Inspiring Enchantment & Illumination with Tarot & Intuitive Guidance

Happy New Year!

May the Graces Bless Us with a

Joyful New Beginning!

xx

Take out, then take in:
Bad luck will begin.
Take in, then take out:
Good luck comes about.

Blessings of the Year of the Empress – the fertile, Great Mother energy of the Tarot.  I’ll be writing much more about what this means in the coming week.

But meantime, today is a very magical day, full of lore and custom.  As I wrote yesterday, everything you do on this day has magical implications for the coming year.  So don’t throw anything out (even the trash), or lend money or pay bills. If you must carry something out, be sure to bring something else in first, preferably a coin you concealed outside last night!

Since whatever we do on this day will be repeated throughout the year, I like to make New Year’s Day an ideal day, and do a little of all the things I most want to enjoy in the coming year.  For instance, it is good luck to do a little bit of work on the first day of the year, as long as you enjoy and are successful at whatever it is. But more than a token amount of work today is very unlucky.

Also, I will not be doing any laundry today, lest someone I love be ‘washed away’ (die) in the upcoming months. The more cautious warn against even washing dishes, which is just fine with me. Naturally, I will wear something new, to ensure that new clothes will be coming my way in the new year, and, just like my mama taught me, I will be speaking only sweet words.

New Year’s, as we now celebrate it, comes from the Romans, who moved the New Year from Spring Equinox to January in 153 BCE and celebrated with six days of carousing and rejoicing, ending just as the Twelve Days of Christmas do, on January 6. They got drunk, wore disguises, and kept their tables laden with food all night long to ensure plenty in the coming year (and perhaps to appease the Fates).

Boniface, visiting from England in 742 C.E., complained about how the Kalends of January were celebrated in Rome with “dancing in the streets, heathenish cries, sacrilegious songs, tables laden with food and women wearing amulets and offering them for sale.” To somewhat dampen the enthusiasm, the Roman Catholic church declared this the Day of the Circumcision.

The ancient Romans also gave each other small gifts (called strenae) on this day, symbolic of good luck for the new year, like coins with the faces of the God Janus on one side and a ship on the other (for He was considered the patron of ships and trade). The modern Roman ritual is a plunge in the icy Tiber River.

In England, gloves and pins were the traditional New Years gifts up until the 19th century. In France, children give their parents handmade gifts with a wish of “Bonne Année!”

Food eaten on New Years Day always has significance, as it also affects the quality of the coming year. In ancient times, the Romans gave friends a glass jar full of dates and dried figs in honey, along with a bay leaf branch, so the coming year would be sweet and full of good fortune.

Throughout Japan, preparing and serving special New Year’s foods is an important ritual. The sacred meal is shared with the kami (spirits) as well as family members. Rice is one of the most important foods served. It is specially prepared and shared with the ancestors, and the Gods, like Toshigami, the Year God, who each family hopes will bring good fortune for the coming year.

One of the most famous magical foods to be eaten on New Year’s comes from the American South. Hoppin’ John is an old favorite dish that was a staple of slaves in the antebellum Carolinas, where African bean stews (also found in the Caribbean) met the local American rice industry and came deliciously together.

Possibly the earliest appearance of the dish by the name Hopping John was in an 1847 cookbook called The Carolina Housewife. No one knows for sure how the name originated, but one reasonable suggestion is that it’s a corruption of the French-Caribbean words pois à pigeon, or pigeon pea, a relative of the black-eyed pea, and which would be pronounced “pwah-ah-pee-john.”

Every Southern cook (and cookbook) I know has a recipe for Hoppin’ John, but there are three basic ingredients that never vary (unless you are a vegetarian). The black-eyed peas (sometimes field peas or crowder peas may be substituted) are the most important symbolic food. In many cultures, beans and other legumes are thought to bring good luck because of their resemblance to coins (which means the promise of wealth).

The rice is for fertility (which is why we throw rice at newlyweds with such gusto). And of course, most old Southern recipes require that fatback, ham bone, or bacon is used to flavor the stew, since pigs are lucky and cooking up a pig in a pot is a sign of prosperity. Usually, just to ensure plenty of extra folding cash, collard or mustard greens are also served on the side.

While nowadays, you can find Hoppin’ John recipes that are all chic and gussied-up, with tomatoes, artichoke hearts, black beans, or made with a fancy rice pilaf, I think that plain and simple is the real spirit of it.  It is just a mix of cooked rice, black-eyed peas, and some kind of seasoning (pork, if you eat it).

As a vegetarian, I skip the ham hocks. But I have found that original Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice® (read the ingredients carefully – some kinds have chicken flavoring), simmered with black-eyed peas, served with sides of greens and cornbread is a lovely, satisfying meal that has brought plenty of luck to our table!

May the Gods of plenty load your table with more and finer abundance than you could imagine!  May the Graces illuminate all the days of this year for you. May peace, prosperity, and harmony be plentiful, for ourselves and all our relations.

Blessed be!

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  • January 1, 2010, 3:52 pm Claire

    I agree about it being a special day and magical of course. For me though, I need to personally watch out for where magical gets caught up in overly superstitious. It’s a tough line/call and always a “back of my mind” issue. It can become reminiscent of old mental illness problems for myself and others in my family.
    Also, I think you can always decide that what you need (or even want) to do can be positive and magical. I hate to think of people (myself included) who might need or want to clean their house today (might be the day it gets done and can’t be done well another busy day) or people who can’t have new clothes today would bring something bad upon themselves. Not to pick and choose, or deny that negative things can happen due to our choices, but I prefer to focus on the positive things we can bring in with our magical thinking, our positive choices, and our right action. I can’t go there with washing something today might cause someone to die. Horrible. I can’t personally go there with the negativity or for my own previous personal troubles with OCD type behaviors and superstition creating a problem in my life can I afford to worry about “am I supposed to bring this in or out or what?” and “what did I forget to do or not do?” and worse “is this bad thing happening to me because I washed my dishes wearing old clothes?” Yikes.
    In any event, I thought I would share this because it might help others as well as you in a position of *authority*. I do so appreciate all the information here and know for myself how to pick and choose what works for me best. I do suspect Beth, that you would totally understand and agree, although I welcome further discussion if I am way off base here.
    Happy New Year! New clothes or not! (She says as the dirt from last year is being swept away in her house. LOL)

  • January 1, 2010, 6:02 pm denise

    Oh, how I miss grandma’s homemade cornbread and buttery green beans!!! Miss her, too!

  • January 2, 2010, 7:10 am Martha Hillhouse

    I love to keep the spirit going until January 7 or 8 —– and it’s only this year that I heard that’s something that’s been done forever…… On New Year’s Day I went to my food co-op and stocked up on the stuff for my feast that I’ll have tonight: black eyed pea salad, cornbread, turkey sausage and bean chili, collards and rice. And I didn’t put out the trash! Thank you so much for all of this info —- I do these rituals from tidbits of ideas I’ve heard over the years — you strung it together so sweetly!