This is not what I intended to write. This is not where I thought the beautiful chaos in my mind would lead me. Somehow though, I got to thinking about how as an adult I have shifted away from the traditions of this time of year I had grown up in, and increasingly the Winter Solstice, the moment of the longest night, the moment of the returning light slowly took over as the focal point of my year. Hhmm, a new thing or an old thing returning? Is how we might gather around a fire and tell stories now, or hold close to a candle flame and meditate in our modern society how our ancestors would have marked this time? Or would this have been a period of mourning the dead? Of walking out into the cold night to protect our tribe from starvation? Of preparing the already deceased for excarnation? We can never know for sure, not truly, we can speculate and make a story fit to suit us, but then isn’t that what we do with everything? The wishes I may have planted at the Summer Solstice with the Moon Horse are no longer clear in my mind but reverberate deep in my body alongside the stories I carry of the last six months - four days and four nights spent alone in a forest with no food and only water to drink; a move to a witches cottage in a county that doesn’t always exist; the next unlikely step on my shamanic path being that of becoming a Doctoral Researcher. And so, as I walk further into story, walk further into the landscape about me, walk further into my path, have more other-than-human than humans as neighbours I am surprised to find I crave a good old traditional Christmas! I will of course mark the Solstice through prolonged time sitting with the dark but I will also decorate a tree, amass brightly coloured parcels, cook too much food, watch too much television, generally over indulge just like most English families all over the country. This is our Christmas tradition after all. And I find I need the solace of it, I need the comfort of it, I need the familiarity of it. Without judgement of the right or wrongness of it, I need the joy, the delight, the fun of it. I need a ‘blue pill vacation’!
This is where I hadn't intended to go with my writing. But it seems inevitable, the women’s collective I have been a part of this last five years is one of my continuing anchors, where I can lean into for support, inspiration, sisterhood. I don’t use that word lightly or often, it doesn’t work for me, but here I get it, I feel it. It is my red pill, where I learn life changing truths. But as my meditation teacher so astutely said, sometimes it’s just ‘too darn hard’, sometimes we want a break from it. I want to sit by my fire, remembering and speaking of what felt a tradition for my family though was probably more just habits and insistences. I want to wallow in rose-tinted nostalgia for a few days as I eat a third helping of pudding. I want to feel just like everybody else when the rest of the time I feel not that in the slightest. I ask myself if I am just sticking my fingers in my ears and singing ‘lalalalalala not listening’ by doing this or if I am in fact giving myself a beautiful gift – one of rest. Resting in my memories insistence that watching a particular film every boxing day was ‘tradition’, though of course in the strictest sense of the term, is it? It is most certainly a transmitted custom passed from generation to generation but not really anything long established and not really a belief system. Though, many would argue this is what Christmas has become, a tradition of over consumption rather than good will to all, or things we simply make up to suit. I want to be able to wish people a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year without worrying constantly of offending them, I want to wear a terrible Christmas jumper that I secretly like, with a too big santa hat. I want to place coal by my back door on New Years Eve without any understanding whatsoever as to the why of it, only because that is what my grandma used to do because ‘it’s tradition.’ For a few days, in amongst the medicine walks and prayers and dreaming deeply, I will indulge in a remembered family Christmas, even though I shall do this alone, because it feels the best gift I can give to my body at this time. And the stories I shared with Infirmary Subscribers this December are born of these childhood experiences (subscribe to the muse-letter and drop me a message if you would like access through the secret story portal!). The giant Christmas Cracker is one my granny would pull out at our pre-christmas family tea every year, a small gift in it for everyone assembled. Until it became too old, too battered and she created a treasure hunt about the house for us all instead. The cracker, to my mind, still stood proudly in the corner even if it could no longer hold much of anything. That’s not true. As I indulge in fond memories it holds hope, it holds magic, it holds love, so very much love. But what if there are no ‘happy’ remembered traditions at this time of year for you? What of it then? What of the difficult stories we carry within us? What of the broken, the fractured? Maybe this year rather than seeking solace in memories, the memories could be given solace? A train set deliberately smashed up, a dinner purposefully burnt. Or the stories given to the dark. How would it be to give the stories up to this longest dark night? Whisper them from under the bed covers, scream them up into the night air? To prepare our dead for release?
Solace I realise can come in many forms, and whilst I may choose a ‘blue pill vacation’, solace can also be to finally take the red pill… Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with love from the Faerytale Apothecary X X