Solstice marks the beginning of winter. We welcome in the fire.
On solstice we sat together – city witches all, if not every day, at least for a song – and into the fire we welcomed release. We sung together: “Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack / A crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.”
Fire festivals do not end with solstice; it’s where they start. How else can we keep ourselves warm this winter? We cultivate the fire that makes our souls what they are. Dynamic, passionate, propelled. We move forward. We reach up.
As we sit before the fire this season – flames within our hearts and upon our altars – we can ask: how did I get here? Usually, within the deepest crevices of our souls, I think we know.
Let your body spit it out. Walk into the fire. Let the flames engulf you and make you a new shape, molten. Kick the bullshit out of you for you. This can be a weapon for you to fight those shadows in yourself. Especially the shadows of others that we tuck inside of our folds, that we keep safe because the truth sometimes feels too dangerous, too potent. We keep it, though it is not ours. We steal trouble, because we think it is love. It is not. To internalize another is not love of self; in this act our shadows grow bigger, stronger. Shadows can grow enough that we fall into them; they hold us, rock us like a baby, arms wide and we wallow. We fall into our wounds like a well. What greater victory is there than to climb up and out of the inverted tower? What better time to escape enclosure?
Sometimes fears hold onto us like barnacles.
Sometimes to push away risk is to run in the wrong direction.
Sometimes comfort is the opposite of healing.
Sometimes speaking not-yet-true speech is like silent solitude. It can preserve the mystery of creation. This talk can guard the little seeds we plant, hopeful, against inevitable storms. To know, to will, dare, to keep silent. These are the rules of the witches, if indeed we have any at all.
Sometimes squishing yourself into that new mold of who you want to be and who you know you can be feels like a violence. Sometimes it hurts. But: sometimes safety is our enemy. Sometimes that constraint is a chrysalis. But: sometimes we manifest, through the dark, through hermit-being, through incubation. Go dark.
Sitting with darkness means going into our shadows. It means sitting with our disgust, our hatred, our complete lack of feeling impressed. Our apathy, our disappointment. Our anxieties. Our fears. Now is the time to explore those nasty sides of ourselves. Sit in darkness. Absorb it all, and let it go.
How was the longest night of the year for you? Did you incubate? Did the darkness serve you? Did it gather your shadows with each stride, did it cut them loose to save you from yourself? Or did the shadow shapes stifle and smother you with your own sadness and sorrow? Did you crack the concrete open? Or did you become free from the cave? Did you bathe in embers? Were you engulfed by flame? My dear witch: did you burn?
The hardest thing to do is to come into our own power. This is especially true for survivors of abuse and trauma and pain and loss. As people queer in gender and in sex. I can only speak to my own experience, but: so it is for me. It is hard to recognize that we are amazing. It is hard to realize that we have come so far. It is hard to be excited about having so much further to go. Often, we dwell in our shadows for too long. Or we ignore them. They kill us and yet they come from the space of self-protection, so we don’t have to come to terms with our strength and how easily we have forgotten it.
It is hard to face the fire.
It is hard to let the fire be within you, to notice how it is always already alight there, somewhere.
Let the fire be within you: on these long nights, as the light grows. Let it burn strong or dim, shimmering just beyond our gaze, just past fingertips’ reach as we seek inside.
Sometimes to be reborn you have to die.
This is one of the most basic tenets of occultism, and perhaps one of the most misunderstood.
We move through the darkness.
Burn through the night.
Where did that shadow take you? Where were you then, where are you now? What warmth did you dig up in that dark night forest, what did you find in the dirt, that soil of our souls? Thorough nightly toil, what did you bring forth? What embers did you let into the cracks that are new this time around – cracks you made, and cracks you came to fire to salve, forge shut? What tendrils of flame won’t take no for an answer? What pyre propels you? What hearth can’t you ignore no matter how much you try to banish it from your pores? What shape is your heart? Who is each artery and ventricle? How do they fan your flame, pump you pneumatic with life?
In the night, witch, do you fly?
This is deep work.
Cut deep. Dive.
In some ways I want to force my own hand upon myself. Violent. Force the lines on my parched skin to dry mud-caked in the desert sun. Break it open so heat can cover the cave of my insides, body, soul.
