As the solstice approaches and our sun prepares to return to the earth once more, my seasonal decorations have changed, and i think of the energies of winter, the atmosphere, the magic midwinter celebrations hold today for so many of us, no matter what your belief.
Winter was such a harsh time of the year for our ancestors, the earth dies back, much fauna and flora hibernate. Food is scarce. It's freezing cold. It is a time of rest, but also a time of death.
Winter is easier for us with heating, cars, food all year, shops open 24 hours. We can't possibly know the hardship of the past like our ancestors knew.
Our ancestors had to prepare well for winter. Keeping stories and beliefs alive, having midwinter feasts, ritual, and honouring ceremonies aided survival through the strength of belief and guidance to help them through winter.
Below are a few deities that could have aided strength through harsh winters. Interestingly they are all mothers with stories of hardship they've overcome through various means for us to look to and learn from as our ancestors did. They are deities we can still honour today at this time of year, keeping their stories alive.
Norse goddess of winter, daughter of frost giants. Skadi protects the mountains, the winter winds, the hunters of winter.
A Greek goddess. Demeter's daughter Percephone was abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld. Demeter grieved so much the ground became baron and cold, like winter. So winter was thought of by our greek ancestors as Demeter's grief.
A Norse goddess.
Frigga made mistletoe a plant of love instead of death as a thank you after Odin restored her son Baldur's life.
Frigga had asked all of nature not to harm her son Baldur, but she forgot about mistletoe poison.
Loki knew this and killed Baldur with a mistletoe spear having fooled Baldurs brother Hodr.
The Virgin Mary
Christian deity of winter, having given birth in a stable at a time we think of as midwinter to Jesus, after still being a virgin. A mother honoured by many in the winter months, even today.
Goddess of traditional belief in Ireland, Scotland, Wales.
The deity of winter. She walks guiding souls in long winters to the other world. Said to have had many children by different fathers in Irish stories. If the day is bright it is said she is walking, if the day is gloomy then she sleeps. The Cailleach turns to a bird after Imbolc to search for more firewood to stoke her fire that dies at Imbolc.
It is thought by many archaeologists that our Paleolithic ancestors worshiped the bear in winter. A vision of strength in the harshest of times. Protecting her cubs through the long winter with safety, warmth and long sleep. Our ancestors held midwinter feasts in her honour, grateful to have survived the year so far. Grateful for their food, shelter, and all that the bear offers one tribe in her sacrifice. Shelter warmth and food. It is the bear star constellation high in the sky during midwinter, the same stars our ancestors looked to.