Winter Fire

by | Jun 14, 2018 | Seasons Newsletter | 10 comments

How do you maintain your inner fire at winter solstice, when thunderclouds rumble through the sky and cloudbursts drench the air, bringing plummeting temperatures that set you shivering?


If you are in the northern hemisphere, you will soon be celebrating summer solstice and basking in the outer fire. But in the southern hemisphere, the shortest day will soon be here, on June 21.

In the old traditions, the answer has always been to gather together, feast and celebrate the turning of the sun at solstice.


Story telling

Winter is the perfect season for story telling, when ancestors in many cultures would draw close to the hearth as stars glittered in the cold night sky. Families told their histories, and the elders would pass on tribal knowledge and ancient myths.

Children learned the art by listening and absorbing, then joining in when they were ready. Clarissa Estes, eloquent story-teller and writer of ‘Women Who Run with the Wolves’, says she was asked to tell her first story at five years old: ‘Come on, your turn now!’

In this digital age, it’s particularly warming to the soul when we nurture old practices that stir the senses. For in the dark of winter the imagination can flare and glow.


A celebration for family and friends

This year our extended family and friends will once again hold a winter dinner around the fire. We range in age from three 3/4 years old to over 70.

In past years we all brought a story about winter to tell. Then we started exploring other themes: ‘a special gift’, ‘a memorable meal’, and this year, ‘homecoming.’

After telling our tales, we like to turn out the lights and each light a candle while making a wish. The children love the magic, and join in eagerly, their eyes big with wonder.

The dancing flames remind us that the sun’s light is gradually returning, and that Matariki, the Pleiades, will soon be rising higher.

 (The Matariki festival falls in July this year).



What festivities are bringing you good cheer through the storms of winter? I’d love to hear from you, if you’d like to leave a comment.

I wish you rich feasting, story telling, comfort and warmth.

Solstice blessings, wherever you may be,




Stories are medicine. . . They have such power; they do not require that we do, be, act anything—we need only listen. The remedies for repair or reclamation of any lost psychic drive are contained in stories.

— Clarissa Pinkola Estes


P.S. You will find some great winter stories in Dancing with the Seasons. Look for stories on the origin of Chinese dumplings (p.111), bees in winter (p. 117) or the three golden hairs (p. 122).

This post is an excerpt from my Seasons Newsletter. To receive the Seasons Newsletter, you may sign up on the home page of this website and receive a free audio meditation.


  1. Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Juliet – love the idea that stories are medicine … restorative tales. So interesting to read about … I’ve been reading a bit about the northern realms here – and the indigenous culture … superficial knowledge of the lands here … but realising stories are orally remembered. Thanks for this – and I would love to have summer here all the year!!! Winter is not a good time!! Too cold!! Enjoy your Solstice Family Sagas …. Cheers Hilary

    • Juliet Batten

      Hilary, it will be so interesting if you discover any good stories from Canada. Have a happy summer solstice and enjoy the warmth!

  2. Denise Poyner

    Dear Juliet. Thanks for such an informative way of looking at winter. I’m with you on Winter Solstice, and at times it has been cold and very wet. In winter, I continue to keep up contact with people. I’m not one for staying inside in the winter, and mostly go out even if it is cold and raining. This weekend I have engaged in our winter wader bird count – so great to be out on South Head peninsula (near Helensville) catching the light on the Kaipara Harbour, searching for wading birds, and being with other people. Today I am out for lunch with a group whom did not know each other 3 years ago, and by all being at a University workshop have developed into a group of good friends. It will be good to catch up with them as I have bird photos to show them, and another has photos of her recent trip to China. Those are winter tales in themselves. It’s also good to keep contact with others while I process the grief and exhaustion of my mother dying recently. I can’t believe how medicine like it is to be with good people at such a difficult time, and today we will have medicine by hearing tales from others. Blessings to you Juliet. Kind regards

    • Juliet Batten

      Hi Denise, and thank you for sharing these great ways of getting out in winter and making contact with nature and other people. As you say, grief is exhausting and it’s good medicine to be with other. I hope the wading birds are doing well.

  3. marja

    oh what a delightful happening in your family telling tales and lighting candles That must be amazing. Your words and photos are beautiful. I am not a big fan of the winter, although it has it charms

    • Juliet Batten

      Thank you Marja. Story-telling and a warm fire certainly bring some magic into winter. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  4. Penny

    Thank you for this, Juliet, and for the Estes quote. I enjoyed “Women Who Run with Wolves” many seasons ago. I might pick it up again someday soon. Just copied the quote into my Commonplace Book.
    My childhood was rich in storytelling, which almost always happened around a table.
    One thing that kept us going this past winter, during the lengthy time my sister was dying, was the gathering of family and friends who sat around her table talking, telling stories, returning to our childhoods. It was a gift I will always be grateful for.

    • Juliet Batten

      Penny, how fortunate you were to have a childhood rich in storytelling. No wonder you tell such lively stories on your blog! The story telling gatherings of your family during your sister’s dying time must have been so rich and comforting. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  5. Denise Poyner

    I had a go at reading “Women who run with the Wolves” quite a long time ago. At the time, I wasn’t in the head space, or emotional state for absorbing its content. This email thread has stimulated me to try again. I’ve ordered the book and await its arrival from the UK. I’m very much looking forward to trying to read the book again. Thanks for the reminder Juliet. It is often I read something a person has read and usefully used, and go on to buy the book myself. It’s good to be reminded and stimulated like that to help with my personal development. Ka Kite. Denise.

    • Juliet Batten

      Maybe the book will strike a chord this time Denise. Sometimes I find it good to listen to Clarissa Este’s telling her stories on audio recordings. That gives me more of a feel for her story telling. I hope you enjoy some of the stories. Thank you.


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