The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self

I Like Winter

posted by Donna Henes

We are now past the midpoint of winter. Spring will be here exactly one month from today, the realization of which would normally please me no end. I would have had my fill of dark and cold. But this year, I feel sad, nostalgic, about the winter that barely was. Bereft, really.

I look forward every year to the deep freeze of winter and for the freedom that it gives me to dig in and stay put. I like the winter. I like the holing in and the hibernating. I value winter as a time to go inside, batten down the hatches, and stay there, snug and sound till springtime. For me it is a time of taking care of myself on very visceral, physical, and domestic levels.

Winter is a time to sleep more and dream more. A time to read more and write more. A time to make big pots of soup and clean and mend and iron and organize my files and my photographs. Winter brings out all of my hermit tendencies and I could easily spend a week or so at home alone, perfectly happy, and never leave the house.

On the other hand, I also love to bundle up and take long solitary urban hikes with my pup Poppy in the still chill of the park, crunching through the snow, communing with the skeleton trees, scavenging pieces of wood and bark for my fireplace. These forays make me feel like a wild woman who runs with the wolves, even if they are citified chip monks, squirrels and cocker spaniels.

The very best part of these rambles is always returning home, with frozen toes and bright red cheeks, to my warm loft where I am welcomed by my inviting indoor gardens and resident pets. I remove my boots, strip off my multitude of layers, put on my slippers, put up some tea, and light the wood I have gathered. Ah, home again home again, jiggedy jog.

In the stark dark of the season in the pitch of the long winter nights it is only natural to turn inward toward the center. Drawn by an irresistible magnetic force, I am pulled inside of myself, inside of my home, inside of my relationships for the comfort, warmth, love, safety and peace that I find there.

I also find pieces of my own psyche that are now somehow phosphorescent and glow in the dark, whereas they are hidden when I am flitting about in the height of the light times. The quiet and sedentary dark season is when I am challenged to explore the deep inner passages of my own thoughts and imagination, feelings and spirit, The complexities of my own heart and soul.

The hearth is the heart of the home. It is the high altar of the art and craft of living. Its central heat fuels the most basic and profound daily rituals of nurturing, sustenance, support and cheer. The hearth stokes the healthy spirit that comes from physical ease and emotional fulfillment. And we appreciate it all that much more when it is frigid outside.

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth…it is the time for home.
– Edith Sitwell

Spring will be here in six weeks and I am not ready. There are still so many books on my winter reading pile. So many soup ideas, So many projects I was hoping to get to. So I plan to take full advantage of the remaining weeks of winter. Won’t you join me?

Let us use what is left of this inside time to explore the depth of our hearts and souls for the insight, inspiration and enlightenment that we may find there. Let us worship at the domestic shrine and share the holy sacraments of soup and stew and mulled cider. Let us open our hearts and our homes to all of the possibilities of love. Let us create peace in our hearts, in our homes and in the world.

* Please send me your thoughts about power. Also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.

 ***
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

What the Groundhog Sees

posted by Donna Henes

 
February 2 is the exact halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It is the winter midpoint or cross-quarter day. The duskiest, coldest season is now officially half over!

Though the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, the day with the fewest sunlit hours, is the time when the sun reaches its nadir and begins its return journey back toward us in the Northern Hemisphere, it isn’t until six weeks later at Midwinter that the gradual reappearance of the light begins to be apparent. We can finally glimpse the distant light at the end of the long winter tunnel.

The days are perceptibly longer now. There is the faintest whisper of a breath of the coming of spring in the air. A subtle frisson. There begin to be signs: the first tiny buds, like goose bumps on bare skin, begin to form on naked branches. Snowdrops appear, pushing their fragile blooms up through the still frosty soil.

Hibernating animals begin a restless stir in their underground nests. They toss and turn and awaken enough to devour a midnight meal before turning over and tucking back in again for the duration.

It isn’t spring yet, but there is the palpable promise. The eager anticipation of the annual resurgence of life that comes each spring. Our sense of hope is renewed.

