Whether it’s the murky water, lurking like a distant shadow beneath the silverish glistening surface of ice, or the bare twisting barks of trees, the buds struggling to form for a new year, winter is always a time of reflection, especially as the seasons are stretching, with winter spreading its tendril-ish claws into an approaching spring time with snow storms, frost and bitter winds.
This winter has been perhaps my darkest in thoughts yet, and it’s also the winter when the UK was blasted with the “Beast from the East”, Siberian winds causing unusual level of snow storms across the UK and delving us into a seeming heart of winter even though most of us are preparing for Spring. Most people who know me know I lost my father figure last year and I’ve written briefly about it, but it has brought about major change, archetypal change, a death and a rebirth within myself and the journey is far from complete. What is it about winter that heralds this dark night of the soul so much? I’m introspective by nature so as soon as the sun recedes into the dark inky waters of the underworld so do my thoughts.
Death is a bittersweet theme for me to cover right now, its claws digging itself into my emotions and contradictorily its fingers winding and stirring my imagination, my sense of wonder. Towards the end of winter and the start of spring we stand in an unusual twilight, a place of light and dark, and I think it is at this time when animals start to emerge from their dens, their hibernation ending, when birds return from the Summer lands for the Spring, that we stand and take stock at just how much was lost over winter, at the states of nature and our garden, what has remained and what has died before things go forth and repopulate in the next season. Perhaps it is this point where we stand and take sense of what we have lost within our self this winter, this year. Last year my wound was still fresh, in fact a year ago yesterday it was the funeral of my Grand-father, I may have been empty, numb, raw, a shell, but I was still the person I was that year and had grown up as. I hadn’t processed anything, the grief had not yet changed me.
We call Winter the Death, but it is late Winter when the change happens, when we realise that death it happened, and what death actually means for us. It is the approaching of Spring where we strategise, plan what we need this new season and year, where we set our goals, our hopes our dreams for new. “New Year Resolutions” but a lot more transformative.
It is a strange vantage point, to look back at the person I was before, not knowing how to move forward into the future, who they would be, how the world could keep on spinning without him, how I could continue walking through the world and be me without him, without the belief system I had built around him, without depending on him, with having to have lost someone, with death being more than just a certainty, but an actual reality. And how harsh my view is now, how matter of fact I am that I am grieving, that a part of me died too, I have become as death, and shed a skin. That me is dead. I am in the ground, beneath the mud, creatures feeding on me, ivy growing on the spot where that me is lying. Here marks myself, my naivety, the person who no longer serves me, the person who can no longer live, as I need to live now. I need to spread my wings and leave the nest. Go forth into the world. Winter has been but a gate, Inanna descending, Spring the new. The Maiden becoming a Mother. The blood shed of Imbolc.
As a Pagan I know I love death, and the idea of rebirth. I explore it in my iconography, my mythology, my symbolism, my journey with the tarot, I explore it when I take on a new ideology, when I shift, when I heal a wound, and in fact I am guilty of glorifying the cycle of death and rebirth a little, always excited at the idea of having achieved something, of being new and who that is. Too drawn to the mysticism, of being at one with the Otherworld, obsessing on the beauty of the Phoenix, a grand rebirth. But we forget the pain of death and rebirth, focusing on the mystery instead, of the glory of Hercules’ trial, on the studying of the runes from the perspective of hanging upside down on the world tree, when actually trivialising, of envying, of glorifying the actual hardship in the TRIALS of Hercules, with not taking heed of the PAIN of the spear. It is a thing to both relish but be WARY of death and rebirth, there is a loss involved we have to accept, and a scar we have to bare, a constant reminder of who we were, but why we can not be that person now. The necessity of surviving, of striving, of going forward.
Winter is a great time for shadow work, for introspection, reflecting on ourselves, growing, dealing with our issues. Obsidian is said to be a great psychological stone, it was sacred to many cultures and commonly used as scrying mirrors, this is because it mirrors the darkest depths of the soul, the watery subconscious, and Winter provides free natural pools, like obsidian, frozen black sheets of glass, pure rainwater crystallised where we can stop and stare into the lurking shadows of nature, the sky and our soul. The white of the ice, the snow, the paleness of skin, the bitter cold, the breath crystallising also lend imagery to death, the moment when we become frozen, the pale, the empty, the lifeless, the spirits of the Otherworld. The scenery lends itself hand in hand with this time of reflection and peering into the past.
