Trees need the time of darkness, to bear their roots deep in the rich soil for the winter, so they can lie dormant and nourished, gathering all of their energy for the next season. This is inherent in them as a seed. They know they need this time to slow down, so they can grow towards the coming light of the spring when the warmth comes back again. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, as our earth makes its way around the sun, the light tips below us and we are experiencing longer darker days. That day when the longest night of the year grabs a hold of us, is known as the Winter Solstice.
The word Sol means sun and sistere is to stop, or to be still. Despite all that our modern culture does to remove itself from the cold bleakness of winter, the wildness of our beings know that we need this season, this darkness and stillness, just like the trees.
We humans are dependent on this same, slower flow of the season to keep us growing. By understanding the power of darkness from the rhythm of nature in winter, we can reclaim it in celebration and look towards the time when we too can spring upwards towards the light. We can honor this changing and turning within ourselves as well, by learning from those beings that embrace the dark and grow from it. Those beings that I believe capture the spirit of winter are mushrooms.
Mysterious and magical, mushrooms seem to pop up out of nowhere when the rain has fallen and settled upon the earth. Just under our feet, everywhere in the deep rich humus, there is a whole network of mycelium, like the neural connections in our brain, communicating and absorbing nutrients to sustain its growth. What we see are the mushroom bodies. Among the many benefits of this being, they bring us deep healing immunity, modulating our system, feeding our nerves and calming our spirit. Along with the physical properties, they carry tales of mystical wonderment, of an ancient belonging to a world below. Of slow dark growth in the depths and layers of decay and rebirth for the floor of the forest.
Autumn is the season for the leaves to fall, to take their last dance upon the branches where they once bloomed, and then let go. Winter is the season for decay, for turning those leaves into that which they were created from. The mycelium, the network spreading underneath our feet, creates this soil. They turn death into the very substance of life.
This winter season, remember what you can learn from the spirit of the mushrooms. Winter is our time to accept the darkness and reclaim it so we can compost and turn it into nourishment for our own growth. As the world outside is letting things go to rest in the earth, imagine yourself doing the same. We are invited to go within and nourish ourselves, like the mushrooms and the trees. To explore the healing of a still quiet, to wonder, listen, imagine, and create. On this Winter Solstice night, or anytime this winter, create a space for intention setting. What wants to be born from this darkness in you? Light candles and set an intention for the warmer lighter coming days. By allowing this time to honor the natural rhythm of winter, we recognize that we are just as much a part of this turning and changing earth and we too need the darkness to keep growing. Keep yourselves warm, sleep well, and Happy Winter Solstice!
In-House Product Maker and Blue Otter Trained Herbalist