During the warm half of the year, we are blessed with Mother Nature’s blossoming abundance, color and the sun’s shining rays to support our health and wellbeing. Our vitality is stronger, our energy flows outward with more ease. The earth offers us a constant stream of protection, nurturance and healing energy.
Now that we stand in the peak of darkness, the naked trees reach starkly into the grey sky and the earth beneath us is resting. Like the earth, we must conserve our energy and protect our self and space. This time of year belongs to the Hag of Winter, the Crone and Elder, awakening our strength, perseverance, and the wisdom that comes with aligning with our priorities and honoring our spirit.
Personally, I feel more at home during this time of year than in the warm months. Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert, or because I grew up in the cold, windy prairies in Winnipeg- aka ‘Winterpeg’!
I enjoy the darkness that comes with the winter season, because I like retiring into night mode. I also love when the sun sparkles on the snow, the hushed quiet of the woods, the squeaky sound of crisp snow underfoot, snuggling up with blankets and slippers with hot tea in front of the fire… I feel more connected to my intuition and spirit at this time.
But it is true that this season requires more diligence on an energetic level. Not only do we need to conserve our energy, but we need to protect it and our space as well. Many of the trees and plants that normally protect us are dormant or conserving energy too. The harsh weather can bring power outages, unsafe road conditions, hazardous ice, and on a social level general grumpiness, exhaustion and viruses. Basic travel and living take more work.
If you are sensitive & empathic, living in a busy city, being surrounded by people constantly means picking up on others’ difficult emotions that tend to surface this time of year. Also, the stark realities of life cannot be hidden beneath pretty flowers. Many folks are unhoused, in poverty, isolated, struggling, and the reality of systemic oppression and its effects are inescapable. It is a time where we may need to check on our neighbors more and keep a sense of community as well as keep ourselves safe- physically and energetically.
With all of this in mind, I thought I’d share some simple ways to protect your home and energy during this time. My approach to Hearth Magick is pragmatic, as well as multi-faceted. I find that tackling an issue from as many angles as possible yields the best results, so I do pretty much all of these things regularly as general winter hearth maintenance. I am assuming you’ve got basics covered, like locks on your doors and windows (and maybe an alarm system & security camera, depending on your ‘hood), heating, a roof over your head and nourishing food on the table. I am also assuming your space isn’t haunted by strong negative entities.
The home and self are connected energetically. One affects the other.
Clean and Clear
Clutter doesn’t do us any good. It’s a great time to clean out our closets and release anything that is taking up space that is not useful or making us happy. Clutter creates stagnant energy in the home and in turn, in our own energy. Give away the clothes you don’t wear, let go of things you don’t use anymore. Clear your shelves, cupboards, drawers, and of course your altar or your hearth.
Clearing your space energetically is also very important. This could entail washing your floors and counters with some of your favourite herbal infusion, essential oil, or adding a prayer or intention to your regular cleaning.
You may also wish to try smoke cleansing by burning herbs or incense or spraying the space with an herbal infusion or essential oils.
You can try creating a nice steam air purifier by boiling herbs on the stove, which is great for combating dryness from the heat and spreads good energy from the herbs. It also doubles as a tea. I do this with cedar, or sometimes with cinnamon, cloves and ginger. These are protective of self and space as steam, while helping to support the immune system as a tea.
Simplify Your Life
Do you have people or activities in your life that drain your energy? Have you overcommitted yourself? This is the time to set some boundaries. Say ‘no’ to that person or extra thing. Or, set up something that works better for you. Delegate. Take charge of your schedule as best as you can and see what is unnecessary. Focus on the priorities and keep it simple. Otherwise, you may burnout.
Let There be Light
This is the time of year when lights make a big difference in our mood and energy. Do you have any particularly dark areas of your home? These are areas where energy can hold negativity. Light them up! Whether it’s adding a strand of twinkle lights, a salt lamp or candles to your décor, sources of light can help prevent negative energy from stagnating in areas of the home, as well as in your mind and heart. Switching some of your bulbs to full-spectrum lighting to imitate the sun can also be helpful, especially if you are affected by SAD or need a mood boost.
The Fire Element
Do you have representation of the fire element in your home? Lights, as mentioned above count. However, other representations may be warm colours- reds, oranges, golds and yellows. You can wear them or bring more of them into your space, by adding a throw pillow, blanket or candles in these colors.
What about fiery activities? Any vigorous, playful or transformational activity can bring the energy up in your home and self! Things like lighting candles while you relax, cooking and baking your favourite foods, exercising, dancing, listening to energetic music, eating spicy foods, hot drinks and taking hot baths, all help to build up your inner fire and vitality, increasing self protection.
The color green is something I desperately miss by the time March rolls around. Psychologically, when we see green we relax, because it is an indication of fertility and life around us, ensuring our survival. In winter, we are lacking this!
My home is old and dark, a bit like a cave, with not many places for plants to thrive so, I invested in a garden window. Since filling it with indoor plants, I’ve noticed a huge difference in my winter wellbeing. The plants give me hope and have added a very positive energy into the home which in turn brings positivity into the residents and protects the space.
If you are someone who kills any indoor plants they own or live in a basement apartment you may wish to try plants with very low light requirements. I have found Spider plants to be particularly adaptable. They clear the air, are low maintenance and reproduce abundantly, so if you mess up with one (and it has already grown some babies), you can try again by rooting and potting the babies. The trick is not to overwater. If you have bright light, air plants or Aloe Vera are also wonderful choices!
