Image by Em M.

FROM WINTER SOLSTICE

TO IMBOLC

THE EARTH SCHOOL JOURNAL

A journey through the medicine wheel

WINTER

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Winter is a time where our creative energy is called home to be placed in service of body, soul, and land regeneration. It is also a time for deep listening and dreaming, where we receive messages about the coming growing seasons. On our journey, we are crossing Imbolc in February, a time when our spirits begin to stretch and reawaken slowly after the winter's rest.

Serap Kara · Turning North

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Preparing to turn North, towards Winter. Here, I feel the energy of the Elders.

Leaning into my winter. The energy is dark and cold, and deeply yin. Traditional Chinese medicine is based on five elements that dance with each other: metal, fire, air, water, and earth. In this tradition, winter is water, which has the same vibration as north, water, or black. Two animal spirits symbolise this direction: the snake and the turtle - one for each kidney. North is also regarded as the place of the past, the mystery, and the ancestors. Within the Chinese system, the king stands in the center, in the earth element, and faces south, his back held by the north. What wisdom holds north for me, when I dare to turn around and face it?

Flight formations of geese are still used for oracles and fortune-telling.

In Germanic and Celtic lore, it is said that the female seer, called Wala, Walburga, Velda, or Völva, can shape-shift and fly as a wild goose in the sky at Winter Solstice. Freya herself often shape-shifts into a goose in fairytales, and the goose shepherd is seen as a soul guardian. 


Another sacred animal of Freya is the golden-haired boar. With its strength, the sacred boar re-starts the Wheel of the Year, after the new Sun Child is born in the „Mother night“ at Winter Solstice. For our ancestors, wild pigs were sacred animals of the Great Goddess. Not only a source of meat but all parts were used and guaranteed survival in winter. As sacred medicine, most healing salves were made of a base of wild pork fat.


Unfortunately, industrialized animal farming no longer respects the sacred bond between humans and pigs. Still, the symbols of the lucky pig and the piggy bank remind us of attributes of the goddess - health, good fortune, and enjoyment of life.

(sources: Elen Sentier: Following The Deer Trods, Wolf Dieter Storl: Ur-Medizin, Die wahren Ursprünge unserer Volksheilkunde) 

Simone Meentzen · Animals in Winter · Plant Diary

I sometimes worry about the animals in winter. How do they survive the cold winter nights? The animals are unable to hide their traces in the deep snow. Food is rare, and they are even more vulnerable to hunters.

 

The female deer is carrying a new life inside her. After the rut in midsummer, the doe does not give birth to her fawn in cold winter. While the mother looks for food in the winter snow, the egg slumbers. Mother Nature arranged it in such a way that the fertilized egg in the animal’s body does not develop any further for several months. This is called egg rest, what a miracle! The fawn is born in May when springtime makes food more readily available. 

Our ancient ancestors followed the deer trods. In those distant days, most of Europe was still a forest - part of the Boreal Forest that stretched all around the northern hemisphere from the tundra down to what is now considered South England.

These ancestors worshipped the antlered goddess. Reindeers are the only female deers who carry antlers.

One of the oldest rock art in North-West Europe is the engraved image of female reindeer, discovered on the wall of a cave in Britain and supposed to be at least 14,505 years old. 

Deer antlers are a universal shaman’s symbol. The word „shaman“ is actually from the language of the Tunguska people from Siberia. According to author Elen Sentier, followers of the ancient ways of the deer goddess on the British Isles call themselves not shamans, but awenydd in the old British language, Brythonic. A shaman is „one who knows“... 

Some wisdom from these Palaeolithic shamanic ancestors survived with the people called ‚the people of the old ways‘, ‚the cunning folk’, the Awenyddion (plural). In other European traditions too, hind and stag are sacred animals. In Greek mythology, they are attributed to the goddess Artemis, who reigns the wild forests. 

In German fairytales, animals such as bears, geese, wolves play an important role. On cold winter nights, fairy tales are told, often age-old stories of pre-Christian goddesses and way-of-life. The German custom of serving a roast goose for Christmas dinner is a great example of how ancient pre-Christian customs survived: the goose is a sacred animal of Freya, and it is served with the herb mugwort and apples, both also attributed to Freya. 

