An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.

Yuletide  / Winter:
Wintery Shamanism

"Messenger" (negativized)
 © Greg Spalenka-- used with his kind permission

Author's Note:
Late Thursday afternoon,
28 September 2006, c. 4:45pm

I awoke shivering earlier today. It has been raining for several days and my bedroom felt damp and chilly. At first I felt a sense of regret for the loss of summer's warmth. Then, abruptly, something shifted in my consciousness and I realized that feeling cold might one day be something few of us will ever experience again because of global warming -- the planet is heating up, forests shrinking, droughts spreading. In that moment, "Cold" suddenly and unexpectedly became a person, a spirit, a sentient being.  To be able to feel Her presence was a gift.

Who knew that Cold was so frail? That things as ghostly and fleeting as filthy smoke and toxic gases would kill Her as easily as wringing the neck of a small bird? That a young, arrogant species called, with bizarre irony, Homo sapiens, Man the Wise, the Conscious, the Knowing, would be responsible?

Without Cold,  the great northern forests cannot fight off parasitic infections and will turn a lurid red (the color of diseased heat) and die. Without Cold, melting ice will doom the majestic northern bears. Without Cold, one day Ursa Major in the heavens might be the only Great Bear left.

Ursa Major
 © Jodi Bergsma [Link updated 12/23/10]

Last year, except for a small space heater next to my desk and another in my bedroom, I kept my house at 52-degrees because I could not afford the high price of gas. Cold became a clever foe I was determined to outwit with sweaters, woolen boots, and heavy drapes hung over doors and on folding screens to protect what little heat the space heaters provided. It was, in a sense, a somber game (I'm a Capricorn, a Winter's Child -- we tend not to be very playful).

This year is different. Cold has become a vulnerable friend, a treasure to protect, a jewel to hold in my heart. It feels as if, by embracing Cold, the poignant loss I feel becomes a wave of tangible energy that is being sent to the far north, where She is needed so desperately. She cannot heal the great holes in the ozone nor purify the killing fumes and smoke. But just being who She is, cold, perhaps she can still hold the balance in the north.

I don't know how she will make use of the cold I send her but I envision a coniferous forest growing a degree or two colder, just enough to protect it. Or I envision the cold in my feet, when sent north,  becoming the cold in the feet of a polar bear, keeping the ice beneath her steady, solid, for awhile longer so she can keep hunting.

Above all, perhaps Cold's presence can create a force-field, a devic bubble, a shield to restore cold to the north for just a little longer, to buy time secretly, hoping humans will wake up and demand that their leaders stop this slide into chaos.

 "She Who Leads" (1924)
 © Nicholas Roerich

As winter approaches and the nights darken and grow more frigid, I envision myself among many others carrying Cold like a treasure, moving northwards, bearing her home, hoping this will help. It is an unfamiliar state of consciousness even to think along these lines. It is "magical thinking." But I am reminded of a Catholic girlhood when the nuns spoke about enduring small hardships in terms of "offering it up" for the good of the world (or the suffering souls in "Purgatory," which is the same thing to my mind). And I am reminded of shamans who journey inwardly, to inner dimensions where souls get trapped, and who intervene there and retrieve those souls.

So, in a sense, perhaps we can be Shamans of Winter, retrieving a precious presence, transforming and freeing it, trying to restore balance despite what seems like the inevitability of greed's progress across the planet.

Maybe it's too late, as so many now warn, but denied any voice or role in the Halls of Power where insane decisions continue to be made by the wealthy and unwise, we still have to do something.  And who knows, perhaps it will make a difference if many Wintery Shamans, within the bounds of common sense, bend their hearts and wills to re-vivifying, re-stocking the northern and southern polar regions with life-giving frozen potency.

Does wintery shamanism mean we have to feel cold all the time? I don't think so. We would only be "waystations" for Cold -- she would seem to settle in, perhaps, but then we would send her with blessings to whichever Pole we choose. I suspect that doing this, consciously, will greatly increase our chi so that we will actually feel warmer than usual, much as Tibetan monks are said to meditate naked in the Himalayas without discomfort....

Further Notes:
(Wee hours of 10-11 November 2006)

"Star of the Hero" (1936)
 © Nicholas Roerich

I have now been a "wintery shaman" for about six weeks -- a time during which the weather in Michigan has been colder than usual. We had our first snowfall on 12 October, the earliest on record, and my little space heaters have been busy. Still, we have had a few days now and then in the upper 50's, even the low 60's, and my stone house has warmed anew.

Of course by January or February, after prolonged periods of temperatures in the 20's or teens, I may have different reactions to this "practice," but for now, for those inclined to explore this practice, I have three observations:

First, I realized quite early that such a practice could easily slip into an intellectual denial of the body, an over-riding of her own sense of chill, discomfort, and vulnerability. That led to the clear realization that "wintery shamanism" cannot work without a full awareness of the body's feelings and involvement. If the body does not feel the presence of Cold, deeply, she cannot be a "waystation" for sending Cold onwards to one or both of the Poles.

Second, this is not about "thinking oneself warm." When Cold's presence is acknowledged and sent onwards, the energy of chi is indeed involved and I do feel warmer, but this is a very dynamic and pre-intellectual process. In fairness, I have to say that it doesn't always work -- sometimes I am simply too cold and drained. Then the chill gets into my very bones.  At such times, I am just a shivering human and shamanism seems a distant illusion.

Third, at least for me, focusing on the many and intricate nerve-endings in the soles of my feet seems to energize the process (unless I am too cold). It's as if my feet have their own subtle but powerful connection with the heat in earth's core, and my feet can then help detach precious Cold, allowing Her to slide away, undamaged, still fiercely cold, to the North or South Pole.

May we all be warm and abundantly nurtured this winter, and may the Poles stay cold!  <smile>


"Illuminare" (negativized)
 © Greg Spalenka-- used with his kind permission




Common Themes: SHAMANISM

Note: my complete Site Map & e-mail address are on my Home page.

Text and layout © 2006 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
All rights reserved unless otherwise noted.

28 September 2006: designed and written;
many changes to text and art made over the following weeks.
5 December 2006: launched after receiving Greg Spalenka's permission
to use negativized versions of his art.