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Winter

Herbal Energetics of Winter

We have come again to the culmination point of another year, at least as we know it to be so on our calendars. 

We sink into this cozy time, where we anxiously await the arrival of that first true snow (you know the stuff we are talking about – the big fluffy snow that blankets the earth outside our window. The kind that makes the world feel incredibly still, and quiet.), and start reflecting on the months that are now behind us. 

Perhaps we gather with family and friends, embracing the delightful chaos that comes with the holiday season. Everything seems to sparkle at this time, despite being the darkest days of the year. 

We accept that we are entering the journey of the colder months, grabbing thicker jackets as we head out the door, and waking up a little bit earlier to chisel frost off of our windshield. 

And yet – despite the fact that the world around us seems so quiet – as if it is hibernating, what if we do not see this as the end, but actually the beginning? 

How would our perception change if we instead saw these dark and cold months of the winter season, not as an end, but perhaps the initiation? How would our energy change if we too were like the winter – allowing ourselves to rest and re-center, knowing that we shall sprout again as the days grow longer in the spring? 

Join us, as we take this December month as an opportunity to explore living our lives in conscious alignment with the energetics of Winter.

Photo by Ezra Jeffrey-Comeau on Unsplash

 

The Archetype of the Crone 

We can think about the energetics of the year similar to stages of one’s life. All of us can trace our lineage back to societies and cultures that lived in an earth-centric or nature-based way, meaning their survival revolved around understanding the rhythms of nature. For many, their spiritual practices also encompassed living in harmony with nature. 

An example of this is the archetype of the Crone that is seen in many ancient cultures. Earth or Nature often embodied a feminine or maternal type of energy, and the seasons reflected the different stages of a mother’s life, from young maidenhood to grandmother. 

In modern times, we often find ourselves in fear of aging, and do whatever we can to prevent it from happening. But yet, it is the Crone who is the most wise, having learned valuable lessons throughout their lifetime that can now be passed lovingly on to the next generation. It is often the Crone who also stands strongly in who she is, no longer in fear of societal expectations – She understands that she is unique, and that this is a gift, and no longer needs to conform, but instead seeks that which brings her joy. Herbalist and author Marysia Miernowska describes the Crone beautifully in her book The Witch’s Herbal Apothecary

Now is the time of the Crone. The old hag – wrinkled by time and experience, with a twinkle of magic in her eyes – has one foot beyond the veil. She is wild and fierce and deep in her love and sovereignty. She cares not about fitting in. She expands beyond the human realms and limitations of this Earthly plane. Her pull is the spiral of the galaxies, the dreams in the darkness, the singing over bones. She looks not for a lover or companion; done are her days of raising children and building matter. She belongs to the time of dissolving, her mind in the song of her rattle. She is mystic.

How amazing to view aging in this way? To know that this type of energy awaits us in the years before us? When we release our fear and let go of our youth, we allow ourselves to become the Mystic, the one who dances between worlds. 

 

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

The Deep Rest 

We explored the energetics of Autumn in September, and embraced the concept of turning inward, allowing for time of deep introspection. We explored the idea of letting go, as the trees release their leaves, or as plants return to the root that grounds them so firmly in the earth. It is the season of Autumn that prepares us for the deep slumber that is Winter. 

There is a reason why the Winter feels so calm and quiet. It is because it is. Nature around us is no longer doing, it is simply allowing itself to be. 

We all need rest in order to be healthy and regenerate. Physically, mentally, and spiritually, we are not created to continuously exert ourselves without taking pause. 

For example, we can look at what happens as we sleep. Despite the fact that when we sleep it does not appear that much is going on, it is actually critical for the restoration and maintenance of our physical bodies. Sleep is required for our cognitive function, which is vital for concentration, focus, and processing thoughts. Additionally, adequate sleep is crucial to avoid such diseases as Type II Diabetes, chronic heart disease, stroke, or even high blood pressure. 

While we are not creatures who hibernate (though we wish!), we can embrace the lesson that Winter has for us – that we also cannot constantly extend our energy beyond ourselves. We must care deeply for ourselves, and allow ourselves periods to rest, and simply be. Winter is a phenomenal time to do this, as it is less likely we are able to participate in outdoor activities for extended periods of time, and outside of the holidays, we have less that is required of us. Allow the cold temperatures and early nights to be an excuse to allow yourself to rest, curling up with a good book by the fire or taking up a less physically intensive hobby that nourishes your creativity. 

