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Being a witch in the winter brings a new set of challenges. It can be harder to maintain your witch garden, things are ending and beginning, there are all sorts of big events and gatherings and, as the sun goes down, many of us can feel as though we’re losing energy. In these wintry times it’s important to keep yourself grounded, to remind yourself that you are powerful and to keep your coven close to you.
Does anybody here celebrate Yule? I’m gonna be totally honest and say that I don’t have any real-life experience with pagan winter celebrations. I mean, I know about Yule Logs, but I’ve never seen anyone burn one in real life, I’ve only seen those ones you can watch on Netflix. Do any of you have favorite Yule traditions?
Last year I gave advice on how to dress like a witch if your friend is having an outdoor winter wedding at a ski lodge and you want to show the snow that you’re more powerful than it is. This month, Corina’s back with another eerily accurate horoscope post, and Beth continued her great tarot column. I put together a powerful coven who came together to make this great Witchy Gift Guide for each member of your coven. Another terrific gift for the cat-loving witch is our brand new YES CATS zine featuring work from great writers and artists like Heather Hogan, Stef Schwartz, Everyone is Gay, Laura Rosenbaum, Rachel Kincaid, Riese Bernard and many more. Finally, KaeLyn and Alaina liveblogged NBC’s amazing The Wiz Live.
Playlist: Songs for Winter Solstices
Words with Witches
flying ointment (noun) – a mix of an oil or fat base with herbal extracts, generally from the Solanaceae family, with hallucinogenic properties. It would be applied topically, with the fat base helping the herbal extracts absorb through the skin. Many traditional flying ointment recipes include ingredients that may be poisonous, making them risky to use. In the middle ages, it was believed that it gave witches the power to fly through the air, often with the aid of a broom. Some sources, including The Botany of Desire, claimed that “it was possibly applied to a special dildo that was inserted.” Rather than flying on brooms, flying ointment may be used in modern applications to induce an altered mental state in those seeking trances, visions, astral travel, contact with spirit worlds or to “dream while waking,” experiences which may include elements that feel like flying.
Now that the nights are really drawing in, it’s time to get out the needles and yarn and make a cosy little case for your tarot cards! Here’s a dead simple pattern I created for keeping my decks snug. If you’re not a confident knitter, you can just knit it straight, in stocking stitch or plain. Or if you’re fancy, you could add fancy stitches, or an intarsia design on the back. This fits your standard Rider-Waite-Smith sized deck, but it’s stretchy; so, although the dimensions of a Wild Unknown deck are a little different, it will work just fine. For smaller decks like the Anna K or Thea’s Tarot, you might want to adapt the pattern for a snugger fit. You can download the pattern here!
Witches Who Sing
Wheel of the Year
Of the eight seasonal points on the wheel of the year, the solstices are the best known. In summer, we are celebrating the longest day, the most light, the abundance that summer brings and the joy of being warm, nourished and free. On winter solstice, coming up soon on the 21st December, the atmosphere is very different.
This is the shortest day. Or the longest night, depending on which way you look at it. In the Arctic, the sun will not rise at all — it’s a day made utterly of night.
Why celebrate such a cold, dark time? Well firstly, this is a moment of hope. From this day forwards, light and warmth are increasing. Winter solstice welcomes back the sun and for this reason has strong associations with themes of a turning wheel, and of birth/rebirth. Pagans and folks following goddess-centered traditions talk of the goddess as mother, ‘giving birth’ to the sun.
Winter is a season for introspection. It’s cold outside, nature appears to be at a standstill, and with so little daylight, energy is focused inwards. Tying in with the ‘new year’ season, this is a time of year for returning to ourselves. To our hopes and dreams. We reflect on the year that’s almost over, and think ahead to the next. Though things seem ‘dead’ on the surface of the earth, life is continuing, seeds are sending down roots and nature is preparing itself to burst into life again in spring. For us too, even though this time of year is associated with stillness, a lack of motivation, perhaps also seasonal depression, growth is still happening. Beneath the surface, we are quietly preparing for the coming year. Try to go with this process, be with that stillness, consciously turn inwards to meet that subconscious.
