Getting to Know the Powers: Winter

© 2007 dark777fairy

A basic introduction of the deity
Winter is the first and oldest of the Weird Sisters, born of a union between Night and Wildness, and as such is as wild and fierce and dark and terrifying as her father, but with the power and beauty and deep love of her mother. She is as ancient as the past, for it is the Past that she rules over in the trinity of Fate. She is cold and dark, bitterly beautiful and hideously ugly. She is the Power of winter, weaving, the past, memory, the underworld, and snow. She spins the thread that her sisters weave into the tapestry of the Pattern that comprises all of existence. She manifests most often as a wizened crone, solitary and hidden in far-off places, full of magic, mystery and impassivity, though she can help those who have earned her respect, and with a soft spot for children, particularly orphans and those dead before their time. But she is also the achingly beautiful, ageless, and hardened queen of ice who rules the land during the winter months with an iron fist.

Symbols and icons of this deity
Textiles and fabrics, sugar skulls, household tools, witch figurines, wagons, skulls, brooms, gingerbread cottages, spinning wheels or distaffs, torches, goose feathers, snowflakes, wells/fountains

A favorite myth or myths of this deity
The Weird Sisters
The story has been told of how the world was created – of Night’s love, and her twin consorts, and the four elemental twin-pairs. But the world ran wild, without purpose or pattern, in exuberance and fecundity overreaching the limits of possibility. And the Mother saw this in her Knowing, and realized that something would need to be done to reign in the excesses of creation, and to guide her children along the path. And so, she took a hair from her head, and twisted it into thread, so long that only she, in her vastness and Knowing, could see both the beginning and end of it.
And she took the thread, and wove it about herself, and lay with the Wild One, looking back towards the beginning of all things, and in time, bore a daughter, child of darkness and cold and magic, and this daughter picked up the beginning of the thread, and began to spin all the stories of the past into a spool. And this was the Keeper of the Past, who looks into the well of the Underworld and gathers all the memory of the dead.
The Mother took up the thread again, and wove the middle section about herself, and faced the present moment. And this time, she took to herself both twins, the Light and the Dark, Wildness and Abundance, and bore a daughter of both their seed, child of dark and light mixed. And this daughter saw all that lay around, and how it played into the greater pattern, and picked up the spool that her sister had spun, and began ply the yarn and set the warp. And this is the Keeper of the Present, who looks at the middle world and sets the pattern on what is and has been, keeper of the golden sands of time.
And yet a third, and final time, the Mother took up the thread again, and wove the end about herself, and lay with the Keeper of Time, looking forward to the unknown. And she bore of him a third daughter, bright and fair and with far-seeing eyes. And this daughter looked to the sky, and saw the unfolding of the pattern in the clouds, and took up the plied thread, and with shuttle in hand, began to weave the weft of what she had seen. And this shall be the Keeper of the Future, who looks beyond-the-horizon, and dreams what the pattern may yet be.
And so the limits of time were set, and the pattern made manifest, and the Sisters spin and weave the lives and places of all.

Members of the family – genealogical connections
Mother – Night
Father – Wildness
Siblings – Divine Twins (5 pairs), Blood, Rain, Earth, Sky, Water
Consorts – Wildness, Abundance
Children – Shadow, Fire, Ocean, Protection, Forest

Other related deities and entities associated with this deity
The Dead

Names and epithets
Witch-Queen, Forest-Witch, Lady of Winter, Old Hag, Grandmother Ill-Luck, Mother of Waters, Lady of the Crossroads, Speaker of Fate, Lady Luck, Grandmother Winter, Snow-Queen, Mother of Snow, Mother of Flax, Spinner, Storm-Hag, Hidden Lady, Mother of Orphans, Mistress of the Underworld, Mother of Souls, Grandmother Death, Lady of the Caves, Night-Rider, Phantom-Queen, Night-Terror, Kind Lady, Lady of Darkness, Keeper of the Pattern, White as Swans, Weaver of Death
Frau Holda/Hölle, Huld, Baba Yaga, Cailleach Bheur/Beira, Anu/Anann (of the Morrígna), Danu/Dôn, Laima, Hekátē, Urðr, and Hlaðguð Svanhvit are all Euro-American deities and spirits that can potentially work in this slot, for those pursuing specific cultures and mythologies.
A Euro-American (Finnish) deity that works but should probably not be used due to oppression/appropriation issues is Louhi
A Euro-American (Sami) deity that works but should not be used due to oppression/appropriation issues is Jambe-Akka.