It is customary in many places to foretell future spring weather conditions on this halfway marker of winter, which is celebrated as Imbolc in the Celtic tradition, Li Chu’un by the Chinese and Candlemas by the Christian Church. In Greece, people maintain that whatever the weather on Candlemas Day, it will continue the same for the forty days to follow.

The Latin ditty predicts “Si sol splendescat Maria purificante, major erit glacies post festum quam fuit ante.” “If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, winter will have another flight: If on Candlemas day it be shower and rain, winter is gone and will not come again.”

The Midwinter Day is also a time of weather prediction in Germany, where farmers claim they “would rather see wife upon a bier, than that Candlemas Day be sunny and clear.”

Midwinter is designated Badger Day in recognition of the underground movement toward life, which is manifest in this season. When the first wave of German farmers immigrated to this country, they brought Badger Day with them. Faced with a local lack of badgers, the Pennsylvania settlers were forced to substitute the American groundhog in its stead. And Groundhog Day has ever since continued to pique our popular fancy.  
    
Each year on February 2, the attention of the nation is directed to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where Groundhog Day is big business. Weather forecasters and news reporters converge to stake out the burrows of these furry hibernating creatures, in order to ascertain the true prognosis of the coming of spring. Though decidedly silly, Groundhog Day is a direct and thriving descendant of age-old Midwinter divinatory practices.

Will Phil, the mascot groundhog, see his shadow? Will spring come on time? Tune in tonight for the eyewitness report.

OK. Now pay attention. This is how it works: if the groundhog sees his shadow, it means that there are still six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, it means that spring is only six weeks away.

Huh?

There are always six more weeks of winter. Spring is always six weeks away. That is why we mark the day in the first place. To remind us that winter is half over. Despite whatever prognostication the groundhog might make, spring is never early, never late. Spring always starts exactly on time — on the Vernal Equinox six weeks hence. But first we have to finish winter.

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, by Groundhog Day you should still have half of your food store and half of your fuel if you are going to make it through the remainder of winter. So this is an excellent time to survey our resources and monitor our reserves. Do we have adequate stores of body, mind, heart and spirit to weather the rest of the winter?

What is your strategy for surviving the second half of the season?

Here’s to a Happy Hibernation, Part II.

***
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

Midwinter Purification Rites

posted by Donna Henes

February 2 marks the exact halfway point of winter. Along with the two equinoxes, two solstices and the three other seasonal midpoints, it is one of the eight energy-filled sacred days in the pagan calendar.

Purification is the recurrent mythic and symbolic theme of midwinter festivals in many places. Purification suggests the cleansing of our spirits as part of the careful preparations for the coming of the springtime light. Clearing the way with the fiery brilliance of insight, which comes from visiting the deep, dark internal winter of our souls and seeing therein our own part in the constant and continually changing cycles of life.

It is in midwinter when the land is gripped in death that Ceres, the old Goddess of Good Grain and All Fertility (who later became Demeter in Greek mythology) descends to the underworld in pursuit of Her dear lost daughter, Persephone. Disconsolate, Ceres explores the far reaches of the territories of Hades and Her own private hell; Her journey lit by a single candle. The impassioned determination of Her search and Her ultimate discovery sheds the first glimmer of light in the indelible dark of winter. It is the creative spark of full consciousness. With the light from Her candle we can begin to see the spiritual direction of the new cycle.

In Greece there is an underground sanctuary dedicated to Hades, God of the Underworld, and Persephone, his stolen bride. For millennia, pilgrims have made their way to the Nekyomanteion of Ephra, a labyrinthine arrangement of spiral-shaped rooms and passageways carved into the belly of Mother Earth. Manteionmeans “a place in which one hears prophesy” and nekyo or necro, refers to the dead.

Petitioners descend deep into the divine womb by way of a serpentine tunnel leading to a cavernous dark chamber, which sits above a crypt. There, encouraged by Cere’s resolve, in the unsteady light of just one torch, they consult the oracles of the dead for inspiration, for direction. “It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness,” their motto.

Midwinter was celebrated as Imbolc by the ancient Celts, and also as an early Gaelic fire festival. Both were held in honor of Bridget, a.k.a. Brigid, Bride, Brigetis, the Northern White Goddess, guardian of the home fire and hearth. Fire was the symbol of Her white-hot mystic magic. The intense heat of the flame represents Her fervent faith in the return of the light to the world. Today, the day belongs to Her spiritual daughter, Saint Brigid, adored patron saint of Ireland.

