“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.” – Unknown
So here we are. The final harvest has come, the autumn equinox has passed by, the temperature is dropping, the leaves are changing color and the darkness is slowly taking over. A bittersweet feeling, for sure, but it is one I’m finding to be more and more sweet as of late, surprisingly enough. Now, I am born and raised in Fenno-Scandinavia and have always had a complicated relationship with winter. It’s a given to be honest, most of us do. Because here the dark half of the year isn’t merely a slight change in temperature. No, it’s long and harsh – a little bit too long for my taste – and the light quite literally disappears for months on end. Back in the the old days the cold season took many, many lives if the harvest wasn’t plentiful enough, and a lot of ancestors resting inside the Land perished this way.
Thankfully I live in the 21st century and I don’t have to worry about starving to death in this day and age. Still, this season can be heavy on the mind and body (seasonal depression is real you guys, remember to take your D-vitamin!) I’ve always loved spring the most since it represents beginnings for me, a surge of energy; light returning, things growing, ideas thriving, countless possibilities… Autumn may be beautiful but it’s a sign of death coming, of darkness lurking right around the corner. But my outlook on the dark season slowly changed over time. When I truly started deepening the relationship with the Land – opening up to it and in turn having it open up to me – I came to experience our seasons differently. It’s hard to put it into words, this sense of just knowing, but I can feel how much the Land has latched onto me and rooted itself there. How it’s inside my bones, how it entwines with my spine; how the seasons that are necessary for the Land now have become necessary for me, too.
The dark half of the year is still death, darkness and decay. That hasn’t changed. But I’ve come to see the beauty in it, the necessity in it, how it transforms the spirits and allows the dead step closer to us. How much of a gift this time is for us witches. These are all things I knew starting out but didn’t truly get before I experienced it, before I felt it. And that’s just it: there are certain ideas you can read about, hear about and nod your head to, but still not fully understand before it clicks. It’s in that moment they turn from ideas to a facts; it is then they become necessary in your approach to the world around you. This was also the case with animism for me, I remember the moment it fully clicked and I remember the dreams the spirits gave me after. They could smell the change; they knew that I knew.
Many of the spirits I work with feel closer throughout the dark months, it is their prime time. Set is one of them; he’s a lord of barren lands, the opposite to the greenery of summer, and a bringer of storms. I can feel him manifested in the nature around me stronger during these times. We also have our witch queen transforming to the white snow maiden and our witch king becoming the dark clothed hunter, both of them riding over the sky. A very dear familiar spirit of mine belongs to the depths of the underworld – a walker between worlds – and is a chthonic force. “I came from darkness,” they said the very first time we talked, and the connection to the dark season was very much obvious.
I’ve learned to work with and appreciate this darkened time, but I don’t know if I’ll ever come to love winter. Probably not.
But I can see the beauty in it, just as I can see beauty in death.