"Outside, snow solidified itself into graceful forms. The peace of winter stars seemed permanent."
—Toni Morrison, in Beloved
When I became an adult, I decided to embrace as many holidays as I could. I soon learned that almost everything I love about Christmas came from European winter solstice traditions. I love evergreens and holly! I love the snow…from the warm comfort of being wrapped in a blanket by a window. Hot chocolate, multi-colored fairy lights, and medieval Christmas carols are all my favorite parts of this time of year. Yet all of these traditions come from places where most of the people do not look like me.
As an Afro-Latina, sometimes I’ve wondered why the dark wood of evergreen trees and the smell of cold pine are deep in my blood and feel like ancestral memories of home. After all, the majority of my ancestors all came from warmer climes! But in more recent history, my family members were dotted along the east coast of the U.S., and included Quakers and even Irish immigrants. Perhaps that’s why these seasonal events feel so comfortable.
A few years ago, I participated in a group meditation where we journeyed to the Standing Stones. I remember thinking, “I’ll be lucky if I experience anything, since I have zero connection to Celtic paganism!” So I thought. But as I walked—in meditation—through a dark space between two of the stones, I found myself face to face with the Goddess of the Boreal Forest.
I did not previously know about this goddess, who appears as a woman with antlers on her head. She is remembered in Ireland as Elen of the Ways, but the trail of reindeer steps she traces goes all the way back to Siberia and prehistoric times. Research after the fact introduced me to her, and I treasure that memory as one of the times when my belief in magick was given some form of confirmation.
While surrounded by people and lights and muddy snow and noise and crowds and frantic planning around Christmas, in my mind I’m nothing more than an ethereal observer of the old forest. The antlered goddess is there, and she will make a good guide when I sit vigil in the cool, loving, beautiful darkness of the longest night of the year.
Spirits of winter, I celebrate you! Thank you for your presence in every corner of our homes, whether we can see you or not. May you be welcome this winter.