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This year, I started my 12 Omens divination practice much much later than usual. I usually begin on Solstice itself, but this year — for a number of reasons — I found myself delaying it until January 1st.

My omen for January, found on New Year’s Day, is deeply personal and, as yet, I’m not ready to share it as it requires much more contemplation. But I will definitely share my omen for February, observed on Saturday: Witch Hazel.

On my daily walk, I was greeted by the lovely blossoms of this Witch Hazel tree. A witch hazel in bloom is such a delight, and every winter I look forward to seeing my first Witch Hazel blossom.

For me, those early Witch Hazel blossoms are an affirmation that:

• under winter’s cloak, Mama Earth is still working her magic and that Spring will arrive soon

• each of us, even though aligned with the energy of Mama Earth, passes through the cycles of birth-growth-death-rebirth in our own time, each reacting to that special mix of Earth, Fire, Water and Air around us and within us

So, some fun facts about Witch Hazel:

The etymology of this “witch” is not from the same root as my preferred definition of witch (i.e. from “wicce” in Old English), which for me is a wise person aligned with nature. Instead it comes from the Old English “wice” or the Proto-Indo-European “weik”, both meaning “pliant”, “lively” or “bendable”.’ This root is also where we get the term “wicker”.

Curiously, when it flowers, this cold-climate shrub releases the previous year’s seeds with its winter flowers. The new seeds mature in the fall, and are released in next year’s blossoms.

This little tree has some witchy aspects though, as one can use witch hazel branches for dowsing! And it is also medicinal and healing! Its properties include anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and astringent — and it can staunch bleeding. It is both cooling and drying (something I usually need both as my constitution runs hot and damp!).

And as my Omen for February, I love that Witch Hazel aligns with the month that begins with Imbolg (aka Imbolc, the first Spring celebration in the Wheel of the Year) and the month that honours the goddess Brighid, a triple goddess of Healing, Poetry and Smithcraft. How perfect is that?

Precisely how the Witch Hazel energy will manifest for me in February, as yet I do not know. Perhaps it is a reminder to be flexible, to adapt, to follow my own energies.

But I do know that I will consciously focus on healing in all its aspects (mind, body and spirit) throughout February. (“Conscious” is my 2021 word of the year!)

For more on the medicinal aspects of Witch Hazel, Juliet Blankespoor of Chestnut School of Herbs has an excellent web page on “The Folklore and Medicine of Witch Hazel”, written by Mary Plantwalker (Mary Morgaine Squire) of Herb Mountain Farm, with images by Juliet. Highly recommended! Click here to read.