Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's 2011 — Wiccan Style!

At this time of year, some neophyte and long-time Wiccans and Pagans can feel left out of the traditional religious and secular celebrations, including New Year's Eve.

As an Eclectic Wiccan, I follow the Wheel of the Year, so I celebrate the Sabbat of Yule, which is celebrated on the Winter Solstice. But, I also love the secular aspects of Christmas, so I use that theme to decorate my home.

And for me, New Year's occurs at the sacred time of Samhain (Halloween) on the Wheel, but I can also understand the importance of acknowledging the traditional turning of one calendar year into the next, so I practice my own personal New Year's Eve tradition on December 31.

On New Year's Day, January 1, I always include blackeye peas in a dish called, "Hoppin' Jack," a traditional food from where my family is from in the Midwest that is linked to a year of good luck and prosperity! I also thank the god and goddess for their continued blessings, and presence at my New Year's celebration.

I firmly believe that one of the glories of being Pagan is that you can craft your own celebrations that will then become your personal traditions to honor events that are important to you, and to your family. If you want to honor the passing of the calendar year, do so! Just make sure that you link your celebration to nature/ the earth, and perhaps include a god or goddess who would be appropriate to encorporate.

Pagan spirituality is flexibility. While there are a few common guidines, most Pagans find that their beliefs and practices are a highly personalized spirituality, rather than a rigid, dogmatic one.

So, if there is a day in addition to the eight Wiccan Sabbats that hold special significance to you, it's not a question of whether it's celebrated or acknowledged by other Pagans. What's more important is whether the event or date hold a spiritual meaning to YOU.

Some pagans actually celebrate the eight Sabbats based on agricultural markers, not on calendar dates. For example, Beltane, which is a planting Sabbat, is celebrated on May 1. But, for those who live in the Midwest, chances are good it's still too cold to actually plant anything. But if you wait until May 15 or so, the soil is warm enough, you can put seedlings in the ground, and observe Beltane as a planting and fertility festival on a later date. Likewise, if you live in a place where the harvest is gathered at the beginning of September, why wait until September 21 to observe Mabon?

Some covens celebrate their Initiation Day on a Blue Moon. Why? Because it's a rare lunar occurrence, which means it's a big cause for celebration when one finally rolls around.

At any rate, as a Pagan your spirituality is very personal and individualized. If you want to celebrate something of spiritual significance in a manner that's not a traditional "Pagan holiday," by all means break out the candles!

Here's a great example from the United Kingdom. New Year's is Hogmanay in Scotland — a four to five day blast, including parties, street festivals, entertainment and wild — occasionally terrifying — fire festivals that are Viking or pagan in origin. Enormous public New Year's events are held throughout Scotland, with something for the whole family, the biggest and most famous taking place in Edinburgh.

In addition to concerts, street parties, fireworks and more earthbound fire spectaculars — as well as consumption of one of Scotland's most famous products, Scotch whisky — there are a number of very ancient traditions associated with Hogmanay. Some say these traditions are dying out in favor of public celebrations, but they can still be found in smaller communities and private celebrations:

Redding the House: Like the annual spring cleaning in some communities, or the ritual cleaning of the kitchen for Passover, families traditionally did a major cleanup to ready the house for the New Year. Sweeping out the fireplace was very important and there was a skill in reading the ashes, the way some people read tea leaves.

First Footing: After the stroke of midnight, neighbors visit each other, bearing traditional symbolic gifts such as shortbread or black bun, a kind of fruit cake. The visitor, in turn, is offered a small whisky. A friend of mine who remembers first footing, also remembers that if you had a lot of friends, you'd be offered a great deal of whisky.

The first person to enter a house in the New Year, the first foot, could bring luck for the New Year. The luckiest was a tall, dark and handsome man. The unluckiest a red head and the unluckiest of all a red-headded woman.

Bonfires and Fire Festivals: Scotland's fire festivals at Hogmany and later in January may have pagan or Viking origins. The use of fire to purify and drive away evil spirits is an ancient idea. Fire is at the center of Hogmanay celebrations in Stonehaven, Comrie and Biggar and has recently become an element in Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebration.

The Singing of Auld Lang Syne: All over the world, people sing Robert Burn's version of this traditional Scottish air. How it became the New Year's song is something of a mystery. At Edinburgh's Hogmanay, people join hands for what is reputed to be the world's biggest Auld Lang Syne.

Although some of the Hogmanay Traditions are ancient, the celebrations were elevated in importance after the banning of Christmas in the 16th and 17th centuries. Under Oliver Cromwell, Parliament banned Christmas celebrations in 1647. The ban was lifted after Cromwell's downfall in 1660. But in Scotland, the stricter Scottish Presbyterian Church had been discouraging Christmas celebrations — as having no basis in the Bible, from as early as 1583. After the Cromwellian ban was lifted elsewhere, Christmas festivities continued to be discouraged in Scotland. In fact, Christmas remained a normal working day in Scotland until 1958 and Boxing Day did not become a National Holiday until much later.

But the impulse to party, and to put the products of Scotland's famous distilleries to good use, could not be repressed. In effect, Hogmany became Scotland's main outlet for the mid-winter impulse to chase away the darkness with light, warmth and festivities.

— Danu's Daughter

No comments:

Post a Comment