I love evergreens! The land always takes care of us with her medicine. Evergreens are a source of vitamins, minerals, anti-viral properties, and energetic protection and strength. They are also strong transformers of negative energy. Juniper, Spruce, Pine, Cedar, Fir and Yew are what I consider wise Crone/Elder trees that take care of us in the northern climate.
If it’s Yule season, you’ll probably see an abundance of evergreen clippings and decor to purchase in local grocery or plant stores. These can help protect your home on the outside and the inside (the real ones, not the fake ones!).
One thing I learned from Indigenous community members is to hang cedar above my doorways to protect from bad energy. I also put it under my mats, over and around windows and keep other evergreens around the house all winter long. I also sometimes put some in my purse for protection while out.
Anything with needles usually has a protective quality. I sometimes keep evergreens by my bed to protect me while I sleep. If you’re not into live indoor plants, keeping evergreen cuttings around the house is an alternative.
Working with plants is much more effective when we cultivate a relationship. It is easy enough to do this on a walk. Find a nearby park, hug an evergreen, stand with your back against them, feel their energy and receive their wisdom. Thank them. They each have their own unique personalities. I have learned and received so much wisdom, love and protection from evergreen beings.
Salt is the master remover of bad vibes. One of my favourite ways to use salt in a space is to fill up a bowl with it (I use sea salt) and add a crystal and some herbs on top. Not all crystals do well sitting in salt, as their energy can drain. I usually opt for quartz and amethyst, which seem to do fine, but I play around with other ones. I’ve made some mistakes and learn as I go.
As for herbs, you can add which ever ones would support energy clearing, such as lavender, mint, garden sage, rosemary, evergreens, etc. But really, just the salt is what matters most. Place the bowl wherever you feel excess energy needs to be absorbed, such as an office desk, bedside table, the dining room table or near an entranceway.
Mirrors & Sparkles
Never underestimate the power of a mirror. Mirrors reflect energy back to its sender. Sparkly, reflective surfaces can all do this to varying degrees. You can ward of bad energies coming at your home from a certain direction by decorating your yule tree with reflective, sparkly decorations and placing your tree in the window facing that direction.
Or, you can purchase a mirror or make a mirror-faceted decoration and place it either in a window or outside your home near the entrance as a deterrent to ill-intentioned visitors.
Another favourite plant medicine is essential oils. Yes, they are more expensive than dried herbs, but the reason for this is that they are very potent and concentrated. Dried herbs are wonderful and can be worked with too. I find in urban areas where we have far less nature and far more industry and pollution to counteract, the concentrated plant energy can be very helpful. It is best to ensure you are buying pure essential oils from a reputable source. If the price is too good to be true, then it is probably not pure and cut with some other oil. I cannot advise using these for the purposes below.
*It is important to note that essential oils are flammable and must be handled with care. They can also be toxic to humans and pets if ingested. Follow the advice of an aromatherapist or the product maker.
Using essential oils in your space is pretty simple. You can put a few drops in a bowl of water, as the oil sits on the surface and naturally diffuses through the space. Or, if you have a forced air heating system you can place a few drops on a Kleenex or strip of paper and place it in the intake vent so the scent and vibes flow through the house. You can also put it in an output vent to diffuse quickly through the space.
My favourite trick is to place a few drops on a Kleenex and place it inside the bag in my vacuum cleaner. Whenever I vacuum, the scent and energy flows through the house.
My fave oils for winter and what they’re good for:
Lavender: Antidepressant, helps with tension and headaches. Relaxes the mind and aids sleep. Has antiseptic properties. Brings peace to a space. Blends well with most other essential oils.
Orange: Antidepressant, uplifts mood and invigorates the mind, sensual.
Black Spruce: Antiseptic, antibacterial, antiparasitic, kills most pathogens in the air. Great for when illness strikes in the home. Energetically refreshing, grounding and protective.
Geranium: Antidepressant, immune booster, excellent deoderiser, uplifting, regenerative, sensual.
Eucalyptus: Antibacterial, Clears airways, clears mind, helps breathing during colds/flu. *Avoid during chemo, high blood pressure, epilepsy or severe asthma.
Clove: Antibacterial, analgesic, antimicrobic. Energetically cleansing, warming, strengthening and protective. *Avoid if pregnant
The oils above can be combined in many variations and work together well. You can also use any of the oils above in a warm bath. Simply mix 7-10 drops of the essential oil with about a teaspoon of vegetable glycerin and add to a bath. You may also wish to add 1-2 cups of either sea salt or epsom salts to help neutralise negative emotions or energies you’ve picked up in the day.
I hope some of these suggestions appealed to you and feel like something you might want to try for yourself! If you have any questions about them, feel free to contact me!
Happy Yule/Winter Solstice/Alban Arthan/Holiday that you celebrate!
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As a Witch who makes her home and practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) Ontario, I deeply thank the original stewards of this land: The Mississaugas of the Credit, Mississaugas of Scugog, Alderville, Hiawatha & Curve Lake; The Chippewas of Beausoleil, Rama & Georgina island, the Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the resilience of the First Nation, Inuit and Metis people who live and work here in the present, in a system of inequity and oppression. I am working on uncolonising my own practice, amplifying Indigenous voices, addressing cultural appropriation in pagan communities and supporting Indigenous communities in whatever way I can.