Winter, the time of the year when I spent a large portion of my day huddled up in front of my wall heater doing my best to stay warm. My old building doesn’t have central heat and my fake fireplace warms very slowly the few hundred feet I call home. Sitting in front of the floor heater, often I notice my knees bend towards my face as if cradling myself and resisting the internal coldness I sometimes feel setting in. I barely want to leave my apartment and when I do it is usually involves the same leggings and cozy boots. Winter can be brutal, a time when the darkness outlives the light and I find myself fighting a sense of depression, heaviness, and isolation.
This is the role of winter, it asks us to befriend and face the internal and external freezing or coldness…the sadness, depression, and loneliness inherent in the human condition. I am no stranger to these parts of myself, though they still sometimes unknown. It is the part of me that sometimes feels empty or cold, that isolates myself from others or can't find the warmth to care when they need me. Oftentimes, I find myself avoiding the internal cold by keeping up with the holiday season excitement and disassociating into excessive TV or movie watching, or I only want to be alone in my apartment hermitting with my kitty.
Astrologically the winter season holds the energy of Saturn and Capricorn, the zodiac sign ruled by Saturn. Today as the Sun moves into Capricorn, signaling the start of winter it also forms an exact conjunction with Saturn (newly in Capricorn), and occurs during the ancient holiday Saturnalia. Saturn/Capricorn energy committed, slow, time, and is archetypally connected to the wise woman/man….the hermit.
People with strong Capricorn energy or Saturn in relationship to the Sun, Moon, or rising may experience a deep connection to the crone or hermit archetype. Here are some cues and clues to notice your inner Saturn during this winter season:
Desire to isolate or alienate
Overly focused on working (all work, no play) or proving oneself
Fearful or scarcity mentality
Melancholic, depressed, or overly serious leaning into existentialism
Bitterness or pessimistic
Suppression of emotion or lack of appetite
Concerned more with reputation or social status than connection
Controlling or overly authoritative for a sense of security
Judgemental or critical
Cold or uncaring, scrooge-like
Like all signs and planets, Capricorn and Saturn also have elevated expressions that move us into maturity and wisdom:
Committed and hardworking
Comfortable in solitude
Patience and delayed gratification
Bringing things into reality
Ability to set boundaries and create structures
Connection to wise woman (crone) or wise man (senex) archetype
Firmly planted in day-to-day grounded nature
Mythologically, this feeling of winter coldness reminds me of one of my favorite myths told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes called Warming the Stone Child. It is an Inuit myth about an orphan, a symbol of our internal, abandoned, unmothered child who is left out in the cold and chained to a rock. Here is an excerpt, just reading the words makes me want to cry:
There was an orphan that was so lonely and so hungry that no one wanted to be near him. His mouth was open all the time and his teeth were always showing and tears were always running down from his eyes, and he was so wild with hunger that they had to tie him in the entrance to one of the skin houses so he’d not try to eat the hunters on their way to the seal hunt; that’s how hungry he was.
The orphan was uncared for by his community as his pain was too hard for them to witness. Even retelling this myth by writing I can’t help but cry, to admit that often when I look at myself in the mirror and I am a small, emaciated, malnourished little girl similar to the character in the stone child myth. That people see my sadness and hunger for connection and it scares them. One night the orphan is freezing and feeling his own death and so he begins hugging a large stone to stay warm, feeling his own body heat reflected off of it. There are two versions to this story, one is that his tears open the stone and a female (his anima), emerges. In another, he meets an older woman in the woods, who invites him into a warm home.
The medicine for the stone child or sense of inner coldness is the warmth often times in mythology as the crone or hermit. She is the warm grandmother inviting us into knowing and offers the sense of coziness that comes with the ability to self-nurture. Inner connection and love are the hungry ghosts and stone children so many of us must face during winter. We are often disgusted by the hideous, hungry stone children in others as it is painful to witnessand we often reject or judge when we see it. It is the childlike parts of us that don’t know how to self-parent or self-nourish and constantly seek a constant outside affirmation for an internal struggle. We see it when someone begs for affirmation or attention or instead isolates for fear of rejection.
This year I want to face the season of Saturn and coldness differently in hopes of warming myself from the inside out…I want to face my inner scrooge and cold closet, literally and figuratively. In archetypal psychology, coldness signals a lack of feelings (um, hello Elsa from Frozen). Being "frozen" means being without emotion towards oneself or others, often as a self-protective mechanism though may also block connection to one's soul and creativity.
"...for the soul does not respond to iciness, but rather to warmth. Any icy attitude will put out a woman's creative fire...The ice must be broken and the soul taken out of the freezer." -CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS
Winter asks us to move towards the internal coldness with more time inside and learn how to heat ourselves, no longer relying on the Sun or external distractions. It reminds us to slow down and feel so that the emptiness can be transformed into inner warmth and if we are lucky meet our internal grandmother and hygge (see Part 2).