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"And when we were children, staying at the Archduke's

My Cousin's, he took me out on a sled,

And I was frightened. He said, Marie,

Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.

In the mountains, there you feel free.

I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter."

TS Eliot - The Wasteland

Winter - 2009

In Australia , the green hue of Summer is growing now. But in the Mid-Western United States, this is the time when Mother Nature enforces a time of rest. The cold and wind drive us away from outside chores and into our homes. All unfinished outdoor tasks are left abandoned and covered with snow. The days are short, and the shadows are long. Night rules the sky now.

My Midwestern friends and family all mourn the loss of the sun. They yearn for the beaches of California and Florida . My cousin in Texas taunts me with fruitful garden reports. My friend in Australia coaxes me to visit during phone conversations laced with Australian bird songs in the background.

But I am a Hedge Witch, not a snow bird. I do not yearn for a perpetual state of Summer. Winter does not make me want to flee to warmth and sunshine. The rhythm of seasons is a part of me. Happily, I nestle into the peace and privacy Night’s cloak provides. Home and hearth are the focus now.

In a setting of sparkling beauty and crackling fires, Winter is a time of peace, rest, introspection, and planning. In the absence of action, contemplations run deep. Thoughts stretch out like tree shadows across the snow. Epiphanies abound.

The air is clean and quiet. The sounds of bells, wind chimes, voices and snow shovels travel over great distances. The sounds of traffic are hushed by the snow. The night sky is clear, and the stars and planets are bright and profound. All of nature rests under rich blankets of white that magically sparkle when touched by light.

My tradition takes me to our woods on the Winter Solstice. I return, as I promised I would, to check on the sleeping trees. My husband accompanies me at this time to help search for our Yule Log. It is a cold but joyful quest. My eyes, ears and spirit scout the forest for any disturbances. Hand to bark, I quietly greet the sleeping oaks. “Sleep well, sister.”

As we head toward the oldest oak in the woods the search for our Yule Log begins in earnest. This is a place of power. It is blessed by the presence of a tree that is over 200 years old. This is where our Yule log will be. Where it always is – lying unobtrusively on the ground near this magnificent tree.

This year, after collecting our Yule Log, I joyfully went to the old tree. Hand to bark, I whispered my thanks and good will. I bid her a peaceful solstice and restful winter sleep.

As I turned from the tree, I looked on the ground, where I found another forest gift - A wand. A perfect wand from the oldest tree in the woods on the night of the solstice. THAT is a powerful thing.

After returning home from the woods, I light our solstice candle. This illuminates a bronze image of the sun. All fires this night will come from the Solstice Candle. Using the flame from this candle, I light several others.

The Solstice fire is kindled with a piece of last year’s Yule Log. Every year, I chip off a piece of our Yule Log, and keep it. On the following Solstice, we use that piece to kindle our Yule fire.

This symbolizes old knowledge kindling new knowledge. Through the progression of time.

The Solstice Candle provides the flame that sets the Yule fire ablaze. Our Solstice fire is an all-night private event. This fire has a purpose. It is a time of purification. Spiritual baggage accumulated over the past year is acknowledged and cast off into the darkness of the longest night. We then turn away from the darkness and seek the ever growing light of the new year.

But on this solstice, something very unusual happened. As the fire was dying out, I went to inspect my new wand – the one the elder oak had given me. Upon it I found the tiny hair-like roots of poison Ivy. I frowned. The wand was perfect in every way, but it was unwise to battle with poison Ivy for possession of the wand. In honor of the tree that had given me the gift, I decided that the best thing to do would be to burn the wand in the solstice fire.

As I stirred up the dying embers of the fire, I discovered the most incredible thing. The chip from last years Yule Log was yet unburned. This seemed impossible. This chip had been used to start the fire. The fire had been burning for hours – And yet, there it was. There was no mistaking the chip. I had been looking at it for exactly one year.

I used the wand to stir up the last remaining embers and chunks of charred wood to restart the flames. I placed the wand in the fire, and sure enough, it was the wand that ignited the Yule Log chip and provided the fuel to finish the job.

Apparently, a solstice wand was required to carry out the task of this Solstice Night.

I sat alone at the hearth watching with joyful wonder. The elder oak had given me a gift after all. A gift that I didn't’t even know I needed until its time was upon me. So much of life is like that – unknown gifts that present themselves when needed. Somehow, I never get used to it. I am always amazed when the moment arrives, and there I am – unwittingly prepared.

January 1st is the banging of pots and pans. This is by far the noisiest spell I do. Just before midnight , any unwanted energy forces are given notice with an incantation. Then, at the stroke of 12, we open the outside doors and loudly bang on pots and pans while yelling, “Get Out! Out! Out! Out!” Then, we lock the doors and place cinnamon brooms near them for protection. This is fun because the craft is hidden in plain sight. Everyone is making noise at the stroke of 12, and the joyful, noisy energy of the community boosts the power of the spell. This tradition also freshens the air in the house. This is a good thing to do to keep Winter illness away.

It is also a good idea to regularly freshen the air of a home with peppermint water throughout the Winter months. One teaspoon of peppermint extract combined with water in a plastic spray bottle works very well. Mist the air of each room in the house at least once a week. It fills your home with a pleasantly fresh, seasonal scent, and dispels negative energy.

January brings the Full Wolf Moon. Water blessed with the light of this moon comes in handy for a lot of things throughout the year. It carries the attributes of the hunter. Nature’s hunter. This is different from October’s Hunter Moon. That moon signifies the Hunting Man. Wolf Moon is the hungry hunting wolf – with all the wild instincts, keen senses and prowess that entails.

The Full Snow Moon comes in February. It is a time of cleaning out closets and clutter. This is also a good time to air out book collections. One thing that most witches have in common is books – Lots of them. The best way to keep books smelling fresh is to air them out on a cold, February day when the snow is not falling. In my case, this takes a few days. February is the best time to do this because the air is free from mold and book-eating bugs.

This year, February 19 marked the call of Spring with the first song of a red winged blackbird. Many believe that Robins announce the coming of Spring, but Robins can be found in abundance in the forest all Winter long. If you go into any mid-western forest in the dead of Winter you will hear and see lots of Robins. But most people don’t go into forests in the dead of Winter. They don’t see the Robins until the birds leave the forest for the worms in suburban yards.

But you will neither see nor hear a red winged blackbird until the end of Winter. Its song is unmistakable, and it is a beautiful bird to see.

For me, the song of the red winged blackbird is like an alarm clock going off. It signals that Winter’s rest will soon be over. I will be able to hit the snooze button for about four weeks, but then, I’ll really have to get up and get moving.


"Winter kept us warm, covering

Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers."

TS Eliot - The Wasteland