Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
~Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1850
(Many thanks to Waverly FitzGerald, who is the source for much of this lore. Blessings to you, Waverly, for your faithful, invaluable service as a Priestess of Time and the Ancient Ways. May your good works continue.)
Out with the old and in with the new! We stand in the doorway of a new year and perhaps a truly new era, thanks to the end of the Mayan calendar long count, according to some estimations.
Spend some time today in sacred space, setting your intention for the shining promise of this new beginning. And prepare by knowing that everything you do on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day is loaded with magical significance.
Before midnight, sweep and clean your house and take out all the trash. You don’t want to sweep tomorrow or take anything out of the house, or else you will sweep away the new beginning that tomorrow brings. And be sure you finish any projects you still have to complete, for a task carried over will not prosper.
Naturally, it is best to avoid unpleasant chores, or tedious tasks. You do NOT want 2013 to be the year you remember as centering on, say, laundry (which is also extremely bad luck) or cleaning the gutters. You might, however, start soaking your black-eyed peas, for your lucky Hoppin’ John tomorrow.
And using that same form of sympathetic magic, you might follow the custom of leaving some money just outside your door, so that you can bring it in first thing tomorrow, setting a spell for the entire year! It worked really well for me this year.
Similarly, the American custom of spending the night with the one you love and kissing them at midnight insures that the relationship will thrive in the coming year.
In Vienna, the pig (sacred to the Goddess Freya, whose time this is) is the symbol of good fortune and prosperity. Pigs are let loose in restaurants and everyone tries to touch it for luck, as it runs by. In private homes, a marzipan pig, with a gold piece in its mouth, is suspended from a ribbon and touched instead.
Since ancient times in Scotland, this night has been celebrated as Hogmanay. Outshining even Christmas celebrations (which were banned for over 400 years in Scotland), it is a time for rich feasting, drinking, dancing and music.
The first person to cross your threshold after midnight brings luck into the house. Since medieval times, then, the best possible first-footer would be a tall, dark-haired, handsome man, who brought gifts of whisky, bread, a piece of coal or firewood and a silver coin. He enters in silence and no one speaks to him until he puts the coal on the fire, pours a glass for the head of the house and wishes everyone a Happy New Year.
Then, of course, the revelries explode and continue into the wee hours, even for several more days in some cases! You could easily set this up, or something similar, and reap the rich rewards in the coming year!
This is also a cherished night for divination. Since I am not available for Tarot readings tonight (but I will be at Dancing Moon Books in Raleigh this Friday, Jan. 4), an alternative way to determine your future in the new year is to prick a newly-laid egg at the smaller end with a pin. Let three drops of the egg white fall into a bowl of water. Then use your powers of scrying to interpret the designs it makes. This will give you a glimpse of what the new year holds in store for you.
In many parts of the world, the New Year is greeted with a lot of noise, sometimes made by church bells. Originally this was to frighten away evil spirits that might try to sneak into the New Year and try to spoil it. People in the Northern Hemisphere sometimes lit bonfires for the same reason.
In Ecuador, December 31st is time to ceremonially burn an effigy named Años Viejos, or the Old Year. The dummies are made of old clothes and sticks or sawdust for stuffing, and often made to look like someone who has made a negative impact during the year, such as a politician. What a splendid idea!
We have 4,000 year old records from Babylon of peoples’ New Year’s resolutions. Often these were recited publicly. The most common were to make good any outstanding debts and return anything borrowed. Today the most common resolutions are to lose weight and give up smoking, closely followed by .. guess what! .. making good any outstanding debts and returning borrowed goods!
The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all had the tradition of showing off the first babies born in the year. In the 14th century the custom of showing a baby with a banner of the New Year around it began, in Germany.
New Year’s Eve is sacred to Yemaya, the Mother of the Sea. In Brazil, people dress in white, go down to the ocean, light candles in the sand and throw white flowers into the waves for Yemaya.
And this day is also set aside for honoring Vesta – the Roman Goddess of the hearth. Known by the Greeks as Hestia, She was credited with the art of building houses (since every home was built around the sacred central fire).
A good energetic cleansing and blessing of your hearth would be a most rewarding activity today. At least be sure to give thanks on this night for the benevolence of Hestia, for the roof above your head, and the plenty in your life. Holy is your home, that gives you the strength and comfort that empowers you to go out into the world.
In ancient Egyptian tradition (Kemet), today is the Lucky Day of Sekhmet, the lion-headed Goddess whose worship center was Memphis, Egypt. Nursing mothers would pray to Her to let down their milk.
And remember that the last day of the month (and the year) is sacred to Hecate. Hecate is the Goddess of Witches and the psychopomp, who shows the way to those crossing to the lands of the dead. As such, She is the Guardian of the Crossroads (specifically, all mundane road crossings as well as the crossroads between life and death). She is the Triple Goddess in Her most ancient form. She has been described as some as the trinity of Artemis the Maiden, Selene, the Mother, and by Her own name, Hecate, the Crone.
In ancient times, Her worshipers would leave a “Hecate’s Supper” with specially prepared foods as offerings to Her. The offerings were also gifts to appease the restless ghosts, called apotropaioi by the Greeks.
On this most magical night, may all ghosts that haunt us be put to peaceful, final rest.
So raise a glass with me, and let us bid a farewell to this much anticipated, controversial, decidedly intense 2012. For better or worse, it is now a closed chapter.
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses.
May your New Year’s rites and celebrations be profoundly blessed!