So It’s The New Year. So Now What?
Author: Diotima Mantineia
The time between Samhain and Yule is — underneath all the frantic preparations for various modern and ancient holidays — a time of mists, mysteries and deep introspection. At Samhain — Summer’s End — the Veil between the Worlds is at its thinnest, and in the Northern Hemisphere, our bodies, minds and spirits respond to the dying vegetation and longer nights by preparing for the advent of Winter.
While festivities around the time of the Winter Solstice are a long-standing tradition, our modern obsession with parties and presents in the weeks before Solstice distracts us from what Nature offers us at this time, and is the prime contributor to the often-flaming holiday burnouts that happen so frequently between now and the secular new year.
Holiday burnout is particularly problematic among Pagans, Wiccans and Heathens. We strive to honor our own beliefs and follow our own (often young and fragile) traditions while meeting the expectations of a family that still celebrates Christmas. Sometimes, hiding our own beliefs seems necessary or at least politic at family gatherings, adding to our stress and feelings of burnout and disconnection. This stress begins in November, with the plans for the first of the season’s family holidays, Thanksgiving.
If you were sitting there nodding your head as you read that last paragraph, take note: you really, really, really need to take some time for yourself. Not just the occasional Sunday morning when everyone else in your family is asleep or at church. No, you need to take time every day and some more time every week to renew yourself spiritually within your own tradition and let yourself tune in to the seasonal rhythms of Nature.
Here are some actions you can take that, with intent, can be fit into a busy everyday life without too much difficulty:
- Find a place in Nature you can visit every day. Yep, every day. If it needs to be a different spot on weekend days, fine. If it is just a tree in a sidewalk surrounded by an ocean of concrete, fine. You’ve got that, and the sky. The important thing is that you tune into Nature and give thanks – thanks to Nature, thanks to your vision of the Creator(s) and the Creation, thanks to whatever you are genuinely thankful for. Your heart knows what these things are – just listen.
The ability to genuinely give thanks is a tremendously powerful magic that shifts lives – a secret you don’t always learn in Wicca 101. Once you have found one or two things to be thankful for, nurture the feeling of gratitude and look for more people/beings/things that give you that feeling. You’ll find them, and your life will improve as you do, because the energy you put out into the world will change. Touch base with Nature every day, and let Her know about the things you’ve found that you are grateful for.
- Build an Ancestor Altar and spend some time with your ancestors. It doesn’t have to look like an altar; it can just be a few pictures and maybe a small object or two – an acorn, a feather, or a stone. Give honor to your ancestors; to your bloodline as it has stretched back through the centuries.
If one of your ancestors was someone you cannot bring yourself to honor, then simply make a vow to those ancestors you can honor that you will transmute and heal any emotional poison still within you. There are ancestors who will help you heal, and others in your line whose spirits will take healing from yours as one candle takes flame from another. Work with your ancestors to heal not only yourself, but any disease or abuse that has occurred in your bloodline along the lines of time. Do this work at least once a week or so.
- Sit down and re-vision your spiritual touchstones. What do you think is intrinsically right? What do you think is intrinsically wrong? What’s relative, and what’s in a gray area? What are the really important things in life? Spiritually and philosophically, what is the ground beneath your feet? Can you clarify what you believe for yourself? When you find them, write these touchstone ideas and beliefs down. These are the things you should never lose track of.
This exercise is something you might want to consider doing at least once a year between Samhain and the Winter Solstice, and it will probably take at least 2 or 3 sessions of writing and thinking, as well as even more thinking as you go through your daily life.
- Another good exercise for this time of year is to find a mass belief (one reflected in the popular culture, or what I like to call consensus reality) that is in conflict with one of your touchstones, but still affects you. How do you know it affects you? Because you see that at least some actions you take in your life are in line with this belief and not in line with your spiritual touchstone. Then work to clarify your beliefs through thought, careful consideration, and synthesis of any conflicting beliefs, or just let go of the belief that limits you because it separates your life from your touchstones.
Once you’ve identified this belief or beliefs, (conflicting beliefs around consumerism are easy to spot this time of year, as an example), then start taking note of where and how this limiting belief is brought into your life through your interaction with consensus reality – for instance, television, movies, music, or water-cooler conversations. Write or draw these things in your journal (a Witch’s, shaman’s or magician’s journal is a critically important tool). You can even tear pages from magazines or print illustrations from the Web. But get it down on paper, so you can really work on breaking the hold this belief has on you.
- Finally, be with the people you care about. Value them, nurture them, talk with them and laugh with them as we honor the dying of the year and then welcome the returning Sun. Don’t waste your time partying with people who mean little to you – your time is a magical gift you should give only where it will do you and others the most good.
In both Astrology and Tarot the Sun is the symbol of the Self – the bright light of who you truly are. As we move into what can be a difficult season for many, give honor to that bright Self within as part of the honor you give to the reborn Sun at Solstice. Give yourself the time and devotion you need to shine.