Wild geese can be seen in the winter sky, flying in groups over our rivers and fields, coming all the way from Siberia.

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Here are 3 ideas on how to connect with wild animals in Winter:


1. You can place a bird feeder with seeds and (local) nuts outside your home. Bird watching is a great and fun way to educate children and connects you intimately with wildlife.


2. Feeding wild animals in the forest is controversial, but you can get involved with a local wildlife organization.


3. When walking or hiking in the winter forest, observe nature in silence and watch for animal tracks in the snow. Stay as quiet as possible, loud noise frightens the animals, they need extra energy to escape in a hurry. Remember, they need all their energy to survive in the cold.

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© Simone Meentzen

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The Winter Solstice on 21.12 heralds the darkest night of the year, the Mother Night, when the sun child is born. It marks the beginning of Christmas and the Twelve Sacred Nights. These nights symbolise the twelve months of the coming year. It is a time of secrets, the veil to the 'other worlds' opens for elementals, nature spirits & devas. We are particularly sensitive to visions. These days are deeply sacred - they can bring calmness, tranquility, and reflection. - Serap Kara

Lena Brandt · Cultural Celebrations · Celebrations & Rituals

WINTER SOLSTICE

 

At the Winter Solstice on 21 December we reach the depth of that darkness with the longest night of the year. Darkness has reached its peak. With the end of the longest night, the dark is defeated with the return of the Sun, the return of light, hope, and promise. The Goddess gives birth to the Sun/Sun God. The Sun begins to wax and the days grow longer.

Image by Elisa Coluccia
Image by Nadiia Ploshchenko

THE TWELVE SACRED NIGHTS


The Twelve Sacred Nights begin either on the day of the Winter Solstice, i.e. on 21 December, or on the night of 24 December and end on the night of 5 January to 6 January. These Sacred Nights were seen as a 'time outside of time' when the veils between this world and the Otherworld were lifted. A time for rituals, oracles, inward focus, and stillness. For the Germanic and Celtic peoples in pre-Christian times, the Winter Solstice and the following Twelve Sacred Nights were considered a magical turning point and a new beginning.

CHRISTMAS


Christmas is the Christian holiday to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. It is said that during the time of Christianisation, the traditional festival of Yule was interpreted by the Christian missionaries and as such, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ in December was possibly directly inspired by pagan calendars. Many traditions such as the Christmas tree have their origin in the old Germanic culture. Christmas Eve falls traditionally on the 24 December.

Image by Laura Nyhuis
Image by Aaron Burden

YULE


Yule is the name of a 12-day festival, celebrated by Germanic peoples, particularly in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe such as Germany, around the Winter Solstice in December and January. It marked the end of the solar year and was celebrated with many festivities on the darkest night of winter. In Scandinavia in particular, many of the medieval customs have been preserved and are practised at Christmas, which is still called 'Jul' there today.

MOTHER'S NIGHT


The Yule Tide (the period of Yule) usually begins with Modranecht, or 'Mother’s Night', the night before the Winter Solstice. It is an Anglo-Saxon celebration in honour of the Mothers who give birth to the Midwinter sun. On this first night of Yule the early Germanic and Scandinavian tribes paid tribute to the ancestral mothers and female spirits who protected and watched over the family, helped with childbirth and healed illnesses. It was also a night for spirit contact and celebration with one's ancestors in much the same way that the Celts did at Samhain.

Image by Aaron Burden
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Alexandra Neubauer · Über das Geschenk der Weisheit · Regenbogenmedizin

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Der Norden im Regenbogenmedizinrad ist der Platz der Ältesten und Weisen. Als gereifte Erwachsene haben wir gelernt, aufrichtig, authentisch und würdevoll durchs Leben zu gehen. Dabei greifen wir auf den Schatz des Erlernten und Erfahrenen zurück, der uns gelehrt hat, anzuerkennen was ist und in Mitgefühl für uns selbst und andere zu gehen, während wir stets offen bleiben für das Neue und die Veränderung, die das Leben nun mal ist – das Geheimnis weiser Menschen.

Der Platz des Nordens, dem unser Intellekt zugeordnet ist, hat eine Art Navigationsfunktion in unserem Leben.

