When we think of Winter, many of us imagine the darker, more inhospitable elements of the season. We are put off by the cold weather, the wind, the rain. Often at Samhuinn Fire Festival in the past, we have embodied the season in an icy, warlike Winter King, who seizes his crown with the swoop of a sword and an immense battle cry.
But that is not all that there is to Winter.
Winter is also cosy. It is a time of blankets, toasted marshmallows, and fireside stories. At Hearth Fire (Digital Samhuinn Fire Festival), we will return to this warmer, more traditional picture of Winter as a time to celebrate the passing season, while still preparing for what is to come.
When we first come across the Winter King at this year’s festival, the Summer King is walking alone through the woods. He feels forlorn, lost, and forsaken in this year when his season was cut short. He also feels watched.
A shadow follows him through the undergrowth, skirting around trees and between leaves as he chases his quarry. It’s the Winter King, currently in one of his playful moods, gently teasing the Summer King over his sorrow.
Less an ice-bound warrior and more a fox-like prankster, this year’s Winter King pursues the Summer King not to defeat him, but to joke with him. They are two aspects of the same being, aligned with different parts of the year. The Winter King’s time is arriving, while the Summer King’s is icing over.
It turns out that the Summer King isn’t the only one who likes parties. The Winter King does too, and he will make sure that the revelries the Summer King so longed for will continue through the Winter months. The Summer King may be sad to see his season go, but he knows he is leaving the world in good, capable hands. In fact, he’s invited along to the Winter King’s first feast.
Hard times lie ahead, but we can still meet around the hearth fire to exchange stories, teach each other crafts, and raise a toast. As the long nights and cold winds come rushing in, we’ll huddle as a community and keep the fires burning.