The hagiographic accounts of St. Brigid are few, flimsy and quite transparent. She was allegedly Ireland’s first convert to Christianity and the founder of that country’s first convent in the fifth century. She continued to be honored just as the Goddess was before her and the worship practice of Her devotees did not change over the centuries.

A holy fire, reminiscent of those kept constantly burning by the worshippers of her earlier goddess incarnation, was maintained at Her shrine in Kildare until it was finally ordered doused by the Church in the thirteenth century. Until not so long ago, domestic fires were routinely extinguished on Her day, February 1, and then rekindled and blessed in a preparatory act of purification.

In Rome, the midwinter day belonged to Juno Februata, virgin mother of Mars. Februare, in Latin, means “to expiate, to purify.” Here, too, fires were lit, and candles were blessed and burned in Her honor. Women also continued to carry candles in street processions at this same time of year in memory of Ceres’ candle-lit search below ground.

Determined to stem this irritating and irrepressible goddess worship, Pope Sergius claimed this pagan holiday for the Church. Renamed, Candlemas, February 2, was to be celebrated as the feast of the purification of the Virgin Mary forty days after She had given birth. The observance, however, remained the same — the blessing and burning of candles for Our Lady of Light.

Two indigenous New World celebrations echo this practice. In Aztec Mexico, all fires were extinguished at the winter midpoint. There followed five dark days during which there was a period of inactivity and sorrowing. Then the Aztec New Year was ushered in with the ritual relighting of the fires, feasting, and festing.

The Iroquois celebrate a six-day midwinter New Year ceremony during which members of the False Face Society visit every home in the community. They put out the fire in each stove, stir up the ashes and then blow them onto the inhabitants as a curative rite.

All of these purification ceremonies of renewed fire suggest a clearing of humanity’s earthly orientation in order to be open to the growing divine light of the coming spring, the reassuring light at the end of the long, dark winter tunnel.

 ***
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

Heart and Hearth

posted by Donna Henes

Winners of a copy of The Queen of My Self:

Kathy Elkind, MA
Joanna Matherson, WI
Yvette Rivera, CA

Enjoy!

Let us take a break from our ongoing explorations of women’s relationship to power. This week the posts will focus on the power of the season and how it impacts on our lives.

Heart and Hearth

In the stark dark of the season in the dark of the long night we are compelled to turn inward toward the center. Drawn by an irresistible magnetic force, we are pulled inside of ourselves, inside of our homes, inside of our relationships for the comfort, warmth, love, safety and peace that we seek.

We need to dig deep to feel the heat just now. The sun is absent. The air is chilled. The Earth, Herself, is cold as death. The only heat left is locked deep inside the molten core in the middle.

The heart is the center of our being. It is the buried treasure that rewards us when we dare to travel the dark tunnels that lead to the essence of our soul. It is the furnace from which radiates the heat, the power and passion of our lives. The heart is the most honest manifestation of our authentic self. The seat of our heart’s desire, the grace that lies at the heart of all that matters.

The hearth is the heart of the home. It is the high altar of the art and craft of living. Its central heat fuels the most basic and most profound daily rituals of nurturing, sustenance, support and cheer. The hearth stokes the healthy spirit that comes from physical ease and emotional fulfillment.  

Because it is difficult to see in the dark, our other senses are awakened and called into action to guide us through the gloom. If we pay careful attention, we can smell and taste the flavors of excitement, affection and creativity and. If we listen very carefully, we can hear the buzz of life that surrounds us and if we keep still enough, we can feel the energizing charge that radiates throughout the universe.

Let us use this time of darkness well. Let us explore our hearts and souls for the insight, inspiration and enlightenment that we may find there. Let us worship at the domestic shrine and share the holy sacraments of soup and stew and mulled cider. Let us open our hearts and our homes to all of the possibilities of love. Let us create peace in our hearts, in our homes and in the world.

heart  hearth
e a r t h
h e a t
hear
art
ah

 
***
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

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