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reflections for december 2021
hello, friends. with my book manuscript due this month, things feel swirly and watery, hopeful and promising. it’s wild to see such a huge project coming together, to see years of writing begin to form foundations for new ideas, new words, new discoveries. things are flowing, growing, shifting. and as we move into the final month of the year, with the winter solstice and capricorn season around the corner, i’m thinking a lot about stillness, space, quiet. what it means to be alone, the things that we hear when we’re willing to listen, the secrets that our own hearts sometimes keep from us.
on this first day of december, i hope you’re able to create a space of quiet, of comfort, of pleasure, even if it’s just for a few minutes. give yourself the sacred gifts of time, of solitude, of stillness. honor your human need to slow down, to breathe, to rest. what does it look like when you commit to moments of privacy, tranquility, retreat? how do you draw lines between yourself and the rest of the world?
take long, slow, deep, calming breaths. stretch out your body, shaking out any knots, any tension. close your eyes and be present with yourself for a few beats. what do you hear? what do you feel? what do you taste? how is your space supporting you in this moment? what would help you settle?
space from others, space for ourselves. space for reflection, for dreaming, for fantasy. space for feeling our feelings, for indulging our anger, for dissolving into tears. space for heaviness, for lightness, for the in-between. space for the beauty of stillness.
space is considered a luxury. whether we’re talking physical space, intellectual space, emotional space, or relational space, it’s something that we have to find — and sometimes, it’s something that we have to defend. it’s seldom just handed to us, instead a commodity that we have to seek, carve out, return to.
think about how often you ask for time, for room to breathe, for someone to take a step back. think about how often you receive it. and think too about how often you don’t ask for it, either because you don’t feel like it’s something you’re entitled to, or because you’re so used to moving at a breakneck pace, honoring deadlines, prioritizing productivity, that space doesn’t feel possible.
i write a lot about rest, about grace, about accepting love and support from other people. and if you talked to my friends, to my girlfriend, to my chosen family, they’d probably tell you that i’m not always good at practicing what i preach. i’m not sharing wisdom from on high here, giving you a gracious peek into my healthy, bountiful, well-adjusted life — i’m writing to remind you and me and everyone that we are human, that our bodies and hearts and minds and souls require certain kinds of care. capitalism wants us to act like robots, to deny our needs, to center our lives around productivity and accumulation, but i’m writing to remind you and me that we deserve to have the things that we need, that survival is not the same as satisfaction, that we get to define concepts like joy and wealth and success for ourselves.
i’m writing because sometimes the words that emerge in those quiet moments include things that i didn’t know i was going to say, didn’t realize that i needed to hear.
space can bring clarity, if we let it. when our minds are still, when our hearts feel protected, when our bodies are warm and sheltered and comfortable, our soul can start to open up, peel back layers, reveal hidden secrets. in establishing safety, in tending to our various aspects of self, we can learn so much about our needs, our questions, our fears, our wishes.
fortunately, the tarot has plenty to say about space.
the hermit is space to think, deliberate solitude with an intention for internal exploration. the star is space to breathe, wiping our eyes after a massive disruption, finding our footing again. judgement is space to forgive, letting go of an old version of self and stepping forward into our purpose, our place. in the minor arcana too, we see ways of carving out space in daily life: the four of swords reminding us to let our minds recover, the eight of cups reminding us to walk away from toxicity, the ten of wands reminding us that our creativity will return once we stop pushing.
in tarot, in occult spaces, in the sacred arts, we talk endlessly about cycles of growth and release, of the moon’s phases of light and shadow, of the ways that we can ensure that we are planting seeds and harvesting fruit. but as jeanna kadlec so beautifully wrote in last year’s winter solstice newsletter, a piece i return to again and again because i constantly need the reminder: “winter asks us to consider the benefits of hibernation and stillness.” nothing grows year-round, endlessly productive, giving and giving with no time for replenishment.
and as i think about this year’s winter solstice, as i consider ways to rest and recover, all i can see is the high priestess.
the second figure on the fool’s journey, the high priestess is a figure of wisdom and intuition, of listening, of care. the fool has taken a leap of faith to pursue a dream, gathered resources and confidence with the magician, is eagerly awaiting the moment that they can run headlong into an irresistible, transformative adventure. but before we can come to the abundant connection of the empress, we need to listen to that small, careful voice that lives within us. we need to honor our impressions, our doubts, our questions.
we need to be sure.
the priestess wants us to step back and think, to check in with the self, to honor our impulses and instincts and intuition. this is the energy of acknowledgement, sensitivity, quietude — not taking space in fear or anger, not a refusal to engage, not running away from something challenging. instead, the priestess offers a deliberately different way of participating, of opening, of understanding. this is a much-needed opportunity to soak up silence, stillness. it’s a choice to really hear.
this archetype lives in the moments between reaching the starting line of a race and beginning to run; in the deep breath we take before walking into an important meeting; in the filling of our emotional cup before a major creative push. it’s recognizing the road stretching before us and making a conscious decision to embark, rather than simply allowing ourselves to be swept along by an unseen, uncontrolled current.
in space, we find answers. and in the northern hemisphere, the world brings us a natural silence, encouraging us to embrace a slower pace. as nature sleeps, tucked into cool blankets of snow and ice, as the animals and plants hibernate and recover, the priestess calls us to ponder, to listen, to observe. what do we see when we let the world breathe around us? what patterns do we notice, answers do we find, emotions do we feel? what stands out, and what recedes?
space is a luxury, yes: but only because we’ve made it so. we regard it like something we can’t have, won’t ask for, aren’t able to keep for long. space doesn’t have to be a reward, isn’t just your occasional little treat — it can be something you practice, something you prioritize, something you build into your regular routines.
in giving yourself the space that you need, you allow yourself to be known — by yourself, and by others. it’s in these hushed moments that we discover the whispers that can’t always be heard under the louder voices of need and stress, the demands on our time and energy and resources, the urgency that our world so often manufactures for its own gains. space lets us recognize what we are yearning for, and empowers us to go after those desires. in taking space, we show ourselves the respect and compassion that we deserve, remind others to treat us with that same appreciation.
and in taking time to ask the important questions, to consider where we are and what we want and how we’re chasing our dreams, we can ensure that our answers are truly our own.
there is healing in space. clarity, truth, perspective: we begin the careful process of observing our shadows, recognizing what lies beneath, discovering what dwells in the in-between. how often do you give yourself real space for listening? how would space empower you to make choices with decisive purpose and rich certainty? how does this process let magic manifest and multiply?
when you give yourself the space to truly be sure, how can it impact the confidence and courage with which you move?
we’re talking about the high priestess over on patreon this month, and you’ve got a few more days to preorder the moon + star herbalism collection that i co-created with sovereignty herbs. i’ve also got several gift guides up at autostraddle, if you’re looking for goodies to buy this holiday season. (what’s that? you want to give me a gift? how kind! check out my support the work wishlist, or send me a tip.)
have a restful, contemplative, sacred december, friends. thank you for reading.
images from this post feature cards from the muse tarot. all photographs by meg jones wall.