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2014 The year of AWARENESS – Out with the old and in with the new! Wendy Stokes looks at some ancient New Year rituals. – Should old acquaintance 
be forgot, and never thought upon; The flames of love extinguished, and fully 
past and gone: Is thy sweet heart now grown so cold, that loving breast of thine; That thou canst never once reflect on Auld Lang Syne?
 

In our busy lives, we have forgotten many traditions honoured by our distant ancestors but the ‘New Age’ seeks to bring the past to light so it can be examined and updated, and made current, applicable and useful to today’s world.

The New Age also honours all religions and none, taking the bare bones of spirituality in order to campaign for more compassion, integrity and justice in our communities.

Learning to value our personal experience and the development of our own understanding of people and situations is more important than doing what we are told by others. Growing in maturity and independence, gaining skills and abilities are the things that matter, as we try to rediscover the wisdom of ancient times.

As we celebrated the ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new, we probably sang the traditional song Auld Lang Syne – which roughly translates as ‘old long since’ or ‘long time ago’.

In this song the question is posed as to whether we should forget old acquaintances and never bring them to mind at times of special celebration. However, simply by asking the question, we naturally remember and give thanks for beloved friends and mourn those who are unable to join in what has become a traditional ritual at the start of each new year.

Janus for January
– New Year resolutions

The month of January is dedicated to Janus, the pagan Roman god of doorways – a legend at least 2000 years old. He has two faces, one looking behind and the other looking ahead. He is remembered in the month of January and the month is named after him.

Positive affirmations help you keep your resolutions

We also honour the tradition of looking back over the past year, remembering our achievements and our mistakes, and make commitments to live a better life through New Year resolutions. If you’ve not yet made your resolution for 2014, it’s important to write it down. You might also like to write some affirmations which will help you be successful in achieving it. If you can find a picture which epitomises your resolution, keep it where you can see it frequently.

For many, early January means shopping for bargains in the sales. For others, it might mean a flight to Cologne, in Germany, to visit the cathedral where the Three Wise Men’s relics are especially honoured on their feast day of 6th January, when special celebrations are held.

By mid-January we find the moon is full. Traditionally this is a time for completing tasks and projects. If the weather is frosty, we might see a clear sky and be able to take in its beauty. There is a chant (Hail the Moon, by J. Tigerheart) which you can recite as you meditate on the full moon:

    

Hail Sister Moon, rising so high, like a sacred jewel in the night sky

All the stars shining bright around us, feel all the Beauty that surrounds us.

Hail Sister Moon, rising so high, like a sacred jewel in the night sky

All the stars shining bright around us, feel all the Love that surrounds us.

(You can add Tranquillity, Strength, Community, or whatever value or energy you need, in the last line.)

To build your personal altar for this month, use a small table and place it in the northern part of your bedroom or lounge. Write an affirmation for this month on a piece of card, such as ‘I am calm and centred and comfortable’ or ‘I am positive, upbeat and optimistic’. Place this card on your table. You might also like to choose a stone from a place you especially like to visit or a tarot or oracle card and place these beside your affirmation. If there are some evergreens in your garden or some winter flowering plants, put a small sprig in a vase on the table too. Light a candle and place this on the altar when you wish to spend time in meditation.
  

Winter – the incubator
for dreams and creativity

This is the darkest and coldest time of the year. We can sometimes fear the dark as we fear the unknown. What happens can be uncontrolled and unseen, and we long for the light and warmth of the sun which provides greater awareness, visibility and control. Many animals (such as the hedgehog, dormouse and squirrel) hibernate and many people describe wanting to find a cave and womb-like place to retreat from the outside world and enter a more meditative and quieter period.

After the festivities of Christmas, a time of rest and recuperation is natural, but the darkness of winter is also often described as a time where dreams and creativity can be incubated. The alchemists of the mediaeval period researched in their laboratories a method of reworking natural elements to create something valuable from something worthless, described as ‘base metals into gold’.

Perfecting yourself

The ‘Great Work’ referred to perfecting the self, thereby harmonising all aspects of personality and character. Their work showed that all aspects of life have a time of usefulness, such as the decay of the leaves in winter providing nutrients for the seeds which grow in the spring.

Though many alchemists tried to find the secret of living forever, they succumbed to death, which is just a part of life which cannot be escaped. There is no death, of course, but only a time of transformation from physical life to eternal life in the spirit world.

Many of the most ancient divinities teach us the most difficult lessons and are therefore considered ‘dark’ in their aspect, especially the ‘dark goddesses’ whose rituals confront endings and instigate new beginnings, such as when ties are cut, when journeys end and begin anew.

New Year Meditation

Sit or lie down and ensure you will not be interrupted. Take a couple of deep breaths and allow your breathing to return to normal. Imagine you are sitting alone in a dark cave with ancient paintings on the walls. The cave is lit by a small fire which keeps you warm. This is an old and wise part of you which has knowledge lost from the present day.

A person calls out to you from the entrance. You recognise this voice as your own. As this person approaches, you see it is you, and you are seeking advice on a particular matter. The old, wise part of you listens and converses. What is the advice?

The modern-day part of you leaves the cave and slowly the vision of the old you fades and you come back to today’s world, stretching and yawning. Make a note of the advice in your diary.

 

The ancient goddesses

The story of one of the most ancient goddesses of the Middle East is that of Inanna. She entered the underworld alone to confront her greatest fears and gain knowledge and wisdom. Though she was a great and powerful goddess, she needed to remove all her wealth and influence before entering the place of the unknown with courage and fortitude.

This presents an interesting story that we can identify with at times when we are in greatest need. We also consider the work of the three female Fates of ancient Rome. Nona spun the thread of life from her distaff onto her spindle; Decima measured the thread of life with a rod; and Morta cut the thread and chose the manner of death.

These three women governed the lives of all people and are still at work in our lives today, as they offer opportunities for us to step up to the plate, or withdraw privileges so we can re-evaluate what is important and how best we can proceed in the light of new situations.

To build your personal altar for this month, use a small table and place it in the northern part of your bedroom or lounge. Write an affirmation for this month on a piece of card, such as ‘I am calm and centred and comfortable’ or ‘I am positive, upbeat and optimistic’. Place this card on your table.

    Wendy Stokes is a London-based journalist and spiritual worker. She is the author of The Lightworkers Circle Guide.

You might also like to choose a stone from a place you especially like to visit or a tarot or oracle card and place these beside your affirmation. If there are some evergreens in your garden or some winter flowering plants, put a small sprig in a vase on the table too. Light a candle and place this on the altar when you wish to spend time in meditation.
 
 


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