Have you ever noticed that Christmas is pretty darn masculine? Yes, there is the Virgin Mary. She’s important to the story! But…all the other characters?
Of course, there is Jesus. The reason for the season.
Three Wise Men.
Little Drummer Boy.
Santa Clause. (There is Mrs. Clause…she’s a feminine figure! But no one leaves her cookies.)
Actually, though, for many ancient cultures, the winter has long been associated with the crone – the goddess in her aged form. The Crone is a woman in her wisest, most powerful form, because she holds within her all cycles and ages of life. She has seen much, and is freed from the burdens of childbearing, the demands of sexuality, and the constraints of the patriarchy.
The Crone – like winter itself – has no fucks left to give.
When we take this approach to the season, we find a new (although actually quite ancient), magical world of divine feminine energy. In fact, this time of year is replete with the sacred feminine, if only you know where to look.
1) There are many goddesses associated with the winter and the long nights, such as Holda, the Norse Snow Queen; the Gaelic Cailleach, the winter hag; or the Greek Demeter, the dark mother. We can also connect with the energy of goddesses whose attributes may not explicitly reference the winter of the northern climates, but nonetheless hold an aligned energy. For instance, the Hindu Aditi, goddess of the void, echoes the quiet, still, timelessness of the darkest days. There are many goddess stories that seem to be the origin of our modern Santa Claus, such as the Lithuanian Saule, who flew through the solstice night with her team of reindeer.
2) In fact, while we think of Santa’s reindeer as all male, the only reindeer who keep their antlers through winter are female. Reindeer, such as the Deer Mother of northern Europe, have been considered sacred for eons and were a potent symbol of light, fertility, and life in the winter months.
3) Another possible origin story of Santa Claus is the Italian Christmas witch, La Befana. While she’s now a thoroughly Catholic symbol, associated with the Epiphany, she is likely based on the Roman goddess of the new year, Strenua. Like Santa, only much older, La Befana brings gifts to good children in the dark of winter.
4) For Germanic cultures, the tradition of Mother’s Night was held near the solstice or on Christmas eve. This was a time to honor female ancestors. The association between women and the solstice is apt when we remember that this time of year held much threat for pre-modern people. The dark, cold, and declining stores of food meant surving the winter was not guaranteed. Women have always been the keeper of life and death, tending to those just born and those just died, in many cultures.
5) Before our modern Christmas took shape in the Victorian era, this time of year was one of terror. Ghosts, goblins, and starving wolves seemed to roam free. Witches, in particular, threatened adults and children alike, making the darkest days the scariest, too.
So if you feel alienated from the traditional trappings of the holiday season, or are looking for a way to connect with the truly ancient magic of winter, look no further than the divine feminine that lives within all of us.
Here you will find home for all of your achings and yearnings, whether you are filled with good cheer, grief, or bone weariness. There is a sacred feminine energy to hold you.