It brings me where I don’t want to go but where I need. I shine the light. I am darkness and crash lightning both; flash of life and pitch dark death right after. I hold them both inside me; they are not opposites but as close as flesh and blood, root and sap, one inside the other, mutualistic sustenance. We sing songs. Ecotone melody of care and chaos, enmeshed in harsh realization.
Sometimes to be reborn you have to die.
How will you die? What parts of you will you cut free? Systematic starvation. Controlled burn.
Holy Death. Ancestors call to us. Devils made and born, without and within and full of a resolute stillness, the kind that you can find at the crossroads at three am on a Monday night. Coins at the crossroads. Dropped white petals, howling. She changes everything she touches. Spit flame daggers, kill the beasts that follow us. So we stop dead, in our tracks, finally: our own tracks. It took us one hot minute to get here.
The silence after solstice. The hum of a new year. We set our intentions, we burn that effigy – our sins, our demons, our chains – and then what? Are we instantly saved, rejuvenated, healed? Is all we need to change our lives just throwing caution to the wind and some paper into the fire? That’s when it starts. We work. We speak our truths, present and future; hope is a little match burning bright, struck gold by sheer force of will. So we have the seeds, they’re planted just below the soil surface, somber, burnt umber. Underground. Work to do. Dig deep.
The horned one balances a never-ending candle flame. Third eye lights the way. Reminders of intentions. We, too, must grow horns, notice thorns already circling our crown. We see goat Capricorn, sea-goat, now: ruled by Saturn death-god, time-keeper. As the moon wanes to shroud us with more silence, dark again. Questions bubble up in the witches’ brew. Cauldron burns, cooks. Where is our intention? Can we speak it or are we afraid?
We can calm the tides. Cultivate connective tissue. Pacify ourselves in the tempest of our own fears. Burdens weigh less when shared. But it can be hard to share, to make that leap, to trust that when we jump across the chasm of vulnerability despite how fearful we are, that we will be caught, embraced in our brokenness, little glass shards loved and cherished.
The thing about jumping, though – over the chasm – is that you also jump over a fire. So much fire this season, all burning. Waiting to be found, kindled. More fire. Are you afraid to jump? Do you trust your own muscles and tendons? Do you trust your own skin and your bones? Do you trust in your own faith? Or: do you meet this opportunity to embrace change, challenge, contingency – with hesitancy in your heart, for no other reason than that you are afraid of yourself, new flesh, formed by flame?
I want to teach my body new tricks, trust myself to learn new ways of being, to expand, explore, to hold myself up, to move into the mystery. I want to be uncomfortable in my own skin. Fast and sudden. I use the sickle; it is the season. Blade sharp, it cuts. Release into fire, steel-shaped. Part sorcery part serendipity, I create molten molds. I leave space for the mystery, and manifest. Always changing, shifting behind the scenes. This is my magic. What is yours? What do you welcome?
Home is you. Union is yourself. Moon lessons, in the silence after solstice. To breathe with a whole body is not choice but a compulsion. Inhale, in, out, unfurl spirit. Otherwise we dance with spectres, bashful and bleak. Otherwise we shimmy to rhythms learned and memorized, not felt. Sometimes it rushes forth a little unwound sigh. Sometimes an eruption. Cherish the eruptions. Notice the baby steps. Honour them.
Forge your own path and you will never lose your way.
Witches, we walk into the fire. Witches, all: tell me about all the ways you burn. How your flesh curdles, your bones char. City witches, all, at least for a song.
Last night, I sung, alone: “Echo, echo Aradia / Echo, echo Hecate and Freya / We’ll teach our children / Year after year / To love with their hearts / And live without fear.”
I think back on solstice intentions. Were they the right ones? What to do now with this silence after solstice, what to do with these minutes, days, hours before the new year is born, old gone, dead. Water cools down, hardens, makes shapes solid. The intuition of flowing water stills what molten fire forges so it is stable and firm. Nothing hardens without being honed by such spirit. Water is our wholly dead showering us with a sometimes subtle often sudden reminder of who we are. Killed, dead, rotting in flame.
Sometimes to be reborn you have to die.
New year comes.
Welcome in the light.
Tend to the fire.
Forge your own path.
You will never lose your way.