Variations on this deity (aspects, regional forms, etc.)
Winter has three main aspects, as well as her combined role as Fate with her sisters: The White Queen, the Hag, and the Wise Grandmother.
The White Queen is the ruler of winter, cold and bright, ageless and dressed all in white. Here, she is one of the models of death in Waincraft – Death as Taker, the merciless, inhuman, impartial being that comes to all, regardless of station or wealth or love or loss, the cruel cold winds of winter that snatch away grandmothers and children alike without hesitation or compunction. She is ice, sharp and jagged and as beautiful as she is deadly.
The Hag is the witch who lives in a solitary cottage in the deep woods – the eater, the curser, the bone collector, the power of darkness and destruction and magic. She can be cruel and capricious, but is capable of being moved by fearlessness and strength of will, and will help those she deems worthy. She is a powerful, powerful witch and an excellent teacher in all the standard techniques of witchcraft and other “low” magic (and, if you get on her good side, she has a few more tricks up her sleeve that she might share with you)
The Wise Grandmother is the other side of the coin to both the Hag and the White Queen. Here, she is the magic of age and love, and the nourishing and covering snows of winter. She is kindly (to a point), and loves children and taking care of them, and is matriarch of the home and all its work – a stern taskmaster if you slack in your duties, but diligent, hardworking and down-to-earth. She cares for all of her children, divine and non-divine, and will assist those in need, provided they do not take advantage of her kindness.
The fourth major aspect of Winter is her role as Spinner of the Weird Sisters. She is the spinner of the threads, the keeper of the well, always and forever looking backwards and keeping remembrance of what was. She is Past, and her realm lies in the Underworld, among the dead and all the memories they carry. She is the portion of Fate that deals with past actions and influences, both from your own lifetime, and the lifetimes and choices of those who have gone before you.
In all her forms, she appears to me with white hair and pale blue eyes, though the color of her skin varies: snow white, bone white, the blue/black/grey of frostbite, weathered and tan, and as dark as rich, composted earth.

Common mistakes about this deity
Winter is not the Power of Death in Waincraft, though she does represent one of the “types” or faces of death, and has many similarities with Death herself (both old and young, feared, associated with the Underworld/Dead, and the colors white and black).
She is also not only an old woman, but can also take the form of a younger, beautiful one.

Festivals, days, and times sacred to this deity
Festival of Winter
Feast of the Dead
Night of Mysteries

Any mundane practices that are associated with this deity?
Spinning thread
Ice sculpture
Playing in the snow
Wishing in a well

How does this deity relate to other gods and other pantheons?
Mother/Teacher/Spinner of fate

How does this deity stand in terms of gender and sexuality?
Winter is female, the embodiment of primal and ancient femininity – the old wise woman who is both terrifying and comforting, the crone, the hag, the grandmother, the ancient queen.
All of the Powers of Waincraft fall along a multisexual spectrum, and Winter is no exception. Though her major mythic relationships are with “male” Powers, and thus nominally heterosexual, she is also intimate with her sisters, and some mysteries hint at a continuous line of intimate sexuality among all the female-oriented Powers.

What quality or qualities of this god do you most admire? What quality or qualities of them do you find the most troubling?
I admire her care for the lost and lonely, such as orphans and the spirits of dead children, and I honor her dedication to the memory of what has been.
She’s extremely terrifying, even to those who find her favor. Fear is her bread and butter, and most of her lessons involve facing those fears.

Art that reminds you of this deity

Music that makes you think of this deity
Villvinter, Annbjørg Lien
Baba Jaga, Annbjørg Lien
Winter, Brian Crain
Snow, Brian Crain
Amid the Falling Snow, Enya
Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297, “L’inverno”, Antonio Vivaldi
Waltz of the Snowflakes, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Winter, Daargard
Winter Variation, Meredith Monk
Queen of the Winter Night, Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Hella Roots, Mother Destruction
Hagazussa, Mother Destruction
Urd – That Which Was, Hagalaz’ Runedance
Snow Geese, Douglas Spotted Eagle
Midnight Queen, Inkubus Sukkubus
The White Queen, Nox Arcana
Ice Queen, Within Temptation
The White Witch, Harry Gregson-Williams
Nocturnal Hekate, Daemonia Nymphe
Hagall, Wardruna
Snow, Loreena McKennitt
And the albums:
Popplewell: The Snow Queen, Symphonika
Grimm Tales, Nox Arcana

A quote, a poem, or piece of writing that you think this deity resonates strongly with
Winter is coming. – George R. R. Martin

I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again. – Lewis Carroll

Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance – Yoko Ono

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome – Anne Bradstreet

I do an awful lot of thinking and dreaming about things in the past and the future – the timelessness of the rocks and the hills – all the people who have existed there. I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. – Andrew Wyeth

The elk that you glimpse in the summer, those at the forest edge, are survivors of winter, only the strongest. You see one just before dusk that summer, standing at the perimeter of the meadow so it can step back to the forest and vanish. You can’t help imagining the still, frozen nights behind it, so cold that the slightest motion is monumental. I have found their bodies, half drifted over in snow, no sign of animal attack or injury. Just toppled over one night with ice working into their lungs. You wouldn’t want to stand outside for more than a few minutes in that kind of weather. If you lived through only one of those winters the way this elk has, you would write books about it. You would become a shaman. You would be forever changed. That elk from the winter stands there on the summer evening, watching from beside the forest. It keeps its story to itself. – Craig Childs

Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. – Mary Oliver

In reality, Little Ones, there are two winters. One made for kids; the other for adults. The one made for adults is always too cold and always too long. The one made for kids is always perfect. A kid winter is an endless and wild snow carnival where all the rides are free – Carew Papritz

Any suggestions for others just starting to learn about this deity?
Keep your home clean, cook good food, practice fiber arts, walk in the snow, make an ancestor altar, help an orphan, practice witchcraft, make peace with aging, cultivate courage and strength of character, recognize the impact your past and your heritage has had on your current actions, thoughts, and circumstances.


One thought on “Getting to Know the Powers: Winter

  1. Pingback: Spirits of Winter | The Lefthander's Path

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