Late autumn: the final unwinding… the dying back… the sinking in. The nights are long, the light is crisp, the magic is close. Use this time to prepare yourself, body and spirit, for the deep inner-workings of Winter.
Winter is the time of compost and of the crone; it’s the underworld and the undoing, when even colors lose their vigor to the season’s whites and grays and browns. It’s the time of accepting death.
In a culture that praises the sun and worships youth, even the mere metaphor of death can send us searching for the light. Culturally, we’re just not cut out for this journey into the dark.
But the witchy ones know otherwise. The witchy ones know that darkness, that death, is a part of a larger cycle. The Phoenix needs the ash, the soil needs the compost. The human soul needs the long dark night.
Still we don’t go gently.
When I was in grad school, I’d often take my journal and sketch pad to an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a quick getaway and I was often alone up there. But one evening a family mini-van pulled in as the sun was edging toward orange. The kids hopped out and jumped onto the low stone wall as the sun began to dip below the horizon.
Suddenly a heart-wrenching cry ripped through the stillness. Don’t goooooooo! the small boy yelled, choking on tears as he railed at the departing sun.
Whether it’s the small loss of the sun as its hours diminish in the sky… or the death of a love affair… or a business… or a long-held dream, some atavistic part of us feels gutted with every new death. And when the death is not metaphoric but is instead a parent, a partner, or a child, letting go and accepting death can be a Herculean task.
Which is why we practice.
When I was studying in Ireland, I found two dead starlings on my way home from gathering herbs in the far pasture. It was a cold day. I remember my breath pluming and leaning on the door as I shut it against the wind. I told my teacher in passing, as I pulled off my mittens, “dead birds in the field, under the power line.”
I was focused on the power lines and the why but my teacher had other thoughts. It’s time, she said, to learn about death.
A casket, a hole in the ground, a body cooling after the last breath is exhaled… I’d sat with these before. But somehow laying my hands on these cold, still bird-bodies petrified me. I wouldn’t let myself use a shovel. I put on gloves and picked up each bird, trembling with inexplicable terror.
How do we begin accepting death as part of the spiraling cycle of life?
Every year, we attempt to relearn the art of letting go: we learn it from the trees and from the earth, we learn it from the quiet places in our hearts, and we learn it from each other as we lean into our family and friends.
How do we prepare our spirits for this yearly death as we move past the balance of the autumn equinox and toward the darkness of winter?
What has amazed me most in my years of working with women is the benefit of acceptance.Once we shift from linear time to cyclical time, our perspective on winter changes. Click To Tweet
What rituals and work can help you create this shift towards accepting loss?
- Build an altar each day for a week to memorialize and work towards accepting death in your life. You can download a free how-to guide on altar-building here.
- Meditate with a tree, feeling its leaves dying and falling, its energies returning to the earth, to its roots…
- Have less and less light in your house each night ’til you get to the Solstice and have no light at all.
Dive deep into the velvety dark, allow it to embrace you, and as you sink into its depths, know the wheel will turn, and the light will return.
Big Hugs and Happy Solstice—