for 23 December 2022
The nearer the new moon to Christmas Day, the harder the winter. — folk wisdom quoted in The Hedge Witch Book of Days by Mandy Mitchell
The moon was dark at 5:17am this morning. Just because it seems pertinent, I’m going to note that both the moon and the sun are in Capricorn, the astrological sign of the mer-goat. Traditional astrology claims that this is a grounded time, ruled by the planet associated with the old agricultural god, Saturn. But… to my mind, goats and fish are both rather fluid and mercurial, not what I would call stolid beings. The Latin for goat, caprae, is where we get the word capricious, after all. And winter weather is nothing but the undiluted whims of the sky gods.
Today is a case in point.
Hard freeze temperatures in Florida, 20°F in Dallas. Feet of snow dumping all around the Great Lakes. Churning hurricane force winds in the middle of the continent. In the middle of winter! Sudden plunges in temperature of up to 50°F. With the wind chill, it feels like thirty to forty-five degrees below zero (°F) over something like over half the continent. As the National Weather Service is shrilly noting on websites all across the country, at these temperatures frostbite can develop in as little as fifteen minutes of exposure. So do not go caroling tonight… duh…
On the other hand, northern New England was just above freezing by sunrise and stayed there until sunset, suffering torrential rain and wind gusts up to fifty miles per hour for most of the day. With the first big gust around 8:30am, the whole central part of the state lost power. I was out in the garage battling water when the power went down. Because all that snow we had a week ago? Melted. Along with the heavy rainfall, the garage was a pond. But at least I’m up on the hillside. There appeared to be a river in the middle of Main Street for most of the day. Most businesses had to close with the power outage. I suspect business owners hung around to watch the water rising, biting their nails.
I got the garage sorted with a combination of wood planking and new flashing on one of the doors. Now it’s merely wet inside, which is not ideal but good enough. You see, I’m very concerned that all this mess will freeze solid overnight, along with all the plumbing… because we’re heading into one of the coldest Christmases on record. It will be below 0°F here by Sunday. Thank heavens the power came back on in the late afternoon. I have no heat when it’s down.
I had to make one trip out early in the evening after the power came back on. (Thyroid meds recognize no weather…) I was in the store less than ten minutes. It was raining when I went in and the wind had died. That should have put me on high alert, but I was too exhausted to recognize the signs of Something Bad Approacheth. When I came out, the wind was back and the rain had turned to heavy snow. My car was covered. I couldn’t see across the parking lot. Then on the white knuckle drive home, the town lost power again for a few minutes and all the lights went out. There was no visibility. Lucky it was not far and I know the road well, including all but last night’s new potholes.
It snowed so hard, there’s a fresh cover of snow on the ground about 3″ thick. Now, I think the snow has stopped, but the wind has picked up even more; my wind chimes are incessant. Also, it has dropped about 20°F in the last two hours and shows no signs of slowing the plunge.
They named this weather system Winter Storm Elliott before it had even developed. They said it would be a cyclone bomb with the potential for flash freezing and widespread blizzard conditions. I think that was just asking for trouble from the mer-goat. Maybe we need all the alarmism to draw attention to real dangers in these increasingly alarming and dangerous times. Maybe we need terrifying names just to get Texas to listen and prepare. (But did they… we’ll see in the morning, I guess.) Maybe… but I’m superstitious enough to distrust naming the un-manifest. Seems like it’s bad policy to draw some sorts of attention with proper nouns.
Still, we do need to pay attention and prepare, so I guess the alarmism will rule the weather forecasts for the foreseeable future. (Maybe we can stop anthropomorphizing though… or capri-morphizing, as it were…) And all I can think is that if this is December, what’s February going to bring…
However… as I was sitting wrapped in blankets, with candles for my light — this storm brought incredible darkness for the full day! — and no noise except the wind outside, it occurred to me that this is sorta what collapse will feel like. Days like this becoming more and more frequent until it’s not unusual to be without power. Without communication. Without heat or water if we’re relying on electricity to pump the fluids. I’m grateful that in this house the water is gravity fed. We had a well pump in the last house. No electricity, no flushing the toilet. And out there in the boonies, the power could go down if someone sneezed violently near a utility line. Got to the point where we kept several gallons of water in the linen closet all the time. I still do that, out of habit, but not having that concern was the bright spot today. Well, that and the fact that it was 37°F above zero today, not below… It could have been much worse! But I didn’t even power up the generator.
I also didn’t do very much but read. Which actually was sort of nice. There was even a nap with the cat sitting on my feet.
Today was Larentalia, in addition to being the dark moon and the nastiest storm I’ve experienced in a while. This holiday honors the household gods, the lares, spirits of place, as well as the mother of all lares and the adoptive mother of Romulus and Remus, Acca Larentia. Larentalia fell after Saturnalia and before the end of the year as a way to get right with the genii of your home. In Rome, the head of household would make sacrifices and pour libations. Because the lares are particularly associated with the hearth and the kitchen, the traditional meal was what we might call comfort food — beans and bread, fruits, nuts and olives.
As it happened, this was about all that I could manage to cook today, what with no power. So I had a Roman meal for Larentalia. But in a chair… I’m not one for lying down with food… I honestly don’t know how they managed to get even most of it to their mouths, never mind negotiating a wine glass!
I am generally against pouring libations and dumping food on an altar… I really doubt that if there are discarnate beings they need or want human food… but I do leave out bread and bird seed for the small creatures outside (never invite rodents into the home!), and I think that counts as a sacrifice. (The bird seed is certainly expensive enough!)
But I’m thinking that just taking care of the house ought to make the household spirits happy. And today, house-keeping was exceedingly hands-on. Now, as I listen to ceaseless porch chimes and rattling branches, I just hope there are lares on hand and that they’re minding the plumbing, especially that drain pipe in the garage… could really use some divine protection out there over the next forty-eight hours… or there will be a skating rink in my garage… which isn’t near as pleasant as that sounds!
Elizabeth Anker 2022