and is a magical practioner that I have deep respect & admiration for. A few years ago, Casey published an all time favorite oracle deck of mine, The Wyrd Sisters Oracle, which is a really incredible tool for stepping out of linear time and stepping into the flow of Big Time, the time of Wyrd. You can read a little interview with her here.
Thank you for being woven into the web of Sister Spinster this past year. I feel so lucky to be connected to so many wonderful, enchanting people through this work.  I'll be in touch in the early New Year with some class updates, newsletter changes and product announcements. Feel free to get in touch about any classes or book a flower essence consultation for a custom formula to assist with your winter dreaming. 
With heart,
x Liz