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Directions For Making Old Man Winter

If you can get out during the day of Last harvest to collect stalks to make your figure that would be great, if not you can certainly collect them ahead of time. Any kind of dried grass or weeds is fine, but the stiffer the stalk the easier it will be to work with and the better the figure your figure will look. If anyone in your house suffers from pollen allergies or asthma you might have to make your figure from pipe cleaners, but that's OK too. This is a very easy project and so makes it a great one for the kids. We usually have the adult make the figure of Winter that will be hung in our ritual space but each of the kids likes to make a smaller version to hang in their bedrooms. This is also fun come Beltane when we burn Old Man Winter, because the kids each get to throw theirs into the bonfire.

Step 1:
The Body
Take two bundles of stalks that are the same length. The thicker of the bundles will be the body, the thinner one will be the arms.

Step 2:
The Head
Wrap a string around the thicker body bundle, about a quarter of the wayd own from the top. This will make the neck. You might have to go around several times to secure it. Pull it tightly then knot. I usually try to find weeds that have dried leaves left on the top, so the head has all this great leaf hair on it.

Step 3:
The Arms.
Take the thinner bundle and lie it horizontally on the table. These are your arms. Lie the body bundle on top of it right in the middle, so the arms stick out. Pick up both bundles and carefully wrap your string around the arms and body in a criss-cross pattern to secure them. Wrap the string over the body and the right arm going around the back , then come back under the left arm bring it to the front. Now it will go around the front and over the right arm again, then around the back and under the left arms. Keep criss-crossing the string until your arms are secured. Now knot it tightly.

Step 4:
The Legs.
Take the lower half of your body bundle and gently separate it into two sections. Tie a string around the end of each "leg" and knot it securely.

Your figure of Old Man Winter will look very rustic, personally I like it that way. For a more creative touch you can decorate your figure. Add a small strip of cloth for a scarf or a felt hat. You could spray paint it silver to look like frost or sprinkle it with glitter to look like snow. Old Man Winter will have charge of your house until Beltane, May 1st. If possible he should be put in the northern corner of the room, since north was believed by many to be the Land of the Dead.

This is a good time to touch on the many beliefs people had about the Land of the Dead. Some people thought it was in the north, because the further north you went the colder it got. Some people thought it was in the west, because that was where the sun set, the direction of darkness. You can also mention that many burial customs were based on people's ideas of where the land of the dead was. People who thought it was "the underworld" and underground buried their dead. Cultures that thought it was somewhere across the ocean set their dead adrift in boats. Still others, who thought it was up in the sky burned the bodies at death, releasing the spirits from their confinement to float up to "heaven" on the smoke. All these different stories and myths were people's ways of explaining things they didn't understand.

Excerpts from A Wiccan Primer: Rituals for Children Copyright 1996 by Wind*Dancer

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