As Dr. Judith Rich said in the Huffington Post: “The soul continually calls us to make the journey to the farthest reaches of our own interior, to places the light of awareness has never reached so that we too, might be rewarded with the riches of renewal and restoration. However, to do so, we must be willing shed the skin of the ordinary world in order to enter the darkness.”
On the other hand, elementally we have moved from autumn’s fluid and emotional water energy into the more solid and tangible energy of earth. This brings a practical aspect to these ‘new year’ musings. It’s good to have hopes and dreams, but the element of earth asks: what will you do to make these things real? How do these dreams manifest in real life, in the material world? Yes, this is a time for resolutions, but it’s important to ground them in something real, to set out how you will walk your talk.
This is also a time to gather friends together. Where other festivals focus on public gatherings and community ritual, at winter solstice the focus is cozier, more domestic — more hearth-fire than bonfire. On the eve of the longest night, it’s important to find warmth, comfort and joy where you can.
If you’d like to celebrate winter solstice, here are some suggestions:
- Hold an intimate fireside gathering with your closest friends. If you have a fire in your home then wonderful, but you could also think about a garden fire, or bringing fire to the centre of a table with a candle display.
- If you have the space, you could even burn a Yule log!
- Exchange gifts.
- Practice listening. Spend the day in silence, or go outside on solstice night and simply listen to the world. Honor the quietness, the stillness, the darkness of this season.
- Write your New Year’s resolutions, taking care to include practical descriptions of how you will bring them about.
- Try this new year tarot spread.
- Bring the element of earth into your altar using rocks and stones, branches, earth itself.
- Here’s a Wiccan Yule ritual to inspire you.
My Favorite Witch
Aside from being a cult classic, The Craft was one of the most badass movies ever made. Four Catholic high school girls in miniskirts and thigh highs was enough to captivate me, but adding the layers of outcasts, witchcraft, and teen angst just sent me way over the edge. I was addicted to the movie for many years, and the best part? Rochelle. The lone black chick at her school and the one that balanced Nancy and Sarah’s extremes, Rochelle provided just the right amount of chill and snark to what could have been a bunch of witches-be-trippin’ scenarios.
The underdog of the film, Rachel True’s Rochelle, was the kinky-curly gift that kept on giving. Practicing witchcraft with the only girls who would initially befriend her, Bonnie and Nancy, Rochelle served as the voice of reason and humility in the coven — sometimes. Her snarky, witty remarks made me wish she said them at the right times, but added some much needed sass nonetheless. After Laura Lizzie (the jealous skank who would not get off her back) continued to demean her, Rochelle tried her best not to use her powers for petty drama. I mean, come on — she was called a “negroid with nappy pubic hair” in front of her peers. Better than me — I would have used a bit of that glamouring magic to help Laura see how awesome it is to be a strong black woman.
Although she helped Nancy torment Sarah toward the end of the movie, Rochelle’s remorse when Laura was suffering spoke to her true character. Even after owning the school as a kick-ass witch, Rochelle was humbled quickly after seeing the err of her ways and loss of her own hair. Although you’re probably not supposed to take heed of corny advice from teen movies, she helped me realize that taking the high road in a losing situation won’t give you cool points, but it does a helluva lot for your karma. Underrated, but Rochelle’s one bad bi—I mean, witch.
Practice of the Month
With the holidays coming up, a lot of us will be visiting family, which, while it can be nice, can also create a lot of stress in our lives. With that in mind, I thought that the perfect spell to highlight this month would be a nice relaxation/stress relief spell.
Blue candles bring calmness and tranquility so that’s what I’d recommend, but if you don’t have one, another color candle will work. Write the things that worry you on the piece of paper; this could be having to face homophobic family members, travelling, dealing with holiday shoppers at your job, buying presents or really, anything else. You can write as many things on as many strips of paper as you want. Light the candle and take each paper, one at a time, and light it on fire with the candle, placing it in the bowl to burn. As you’re doing this, calmly breathe and mentally picture yourself in a calm, relaxed position, with a calm, relaxed look on your face. If you want, you can come up with a spell to chant, something like “In this season of holidays, make my mind a peaceful place.” You can also light incense during this spell to make your space more calming as you do the spell. I hope you find peace and happiness during this solstice season!
How will you and your coven celebrate the winter season?