I'm happy to introduce a dear friend of mine who also collaborated with me on my newest book Grow a Salad in Your City Apartment, Cassie from Maiden to Mother! She is a wise woman caring for four little youngins day in and day out, she is a Doula, very knowledgeable in the moon phases and astrology, and she is also a Square Foot Gardening expert, trained by Mel Bartholmew. Here is Cassie's lovely guest post for us this week! Please check out her website when you're done reading, as she sells gorgeous mala moon phase necklaces and has lots of free printables!
Known for its hustle and bustle, diminishing sunlight and often unmet expectations around Christmas, the winter season can be a lonely and difficult time for many. For these reasons, it can be easy to overlook the simple gifts and beauty of winter.
The winter months of December, January and February in the Northern Hemisphere can be a time of reflection that compels us to examine the year gone by. Overlaid onto the phases of the moon, winter correlates with the dark moon, considered a time of rest and rejuvenation as we await the fecund energies of spring. What better time for hot chocolate, warm fireside chats while we peruse our favorite seed catalogues and dream about the upcoming growing season?
Traditionally winter was a time of feasting, when pantries and root cellars were full of cured meats and preserves from the recent harvest and friends and family came together in celebration. Seasonally available fresh vegetables could include parsnips, celeriac root, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, carrots, potatoes and citrus fruits imported from warmer climates. A nature walk in winter, though stark and maybe a little cold, reveals some of the most stunning sceneries as mother nature cloaks her landscape in snow and frost. Early winter is also the time when hundreds or thousands of starlings gather together and turn about in the air simultaneously, called a murmuration. Scientists still don’t understand how or why the small birds do this in such perfect synchronization, but bearing witness to this phenomenon can truly be one of nature’s most mesmerizing sights.
What’s in a Name?
December got its name from the Latin word Decem meaning ten. This is because December was originally the tenth month of the Roman year. March was thought of as the beginning of the year while January and February were not even recognized as months, just collectively lumped together as "winter". This explains why the astrological cycle begins with Aries. It wasn't until around 700 BC that the second king of Rome named January after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions and February after the Latin term februum, which means purification, via the purification ritual Februa held during the February full moon. Both new months were assigned 28 days in order to help the Romans measure how long it took for the earth to cycle around the sun. Nobody seems to know how or when January picked up those extra few days.
The winter months are a wonderful time to take advantage of gazing up at the night sky whether you view it from a farmer's field or from an observatory. What is important is to get outside of the city so that light pollution doesn't obstruct visibility. Small children can easily enjoy this activity because it gets dark earlier in our Northern Hemisphere and is quite accommodating for those early bedtimes.
According to The Old Farmer's Almanac there are a few astronomical sights we can look forward to in the next few months:
The Pleiades Star Cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters, is visible with the naked eye or with the use of binoculars from October to April. The cluster is visible shortly after dusk in the south east sky. WikiHow has more detailed instructions on how you might find them.
Venus, the Morning Star, is now at its most brilliant time of the year. Catch it in the south east sky approximately 3 1/2 hours before sunrise. If there is snow on the ground, it may even be bright enough to cast a shadow.
Although most of the meteor showers for 2018 appear to be over or are just completing in the next few days, watch for the Quadrantids in early January.
Of course, there will be a beautiful full moon in Cancer on December 22nd, one day after the winter solstice, which leads me to my next idea for imbuing the busy winter season with a little sacred...
Burning Bowl Ceremony I'm looking forward to participating in my first Burning Bowl Ceremony this December 22nd to close out the year. The full moon is all about releasing, and this ceremony is an opportunity to review the past, identify those limiting beliefs, emotions or old hurts that no longer serve our higher good and let them go in order to create space for new intentions and growth in the New Year.
If this strikes a chord and you would like to participate in your own Burning Bowl Ceremony, in the next few days leading up the 22nd, sit in quiet meditation with pen and paper ready, focusing on what you are ready to release. Traditionally, the completed list then gets tossed into the flames, whether this is a campfire or a fire lit in a safe, fire-proof receptacle. It can be done on your own or within a group setting.
For a personal spin on this traditional ceremony, I will be transposing each of my negative conditions onto origami paper, folding them into cranes and individually toss them into the flames, letting them take wing as the smoke symbolically carries them up to the Creator, clearing the way for beginnings.
Foraging and Creating
Most people don't think of wild foraging in the winter. In many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, the only thing that appears to be green are, well, evergreens! Pine needles are a rich source of vitamin C and can be chewed, brewed as a tea or made into pine needle vinegar. According to author and herbalist, Susun Weed, pine needle vinegar makes a tasty alternative to balsamic vinegar. To make it, simply fill a wide-mouth mason jar with pine needles, cover the needles completely with pasteurized apple cider vinegar, Place a non-metal lid on top, label the contents and the date and tuck away at room temperature in a dark space for six weeks. After six weeks have passed, strain the vinegar and use it as you might a balsamic vinegar such as for a salad dressing or a bread dip. All coniferous trees are safe to experiment with, but soft pines will yield a better result than hard pines, which will be more on the turpentine spectrum. Don't worry! Even if your vinegar turns out too strong, you could still use it for cleaning and it is still safe.