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Season of the Blues
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Now that Samhain is over and we are well on our way toward Yule, we, as Pagan folk, need to be more aware of the energies that surround us. This is a time, unfortunately, where depression, anxiety and fear seem to grow, regardless of the festivity present in both magical and mundane communities. You are not immune to this feeling whether you celebrate Yule, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or Christmas.
It is not a coincidence that these festivals come at a time of increasing darkness, when the human spirit naturally pulls back. This pulling back does not have to be wrought with depression; it does not have to be a reminder of all that we don’t have, or of an uncertain future. Remember that each turn of the wheel has its own joy, its own treasure. We cannot blame a darkening mood on the commonly cited ‘superficiality of Christmas.’ The messages from the mundane community are merely attempts to separate from the darkness; just people taking a stab at celebrating each other with an increasingly hazy religious message. The fact of the matter is that it is hard to stay connected with Divinity.
It is not pleasant to go out in wet or cold weather to stay connected with the heart and voice of our Earth’s soul. We are inclined to hibernate, and with our society being what it is, that inclination cannot be realized. So we celebrate, we eat and drink, and assure ourselves that the winter will not kill us, regardless of what we consciously think we are doing. The problem is that for many of us, all of this celebrating only serves to temporarily hold off the gloom, and just possibly serves to enhance it.
I have personally spent many years feeling the pull of seasonal depression, starting just after Yule and peaking at Imbolg. Convinced that this is neither healthy nor natural, I have consciously taken steps to keep the depression at bay. The key word here is consciously. Here are some of the things that have helped me:
1. Food: My husband happens to not only be a fabulous cook, but is tuned in to the spirit of the season, both light and dark. This has been a huge help to me, as all of the sensory aspects of food, being taste, smell, sight and even touch, are so important in comforting both yourself and those around you. One of my coven-mates makes soups that are full to the brink with positive magic, not to mention carrots, potatoes, squash, corn and whatever yummy ingredient she can think to throw in. Just sipping her delicious brew warms my belly, not to mention my witchy heart.
Soups are easy to make, (even for a horribly untalented cook like me) , inexpensive and provide an opportunity to spread positive magick to everyone in your household. As long as you are making soup-why not bake or buy some fresh bread, and try some real, locally made (if you can get it) butter? One of the things that my husband has taught me is that food should look as good as it tastes, and the setting in which you consume it can make a hotdog taste like a gourmet meal.
Remember that intent is as important as content, so take the time to freshen up your surroundings, light a candle and focus on what you have, not on what is missing. Try to eat mindfully, savoring your food and not over eating. Acknowledging the sacrifice of both plant and animal life to nourish you through the bare months serve to keep you connected to all that our Mother Earth has provided. And last but not least, learn to savor the moment; slow down and really taste your food without distraction, there is plenty of time to deal with your worries without bringing it into every tactile moment.
2. Fire: What is a theme this time of year that most religious celebrations, regardless of faith, have in common? Light. Light, of course, as metaphor for the Divine, as metaphor for enlightenment, as seen over and over again in just about every religious tradition on this beautiful planet of ours. But light can help boost your mood as well, enrich your feeling of contentment as the days become so short you end up waking in the dark and coming home in the dark. Consider fire safely used as the creative spark of the Goddess. Only humans have been gifted with the ability to use light (apart from those cool florescent fish at the bottom of the ocean) in order to not only work and live in illumination, but to enrich our emotional lives.
I am fairly certain that most would agree that no-one appreciates a candle like a Witch, but sometimes we need to mindfully light a candle in our non-ritual lives to bring light into a dark mood. Don’t forget what you know instinctively; you know that light, when coming from a candle, fireplace or bon fire, serves to touch a part of your psyche that can be really hard to engage. Take advantage of your knowing, your pagan knowing, and reach out with your mind and your senses and take in that heat.
If you don’t have access to open flame, consider using your creative spark in creating a painting or collage that features fire, or buy an inexpensive heat gun and burn and paint a sigil-paint it red and orange and infuse it with fiery intent. When you are done, put it where you can see it, by your bedside or in a dark corner that needs a little heat, and be sure to thank the Salamanders for their role in lighting your soul and keeping your feet warm, whether it be physically or psychically!
3. Cold: Yes, strangely, savoring the cold and barren landscape has helped me more than just about anything; sitting outside with a hot drink at dusk, listening to the bare branches scrape against each other, and the cold wind galloping among the pines. Really look at the earth around you. My inclination has always been to get inside as soon as possible, shut the curtains, and eat something yummy and go to bed. This only cuts you off from the very thing that feeds the Pagan soul: connection to the changing Earth, conscious and mindful connection to the turning Wheel.
This is the time to acknowledge and really see the aging Holly King-he will soon give up his throne to the Oak, who joyfully carries the mantle of summer-and if you are sitting outside after Yule, know that the Oak King has already won his epic battle with his brother, and the growing time is just around the corner. If you have trouble seeing them among the trees and barren parks and lawns and fields, just look at any popular depiction of Santa Clause, as both of their personas dwell in that merry figure of an iconic and very pagan Earth Spirit.
Perhaps if you own a drum or even a pan with good pitch, take it outside and shut your eyes, working to sense the rhythm of the Earth. Her mantle may be gray, but I can assure you that Her heart is still beating. If you shut your eyes and center, you will be able to hear that heart, and beat slowly on your drum, whether it be djembe or pot, and let Her know that you can hear it loud and clear.
4. Story Time: No one can deny that we all love a good story. Mythology is the love of many hearts, and the pathway to divinity. Take the time to refresh your memory with well-loved tales, and if you have not chosen a favorite pantheon, this would be a great time to consider connecting to the many varied, rich stories that make up our human and not so human history. There are truths here that await your discovery, and what better time to search for them then when the Earth appears to be sleeping?
If you are an old hand and have read your stories again and again, perhaps it is time to write your own? You are made up of not only your personal history in this lifetime, but of many others. Not only that, but you share more with your fellow humans than you think. Pick a windy, wild winter day, sit where you can comfortably hear the wind howl in the trees, and pick up your pen. You may be surprised and delighted with what you discover about yourself.
5. My last suggestion is to reach out to your fellow Pagans. If you are solitary, this can be an especially lonely time. But take heart, my friends. Our numbers are growing, and more often than not, you will be able to find an open celebration in your town. Take part and make an effort to connect, as nothing is substitute for good, old fashion human interaction with your tribe.
Have a wonderful Holiday season, and to quote my lovely HP, ‘Be kind to yourself!! ’
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