Rating: PI (Contains Politically Incorrect Language)
There's a whole genre of Minnesota jokes that begin: “Minnesota has two seasons: Winter and....” Winter and Road Repair. Winter and Winter-is-Coming. Occasionally there are variations: “...two seasons: Shovel and Swat.” Whatever one calls its partner, though, Winter is the central fact of existence here in Lake Country. Spring and Fall aren't really seasons in the North; they're occasional delightful visitors, all the more beloved for their poignantly brief stay. Our year really is a bi-seasonal one.
This would have been utterly familiar to the ancestors. The ancient Germanic speakers knew a two-season, Winter-Summer year: etymologically, the “windy” and “sunny” seasons respectively. The great holidays of Proto-Germanic culture were apparently Midwinter and Midsummer, associated even then—between 3000 and 4000 years ago—with the winter and summer sunsteads (solstices). We know that this goes back to the time before the Germanic languages branched off from one another because the terms are preserved in all surviving daughter languages.
Winter is starting here in Wellington New Zealand, and has been heralded by a weeklong southerly storm. The Cailleach, she is not far away and can be felt in this the first of the winter storms. Offerings are already being made by unsuspecting people who were silly enough to bring umbrellas as protection against the strong southerly winds.
Temperatures are plummeting and winter has set in as I write. A flock of wild turkeys has stopped by on their daily morning forage under the bird feeders and a freezing rain has everyone wishing they were inside, safe from the bone-chilling winds. This is the time to have plenty of winter remedies on hand, to ward off flu and chill.
Caution: if you are on any medications please look online for “herb and drug interactions” or “herb and drug contraindications” before you ingest these plants!
Fire Cider A friend passed this recipe along to me and he swears he hasn’t had a cold in four years. Take a few tablespoons of this remedy at the first sign of a cold;
This winter has been a harsh one thus far, to say the least. Rather than resist it, the best tactic for coping might in fact be facing it head on. Provided that February 2 does not fall into dangerous windchill temps in your neck of the woods, I recommend a meditation by skiing. Cross-country, that is. I will never forget the Saturday afternoon back in high school that I cross-country skied to my best friend's house across a barren cornfield. The weather conditions were ideal. The sun was out and making the snow on the ground glisten. It was warm enough that I could eventually unbutton my long overcoat. I was listening to Pink Floyd's, "Dark Side of the Moon," on my walkman. If that dates me, I don't care. The experience was paradisiacal.
Rufus, the shih tzu puppy, was so excited he could barely keep still. Even though he tried to stay calm, his tail seemed to have a mind of its own. It wagged furiously as he danced around and around Mama's legs.
“OK, little boy, settle down,” she said, as she read over again the piece of paper in her hand.
I'm currently getting into the Yule spirit by reading a new Llewellyn title. The book The Old Magic of Christmas by Linda Raedisch is a collection of Christmas traditions that many of us may not be familiar with. Creatures such as elves, gnomes, and werewolves roam the wintry landscape and leap off the pages. Goddesses and witches also make appearances, which has helped me to look at the Christmas season in a new light.
Yes, this book focuses on historical Christmas traditions, but Raedisch posits that many of these traditions and tales have their origin in Europe's pre-Christian past. I'm inclined to agree. This book really does explore the "old magic" of the season. For instance, there is an interesting tension between the feminine aspect of death and birth in many of the folk customs that are described. Much like the traditional Halloween, there is the juxtaposition of the crone witch with the young woman who tries her hand at fortunetelling for fertility, luck, and husband-seeking.