I love this time of year. The wheel turns in my hemisphere, and the dark of night claims sway in its dance with daylight. It’s a wondrous sharing. As I anticipate the arrival of winter, the enveloping darkness is comforting Medicine to me. The older I get, the more meaningful this deep autumn Medicine becomes.
It’s hard for many, I know. It’s hard, even for me with my solitary ways and absolute love for the long nights, short days, and cooling temps. And this year such seasonal challenges are compounded for many – if not most – with the increased isolation offered by COVID-19.
Nonetheless, with or without the added challenges of this… thing we call 2020, I know that I cherish my little ceremonies, my little rituals, my little Medicine acts that sustain me as the daylight dwindles and night overshadows all life.
This year I’m refreshing ‘n’ replacing a tool of spirit that I made years ago. Like most of my handcrafted tools, it’s Nature-based and simple, as is the ritual of its creation. The act itself is made of reciprocity, gratitude, a sharing. It’s simple so that my focus may settle ‘n’ sink in my relationship with the creation itself, what it means to me, my intention, its intention, how it might offer influence… and whatever thoughts of the heart make manifest as my creation makes manifest.
This year I create a new beaded string with the holly berries of autumn. My holly strand.
And this is where I free-associate. Not a way to write great, to be sure, but it’s a great way to write. I offer this side-note as one who journals zealously. ::nods:: Anyway… the holly strand…
I grew up, mostly, in southern Delaware, where the holly was designated as the state tree. The trees grew wild in the young forests of my youth, most gone now in the name of conventional progress. I recall sitting at the kitchen table, gazing out the window to witness the berries evolve with warming color in summer, often with feet made tender from barefoot excursions under the trees. I’d trim branches in December for my mom to decorate for the season. The holly offers me these ordinary memories.
The little acre of Mohican land that I’ve called home for over 25 years is blessed with a single holly. It grows along the foundation and was trimmed, against its will, by others, to be a shrub. While I’ve considered trimming it so that it might grow as the tree it’s meant to be, it’s too close to the house, so I’ve honored it as the shrub it was when we first met. It offers me a Nature-centered connection to my youth. It offers food to hungry robins in February. It gives perch ‘n’ protection to wrens, chickadees, and sparrows in every season. It teaches me what protection can look like. It inspires a link to my personal Celtic bonds, and – in this season – it connects me to the story of the Holy King who prepares to relinquish his thrown to the Oak King at winter solstice, and who later returns to the thrown at summer solstice. Again and again. Year after year. They share an act, a ritual, with one another, and with us. And so it is that holly shares an act, a ritual, with me.
The string of holly berries that I made years ago – the one this new strand is replacing – has been part of winter and summer altars for quite some time. It’s been part of altars in every season. I’ve worn the string to invite protection, wrapped it around candles and sensors in mystical workings, used it to create sacred space for healing and protective works, carried it and kept it by the bedside to invite dreams.
And my reason for creating a new string this year is that my old string is broken. I broke it. I broke it for someone who was seeking holly for their workings, and those strung, dried berries were all I had to offer. A gesture that sings to the generosity of holly, and to all of Nature.
So now I sit in the deepening, darkness of autumn’s cauldron and stitch together the seasons, the memories, stories, thoughts, feelings, visions, and all the connections that each berry invokes. Needle ‘n’ thread – always a metaphor in my realm – collaborating with Nature in a way that conjures strands connected to the known and unknown alike. Strands that I may carry to Yule. And so on, until it’s time to break and share some more.
Honoring spirit, and actively taking part in acknowledging and venerating my relationships with mystery, is the ultimate gift that this ritual offers me. It’s not about creating a tool to use, it’s about nurturing a relationship that pulls me into the mystery, the meaning and value of the act, and then, at some time yet unknown, sharing it with others, as the Medicine it’s meant to be. The Medicine it is.
I invite you to engage such Medicine, to nurture such a gift, however it may manifest in your world. And then, when ripe ‘n’ ready, share it with others.
About the Author:
Rosemari Roast is called herbalist, artist, Medicine womyn, backyard farmer, among other things. You’ll find her around the northwest hills of Connecticut. You can learn more about her and discover all her online spaces at: linktr.ee/walkinthewoods.