The Gift of Winter: a spread



Note: I composed this spread almost a year ago, after midwinter I think, and never posted it. And now here we are, three and a half seasons later, arrived back at the beginning of winter and dealing with the death of the light in whatever ways we do so. The below spread will work at any time of winter (in my part of the world, that's roughly December, January and February) or at any other time of year in which you could benefit from these seven gifts .

* * ** * * *

I love winter. Do you love winter?

I bless the darkness and wish for the cold.

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Read up on the Winter Solstice, on the worldwide, cross-cultural traditions surrounding that time of the year, and you'll notice a common theme: despite the fact that midwinter is the time of the longest nights of the year, a time of darkness and comparative quietude in the animal and plant kingdoms, many ancient societies took this opportunity to celebrate the "birth of the sun" and the growth it would soon bring.

The idea was that, yes, at this very moment , this may be the darkest time, but from now on for the next several months, the days will actually, gradually be getting longer as we move towards Spring and Summer. Now we have a hope to which we can cling, the hope of making it through brutal winter and towards the lengthening light.

It is clear why ancient and even relatively recent agricultural peoples--especially those in colder climates---would have snatched up this opportunity to anticipate the sun's "return" or "rebirth." After all, for them, the seasons were matters of literal life and death, and the return of the sun meant a return of the growing season in eras when there were no greenhouses and food didn't grow in winter; it meant escape from the crippling cold at a time when there was no central heating or hospitals to treat cold-weather infections and viruses.

But I didn't live then, and I'm not of the north; I have no direct or secondhand experience of the suffering of winter. When I am in northern places, I am fortunate to, thus far, have always had a place to live with some sort of heating system to shield me from freezing temperatures. To me, the transposition of ancient midwinter festivals against the contemporary reality of the world around me seems jarring.

You see, my inclination is to revel in the longest nights of the year, to welcome the darkness and embrace the unrelenting cold. It seems strange to me to celebrate the return of the sun when right now (whenever "right now" is for your hemisphere's experience of winter), we are blessed with the many gifts of Winter.

Oh yes--Winter has many gifts. You haven't noticed?

This is a tarot spread for Winter on its own terms, in celebration not of an anticipated return of sun and spring, but of Winter itself and of the many gifts it offers us if we are willing to accept them.

When summer rolls around for my part of the world, even I with my love of coldness and night will find gifts to praise; in the interminable sunshine, I won't celebrate the anticipated coming of autumn and winter but will focus on what's delightful about the here and now.

So, please join me in celebration of blessed Winter--whichever time of year that may apply to the place you live.

This spread celebrates the cold that winter can bring. If you live in a place that's hot year-round, there are still subtle changes you can observe at Wintertime in the natural world around you, and I encourage you to reflect on them via this spread.

[size=+2] * * * The Gift of Winter * * *

**A spread to be used at any time in relation to Winter: in the month or two before, to anticipate its coming; at the time of the Winter Solstice, to revel in its deepest and darkest hours; or in the winter months afterward, to celebrate the "here-and-now" of this awe-inspiring season in our world.

The layout is arranged in the shape of a five-pointed star crowned with the highest star (#6) above and illuminated by flame (#7) from below. When I use the spread, I speak aloud the request that accompanies each of the seven gifts as I lay out each corresponding card.






1). Winter's daylight seems fleeting and its nights are long. As humans, we are taught to seek out light wherever we find it; unlike other creatures, we do not flourish in the dark. Being in the darkness for long is like living underwater, out of our natural habitat. Yet darkness has many blessings, too; it shields us from our enemies, lulls us to sleep, and softens the harsh realities exposed in the daylight. The night can be a comforting blanket settling over us to give us needed respite before we face the hard slog of the morning.

Winter, bring us the Gift of Darkness ---in this, we will find protection or rest this season

2). There is invigoration, mental clarity, and refreshment to be found in the bite of colder air. You can't sit outdoors for long lazy stretches of time; you must be alert and have your wits about you to keep both your physical and mental activity levels "up" and survive the cold. Cold air can be bracing, reviving us, slapping us across the face and waking us up to view the world with new eyes. The cold air touches your face and you are certain you are alive.

Winter, bring us the Gift of Cold --this is the biting truth that stings but also revives, awakening and invigorating us

3). Ice and snow-- maybe you long for these things denied you at winter, or maybe you hope to escape them. Either way, like most things, they have a downside and an upside. Here, we celebrate the purity and beauty of ice and snow, whether we experience them firsthand or merely in our minds.

Winter, bring us the Gift of Ice and Snow -- this is something pure and beautiful that will touch your life this season

4). Did you know that in some parts of the world, many trees and plants prepare themselves for winter's cold or snow by slowing down their own growth? Underneath their blankets of white, they are not fully dead but merely dormant, conserving their energy and nutrients for periods of future growth. And many animals--humans included!-- go into hibernation during this time, sleeping long hours to avoid cold and hunger and surviving on their stores of fat or gathered food.