I look back to how my mind has always been wandering windy lonely roads, “away with the fairies”, and have always had a gruesome or twisted imagination too, but have never been great with handling loss despite being kind of reclusive and a loner at times, I have a very small group of friends and my family are all cut off from itself, I didn’t mix too well at work or school at times, I have a love of the spirit world and like to explore darkness and the unknown, but when it came to the people that raised me I had a childish grip on them. I’m very childlike by nature and all though I can be reclusive I am crazy and let my inner child out a lot, and have prided myself on it, but a lesson this winter has taught me aspects of it does not serve me. When I was very young I’ve become aware no one went into much detail on death, it was a distant matter of fact thing, “Oh so and so has died”, but as I grew up, and they aged I took a small bit of notice when my Grandad would say statements such as “Oh I’m getting old” or “I can’t go doing that much anymore”, but when I reached adulthood and yes had matured in many ways (but not in others) it was then when I was recognised as an adult that he became quite open, honest, blunt, “What are you going to do when I’m gone?”, “I won’t be here forever”, “I’m a bit fed up, don’t care much if I go, I’m tired”. It was then I felt Death himself creep in, scaring me, lurking in the corners, threatening to take one of the things I loved most, and I wanted to cling to him, I became obsessed with thoughts like ‘what am I going to do when he’s gone?’, where will I be? What will happen? How will I cope? I’d find myself checking his breathing. Then the signs started, the dizzy spells, the fatigue, the weight loss, the colour seeping, and I could smell death, I could feel its current in every corner, every shadow, its lingering in doorways, waiting… waiting… I was plagued with nightmares. I would say I can smell cancer, I can feel cancer. I had always imagined it would be his heart. And naivety tried to pull me back a little when I thought I had lost him at one point, he went into hospital over his heart and dizzy spells, and my Step Dad came home that night to say he’s a goner, his heart’s mad, no way he’s going to make it, and I felt death throw its first spear into my heart. Only my Grandad recovered, in a bittersweet way, and that childish worldview of him surviving and being there for me forever tried to creep back, but it was too late, I had a piercing, and deep down, I knew death had warned me, He was real. On the 23rd February I lost him to cancer in the lymphs, in the pancreas and the stomach.
Post Imbolc is about remembering those things forgotten, as Kelly Ann Maddox states in one of her early videos on Imbolc contemplation, and the scenery is perfect for that. Snow drops emerging from a soil bed, reminding me of Snow White and the fairy tales I would read when I was younger, of old enchanting worlds whose memories, lessons and morals remain secretly hidden away into story books so parts of them will remain and not be forgotten, or be remembered from time to time. Icy water, bare twisty trees, glittery streets reminds me of older times, of the old pagan world, and the magic in the transition of the seasons. We are at the perfect balance point between night and day, light and dark, warm and hot. Neither Here or There, Betwixt and Between. Twilight, and twilight can represent the lost or forgotten, and as I mentioned earlier we in Britain have had to face “the beast of the east” this fortnight, it came over because of Siberian winds, and Siberia represents death and the forgotten to me, things long buried under the ice, from hundreds and hundreds of years ago, a land of folklore and mystery, waiting to reemerge as the world warms and the sun melts the ice, just as memories are resurfacing from the past.
That is why we are reflecting the transition of Maidenhood to Motherhood, from boyhood to adulthood, because we can reflect back on that inner child, and although we have to grow and move on, we can keep them within us, nurture them, and through that learn how to be a parent. To heal and nurture the innocent, the wounded, the vulnerable. As much as I am like a child and reflect joyfully on the snow around me, the adult is aware of the threat and danger it now holds to the old and the weak around me, how treacherous it can be in the UK compared to my tiny dusting in Wirral. Celebrating it has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Another twilight of opposites.
A lot of creatures are orphaned at this time, and more creatures are to be born. I have seen a few videos where animals save other vulnerable animals floating around the web more at this time. I also love that someone who has had a dark past can go on to become amazing mothers, fathers, pet owners, the most damaged, or the people who have had it worst, still come forward to be parents, and have that protective nature. That there can be this synchronistic love and understanding that brings out their truest loving nature. Including my husband, he has had a troubled past, and how strong his bond is with our dog, how both may appear rough or fearful to others, but both have a golden heart, and an unbreakable bond and bring out the best in each other. Light from the Darkest times. Spring from Winter. The lesson being that the worst is truly necessary for the better. That gold arises from a base nature. Nature is teaching us in what would seem the most harsh and cruel way, but the most literal and effective just how to be a parent, before we go forth and procreate. It is a time to nurture the less fortunate, and the inner child. It was as I reflecting on this very point that a pop song, “Rockabye” by Clean Bandit ft. Sean Paul and Anne-Marie started to play. I had heard the song and knew the lyrics but I heard them. It was synchronistic. It made me think how I have protected my inner child, how my parents and grand parents shielded me. My mum was a single mum and slaved away to support me and my Grandparents had a big hand in that too and I feel the warmth and gratitude as the archetypal lyrics sing their sweet lullaby “ooh love, no one’s ever going to hurt you love, I’m going to give you all of my love, no body matters like you, you’re life ain’t going to be nothing like my life, you’re going to grow and have a good life, I’m gonna do what I have to do”, not only was my mum the one who tried to keep me warm during this period of the year, and keep off the cold, I am now doing it to those past happy memories, preserving them, keeping off the cold, so my inner child can go on playing as I now adult. And I’ve always wanted to be a mother, perhaps I’ve had to mother myself, and understand my Mother and the Archetypal mother before I can become one, as the Mother now emerges with Spring, as the Goddess herself now matures and becomes Mother again.
“Call it love and devotion
Call it the mom’s adoration (foundation)
A special bond of creation”
This is the perfect time to think on the Old Man Death, and his bride the Fertile Mother Earth, emerging at Spring time, their marriage and handing over of power, as we succumb to the next step on this winding, dangerous, mysterious, beautiful, tragic, archaic, symbolic, mesmerising, enchanting, humorous, wonderful journey of life.