Ter (Old sign: Scorpio) Frozen soldiers stick out of the glacier in ghastly shapes twisted by their final rigor. All over Earth in these frozen, craggy hideaways, men have gone to die. All of their last possessions, their entire terrestrial kit and caboodle are mingled in the frozen slurry of tatters and sallow flesh and yellow-white bones, sickeningly yellow-white against the new fallen snow. Ossicles and icicles. A troglodyte, a paleo, a sliver of the Grande Armée, the pickelhaubes sprouting out of the tundra of blasted Slavic lands, a prosciuttoed Italian, a riddled Swiss, a kuhlschrank German, a sun-gilt Austrian, a bristly Russian, a ruthless Cossack, a Hauptmann, a hetman, a Hiroo Onoda. If you must die this winter, hide not your countenance behind a veil of shame! Invite old friends to encircle your deathbed! Hire mourners if you need to but don’t die alone!
Shang-Te (Old sign: Sagitarius) Be grateful for the Long Peace, Shang-Ti! The most powerful demonstration of your mastery manifests as restraint. You have waged limited war, and the eternal abacus slowed its grisly accounting for some. In anticipation of the invasion of the Japanese Mainland during the Second World War, the United States manufactured 500,000 Purple Hearts. There are some 120,000 left in stock of that batch today. You deserve some credit. Gravity always wins, and the ineluctable desire of Yahoos for some small tract of sovereignty wore away at the old bones of autocracy. Proxy wars, and soft power, the Machiavellian and the Erasmian; overt and covert; the defenestration of Prague and the ceremonial strangling of Vercingetorix; sabre rattling and scimitar re-sheathing. Now a new Jupiter rises. Do you hope to stand against its terrible tides? Will you become a moon? Or a moonmoon? Or will you maintain your own orbit?
Gih-Na-Sha (Old sign: Capricorn) Break a tusk and dip its tip in sugar glider blood and write your wishes for Spring upon the well worn wineskin of time. Then drink that vinegary vintage in one swallow and reattach your tusk with duct tape. Take a walk, stretch your legs, or, say, “fuck it,” and go on a journey. At the fork in the woods, you will recall that poem and you remember that way leads on to way, and it really doesn’t matter which path you choose but let you fancy guide you. Fate will do the rest. Will you carry a traveler on your back for company? Will that traveler be a chatterbox or a mute? Will that traveler start a podcast from atop your great shoulders and paint all the sunrises and sunsets of your journey with pretty words and rousing speech and thrust the dimensions of vicissitudes directly into your consciousness? Go with that traveler into good nights and bad. Go forth and don’t overthink your choice back there in the woods.
Hahp-E (Old sign: Aquarius) The wheat berries are dark brown now and nestled in their silos, cool and dry. The cats stymied the vermin’s inexorable march but now your neighbors are trying out urban chicken husbandry and they are leaving their grain stores uncovered, and the rats have found the hoard. That smell? Part excrement and part rotting meat? The odors bite your nose in the cold. Winter is the annual opening of Pandora’s Box. Have some empathy for yourself in this season of pain and struggle. Your grit and resistance got you through that deadly standoff of planets upon your horizon. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and the stragglers, Neptune and Uranus last month. Gut it out this season. You will be sowing the seeds of prime soon enough.
Hehk-Eht (Old sign: Pisces) The ground is hard as slate this winter morn, The smoke from chimneys, plenty of the horn. A waxwing just survived a head long crash Against the window pane with a red sash That cushioned the blow, early Christmas thanks. Upon the powdery snow she shakes her shanks Alighting from the from the frozen sloughs And giving a twist through the crystal boughs. Take comfort in the little soul you saved! The winds and sleet and snow and hail you braved! To herald the Nativity with wreath and bow Bedecked upon the eaves and window panes below.
Kah-Le (Old sign: Aries) Hostages are no good dead, and you are playing a dangerous game in wintertime. Maybe some heart-broken family members would cherish even a pitiful, pitted bone at their shrine, but they will not forgive the slaughter of the defenseless. Gird your loins! The enemy shields are bloody and their chariots incarnadine. The wheels rumble so low. Wind whistles on the gleaming axle scythes. The chariots mow the meadow of men, and the bisected dead slump where they stood in perfect harvest order. You survived again. Your heart is forever a forge of vengeance. “I will cut thy queen from her bower and put her in thy wicker man! Take your gods and your obelisks home to decorate my garden.” But are these demonstrations sufficient? Must you also sow salt in their fields? “I shall take your dead with me to lie in a foreign land, left a wandering ghost, far from home, tethered to an unexalted and defiled corpse.” Think on your choice to go nuclear. Once you push that button, you drastically lose bargaining power points. Hide your standards and say your hallelujahs, the Spring will reward your forbearance.
