During mid-winter, the time when the snow still falls and fewer mornings are shrouded in total darkness, I find peace and contentment in the sabbat. In my home tradition, we call this sabbat Brunalia, but it has other names as well: some traditions call it Imbolc or Candlemas. The Chinese New Year can be close to the same time period, depending on the new moon. What all of these have in common is a sense of renewal, creativity, and a fresh start. These are celebrations after the depths of winter. The sabbat of the hearth fire is one of creativity, with the outcomes of love, laughter, and abundance. I love using this time of year to refresh, to pour a healing balm over the old wounds exposed by winter, and to start a process of renewal.
One way that I find surprisingly appealing for renewal of the soul during this time is to start cleaning. It is hard to have enough to give to others when there is not enough oil left to light one’s own lamp. When the temperatures drop at night, and the mornings are so cold that staying snuggled under the covers appeals more leaving the house, I know that cleaning will help to re-start the spiritual cycle. Now, I am not a clean freak, and I don’t think everyone’s home needs to look like a fashion magazine. There is just something about removing even just one layer of dirt to see the gleaming floors that provide the foundation of the home.
Why else have home and garden shows in the middle of the winter? By scurrying indoors and seeing all of the amazing possibilities that can be done with just a tiny patch of lawn, or how to make a cramped two bedroom flat look like a sprawling palace, we can fantasize that our tiny homes can look like this:
The sabbat at this time of the year glows and warms like the hearth fire: sitting before it for a while takes away the stinging cold of crusted over pain and replaces the old wounds with new life. By calling to the gods and embracing the fires outside and within, I find a renewed sense of purpose.
While restoring the soul through loving one’s home works well, I also find this time of year perfect for renewing the self through laughter. Watching a funny movie, such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding, cheers me up every time. Why? It’s relatable even if you don’t have a big family. I want a movie that makes me laugh so hard until I can’t see because I am crying. This helps to heal the wounds and renew in preparation for spring.
Brunalia also reminds me that what is lost can be regained. My parents loved movies, and in her final years, my mother and I would watch as many Oscar winning classic films on the Turner Classic Movie Channel as we could. What we loved most of all were the screwball comedies. Made in the 1930s and 1940s, these Depression-era films put a spin on love; they encouraged laughter. One of our overall favorite films and series was The Thin Man with William Powell, Myrna Loy, and beloved canine character, Asta. For years, I thought the couple was actually married in real life; the dialogue was that good.
Just as original movie-goers needed an escape from the dreary reality of the Great Depression and later the start of World War II, I watch these when I need reminders of my mother and our shared sense of humor. This is a time of year when laughing at a movie can be the best medicine for re-gaining sane in the depths of winter.
Brunalia becomes the last gasp of the inward journey before spring. As such, I enjoy finding abundance through time spent with friends, cooking, and remembering the good things present in my life. What is more appealing during a cold winter’s day than sipping hot chocolate with friends around a roaring fire? There is something about embracing the cold and using the time to grow closer to the self and to friends.
It is no surprise that indoor group gatherings for parties, dinners, and intimate romantic evenings are up during this time of year. We gather to cheer on our favorite sports team, to drink, to laugh, and to have fun with others.
Renewal of the soul during this time leads to abundance in projects that take us on an inward journey of renewal that celebrates home: crafting, knitting scarves, crocheting blankets, games nights with friends, chats with family and friends about ancestors, cooking in a group, brew making, or just making the rounds of local micro-breweries. There is something about the cozy nature of these types of gatherings that nourishes and renews the soul.
The term “hygge” represents a celebration of home and a type of coziness mixed with fun. During this sabbat time, hygge is very much the home that we desire, filled with love, laughter and abundance. At this time of year, I check in with my home: are there things missing that I would like to add to make my home more welcoming? Am I hiding parts of myself from myself with or without cause? Am I choosing to let wounds fester in my home? Am I giving myself credit for the love that resides in my home and in my heart?
In honesty, it is easy to lose the connection in winter due to grief, sadness, anger, depression, or frustration. This sabbat allows time to take steps towards healing a weakened or severed connection with my own heart and with the gods. This can be as simple as writing in my journal as I occasionally look outside and open my soul to the loving embrace of the gods.
As I greet Hestia and Laima in my home during this season, I clear out the internal dirt in the form of anger, grief, sadness as I clean, laugh, and enjoy time with friends. They remind me that a home is made and re-made. We have choices. Events all around may be moving at a frenetic pace, which makes the act of having a relaxing and comforting time at home even more important. The sabbat encourages the embrace of home, love, laughter and abundance. While some now see it as a lifestyle choice, I must confess that drinking a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows while sitting around a glowing fireplace is very appealing when the temperatures hover at yearly lows and sunshine rarely peeks out from behind the clouds.