Es ist Aufgabe des gesunden Menschenverstands aus den „Informationen“ der anderen Himmelsrichtungen – dem Seelenplan des Ostens, den Gefühlen aus dem Süden und der Intuition aus dem Westen – abzuwägen und unsere Schritte zu lenken. Der Verstand ist es, der das Gesammelte in Worte und Handlungen übersetzen kann.

Hier also treffen wir, wenn unser innerer Erwachsener erwacht ist, auf Qualitäten wie Wahrhaftigkeit, Selbstbestimmtheit und Klarheit. Der Himmelsrichtung des Nordens zugeordnet ist der Winter, der uns mit Klarheit regelrecht einhüllt, so lässt die blattlose Natur das Zugrundeliegende erkennen, während die Luft ebenso klar ist wie die kristallinen Strukturen von Schnee und Eis. Ein klarer Geist – im Gegensatz zu einem verwirrten – vermag zu erkennen, was wahrhaft ist. So kann er etwa aus Prägungen und Mustern aussteigen, um durch mutige Entscheidungen das Leben zum eigenen Wohle zu lenken und zu verändern.

Eine Ent-scheidung bedeutet immer eine klare Trennung, denn das eine zu wählen bedeutet gleichzeitig ein Nein zu allen anderen Alternativen. Den Job weiter machen oder wechseln? Umziehen oder in der bestehenden Wohnung bleiben? Eine Partnerschaft eingehen oder nicht? Entscheidungen haben somit Konsequenzen – und das macht es auch für viele Menschen so schwierig, sie zu treffen, weil sie sich davor fürchten, die Verantwortung zu übernehmen.

Der Job ist mühsam oder langweilig geworden, doch trotzdem bleibt man, erträgt die Unzufriedenheit aber nur, indem man gegen die Arbeitsbedingungen wettert. Wir überlassen die Verantwortung für die Zufriedenheit dem Außen bzw. den Anderen – den Arbeitgeber*innen, Kolleg*innen oder dem generellen Arbeitsumfeld. Einen selbstbestimmten Weg zu gehen hingegen hieße, die Verantwortung selbst zu tragen. In diesem Fall könnte das bedeuten, Jobinserate zu lesen und sich zu bewerben oder schlicht zu kündigen, um sich erst einmal darauf zu besinnen, was man denn in seinem Leben machen möchte. Das ist erwachsenes Handeln, denn wir tun, was wir zu tun vermögen. Mit der Verantwortung holen wir unsere Macht zu uns zurück, deren sprachliche Wurzel übrigens genau darauf zurückführt nämlich „können“ bzw. „vermögen“. Selbstbestimmt und selbstermächtigt unser Leben zu gestalten und Entscheidungen zu treffen lässt uns in Freiheit sein. · Weiterlesen

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Nina Weid · The Cailleach

Looking at our medicine wheel as a cosmic calendar to locate our creative activities within and the season we are in, we are in the energy of the Crone.

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Dark and cold winter days and nights are inviting us to rest, stay at home close to the fire or heating, and to sleep and to dream. It is a good time to regenerate, to collect new energy for the spring to come, the Maiden season with all its energy and joy.

In Irish mythology, it is said that at Samhain, the Cailleach comes to life from being a stone, strikes the ground with her stick, and freezes the ground.

She is responsible for bringing winter and with it, the important work of winter that enables regeneration and resetting. She is said to rule the months between Samhain (the first day of winter marked on November 1st) and Beltaine (the 1st of May and the first day of summer), while the Goddess Brigid rules over the summer months.

 

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Did you know...

...that in baltic mythology, the Goddess of the sun Saule was said to fly across the heavens during the night of winter solstice in a slay pulled by horned reindeer throwing pebbles of amber that were symbolizing the sun, into the chimneys below?

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Helena Nelson-Reed

“If we winter this one out, we can summer anywhere” – Seamus Heaney, Irish poet

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TIME KEEPING

Rhythm & Calendar

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21 december
winter solstice
solar calendar

21 or 24 december
the twelve sacred nights
pagan calendar

22 december

sun in capricorn

astrological calendar

1 - 7 january
7 days of rest
global event since 2018

21 january

sun in aquarius

astrological calendar

PERSPECTIVES

From around the world

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