A New Year, Both Secular and of Some Religious Import
Posted on December 31, 2015
While tomorrow is not the “official” new year in either of the liturgical calendars I follow, and indeed I only concern myself with the official new year of the Roman calendar on March 1st, it is the new year in the Gregorian calendar. As a point of celebration around the world, though most especially in the West, we look back on the accomplishments and our failings, and seek to approach the new year with a great effort to incite change and growth.
“A prosperous day dawns: favour our thoughts and speech!
Let auspicious words be said on this auspicious day.”
– P. Ovidius Naso, Fasti 1.71-72
The Kalends of January – Kalendae Ianuariae – is a day of new beginnings. While the Kalends of every month are sacred to Juno, those of the first of January are especially sacred to the Roman god Janus, the god of new beginnings. There are also observances for Strenia and Vediovis, and historically practitioners would have focused on them, in procession to honoring of Janus. Modern cultors emphasize the importance of Janus in welcoming the new year, for the Two-Faced God is the god of opportunity and change.
The Kalends of January became associated with these new beginnings only around the 150s BCE, where the traditional day of the enshrinement of magistrates was shifted to 1 January instead of 1 March. Aspects of the new years traditions followed this shift, as political expediency often commingled with religious intent. The ancient procession included offerings to Strenia, a goddess of purification, and well-being, on the way to having auspices taken for the coming term.
“Janus, though You begin each fleeting year, and renew the long ages wherever You appear, though vows and incense are piously first offered to You, and the consuls begin each year by laying offerings at Your feet.” – M. Valerius Martialis 8.8.1-5
I thought I’d look at today, not as a historic day to which I can expound on the practices of either the Romans or the elder heathens, but in self-reflection. Looking back on my year, the biggest incidence that I’ve been struck by is the relative lack of change in my life. I do not use this blog as a personal source of information – I’ve done that before and it just turned into a dreary, critical place – but I have been up and down with practice and employment and all manner of relationships for the past little while. It appears that as of last August (2014) I have been in a holding pattern in my life, focusing on attempting to finish things up and breach an unbreachable barrier.
Positively, I have completed my comprehensive exams for my graduate degree and will be, hopefully, applying to doctoral work in the coming weeks. It had been dragged on for a few years too long, due to family stress and some issues with my grades (I did well, but not well enough where I’m confident in myself in getting into a doctoral program without some effort). That’s undoubtedly my biggest accomplishment this year and one that people tell me I should be proud of, although the delay in receiving it sours the taste in my mouth.
The only other notable thing was becoming, quite literally, shanghaied into working on Heathen Talk Podcast, which I am a producer of. We’ve been going on for six months there and, while I’m an outlier in terms of praxis and belief (the only dual tradition on the show) I am proud of what we’ve accomplished and hope that we can explore more growth in the coming year.
“Why do they suppose Janus to have been two-faced and so represent him in painting and sculpture? Is it because, as they relate, he was by birth a Greek from Perrhaebia, and, when he had crossed to Italy and had settled among the savages there, he changed both his speech and his habits? Or is it rather because he changed the people of Italy to another manner and form of life by persuading a people which had formerly made use of wild plants and lawless customs to till the soil and to live under organized government?” – Plutarch, Quaestiones Romanae 22
But for the little change, much has been static. Since I came back from my Latin course outside of the area, I’ve been effectively homeless, sleeping on a couch while I worked a really thankless, dead end job. Despite being educated and, by all accounts as I am told, ridiculously intelligent, it was a pittance work, and utterly pedestrian. I left it in September in order to focus on reading my comprehensive exams and have been coasting on some savings since. But the time is up to move on, even with these applications pending. Otherwise I’m a loser Pagan who lives on a couch and an entirely too old one to be living like a gyspy.
I have attempted to approach this blog a bit more proactively. I am not so voracious a writer as my colleagues and contemporaries. My year in review is available for viewership if anyone feels so inclined. I had impressive growth in that regard, at least compared to the previous five years or so of active blogging, and my Woden vs. Odin article is by far my most circulated and most referenced work. I often get a dozen or so views a day, and when it re-circulates around social media that jumps up to the hundreds. Apparently some people find some value in my words.
I think next year I’d like to make a least one blog post every two weeks or so, and more if I can swing it.
I got involved in a few other initiatives this year as well. The editor of the Spiral Nature blog offered me a position as a guest writer, which I took but unfortunately drug out that I am not so sure my finished product was accepted, and that’s okay. I also got involved in an initiative with Wodgar Inguing and a few others, working on a resource blog site for generalist Anglo-Saxon Fyrnsida. This site, the Larhaus, while not officially launched, is available for perusal as we flesh it out.
I became an author on the Roman Revivalism blog headed by Camilla Laurentine, although I have yet to actually write anything for the blog. I will address things of Roman import there, and my own ideas for a new way of approaching Romanized religiosity.
There are some thoughts and ideas floating around in my head, and I have been giving some thought to greater cohesion and the transition from private practice to a group, although I am not in the position where I can reasonably initiate that. Yet. It’s on the horizon, I feel. And there’s some issues I need to reconcile being drawn to both my traditions, that I want to address.
I will endeavor not to allow my natural pessimism and moodiness trample on my desires and efforts for next year. I have taken a few major blows to my ego in the past two to three years, too many scares, and a few too many knives too close to my heart that it’s made me really defensive and insular.
So I take stock of my relatively uneventful 2015, and hope that I have a better and more dynamic 2016 without being utterly destroyed due to obligations. I may or may not stay up to see the new year come in.
Tomorrow, though, I will rise and bathe. I will speak no harsh words for the first day of the year, whether verbally or textually. Will make offerings to Janus and Strenia of wine and incense, and to offer sweet foods so as to make my coming year and any journey I embark on well-blessed and sweet from the start. And I will go down into the basement where some of my residual life is and finish packing it up, doing some small work so that my year may be productive.
Everyone else, have a safe and happy new year, and may the next year treat you well.