We are nearing the Winter Solstice: just one moon cycle and – hopefully – the Sun will be reborn. The Darkness rushes in to embrace us, and confronts us with what lies beneath and deep inside. It is the time of the (in)famous Wild Hunt, consisting of warms of spirits and ghosts that ride and yell with the winter winds and storms. Fields are bleak and lonely. Finally people are yielding power and space to nature and her untamed spirits. It is time for an other kind of productivity.
Some anthropologists are using this to given an explanation for the roots of Eurasian shamanism, seeking its origins in the darkness, cold, snow madness of harsh prehistoric winters, when hunters and gatherers were coming together to spend winter time in larger camps. And sure, this must have been a very stressful and challenging time, and undoubtedly people needed to find ways to cope with it. But this is rather a psychological and materialistic explanation. Shamanism is not just about people and their inner worlds, it is also about all the beings outside as well. Spirits and forces that animate all the things created.
Most of us here in Europe live in densely populated areas, our land is used for intensive farming and our settlements are producing pollution of all kinds, chemicals, noise, light, heat, radiation, emotions… The world we live in creates the illusion that it is dominated and tamed by humans. Most of us do not know hunger, let alone famine. We can buy so many things just because we want to do so. And so winter is one of the rare opportunities when we step aside at least a little bit. We leave our fields, and as a result the space opens up for spirits again. They had been there before we came. Wilderness returns and culture with its traditions moves into our homes, into our hearts.
In the darkness of the winter we defend our humanity, and we deal with the beast within. We need our instincts in order to survive and we need our compassion and tenderness for the same reason.
So, as the Wild Hunt dashes in the air it also rushes in our veins, as Óðr, the Divine frenzy, passion, spark of strength. We have to be strong and alive if we want to survive the darkness. We need to be able to become a beast of prey, we need to be as strong as a boar and vigorous as a goat or a ram. We need their spirits to teach us how to be filled with life. And at the same time we need to listen to our ancestors, to their souls and Spirit, we need to listen to the spirit guides, the beings who transcend us in wisdom and Love. Only if we learn to to that can we live a humble, genuine and still joyous life. For only so can we survive the harshness of our environment, the harshness that is mirrored within our minds. Only so can we channel the higher wisdom and deep love into our hearts and hearths.
And there is also a message brought by the Sun – we are not completed, finished, we are cycling and traveling and becoming and it will never stop. And we are radiating – we can burn things and beings down and we can animate things and beings into life.
Since childhood I have been very sensitive to otherworldly inhabitants, to be honest, I was raised by the spirits. My human family was not capable to do so, but I was not abandoned – various spirits have been looking after me for as long as I can remember. I speak with them every day and there are still new encounters and new discoveries and knowledge. What I have to share is that we live in times that are getting gloomy, and I know it is happening because we have lost our connection with Them.
We have also lost connection with most of our soul stuff. We forgot that everything is filled with sacredness. We forgot how to be proud and prancing, we forgot how to be wild, we are taught to be tame and we are taught to think that to be tame and superficial is to be reasonable and mature. Freedom and true love are just some stinky food for cynical mockery. To feel is to be emotional and to be emotional is to be childish and unstable. There is no room for spirits, as if some strange force would be attempting to make machines from human beings.
And so our society wants us to be more productive and more predictable and more effective. We forgot how to live in cycles, instead we live through ready-made stages of a linear life and we are trying to push ourselves to the limit. But we are killing ourselves and we are also killing our environment. We are creating a world that is not a happy place to be. Society has forgotten the role of shamans and spirits. But Earth and the whole Cosmos is filled with various forms of life, every single one of them is playing its part, a part that is important for the whole. Our fields will be barren without land spirits. Our minds will be barren without spiritual guides, angels, Muses.
One of my beloved books is Terry Pratchett´s Hogfather. The story deals with the Winter Solstice celebrations and their meanings and its ending is filled with kind and profound knowledge. Because I do not want to spoil things by revealing the final words, I do beg you, please, do yourself a favour and read the book for yourself, enjoy your time in the dark with some hot tea and a melting heart. And use a second cup and give some tea to the spirits as well.
Allow yourself to believe in them, and in your dreams. Remember how open you were as a child, how vivid the world used to be then. The spirits need us with the same intensity as we need them. We share one world, although it has so many layers. Please, share my intent and and join me, and as a present for the nearing Solstice just give fairness, respect and kindness, equally to yourself and to the world around you. Be wild as a horse and tender as a mothers’ cuddle. Smile. And when you drink your tea or coffee, when you eat your breakfast, cake, dinner, leave a mouthful and some beverage for Them, for the spirits, Faery folk, for the Hidden people. They will leave their gifts for you 🙂
Text and illustration by Anna Wilhelmina Saxlova
Anna Wilhelmina Saxlova is an animist, artist & seeress practising shamanism, herbalism and the art of being . She specializes in healing domestic animals and helping nature spirits. She lives in the Czech Republic on a small farm where she runs (not just) a farm animal sanctuary called Heidrún located next to a brook where ancient Celts panned for gold – the land here still whispers and shimmers and remembers these times, old gods are weaved into her body.