Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Musings On A Winter's Day

Moon Sonata by Igor Medvedev
I am struck by this painting; as an artist myself, I am absolutely awed  by the subtle gradation and use of light. There is something that freezes the subject of this painting in time: a moment that is not a moment. It is somewhere between the worlds.

To begin with, it's a moonlit scene that captures in the moon shrouded in clouds and a cold mist-and it's not blue. Many paintings of this type use blues, purples and stark whites for backgrounds and contrast. Here each element stands out: the nearly naked tree, the grasses and background greenery, the scattered snow on the ground, the stream and the rocks in it.

The synergy of the scene comes from the graduation of light and variegated fade-out of the greens.
Together, there is an echoing stillness and peace that radiates out to the viewer. This is how Nature really looks in the wee hours of a cold Winter morning; it is tonal and lyrical, using all the basics of an outdoor scene. It is a sonata, in every sense of the definition.
Winter is a sharp contrast to all the other seasons. Spring, Summer and Fall are all riotous with blooming flowers and color. Winter is sharp-in temperature and temperament. In many parts of this country, a cold snap is equal to a cold slap that gets our attention and firmly lets us know that we are not in charge of the seasons-corporate marketing be damned. After the joyous celebrations which occur throughout the later months of the year have ended, Winter firmly establishes itself.

Rightfully so, I say. Our varieties of agrarian-based spiritual traditions celebrate the seasons lustily and lavishly, yet when we come to this time of the year many of us are at a loss for religious expression, other than to cover up the sharply delineated starkness of Winter with greenery and merriment. After Yule/Christmas, my decorations are bare branches and garlands of red glass winterberry beads. ( The Carnival season has begun in other parts of the world, but here we wait for Mardi Gras).

It is easy to miss Winter's clever and indirect beauty. What we often see with our eyes is grey and brown and essentially dead; we miss the inherent beauty of  the process of decomposition and decay.
We do not comprehend the breaking down of what once was to make room for what will be, that the memory of what used to be heralds the reality of what is to become. Beauty is to be found in all of Nature, in brow, crisp leaves that nourish the soil; in grain that has been winnowed and fields that lie dormant; in trees which thrust their bare branches to the sky in exaltation. Beneath the frozen soil there is a place of warmth were the seed sleeps as it grows in the darkness.

As much as I adore the shimmering glimmer of the holidays, I am relieved when they are over. I am ready for this period of rest. I want to nest, to settle in with my books and a hot cup of tea; I want to sit idle in the dark and let peace wash over me as I meditate and go down to the Place of Deep Indwelling, where I can find lost parts of myself and reclaim them to wholeness. In Winter we are continually born and born again, we are vessels of regeneration to fill with renewal in preparation of Spring.

A Clean Sweep For The New Year

January is a great time to clean out any residual stale energy  accumulated from the old year. Throughout the year our living space  becomes just as cluttered with energy just as it does with physical matter, and when that energy is allowed to remain it turns stagnant, creating pockets of this negativity which lowers the beneficial vibration of the space. You open your chakras to allow good energy to flow, so why not do the same for the place where you live?

If you enter the New Year still feeling inexplicably stuck or burdened, if you feel weighed down or 'heavy', chances are it's due to what's around you. Get out your smudging tools as well as the mop and bucket and make your living space shine!

After a through physical cleaning (because the old saying really IS  true that "cleanliness is next to godliness"), I smudge every room from wall to wall- paying special attention to the corners-with white sage. Sage is wonderfully useful for moving out negativity. I then smudge a second time with sweetgrass, which raises the vibration of the space. At the time I do this I also carry a tiny temple bell (the one from my altar) and ring it a couple of times as go along. Bells have long been rung to dispel evil; their movement disrupts negativity and keeps it from re-forming.
Some Buddhists keep a few of these bells tied to a short ribbon or rope to hang in their home for just this purpose; I keep a small set of windchimes hung up on the window valance in my bedroom year round. Wiccan author Scott Cunningham recommended a similar thing, to hang a little bell near a window so that when moved in the breeze it imparted love and happiness to those living in the house.

Many people suffer from the holiday blues when the festivity of Yule/Christmas ends and a sudden shift in excitement and activity occurs. Emotions have been steadily building for weeks and when it is over we sometimes feel overwhelmed with a sudden emptiness which can lead to depression. These  emotions leave the same sort of psychic signature as the vibration we raise for ritual, and if ungrounded, we are left feeling disoriented and unbalanced. This vibration becomes a sort of static which affects our physical and emotional function: cleaning it out restores us to balance.

Other ways to psychically cleanse the living space is to wash down the area with Florida Water, which is type of cologne used in spiritual cleaning by those who practice hoodoo and folk magic. Florida Water-scented with florals and citrus, primarily orange essential oils- is added to a bucket of water and then used as a magical preparation to remove negativity and replace it with a higher vibration. ( Florida Water is also an excellent agent in aiding you to contact the Ancestors, so leave a small bowl of water with a little in it on your altar or elsewhere.) Kananga Water is a similar preparation, except it is scented with ylang-ylang and suspended in alcohol. Either preparation leaves the refreshed and rejuvenated. You can make your own Florida Water ( recipes on the Internet) or purchase it commercially. I have found it in the supermarket in the personal care isle.

A pomander made from sticking whole cloves into an orange is a great way to seal out negativity (cloves,citrus fruit) while giving off a lovely scent. Tie a ribbon around it for hanging, and put it in a place where it will dry naturally, otherwise it may mold or mildew. It is also believed that a pomander of this type will bring prosperity and financial blessing into the home.

Peace comes when we make a place for it. Spiritually cleansing your living place creates the calm needed for regeneration during the months of Winter. Creating a lovely, comforting place allows us to
invite this peacefulness in while we are resting, and renewing our spirit as we look forward to the return of the Light Time of the year.