For there we came and to there we will return. The less afraid we are of the Crone, the more familiar we become with the threshold of darkness, and the more we can regenerate ourselves and our world.

~Marysia Miernowska, The Witch’s Herbal Apothecary 

Photo by Laura Barbato on Unsplash

Practices to Align with the Energy of Winter 

  1. Get Cozy. Let’s face it, even if you are the biggest fan of winter, and live for the feeling of the icy wind nipping at your cheeks on the slopes, there is nothing more nourishing than feeling cozy. In the winter, we spend more time indoors – and now is a time to really make your space feel safe and sacred. Allow yourself to indulge in the fuzzy socks and blankets. Enjoy warm drinks with spicy herbs such as cardamom, cinnamon, or even cayenne. Now is a great time to learn how to incorporate elements of Hygge – or the Danish concept of creating cozy space!
  2. Create. Humans have an innate desire to create. This is genuinely what has led to our intellectual development and evolution – that we use our hands to make things. This can be art, crafts, writing, playing music, or even making baskets! During the months where darkness comes early, and it is too cold to spend time outside, we encourage you to nourish your creativity. It does not require artistic predisposition – simply find something that speaks to you, perhaps even a new hobby such as quilting, and allow yourself to simply immerse in the magic of creation. 
  3. Get Curious. Often we find ourselves in fear of the “dark.” Sure, some of this is chalked up to survival skills, but the dark winter months are also synonymous with wonder. What if instead of fearing the unknown, we challenged ourselves to dance with this? What if the unknown has a lot to teach us, and by allowing ourselves to live in alignment with the unknown, we find ourselves more flexible and adaptable? 
Photo by Fabian Mardi on Unsplash

 

Herbal Allies for Winter 

For those who are wildcrafting enthusiasts, know that winter does not mean that your time exploring wild plant allies has to be over! Instead, this is a time where we are invited to explore the medicine of trees. While the rest of the plant world has returned to the earth, the pines and evergreens are flourishing and still abundantly offering their gifts to the world! 

It is this time we can wander the forests, and explore the forest floor for pine resin that can be used to create sacred smoke, or use pine needles for immune-boosting teas teaming with nourishing vitamin C! As stated in the book Wild Remedies by Roselee de la Foret and Emily Han, “almost every part of an evergreen conifer tree has some medicinal virtues.” This includes such benefits as pain relief, relief for coughs and congestion, and even support for itchy and inflamed skin conditions. Evergreen conifer trees that are safe for medicinal use include: Douglas-fir, Fir, Hemlock, Pine, and Spruce (Avoid trees like Yew, Ponderosa Pine, or Norfolk Island Pine as they can be toxic). 

Because winter also tends to be associated with cold and flu season, herbal allies that can be supportive also include immune-boosting tonics, such as the mineral and vitamin rich nettles, and herbal allies that act as defensive warriors in our bodies like elderberry and garlic. Local, raw honey is also incredibly soothing to our mucus membranes and can help support our immune systems, and infusing honey with herbs that are antibacterial and supportive to our respiratory system such as sage, is also a great thing to consider adding to your home winter apothecary shelf. 

Lastly, because the months of winter can be long, we encourage you to identify ways in which you can bring green allies into your home space. Perhaps this can be in the form of decorating your home with pine boughs, or even using oranges as streamers (these also smell divine!). Hanging mistletoe in the home can also offer protection against negative energy, and bring good luck (as was believed by ancient Norse and Scandinavian cultures!). Winter may also be a great excuse to visit your local plant nursery, and bring home a new friend to help bring greenery to your space. 

We thank you, dear readers, for exploring the wheel of the year with us, and for dancing through each of the seasons. We hope that this series has brought you into deeper alignment and understanding of the rhythms of nature, and helped you to better assess and celebrate these rhythms in yourself. Afterall, we are all nature, not separate from it! 

Photo by Mira Kemppainen on Unsplash

Sources: 

  • De la Foret, Rosalee & Emily Han. Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. 2020. Hay House, Inc.
  • Fry, Alexa. “Why Do We Need Sleep?” The Sleep Foundation. 11 September 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/why-do-we-need-sleep
  • Miernowska, Marysia. The Witch’s Herbal Apothecary: Rituals & Recipes for a Year of Earth Magick and Sacred Medicine Making. 2020. Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. 
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