Season of the Winter Witch
by Amanda M. Sawyer
Magic didn’t arrive until the snow did.
Winter was long past when it should have made its initial appearance. Autumn had been unseasonably warm. The first frost wasn’t until mid-November, when the last leaves that hung to the trees for dear life, finally fell to the ground and crumbled underfoot. Eira felt the absence of winter like an ache in her bones. Her magic drained over a month ago, around Samhain, and would be replenished upon the first snowfall and not a moment before. It was this way every year since Eira could remember, yet the complete absence of her magic was never something she could get used to. It made her lethargic, listless. Made even the most exciting tasks feel mundane and boring.
Even her job at her older sister’s store, Wayward Witches Oddities and Curiosities Shoppe, which she typically enjoyed, had been torturous these past weeks. Eira now looked out the storefront window, into the street beyond, watching cars drive by, people huddling into bulky coats as they rushed down the street to get out of the blustery wind. Over an hour ago, her older sister had tasked her with locking up the store and Eira hadn’t had a single customer or looky-loo since.
All afternoon, people bustled in and out of the shop for readings, hoping to get a charm for luck or a potion for love this holiday season. Others searched for the perfect gift for a loved one. Magic was all around her here, yet she herself had none left. Boughs of evergreen decorated the windowsills and scented the air, along with candle wax and incense, making the space feel cozy and intimate, the perfect place to get a tea-leaf or tarot card reading. When she was little, she always imagined working there, telling people about their secrets: giving them insight into their past, present, and future.
She glanced at the clock. Ten minutes left until closing time and she knew she couldn’t even leave a minute early. Not this close to the solstice, and to Yule. Someone might come in needing something and if it got back to her sister that the store was closed, she’d have hell to pay for it. Next to her hand on the counter lay her old well-loved tarot deck, the edges slightly frayed from use, given to her by her grandmother years ago. Eira’s hand twitched toward it. It wouldn’t hurt to inquire with her own intuition and the ancestors to pass the remaining time, would it?
She picked up the cards, warm and familiar in her hands like they were old friends, and began to shuffle, clearing her mind and opening it to the possibilities.
“What message do the ancestors have for me today?” she asked aloud and shuffled the deck once more. She cut the deck in half and pulled the first card from the bottom pile.
The Star. One of Eira’s favorite cards. A symbol of light, hope, purpose, and renewal. On it, a naked goddess knelt, one knee on solid ground, her foot in water. The stars in the night sky illuminated her with their heavenly light so much that she seemed to glow as if she were the source. The goddess poured out two pitchers of glistening water, one back into the lake in which she stood, the other on the ground behind her.
Eira smiled to herself, knowing that this signified a new phase of life was coming her way, but had to wonder what that new phase was. It was ironic, knowing that the wheel of the year was coming to a close, that the longest night, the winter solstice and Eira’s birthday, was only days away. But what was The Star telling her today? She searched inside herself for the answer but came up with nothing. With a sigh, she put the card back in the deck and pushed it aside.
Her sister’s beloved cuckoo clock chimed seven o’clock behind Eira and she began to circle the shop, turning on the lights that gave the shop a star-like glow through the windows at night. Lastly, she pulled on her coat, locking the doors behind her, shutting out the scent of tea blends and specialty candles which were her mother’s specialty.
She stepped out onto the now deserted sidewalk and trudged out into the piercing December air. It seemed that everyone had already made their way home for dinner. The wind whipped and whistled, catching the curls of her long brown hair, making it twist and dance upward into the air. Eira yanked her knit hat from her pocket and pulled it on her head and down over her ears to protect them against the bite of frost. She pulled up her scarf around her chin and nestled down into her jacket and began the walk home.
The shortest way back to the apartment Eira shared with her mom was through the park. The lamps lining the path gave the entire park a warm radiance. Wreaths wrapped with red ribbons and twinkling strings of lights hung from the posts, the ribbons whipping in the wind. Eira stepped through the pools of light, noticing the small patches of ice that dotted the path.
In the light from a lamp down the path, a glimmer caught Eira’s eye. She perked up, walking faster down the sidewalk, coming to the center of the park. Another tiny orb shimmered in front of her. Eira blinked, shaking her head. She was exhausted; first a long day at school, then hours after working the shop had left her open to seeing what she wanted the most, the winter’s first snowfall.
To her disbelief, a huge, fluffy snowflake floated to the ground in front of her. It was unmistakable and followed by another. More snowflakes fluttered through the air, glittering in the lamplight and Eira smiled, closing her eyes and tilting her head up toward the overcast sky.
Finally, it was coming. Eira sensed it in her body. Her magic was reawakening. When she opened her eyes, tiny sparkles flitted through the air, swirling until they hit the frozen ground. It came down harder. The snowflakes clumped together, dusting her shoulders and eyelashes. She blinked them away, laughing and holding her hands into the air, catching flakes on her gloves, and admired the beauty and unique shape of each. She twirled her finger in the air, sending the nearby falling snow into a spiral.
While the snow was late, winter had finally arrived. Rejuvenated, Eira walked to the end of the park, a spring in her step. At the corner, she ran the final block to the Belvedere apartment building, up the steps growing slick from slush and into the foyer, up the stairs, and banged into the apartment, clumps of melting snow falling off her coat in her wake.
“Mom,” Eira called into the living room, inhaling deep the scent of a roast and vegetables, the perfect solstice meal. “It’s snowing.”
Her mom came out of the tiny living room at the end of the hall, a grin on her face. “I saw. I knew you’d be happy. And just before Yule and your birthday.”
“I thought it would never come,” Eira kicked off her boots and went to the nearest window to watch the snow fall in the light of the streetlamps. It was heavier than before, finally sticking to the ground and roads, coating everything in a sheet of white. She could hardly see the houses across the road.
“You always think that, but it always comes,” her mom said from behind her. Eira smiled at her mother in the reflection. “Patience was always something that you struggled with.”
In the corner of the living room, the lights on the evergreen tree in the corner flicked on, creating an effervescent glow behind Eira in the glass, making her reflection appear as if she were lit from within.
Very much like The Star.
“You have it within you all the time you know,” her mom said, holding out a steaming mug of hot apple cider. “Your magic. It never really leaves; you just have to dig deeper for it sometimes.”
She took the mug in her hands, careful not to spill a single drop of her mother’s famous cider. While Eira had never realized it before, she knew that her mom’s words were true. She knew that she’d dug deep within herself and the yearnings in her heart. Her desire for winter called the snow to her. Just in time for Yule, for a renewal of her magic and faith in herself.
That was what The Star had been trying to tell her! To find her faith and the light within herself. It only took one of the longest nights of the year for it to happen. Eira was the light.
She was The Star.
Season of the Winter Witch was originally published in the Hey Atlas Creative December 2019 Equinox Box.
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