In the Grip of the Crone

Unless you are into winter sports, as I once was, the northern winter can be an extended affair. At our darkest, we get about 16 hours of darkness. An optimist would loudly proclaim “I am so grateful for that 8 hours of sunlight.” God bless you. Spoken like someone who has never had to suffer a long, very cold, very snowy while depressed. I take vitamin D just to ward off the leprosy.

Sarah and I often share pics of our idyllic winter wonderland. It is beautiful here and I am grateful for all of the seasons. It is a northern thing to complain about bugs, heat, cold or snow, as if these things are surprises left by fairies. We live in the north.

And remember, Sarah and I retired from southern living and moved up here, above the 49th parallel. So, yeah, we love it here. This picture was from January 2, 2022. We received a ton more snow after this pic.

LOTS of snow! And down it goes. I was inside it (trying to remove snow from the top) but escaped with minimal damage to myself. The structure itself is toast.

I imagine it was times like these that led our ancestors to label winter as a fierce old man, blowing and snowing and causing all kinds of misery. Men have always been pretty much the same, toddlers screaming for attention, no matter the cost. Surely all of us have heard the famous, “I got this…hold my beer”.

This is me. Pure and simple, undiluted. A wrecking ball trying not to break things. And yet I refuse to read a manual. “Hold my beer…I got this.”

The other common image for winter in many cultures is a woman. She has been turned into a mockery of who she is, called “The Old Crone of Winter”. “According to The Etymological Dictionary Of Scottish-Gaelic the word cailleach itself means “veiled one” or “old woman.” In some stories, she appears to a hero as a hideous old woman, and when he is kind to her, she turns into a lovely young woman who rewards him for his good deeds. In other stories, she turns into a giant grey boulder at the end of winter, and remains this way until Beltane, when she springs back to life.” (from a site on religions” https://www.learnreligions.com/cailleach-the-ruler-of-winter-2561705)

A good point to remember at this point: most of these stories were recorded by men. Men who only wrote respectable things…that means women needed to be, um, edited for society. If the man is “kind to her” then she becomes beautiful, ie, useful.

This is a male approach. I’m a man. I know. If you are a man who is not like this, hurrah! Go read something else.

The same thing happened to witches. You know, women who were in touch with nature and knew the grace it offered. The story goes like this: a woman is revered by community for her healing abilities and knowledge of nature…someone (could it be the church?) gets their nose out of joint (can’t have anything competing with money for prayers)…too bad she has a wart on her nose… WITCH!

And then the image of the nurturing healing is replaced by a mockery…she is turned into someone to fear, mock and punish. I think this is what happened to our image of winter. A kind and loving mistress? I think not.

I used to be the guy who rushed into everything without too much thought. I have learned this much from Winter…patience. I cannot rush Spring, so (once snow is cleared and wood is chopped) I take time to read, to reflect and to learn new things.

I have significant short-term memory problems. A lot of concussions and a careless life have not helped. My psychiatric meds also fuzz me up some. And my cannabis use does not help, either. Bottom line is that I remember things best when I take time to reflect and really absorb what I am trying to learn.

Like knowing I need to clear the snow off a temporary structure before it collapses, lol. Or taking time to carefully plan my gardens because our growing season is very short. It is taking time to enjoy sitting in a chair with a good book, which I am less inclined to do when weather is calling me outside.

One of the things I decided this winter; I would like to document the whole process of growing gardens at our place here in Cochrane, Ontario. I need to write more. It is healthy for me, even though I am hesitant to make any sort of commitment, since my track record is not great.

I will share some recipes along with the gardening tips and perhaps some of the things I do to help with my bipolar issues. The healthy things, I mean. Until next time,

St. John of the Asylum

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