Season and Spirit: Magickal Adventures Around the Wheel of the Year

The Wheel of the Year is the engine that drives NeoPagan practice. Explore thw magick of the season beyond the Eight Great Sabbats.

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The Hearth and The Well: Finding Our Way in the Dead of Winter

This is the story I like to tell at Imbolc:

            Months into the winter of her grief, Demeter, distraught and exhausted, rested by a well. When the king’s daughters discovered her, disguised as an old woman, they brought her back to the palace to feed her. She soon became nurse to their infant brother.  The king’s family grew to care for the old woman, who was often mournful for her lost daughter. To cheer her up, young Iambe offers her a glass of kykeon (an alcoholic and psychoactive brew), and when Demeter refuses, Iambe lifts her skirt up in an “irreverent manner” which surprises Demeter into laughter.

            I like to think Persephone in the Underworld heard that peal of laughter, and that her mother’s voice comforted her.  Maybe that laughter caused the ice to break, caused buds to form, caused a gap to appear in the clouds and let a brief bolt of sunlight through.

            I think about this when I scolded my ten year old daughter, and she wiggled her butt at me in defiance. Yeah, doesn’t speak well for me parental discipline, but I did in fact bust out laughing, and she did in fact get away with her infraction (that time).

            Winter is the time of getting to essentials, when life is rather stripped down to its core. Beginning in Capricorn, Winter is born in the iron of Saturn’s influence. The Capricorn New Moon was accompanied by Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Pluto, all of them direct, creating a template of practicality and clear sightedness for the season that is also the foundation of the year.

The New Moon in Aquarius builds on that foundation, by encouraging us to look from our security and comfort, to things beyond ourselves—a world not as it is but as it could be, the safety of others, the work of more active seasons to come. This year the Aquarius New Moon was notable for many reasons, not all of the auspicious. It fell on Valentine’s Day, which was also Ash Wednesday in the Catholic calendar. It was the Chinese New Year and a solar eclipse. It was also the day of the deadliest school shooting in history, setting in motion a passionate response from a nascent gun-reform movement primarily led by high school students. So many of our current political battles boil down to: how far does our compassion extend? What is true security, what is liberty, what do we need to do, to sacrifice, in order to create a world better than the one we found? Winter’s harsh light and pointed necessity make sure we do not range too far from essentials, no matter how big we dream. But even thru those limitations, we find the places where we can transcend, to we can rise above what we have known and done and been, to create and foster something new.

By the time March is on the horizon, I know spring is not long. Even with the promise of more cold weather looming—today’s sunshine is hemmed in with a bank of snow clouds to the west that will be moving in overnight—the shift has already happened. The visioning of spring has begun—seed catalogs received, garden plotted out, festivals registered for. The quiet ground even now is waking up, slowly. But it’s still Winter, and rushing the Spring means throwing delicate ecosystems, already under pressure, further out of balance. Till then I tend my hearth, and wait for the well to thaw.

So I embrace the cold, the storms in the forecast, the last few weeks of my hibernation. But like Demeter’s laughter in her grief, the grip of Winter is slowly loosening up

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Leni Hester is a Witch and writer from Denver, Colorado. Her work appears in the Immanion anthologies "Pop Culture Grimoire," "Women's Voices in Magick" and "Manifesting Prosperity". She is a frequent contributor to Witches and Pagans and Sagewoman Magazines.


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