Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Snow Well and the Winter Goddess

Ever a bit of a ritual trollop, I wandered along to a moot in Greenwich on Friday 22nd to walk the path of the Winter Goddess in company with like minded strangers. Rather ambitiously we had intended to journey to the Mother Stone fountain, gateway of the Crone, and the Snow Well, sacred to the Goddess Holda. Due to the usual things that happen when Pagans get together, we didn’t have enough time for it all so only made it to the Snow Well.

Stories had been shared about Holda as we sat in the café. Now we streamed out into the cold darkening day and began to march up a rather steep hill. My companion, a wheel chair user, womanfully struggled with the ever increasing incline. I panted and heaved after her, lungs burning, wondering if it was too soon after my illness to yomp up a one in four hill and whether I would live to tell the tale.

AS we walked, the wind nipped at our cheeks and (according to my companions) the mist shifted in and out of the trees and amongst the paths in a suitably wintery way.

Somewhere near the top of a hill, we gathered in a circle around a dip in the land. It rather reminded me of a sunken belly button in the mounded flesh of a huge woman. But this was the Snow Well. All that is left of it is a little dip.

One by one, we took it in turns to stand in the dip. My lungs were spasming as a result of the exercise and I was seized by a paroxysm of coughing that left me unable to breathe, shaken inside and out by the wracking spasms.

I stepped carefully into the dip and balanced there, using my stick to help. Immediately, something stilled me and the coughing stop. I felt like I had been put on a cake stand and was being inspected. Then I felt myself slowly rotating, as though turned by a great unseen hand, and as it seemed to me, for the better to be examined! Meekly, I submitted. I sensed that it would be unwise not to.

When we had each stepped into the dip, we sang songs, dressed the well with offerings and lit candles. AS we honoured the well, several large dogs appeared out of the mist, making as though to join us.

We stood in the brisk breeze, high up in the park. As our candles warmed our hands, I thought of the frost and the sun and how they would be companions for a little while yet. The sun was returning but the winter still had many weeks to make its presence felt. There was still time to rest and conserve.

Walking down the hill, I began to plan my route home. Dreaming of a hot bath, a warm duvet, a steaming cup of tea, I quickened my pace, eager to be honouring the winter goddess in my own warm way.


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