Winter, bring us the Gift of Hibernation ---this is what you will learn or the benefit you will reap by spending time alone this season

5). We need not spend our whole winter in solitary hibernation. Just as we might huddle to conserve body heat when the temperatures drop, we can also, during the cold and dark times, benefit in mind and spirit from the fellowship of others. Perhaps they are family members or close friends with whom we gather for a meal or holiday. Perhaps they are new acquaintances we meet at a winter gathering like ice skating or a winter sporting event. In the northern hemisphere, you might gather with others for a Yule/Hanukah/Christmas festivity; in the southern, perhaps you might attend a winter solstice celebration. In many cultures, wintertime--which involved less outdoor work now that there are fewer animals to be hunted and no more crops to harvest---was the storytelling time, when people would gather before the hearth and share parables and myths to both entertain and instruct.

Winter, bring us the Gift of Fellowship --this is what you will learn or the benefit you will reap by spending time with others during this season

6). Does it seem to you, as it does to me, that the stars appear brighter in the night sky during a northern winter? Perhaps it is the perceived clarity of cooler air. Or perhaps when there are less people about, less inclined to loiter outside when it is cold or dark, our minds can better focus on the heavens above. Then there's the official scientific explanation: in the northern hemisphere winter months, we are facing towards the "spiral arm" (i.e. the near outskirts ) of the Milky Way; this means we see fewer stars, and fewer stars stand out sharper and clearer to us, un-obscured by the haze formed by the millions of distant stars one faces in a northern summer. In northern Winter, the heavens are crystal-clear, bright white against darkest blue or black . Perhaps a northern winter star, brighter and clearer as it seems to us, is easier to wish on, hope on, dream about, reach towards.

Winter, bring us the Gift of Stars --this is the wish you will realize or the hope that will guide you this season

7). Paradoxically, although winter is a time of darkness, it is also a time of light--the magical light that humans have wrought from flint and stone: Fire. In winter, fire in its many forms both warms us and lights our way: the glow of candles, the heat of the hearth, and even, in an urban environment, the dance of those burning torches that barkeepers set in the outdoor patios to warm the patrons as they laugh and talk. Fire is most fully appreciated and enjoyed in the darkness and cold, and this is another paradox and gift of winter. When night falls, light blooms in the form of this sacred and magical element, touching us with joy.

Winter, give us the Gift of Fire --this is what will light your way throughout the winter, the flame that will keep you going, warming and cheering you even when you've grown weary of winter's other gifts of solitude, darkness and cold



Beautiful! And very timely, since we are having a very unusual cold spell here. I will try it out as soon as I find a moment.

Bright Blessings,


Oh, I love winter :party: This looks like a great spread and very timely for where I am ,too.


Thanks, Mountain Girl and Hemera. Nice to meet others who appreciate winter. (Although I do recommend this spread for those who have trouble finding anything to like about the season).


Oh, that's beautiful! I'll have to print that out, whole! Thank you!


Well, friends, unfortunately (for me), today is the Winter Solstice in my part of the world. It is somewhat of a mental obstacle for me; even though I can look around me and observe that it's still dark early in the evening, my brain knows that we have now entered the time of year when the days will begin to gradually get longer and sunlight begins its inevitable encroach.

It feels unjust to me given that in my region, Daylight Savings Time only ended in November, a scant 1.5 month ago. I have really only had a sliver of time, a twelfth of a year, to enjoy the meditative and reverent descent into deepest darkness. It is a time when the mind must turn inward on itself because there are less opportunities to be out and about and thinking about the world swirling around us. I like to believe the increasing darkness of the world at this time of year presses introspection onto even the least inquisitive and self-reflective among us.

Thankfully, there is still the cold to look forward to. And I will use this spread to try to make the best of this period of time and get the most out of it that I possibly can before the next season is upon us.

Oh, that's beautiful! I'll have to print that out, whole! Thank you!

Thanks very much for that, Morwenna. Yes, I should really print it out as well. I usually hand-copy my spreads into a small book for easy reference without the need for an electronic device. But this one is too "verbose" (and I hope we stick with that charitable term) to do that, so the printer is a necessity.


Many thanks Chiriku, for the lovely deep spread!

I've decided to use this for my Solstice reading this year. :)

Victoria's Finest

Yes, what BlueDragonfly said ^^^. This is exactly what I was looking for, thank you :).


I actually decided to save it for my New Year's spread. Was way too busy over the Solstice to do this wonderful looking spread justice. So.....tonight! :D

Luna's Crone

Thank you chiriku for the winter gift spread

The picture attached is from my kitchen window today.


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