A Winter Ritual
There’s something auspicious about starting off a new calendar with a Full Moon on the very first day. A Water Moon, no less. In Chinese Medicine, winter’s element is Water – the most Yin of all the elements, and a reminder of what we need right now: deep rest and stillness in order to replenish.
On the first day of this new year, I walked through the woods listening to the wind’s hushed songs and the whispered conversations between branches and Chickadee. I felt the snow crack under my steps. I put tobacco and prayers down at the feet of majestic Cedar trees, my head tilted back, mesmerized by the sacred dance of snowflakes in the sunlight. My breath formed tiny icicles in my scarf, and the trees shared Wisdom like bolts of lightning straight to my heart. Time stood still. And in one suspended moment, I realized something I’ve been holding tightly needed to be shared.
I’ve kept my favourite winter ritual close to my heart, hanging onto it as though it were a secret. I’ve felt possessive around it because it is so powerful, so healing, so magical. But looking up at that wondrous Cedar, I knew deep in the marrow of my bones, this is for you and you and I. This is nourishment, nurturing for our own Heart. This is nourishment for Nature, nurturing for Earth.
This is Sacred Medicine.
Respect it and use it Wisely.
1- Bundle up, pack a pair of scissors and a reusable bag, and go for a walk. If you have access to a forest, go there. If not, find a quiet park or street. Take your time here. Feel your feet and the earth beneath you. Observe your breath. Greet the Weather and the Trees. When you meet some Cedars (Hedges or Trees), introduce yourself, offer tobacco, gratitude, prayers or songs. And then ask permission to take a few branches. Listen with your entire body and respect what you feel. If the answer is no, say thank you and move on to another tree… If the answer is yes, cut 2 or 3 small pieces and offer more gratitude. Rather than taking a bunch of branches from the same Tree, repeat this process with a few of them. When you have a good bundle, walk home with the same awareness and presence. Keep greeting all of Nature around you.
2- Once home, place your Cedar bundle in a big pot on the stove and cover it with water. Bring the water to a boil, then turn the heat down so that it simmers for about 45 minutes (or longer if you wish).
3- When the time is almost up, draw a hot bath so that it is ready and waiting for you. Light some beeswax candles if you like.
4- Remove the Cedar branches and put them aside for now. Pour about 2 cups of Cedar Water into your bath. (If you’ve made a very large batch, place one or two small Cedar branches in mason jars and pour some of the water over top of it. Close the lids tightly while it’s hot (to form a seal) and let it cool on your counter. Store it in the fridge, and reheat it for your next bath.)
5- As you soak in the bath, let the warmth of Water and the medicine of Cedar nourish you. Give yourself permission to be held and to hold yourself with compassion and kindness. Stay as long as you’d like.
6- Near the end of your bath, reflect on all the things you’re ready to let go of: Fears, Insecurities, Judgements, etc. Unplug the tub and let the water drain, visualizing it washing away all of these things, carrying it out and back to the earth. (You can do this sitting in the tub, or simply near it, watching the water drain).
7- Give Thanks.
8- Later that day, or in the following days, take the cedar branches back to the woods. Place them at the foot of a tree or near a riverbed or brook. Once more, leave prayers of Gratitude, and Tobacco if you’d like.
As I mentioned before, this ritual is very dear to me. I would be so grateful to hear your experience with it. How does it feel in your heart and in your body? How did you make it your own?
From my nourished heart to yours,