Deep Winter

We magical folk always tell each other, “Be careful what you wish for.” The kicker is that what we want sometimes turns around and wants us in return. And then—it gets us.

Let’s just say I’ve been got.

I’ve always wanted to write a memoir about some of the particularly nasty experiences I have been in and borne witness to as a witch, surrounded by witches. My justification for never finishing the thing was that I didn’t know the ending. Good writing knows where it’s going. Even if the writer doesn’t know at first, the story itself leaves a trail of breadcrumbs along the way; a good writer can find that trail and follow it home. The breadcrumbs have finally settled and I can begin to digest the trail—but I’m not sure I really even want to follow it back home. Because, ew. Maybe in my old age.

Yes, I realize that birds are a problem in my metaphor.

Around about this time last year, I left off drafting a memoir and started writing A Year With The Dísr, a ritual book of sorts crafted especially for my kindred. I thought, “Well, the seasons are cyclical. I don’t need to know the end.” What I didn’t know was that I was going to have to live the cycle in order to truly write from a place of deliberateness. I drafted that one and it rang as hollow—a set of rote formulae for seasonal rituals like every other rote formula for seasonal ritual. I wanted a stronger sense of gnosis to guide me in uncovering the Mysteries of creation, death, and rebirth.

Be careful what you want; it might just want you in return.

So, about 117 pages in, I put it aside. And not exactly by choice—it seemed something wanted me enough to pull my by the ear and teach me a cosmic lesson.

Two years ago, we changed the name of our kindred and changed the emphasis of our attentions. Immediately after that, we started seeing purposeful growth. But Midsummer of 2013 saw a boom in attendance and participation—a heyday, if you will. As summer turned to autumn, we saw hardship and loss (strikingly manifest at our Lammas celebration)—and we faced it as a family. That Yule, in good Heathen fashion, we did what we had to do and culled out the resources that were most draining and fed that which would bring us most strength. (I’m not talking about people necessarily, rather activities and goals.) We held a celebration the following January and solidified our commitment to each other. Oimelc/Imbolc followed and spring saw an uphill battle—especially for a few of our members. By Midsummer we were, again, firm in frith and expansively joyful. However, as the season waned to Lammas, so did so much else. This time, I had to face much of it without my kindred—not because they abandoned me, mind you; but because two really wicked incidents derailed our Mabon and Yule celebrations, leaving only a Winternights celebration in between.

Around October, things took a turn for some of us. Winter was deep, lemme tell ya. But I kept saying to everyone, maybe in hopes that it was true for me too, that the fire was returning with the spring. The land would renew with the sun. Day would dawn.

This was a genuine test of Faith—capitol F, Faith. If I really believed that as the seasons turned, our lives followed suit, I had to believe that in the crocus there is Hope—capitol H, Hope. Headed for another Oimelc/Imbolc, I can already feel the stirrings of profound optimism.

Don’t get me wrong, on paper it looks like life is shite right now. I’m still seeing clients but basically out of work—my beloved vocation as teacher unfairly torn from me and with that, a large part of my identity. Some dear friends are facing total devastation and, as is my calling, I find myself a rock in a tumultuous sea—this is rewarding but simultaneously draining. You know this, I’m sure. At 15, 18, and 20, my kids are facing their own challenges, but we are facing them together and head-on. One of the blessings of Deep Winter has been that my husband and I are clinging to each other in a way that the previous 25 years only dreamed of. Communication and trust are at an all-time high and anxiety and hostility at an all-time low. Spring brings with it the promise of a full partnership: familial, emotional, physical, and spiritual. Winter was rough but it doesn’t depart without some beautiful recompenses.

Another of those reassurances is the return of my kin. With that comes the return of my inspiration to write, to finish projects left-off in despair. There is renewed inspiration to strengthen old community relationships and build new ones—while steadfastly avoiding toxicity. Inspiration—even leaders need a muse, and I have rediscovered mine in my kin. For a minute, I wasn’t sure we would even reconvene at Oimelc, but I am looking forward to the respite that comes in the arms of people who love me dearly—even when I feck it all up. “Even if the bread isn’t fully baked.”

And, of course, even par-baked bread can leave a crumb-trail to follow home.

Now that I’ve experienced two full years that rise and fall with the seasons, I feel that my wish has been granted. I have seen the death and rebirth of creativity, security, affection, and all those other things that make the world go ‘round in a directly personal way that has edified me. I can apply this cosmic education to the project at hand in a way that makes it more than rote formulae.

And, having taken a few hour hiatus in the composition of this post to talk to a magical student, I have a plan for the next round of perfectly timed priesthood preparation.

Though Deep Winter held its hidden blessings, I’ll be happy to see the fire of spring return. And though it was a rough row to hoe, I’m blessed to have gotten what I wanted.

Brace yourself. Spring is coming.

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