Hello friends,
Warm greetings from the soil of waxing the moon and waxing sun. How are you faring during these long nights? I am finding that I am both ready for deep hibernation and also kept awake late into the night with the energy of bringing forth some spark from the gifts of winter. What feels fertile in all of this darkness?
Last week in Tending The Hearth we spoke about the sacred winter festivals of Europe. Depending on location and tradition, they take place anytime between the solstice and the first signs of spring, with the recommencement of agricultural labors. This time of year, Deep Winter, was seen as a liminal time as so much of it was spent in the dark. Winter was a time to explore timelessness; this in-between space of the completion of one growing season and awaiting the birth of the next cycle of growth. It was an honoring of the folk calendar, an agrarian calendar. These winter Carnivals include feasting, procession, song and dance. Costumes and masking are a major element of these festivals where the community would dress as frightening, unsettling creatures and spirits that came alive out of the dark, the place of nightmares, and emerge for revelry and ritual. Parading from house to house, these spirits would sing, play and dance, blessing each house in the community and receiving offerings as well. It was likely that a folk-play would be performed by these characters, where death and resurrection were the central theme. In some ways, to invite these scary spirits into your home during the darkest nights was to ensure that they wouldn’t return to your house for the rest of the year. These masking rituals were also ways in which that which was seen as “evil” would be driven out and in return, bring good fortune. This was the time of year to tend to the strange. To feed that which scares you. To invite the otherworld in.
These festivals expressed ancestral relationship to the hypnotic darkness of winter. Winter festivals held a container for the incubatory process that this season provides: death and rebirth. An understanding that there is no real completion to a season, each night feeds and renews the following day. It is here at midwinter that we return to the origin: darkness. This is why January is named after Janus, the two-faced god, who is looking both forward and backward, who is both young and old. By name alone, January holds this expansive space, moving outside of time. Each season with its own paradox. Moving away from the linear calendar and moving into depth. And how is depth expressed in winter? With the immense dark.
May we remember the ways to honor the timeless dark of midwinter nights. I have been baking round cakes, little sun symbols. I have been spending long hours tending to the fire, curled up by the wood stove. Sometimes napping next to it, dreaming. I have been creating my own calendar, one that honors my rituals and work of each season. I have been stuck in the mud. I have been stacking wood. I have been singing songs for the dark and songs for the sun. I have been fasting and feasting. I have been very still and quiet. I have been missing my friends. I have been feeling sad and spooked. I have been ringing loud bells into the night.
Into the strange nights of Carnival,
x Liz
P.S. Sorry to hit you with a linear time note, but here we are, embracing paradox: The application period for Flowering Round, a new year-long flower essence program closes January 10th.  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. I hope you will apply.
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