Ah-Naht (Old sign: Taurus) The elk have gone a-gnawing the low-hanging evergreens. Your hunting camp is warm and comfortable but you need to go back out there. The potbelly stove won’t save you now. Out into the evergreens, in the dark, you sit rigid like a pharaoh of ice in your frozen blind. You must down a buck. Your people depend on you for a bit of meat in the winter. You have known cold in your life but this cold manifests as a thirst for warmth. A chattering hunger for the lee side. Frosty denizens whizz in and out of every stitch hole, and you relentlessly wiggle your toes to keep the blood in. Then your opportunity arises. Are you prepared to spill blood on the snow? Are you prepared dress your kill? Are you prepared for the terrible stench of the offals and the sickening warmth of the steaming blood? Your people are worth it, and you must always eat what you kill.
Eh-Shu (Old sign: Gemini) The Twins, Entropia and La Morte passed me by one day on my pilgrim’s promised way. Entropia gave a sidelong stare too concerned to abandon her care of her flesh. La Morte looked me up and down. La Morte wore a void-imbued gown. La Morte was enchantment incarnate. La Morte made me fall down prostrate. La Morte forged my forebears’ fragile lives. La Morte built the culture-cradle hives. You stare into the void and the void’s stare chills your spine. The Twins stopped for me. Entropia was naked save the ink she constantly invested under her skin. The tattooage swirls and shifts from the representational to chaos and back again. Immeasurable multitudes appear in the waves of ink on her forehead and are swallowed up again in Lethe-dark waters. Her chest ink animates a maelstrom of mixed-up beasts and birds and insects and arachnids and reptiles exchanging heads and eyes and mouths and appendages and hoo-ha protuberances. Her painted legs trundle the aspects of those ancient terrible lizards. Tails and feathers and gizzards and claws and teeth and bone and hips and scales. On her feet swim thousands of tiny trilobites. Behind the Twins like a grisly retinue, stalk the hounds, Famine, Sword and Fire. Remind yourself of impermanence daily with a prick of ink in the skin.
Tah-Na (Old sign: Cancer) The rainforests of winter are mossy and dark. Long snot green mosses. Curly, kinky mosses, dense velvety mosses. Will you choose a green burial, Tane, when your pool is empty? Will you let yourself become moss and proclaim, “I am become moss, upholsterer of worlds!” Or is that too obvious? Wouldn’t you rather trade your bark for stone and build yourself a mausoleum fit for eternity. The rows of stones and rows of teeth erupt from the ground. For pity’s sake, please take up a manual art this winter that doesn’t involve picking scabs or masturbation. Knitting, needlework, crochet are all perfectly genteel. But maybe your conventions are too restrictive. Make a sacrifice to surviving Mars’ onslaught this year. The bloody planet hung like a celestial Sword of Damocles over your entire summer and now the winter has forced you and your enemies to end operations. In Spring you will be ready to resume your march.
Marutuk (Old sign: Leo) Na-bo-ni-dus, Nabonidus… will be the last words on your lips, Marduk. Yea, I called you Marduk, Marduk. Reclaim your idols or get thee to a charnel house! In the oasis you will find the septuagenarian, Nabonidus, lying in a pool of clear water. Cyrus gave him a good life. During that long life with many concubines, he became the avuncular father of hundreds. You can’t abide his prolific fertility. You imagine his siring ability as a musk, an all-pervasive misty musk, a product of his haughty and incessant proletariating. And it’s in your nose. He is all dried up now and hopes the oasis will give him moisture. You want to find his secret hoards before he goes mad. You hate his fragility. You want to do violence to his papery, mummy skin. Why do you hate the old man? Time is old. The winter is the old age of the year. Shouldn’t the calendar year start in Spring? Winter is the only season that stands across the years. All the others are contained within her span. Winter is the season of the other. On those cold nights you want to be in another place. Tomyris took Cyrus to the other place and dipped his head in blood. Double your efforts and find the old man’s hoards.
Kah-noom (Old sign: Virgo) Water, water everywhere but it’s frozen in a rink. You stare down into the ice and countless blue-white eyes stare back at you. Will these pitiful dead thaw in spring? How will you handle all of the skeletons? They are in your territory, and you are responsible for their remains. Give the frozen retinues a great show on ice: bring out the kids, host synchronized skaters and hockey matches! Curling contests and ice fishing. Laser Darkside! When the bodies melt in the spring the rivers will run red again. You will gradually feel the burden of the frozen dead lighten. When the earth has drunk all their blood, you will be free excepting the bones. There’s always the old oil drum full of acid. But you might consider letting the icy dead lie at the bottom of the lake.
Hih-fes-tuhs (Old sign: Libra) This time is Hephaestus time. You no longer have to make excuses about your absences from Hera’s hearth. The gods wintered their final winter on Delos long ago. In this long winter world, you can finally get some work done. No wife to cuckold you. No pantheons to pander to. No titans to taunt you. The cripple dances, the blind blacksmith sings. The sound of industry is music to your cauliflower ears. Peace is in your heart, and that peace becomes prodigious product. Show us your grit this moon, Hephaestus. You will be repaid tenfold.