Late Winter Hibernation

A type of hibernation stealthily and persistently came over me in late winter. This was not hibernation of the warm, cozy cave, but rather the sinking into the earth, the mud, the hibernation of moistness cradled in mud. Aquatic frog hibernation, not grizzly or black bear hibernation. I share this because plainly I have not posted for nearly two months.  No, not gone, but resting in an imposed hibernation. MythWoman became Frog Woman.

Oregon Spotted Frog
Oregon Spotted Frog, a local aquatic species. Public domain.

In his Scientific American article about this type of amphibian hibernation, Rick Emmer explains that,

“Hibernating aquatic frogs, [. . .] must be near oxygen-rich water and spend a good portion of the winter just lying on top of the mud or only partially buried. They may even slowly swim around from time to time.”

Yes, that’s exactly how it felt to me. My internal and external dissonance increased with the icy blasts from the Trump  administration that came in overwhelming waves of deadly proclamations. My wise animal body reacted in the best way it knew how. The techniques of hibernation and estivation are savvy survival tools for frogs. Emmer makes it quite clear: “it is a dormant state an animal assumes in response to adverse environmental conditions.”

My weariness of this wintry political siege against women, immigrants, any one of color, science, truth, and Nature itself chilled me to the bone as I sunk into a sticky clay of depression and despair. As a Pacific Northwesterner, I know of a heavy, thick, sticky clay that soaks up and swells with  oxygen-rich rain waters. This is literally the ground that I live on with its thick covering of composting leaf litter. You can try to trudge along in this type of mud, but if you face any sort of incline or decline, you’ll likely slip, fall, slide in to the mud.

Learning from frogs on how to rest & survive

So what did I do?  Honestly, at first, I tried to struggle out of the cold & damp that was swallowing me, away from the mind-numbing, heart-stopping news of yet more Republican/Trump toxicity. I peeled away from FB, took a media break, stopped reading shrill email headlines.  Took off my muddy boots so to speak. That wasn’t even close to being enough to survive the icy chill.

Intellectually, I knew I was dealing with a completely different type of climatic and political winter than I had experienced before. That only led me to realize I needed new survival tools. Fortunately, what my body and emotional self knew is that my whole being needed to learn aquatic frog hibernation. So I surrendered. I partially buried myself into life-giving, fertile, enveloping mud of overwhelm into the deep earthiness of Gaia where she banked the emotional, oxygen-rich, waters that I floated in from time to time.

During my hibernation, I also retreated into quiet yoga—restorative and yin. Two poses I kept doing were the restorative child pose (which looks/feels rather frog-like), as well as supported baddha konasana or bound angle pose (also feels/looks quite froggy). Not surprisingly, these poses help support and open the hips. The womb bones, the pelvic cradle, the emotional bowl of the body that frame the watery womb.  And being me, I also looked at . . .

Frog Goddesses

Egyptian goddess Heqet, travertine sculpture, 2950 BCE. Public domain

Yes, of course, there are frog goddesses! Mythology, as always, is so helpful and informative. Why are frogs considered sacred?  What powers/wisdom do they embody? Clearly, I needed to learn more. Obviously, frogs teach us about survival, rest, and paying close attention to our environments.  However, they also represent renewal—life arising from a deadened state, restored life from stasis, the seasonal renewal of life protected and stored away safely. Symbolically this renewal relates to women’s cyclic menstrual periods, our stored eggs, and pregnancy.

The very ancient Egyptian goddess Heqet (Heket) pictured above is one of the primordial deities of creation. Deeply tied to the Nile mud created by the cyclical flooding of that desert river, Heket and her consort Khnemu fashioned humans out of the mud on a potter’s wheel. Is it any wonder that Heqet was the goddess of creation, childbirth, fertility, and sprouting grain?

Egyptologist E. A. Wallis Budge states that,

“The frog appears to have been worshipped in primitive times as the symbol of generation, birth and fertility in general; the Frog-goddess Ḥeqet or Ḥeqtit was identified with Hathor [. . . .] The great antiquity of the cult of the frog is proved by the fact that [. . .] the cult of the frog is one of the oldest in Egypt, and the Frog-god and the Frog-goddess were believed to have played very prominent parts in the creation of the world.” 

In Chinese mythology, a moon goddess Ch’ang O (Heng O) is closely aligned to the frog. In the myth, Ch’ang O takes the Queen of the West’s drug of immortality and flees to the Moon. There she transmutes into a frog or toad, becoming the “essence of the moon” (Anne Birrell, Chinese Mythology). The Chinese saw the dark marbling on the moon’s surface as a frog which sent rain, fertility and life to Earth. The frog/moon essence includes water, fertility, immortality, shape-shifting (or skin-shedding) as well as the qualities of yin. Chinese mythological symbolism shows the cyclical interplay of  yin and yang:

“At the equinoxes, the quail, a fire (yang) bird, was believed to change into a frog, a water (yin) creature, and then turn back into a quail, in accordance with the basic rhythm of the seasons.” (Chevalier & Gheerbrandt, Dictionary of Symbols)

Japanese mythology and folk culture also regards the frog as a potent symbol of renewal. Their word for frog, kaeru means “to return.” There is also a Japanese custom of carrying small frog figurines as protective charms that will “stand-in” if necessary.”In other words, if their owners encounter a dangerous situation, the frogs will take their place” (Chevalier & Gheerbrandt).

Renewal and Reconnection

In a symbolic way, this happened to me through my late winter hibernation. Overwhelmed by all of the Trump turmoil, frog goddess wisdom stepped into place. Protective wisdom of the body, of Earth, of yin movement into the dark, with frog renewal tactics all became part of my daily life during the hibernation. I knew that I was being led into wisdom, but I didn’t know what type at the beginning, or even during the middle of it.  I’m very grateful  and humbled to have been learning from the tribe of spring choral singers: the frogs.

My hibernation’s initial depressive weight lifted off me at the time of the spring equinox, seriously. What a magical mythological blessing. I returned to place, to balance, to a steadier stance. All our indigenous myths connect profoundly to other living beings in the natural world. Reflected in the narratives and rituals of these myths are enduring truths of the natural world. Nature in all of its diversity has been our most profound teacher. Nature shows truth, wonder, natural order, living with the cyclic rounds of time and season wrapped in meaning and art. These are our shared storylines from the wisdom teachers all around us. Let’s recognize these huge gifts and protect our indigenous wisdom school—Earth.

Outside my windows, the frogs sing at dawn and dusk by the creek at the end of the road. Hibernation is over; renewed life abounds with hope as glorious and common as grass. Thank-you, as always, for reading.  Now go out and listen to the frogs!


4 thoughts on “Late Winter Hibernation

  1. Margaret, how very beautifully expressed ! It describes my feelings about the Trump fiasco exactly but especially disconcerting is his lack of concern for the Earth-feminine itself. I am glad you are back and so grateful for your sharing……I LOVE SPRING 😉 and you.

    1. Thank you so much Luana! So very kind and I’m really happy to hear that it resonates with you too. Yes, the current climate (ecological and political) makes it ever more important to center our care on protecting the Earth, on bolstering our female selves and staying connected. Sending love back!

  2. Love this so! It speaks so much to the individual and universal experiences of winter, withdrawal, despair, and hope.

    1. Hooray! I’m so pleased this post resonated with you. Thank you ever so much for taking the time to comment. 🙂

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