On Facebook, Bobcat asked everyone, “how do your religious, spiritual or secular beliefs guide you to live through the dark (in the northern hemisphere) months of November and December, to engage (or not) with the festivals of late December and early January, and walk the days to the first whispers of new life?”
It needs a longer answer than facebook wall posts allow, and I thought it worth exploring so, here goes
I’ve never lived with a full selection of modern comforts – critically central heating, so I experience the winter, and the cold, very intensely. Feet are my primary mode of transport, so ice and snow impact heavily upon me. The realities of my life mean I am outside for significant amounts of time on a daily basis, so I experience the changes in light and temperature changes very directly. Those physical experiences contribute to my spiritual understanding of winter in its ongoing effects upon me. I have fell runners’ crampons to help me walk, and every day at the moment I celebrate the wonder of human invention. Those crampons keep me on my feet and give me freedom where before had only fear and difficulty.
My spirituality engenders in me an acceptance of what is. I don’t feel any need to fight against the world or resent what it is currently doing. Instead I try to flow with it. I don’t go out at night much in winter. I wear a lot of jumpers. I can’t hold this house at comfortable heat levels for ‘normal’ living. I have to work with the winter and my own body and all the tools I can muster to deal with the cold. There is also a spiritual underpinning to my seeking the beauty in all things and being intent on perceiving what is around me. So although I’m freezing and walking with chilblains hurts, I’m still being enchanted by the beauty of ice crystals on trees and spiderwebs, the mystery of mist, the wonder of sunlight touching snow dusted hills.
The bardic calling and the call to service tend to combine at this time of year and send me out singing, bringing music and what cheer I can to people who need it. I sang in a prison one year. This year there will be old people’s homes. I’ve sung carols in the street raising money for charity before now. In the darker days, community, human contact, music and storytelling seem more important than ever. The human need for light, warmth and company in response to the cold and dark is a very basic one. Commercialmass celebrations (thank you bish for the perfect term) feed on those needs without, I think, actually answering them. So I feel strongly motivated to honour connections, relationships and community events at this time of year, whilst trying very hard not to get sucked into the commercial thing. I end up singing a lot of songs about the birth of Christ, which feels odd as a Druid, BUT, it’s what the people I’ll be singing to want to hear, it’s what I’m being called upon to do, and answering the need is more important than the religious element. There will be times and places to sing my own songs for this season.
I will celebrate the turning of the year – again because for me that’s primarily a celebration of human contact. I stopped making new year’s resolutions a while ago. I realised it was just a seasonal excuse to beat myself up -I was reliably resolving to become thin and more acceptable to the people around me. I will try harder. Give more. Ask for less. I don’t make that kind of promise any more, not least because I no longer feel obliged to crush and negate myself for the convenience of those around me. Instead I’ll take the opportunity to review my life and contemplate where I am going, which results in dedications. I already know what dedication I’ll be making this year, and will share that when the time comes.
There are signs of spring already – the trees make their leaf buds in winter, the catkins are there ready to open. I’ll watch the slow shift from day to day, welcome the changes, honouring the flows as I experience them, and greeting the return of warmth with relief and gratitude. There will be spring cleaning, and clothes shopping, because this year has stripped flesh from my bones like no other.