Oregon is an interesting place to be a witch. Our weather doesn’t line up neatly with the typical Wheel of the Year as presented in most books on Wicca and witchcraft. Especially the winter months.
I remember the Januaries and Februaries of my Northern Michigan childhood, when the bay waters froze over and the fields and forests sparkled with sharp, fierce beauty. Going outdoors required careful preparation: boots and snow pants, coats and mittens and hats. A simple walk was an obstacle course of deep snow to sink in, or sheets of ice to slip on.
January in the Willamette Valley might be rain soaked and mud spattered, but going outside requires only a warm coat or sweater and a pair of sturdy, relatively water resistant shoes. Here the seasons and cycles fade gently into each other. Right now, last year’s withered rose hips rest alongside this year’s tender new leaves. Most of the bare tree branches are already tipped with swelling buds. And here and there, a few cautious blossoms are opening.
It makes for a different experience of the wheel of the year. The time from Yule to Imbolc isn’t a time of snow covered meadows or longing for green things. It’s a time of blooming camellia’s and viburnum, of vibrant grass and moss. Squirrels, crows, and chickadees keep the parks and sidewalks lively. Of course it’s dark still; the days are overcast, the nights long. But I can already see and feel the shift happening toward the light half of the year. It’s easy to revel in the quiet, rainy days and cool weather.
We do sometimes get rough weather in the early months of the year, but for the most part January and February seem like gentle months to me. Nature seems to be resting, breathing slow and deep, but she’s not sleeping. She is, perhaps, meditating, turned a bit inward, but she is still awake.
It’s a good time to do tarot readings and journeys, to dream of the future, and read pagan books in bed with a cup of hot tea on the nightstand. But it’s also a good time to walk the paths in my favorite parks without getting too hot or being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I revel in the vibrant green of the ubiquitous moss, the sweet smell of fir, cedar, and wet earth. I watch the light steadily grow, and watch the slow procession of blooms from now until Samhain.
Sometimes I feel like I should make a bigger deal about the Sabbats, do more to celebrate them. But I think maybe the big celebrations are less important to me than the daily ones. I feel more awe when I see the first splash of red in the maples every fall, or the first daffodil shoots emerging from the mud in spring than I do in most group rituals. Maybe it has to do with being an introvert, or maybe I just haven’t found the right group since moving to the city. Either way, I’ve come to appreciate the slow and steady path I’m walking, and to feel the magic in the small shifts that happen every day.