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Wintering: embracing the transformative power of rest and reflection

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The concept of “wintering” is often used metaphorically to describe a period of rest, reflection and self-care during challenging times in one’s life. It draws inspiration from the natural world, where winter, as a season of dormancy, darkness and stillness, allows nature to regenerate and prepare for the coming spring.

The term gained popularity, in part, due to the book “Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times” by Katherine May. In her book, May explores the idea of embracing and learning from the difficult times in our lives, much like how nature uses winter as a time for renewal. It encourages the acknowledgement of the importance of rest, self-care and resilience during periods of difficulty.

Wintering doesn’t necessarily refer only to literal winter; it can be applied to any challenging season in life, where we might feel a need to slow down, reflect and take care of our well-being. These periods are a natural part of the human experience and, like winter, they can lead to personal growth and a renewed sense of vitality.

The Winter Solstice

In pagan beliefs and witchcraft, the concept of wintering aligns seamlessly with the cyclical nature of the seasons and the interconnectedness of the natural world. At this time of the year, we can enjoy winter rituals to brighten the dark days and care for ourselves through the coldest, darkest time of year. Winter is a time of dormancy and introspection, making it the ideal period for turning inward. We can honour this season by engaging in rituals that symbolize the restorative power of darkness and stillness. 

In pagan and witchcraft traditions, wintering is a sacred pause, an opportunity to commune with the energies of the season and an acknowledgement that, like nature, the self undergoes cycles of rest, renewal and eventual rebirth. 

Winter rituals

Embracing the concept of wintering involves incorporating activities and winter rituals that promote self-care, reflection, and a sense of nurturing during challenging or quieter times. 

We light candles during the longest nights as a celebration of light amidst the darkness and as a metaphor for the inner illumination sought through meditation and self-reflection. These winter solstice rituals mark the turning point of the year as the days begin to get longer once more and we can look forward to light and growth.

Altars adorned with seasonal symbols, such as evergreen branches and winter flora, become sacred spaces for expressing gratitude for the lessons learned and acknowledging the potential for personal growth during this quiet, reflective time. 

Here are three wintering rituals to bring peace, self-care and reflection to the winter season. They make great winter solstice rituals to recharge before, during or after the busy holiday season.

Wintering Ritual

This simple winter ritual is the perfect way to go inward, reflect on where we are and rest before we begin the next period of our lives.

What you need

A white candle or LED candle
A second candle ideally silver or blue but another white one will also work.

What to do

Set the Space

Find a quiet, comfortable space, where you won’t be disturbed. Light a white candle to symbolize purity and the transformative power of winter. As you light the candle, say: “In the quiet embrace of winter, I welcome the transformative energy of this season. May this sacred space be a haven for reflection and renewal.

Reflection and Release

Take a few moments to reflect on the past year, acknowledging both its challenges and blessings. Write down any thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a small piece of paper. Hold the paper in your hands and, with intention, release any negativity or burdens from the past year. As you do, say: “I release what no longer serves me. May the winter’s stillness carry away any burdens, making space for growth and new beginnings.”

Setting Intentions for Winter

Light a blue or silver candle to represent the tranquil and introspective energy of winter. Focus on the flame and set positive intentions for the winter season ahead. Speak your intentions aloud, expressing what you wish to cultivate, learn, or manifest during this time of rest and reflection. Conclude the ritual by saying: “In the quiet of winter, I set forth my intentions. May this season be a time of inner growth, wisdom and a deep connection with the cycles of nature. So mote it be.”

Allow the candles to burn for a few moments, absorbing the energy of your intentions. When you’re ready, extinguish the candles. You may keep the piece of paper with released burdens or choose to burn it safely as a symbolic act of letting go. As you conclude the ritual, express gratitude for the quiet strength and transformative power of winter.

Self-care winter rituals

What you need

Scented candles, incense or essential oils and a diffuser (optional)
A mirror

What to do

Create a Sanctuary

Begin by creating a cosy and comforting space for yourself. Light a scented candle or incense with a fragrance that brings you peace and relaxation. As the scent fills the air, say: “In this sacred space, I invite tranquillity and self-nurturing energy. May this place be a haven for self-care and rejuvenation.”

Mindful Self-Care

Sit or lie down comfortably. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to centre yourself. As you breathe, visualize a warm, healing light surrounding you. Feel this light penetrating every part of your being, bringing relaxation and comfort. Allow any tension or stress to dissolve. Affirm: “I honour myself, mind, body and spirit. In this moment, I prioritize my well-being and embrace the nourishing power of self-care.”

Setting Self-Care Intentions

Hold a small mirror in your hands. Look into the mirror, gazing into your own eyes. Speak words of self-love and set intentions for your well-being. You might say: “I am deserving of love and care. In the coming days, I intend to engage in activities that nourish my soul, bringing joy, balance and serenity into my life. As I care for myself, I am better equipped to care for others. So mote it be.”

Conclude the ritual by expressing gratitude for the time and energy invested in self-care. Allow the scented candle or incense to continue filling the space with a soothing aroma as a reminder of the self-nurturing energy cultivated during the ritual. When you’re ready, extinguish the candle or incense, and set an intention to carry this attitude of self-care with you in the coming days.

Wintering journaling ritual

This winter ritual is perfect for a weekend evening to prepare for busy days ahead.

What you need

A candle, soft lamp or fairy lights
A notebook or journal and pen
A hot cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate (optional)

What to do

Create a sacred writing space

Find a quiet and comfortable space where you won’t be disturbed. Light a candle or place a small lamp on your writing surface. As you do, say: “In this sacred space, I invite the muse of self-discovery and creativity.”

Centering and grounding

Take a few moments to centre yourself. Close your eyes and take deep breaths, grounding yourself in the present moment. Visualize roots extending from your body into the Earth, anchoring you in a state of calm and receptivity. Affirm: “I am present and open. I release any distractions and allow the flow of inspiration to guide my pen.”

Expressive journaling

Open your journal and let your thoughts flow onto the pages. Write without judgment, allowing your pen to move freely. Explore your feelings, dreams, and reflections on paper. You may choose to focus on a specific topic or simply let your thoughts meander. Affirm: “Through the written word, I explore the landscape of my heart and mind. I embrace the therapeutic power of journaling to understand myself more deeply.”

Conclude the ritual by taking a moment to read over what you’ve written while sipping your drink. Close your journal with gratitude for the insights gained and the act of self-expression. Blow out the candle or turn off the lamp, symbolizing the end of this sacred writing session. Carry the insights and self-awareness cultivated during the ritual with you in the coming winter days.

I hope you find time to enjoy these winter rituals during the hectic holiday season and that they bring you peace and joy at the darkest time of the year.

Eva May Baker
Eva May Baker
Hello, and welcome to The City Witch, your portal into the magical world that exists within the hustle and bustle of city life. My name is Eva Baker and I am an urban folk witch, author and your guide on this magical journey.

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