Many thanks to the School of the Seasons for much of this lore. Blessings to you, Waverly FitzGerald, for your faithful, invaluable service to us for these many, many years, as a Priestess of Time and the Ancient Ways.
Everything we do on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day is loaded with magical significance.
Out with the old and in with the new! Before midnight, sweep and clean your house and take out all the trash because 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 work you still have to complete, for a task carried over will never prosper.
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 luck. 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, it is a time for rich feasting, imbibing, dancing and music. The first person to cross your threshold after midnight sets your luck for the coming year. Ideally, the first-footer is a tall dark-haired handsome man, who brings 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!
This is an ideal night for divination, to determine your future in the New Year. Since I am not available for Tarot readings tonight, an alternative is to prick a newly-laid egg at the smaller end with a pin, and let three drops of the egg white fall into a bowl of water. Interpret the patterns it makes to get a glimpse of what will happen to you in the New Year.
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!
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.
We have records from 4,000 years ago in Babylon of New Year’s resolutions. Often these were made 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 – you guessed it! – 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.
In ancient Egyptian tradition (Kemet), today is the Lucky Day of Sekhmet, the lion-headed Goddess whose worship center was Memphis, Egypt. She is a powerful protector Goddess, and nursing mothers would pray to Her to let down their milk.
Sorry – I was unable to track down the
artist of this lovely interpretation.
And New Year’s Eve is sacred to Yemaya, the Mother Goddess 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 is credited with the art of building houses (since every home was built around Her sacred central fire). Give thanks on this night for the benevolence of Hestia, for the roof above your head, and the plenty in your life, and the home that gives you the strength and comfort which enables you to go out into the world.
Finally, of course, the last day of each month is sacred to the Goddess Hecate. In ancient times, worshippers 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 may haunt us be put to rest.
May we therefore stand with joy and gratitude at this crossroads, offering ourselves to the Divine, that we may move with Grace across the threshold towards a new future.