Now that Samhain is passing, we’re entering a darker part of the Wheel. Not quite the darkest hours yet – the coldest and darkest hours are reserved for the days between Yule and Imbolc – but dark and cold and deep enough for a change in my psyche and my emotional state.
Down here in the south of New Zealand, Yule can really can be bleak. The cold seems endless, the days are so short, and there can be a chill in the air that goes right through you. You don’t have to live here long before you recognise the bite in the air that is associated with snowfall.
Here on the Taieri, where I live, when the wind swings around to the south I know it is time to close the far paddocks of the farm, check that the farm gates are all closed, and ensure that the old barn is open so the sheep can shelter safely inside through the worst of the winter weather.
It’s then we turn to roasts and stews and all sorts of hot foods to keep us going.
To my way of thinking, there’s not too much better than sitting by the fire in a toasty pub with friends, knocking back a local pint. Or two. My town has some great spots for sitting and sinking a quiet beer or two. It’s such a winter thing to do, it almost feels ritualistic. In some ways, it is.
And Dunedin has, over the past few years, created another way of celebrating Midwinter besides food and drink and hours with friends. We have a Midwinter Lantern Festival, and it is beautiful. I’ve participated for a few years now, making lanterns for my kids, and doing the circuit of the Octagon, watching the hundreds of lanterns set the world aglow. It’s an incredible sight, stunningly beautiful, and if you’re ever in Dunedin at Midwinter it’s an event you really should try to catch.
Totally Pagan, of course! We even circuit the Octagon deosil (anticlockwise in the southern hemisphere). Someone got it right when planning the festival.
For me, though, this time of year, when nature closes up a little and goes to sleep, is a time of meditation.
I take as much time as I can to be out in nature – out in the wild, if I can help it – and I spend time in meditation, doing trancework, working the hard yards on all the inner messiness that goes with trying to remain a sane human being in today’s screwed up world. It’s challenging stuff, not easy, and tiring.
Oddly enough, I find that the time between Samhain and Yule is when I am most creative. Go figure. Maybe it’s got something to do with the reproductive energy that is in the air around now – after all, it is now that the rams are being put to the ewes, and a whole lot of sexy / creative energy is going on around the place. Who knows? But I do know that I do my best writing and my best musicianship in this part of the year. Other musicians and writers tell me I’m not alone in this experience.
One thing is certain about this time of year – it’s a time when we learn more about our inner darkness, if we choose to. There can’t be light and warmth without cold and dark – this time of darkness creates balance and energy and flow around the Wheel. By choosing to acknowledge and learn from its power, we increase our own strength and wellbeing.