Wordsmithing Magic from the Crossroads

Happy, Happy New Year! Welcome 2023!

Art poster of Happy New Year message and a small colorful village in the snow

May the Graces Bless Us with Joyful New Beginnings!

The beginning of anything is an augury of the whole thing.
RJ Stewart and Anastacia Nutt, Janus Meditation

Blessings to you for the Tarot Year of The Chariot, which last came calling in 2014. It will be a time for finally moving forward, whatever changes and choices have settled into place from 2022. I’ll be writing much more about this 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 or cash 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.

Wiki Commons image of a washing machineAlso, 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.

A Little History

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).Wikipedia image of the two-headed God Janus

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.

The English archbishop Boniface, visiting Rome 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.”

Therefore, to somewhat dampen the enthusiasm, the Roman Catholic Church declared this the Day of the Circumcision.

New Year’s Around the World

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

Food eaten on New Year’s 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.

The Year God Toshigami by HeshbiThroughout Japan, preparing and serving special New Year’s foods are important rituals. This 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 rather fierce Year God, who each family hopes will smile upon them, bringing good fortune for the coming year.

Hoppin’ John

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.”Traditional Hoppin John with rice beans greens and cornbread for New Years

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, collards 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 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 makes a nourishing, satisfying meal that has brought plenty of luck to our table. And as a bonus, I won’t set the tone of the coming year by having to spend lots of time in the kitchen.

Alessandro Filipepi alias Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), The three Graces Detail from Primavera (springtime), 1478-1482 circa, Tempera on panel. Uffizi galleries, Florence, Italy.

Blessings of Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia

Thank you, my dear reader, for subscribing to my newsletter, for all the generous comments you’ve offered in my “Luminous Sparks,” and especially the encouragement you send, which I treasure more than I can express.

As we cross the threshold of this New Year, I call upon the Three Gratiae (Graces) who are the three Goddesses who were always invoked in ancient times to ensure good fortune at new beginnings.

May the Graces illuminate all the days of this year for you.

May the Gods of plenty bestow upon you more and finer abundance than you could imagine.

And may peace, prosperity, and harmony embrace all the days ahead, for ourselves and all our relations.

Happy New Year! Welcome, 2023!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Kathy January 1, 2023, 7:11 am

many blessings to you and yours.
thank you.

Beth January 1, 2023, 9:30 am

Happy, happy New Year, Kathy! 💚

nofixedstars January 1, 2023, 9:34 am

i cooked my blackeyed peas and greens yesterday, so all i need to do is cook rice today. i find i like the way the seasoning melds with the beans overnight. 🙂

best wishes for a happy and healthy new year to you, and to all who find their ways here in community.

Beth January 2, 2023, 9:29 am

Alas, I did not cook the beans long enough, so they were like little rocks in the rice. I don’t exactly know what I did wrong/different, and I hope it’s not an omen! 😳

Happy, Happy New Year, Ann. I hope it brings winds of happy new beginnings to your sails. 💚

Anna January 1, 2023, 2:06 pm

I regret ever learning about New Year’s proscriptions. I look fondly back on my pre-Pagan days when I did laundry and cleaned house without any fears lurking that I was fouling up my luck…it’s been years since I felt free to do as I wish on New Year’s Day. And as a Witch, I have a hard time with that. Seriously am considering invoking Lucifer and cleaning All The Things today, since it’s a rare day when I feel energerized and motivated. Perhaps cleaning on New Year’s is a Pagan equivalent to saying the Lord’s Prayer backwards! lolz

Beth January 1, 2023, 2:21 pm

LOL!!! That’s so funny, Anna! I really relate, although my devout Episcopalian mom taught me a LOT of this stuff, based possibly on her childhood exposure to loads of Deep South Black sayings and customs.

I, too, find myself in the mood today to do lots of tidying and cleaning. But as the old saying goes about the urge to exercise, “I lie down until the feeling passes away.”

That’s my plan, anyway! 🤣😂🤣 Happy New Year!

ANna January 1, 2023, 4:28 pm

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! Actually, that’s exactly what I did. Then I decided to just read magickal books and watch movies. Not so bad for 1/1.

After all, to quote another Southernism — “tomorrow is another day!” 🙂

Beth January 2, 2023, 9:27 am

{{ shaking yanked up turnip at the sky! }} 😂😆😂

Dana January 1, 2023, 3:58 pm

Happy and Blessed New Year Beth! You recent articles especially around the holidays are filled with wisdom, knowledge and practical skills easy to implement. Thank you for adding the rituals and reasons behind them to help deepen our spiritual paths. These 2 articles have inspired me at my soul where I deeply needed the encouragement to dig deeper rather than avoid.

Beth January 2, 2023, 9:33 am

Thank you, Dana, for this feedback.

It’s been a long time since I blogged much about magickal practices, and I am glad to know that my articles have encouraged you to go deeper into your own Mysteries. I am very honored and grateful you told me.

Athena Noctua Bubo January 1, 2023, 11:44 pm

Thanks for sharing Beth Owl. I have tried finding a Black-Eye Peas vegetarian recipe I like, but haven’t yet. I ate a lentil and spinach soup today in it’s place. Your recipe sounds easy and delicious. Could you please expand on your Black-Eye Peas/Uncle Ben Recipe? Do you just add dry beans into the rice and cook them together? Does the cooking time need to be increased? Blessings and Thank You.

Beth January 2, 2023, 9:46 am

Oh, you are so psychic!! I can tell you for a fact that, having cooked up a pot of Uncle Ben rice and rocks yesterday, it is NOT a great idea to try to cook them together.

I like the packaged rice because it is already nicely seasoned (and in this ONE case, I avoid looking too closely at what with, as long as it’s not beef or chicken bouillon or something).

But — DO NOT BELIEVE THE DIRECTIONS ON THE PACKAGE:

It claims you only need to simmer for 25 minutes and let stand for 5, but that is not my experience at all. More like an hour (maybe it’s our stove??).

Anyway, sending you all the good fortune that rice, beans, spinach, and lentils can create! Have a fabulous New Year, dearest one! 🎊🎉🥂

Rebecca Scarborough January 4, 2023, 4:24 pm

Thank you, Beth for your good and gentle words. Be blessed as you have blessed us.

Beth January 5, 2023, 12:21 pm

Thank you so much! You’ve put a happy smile on my face.

It’s all about paying attention.
Attention is vitality.
It connects you with others.

~ Susan Sontag

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