New Year's Rituals

As many of you do, I have seasonal rituals I perform annually that are my personal ways of turning the Wheel. The Earth Sabbat of Winter Solstice and the American Sabbat of New Year's Eve/Day are two of my pivotal points in the year. I mark them with some treasured customs. My friend Mary Trego from Minnesota asked me what I did at this time of year the other day on Facebook, so I thought I'd share them here. Thanks for asking, Mary! It was a lot of fun to write about these favorite personal rites!

Winter Solstice
We have a full-sized cut tree in the house (I am sitting right next to it and it smells delicious) that we purchased from a sustainable tree farm (they don't kill the tree- they top it, wire it, and keep letting it grow). In past years, I/we typically get a small tree, some cast-off boughs, or a rosemary plant. But in all cases, I make incense and smudges from the needles or leaves, and save the trunks and branches when we are finished with them. I use the smudges and needles as incense and in home blessing ceremonies, and I save the branches and trunks for ritual fires. So, for example, this past Spring I invited the Wildflower Initiates over for a bonfire and an evening ritual. We planted a tree in my yard together, and then we burned my previous Yule tree in the fire circle afterwards. Being able to include that particular tree in the ritual fire provided a nice spiral to the experience for me. So, this year, I will have a bunch of Douglas Fir incense (my favorite!), and look forward to burning the rest in a bonfire with my Covenmates.

I also have a habit of asking my beloved to gift me with fresh mistletoe each year, as a protection for our home. I then hang it above all of the major entry points of the house, taking down the bundle from the year before. I burn the previous year's bundle in the Yule fire, releasing any negativity, difficulty, or discomfort in my realm during that period.

This year was special, in that Albert came home one day and said that he had seen a big bunch of mistletoe in a low-growing tree outside his office, and though he might be able to get it directly. The next day, he quietly packed his staff into the car when he went to work. We had contemplated sending him with my small sickle knife to cut it, but he felt it would work better and cause less harm to simply knock it from the tree. He came to pick me up at work that day proudly carrying this pretty ball of mistletoe. So dashing!

Even though I had the flu for Yule this year, we still managed to get the new mistletoe up, but we did not have a bonfire. I weakly lit a match and called it a night. I will have my little Yule fire a bit late this year, tonight, and let the moon sing down into the fire. Moon on Fire is a theme that comes up in a shamanic way for me again and again with one of the Goddesses to whom I am dedicated: Khotun, the Reindeer Mother. She communicates with me by showing me images or offering brief, piercing lunar descriptions as a way of conveying Her messages. "Moon on Fire" is an image that means the creative power of love, compassion, and desire comingled. "Moon of Ice" suggests a need for the state of silence. "Moon on the Water" conveys meditation- it usually means it is time to visit Her altar. "Moon of Milk" is about purification and easing back on emotions and attachments. So tonight, since I am planning a Full Moon fire to burn my Yule branches and mistletoe, I will likely perform a milk offering into the fire for purification, and will honor Khotun with some form of love offering.

New Year's
I have previously written on the pagan history of New Year's Eve and Day here, which some of you might find interesting. I find this part particularly relevant to this year:

But oh, how those rascally pagans persisted, nonetheless! In 7th century Flanders/Netherlands, Roman Catholic Saint Eligius wrote a warning about new year's celebrations, "Do not make vetulas (little female statues; "vetula" in Latin means "Old Woman"), little deer or iotticos or set tables at night (for the house spirits) or exchange new year's gifts or supply superfluous drinks." 

Since I am already planning to do a working with the Reindeer Mother tonight and had planned a love offering of some sort, I will perhaps make one of these little deer and place it on my New Year's Day altar. It feels as though She is very present for me right now, with a message. And I am all ears. I think she is asking me to slow down, to pull my focus within more, to attend to my own Beauty Path. I am listening. I also was recently assigned to make a figurine for another working I am doing with Iya Oshogbo, so this ancient, cross-cultural custom of figure-making is also clearly important for me to pay attention to right now. It's coming at me from all sides! Maybe it's important for you as well? Is it time to make a poppet or fetish for a purpose you might have? How about New Year's Day?

I am not typically one to go out and get drunk on New Year's Eve...anymore. I used to be a big party girl who loved to carouse all night, but in recent years I prefer the quiet of friends and family for New Year's Eve, in smaller, spiritual-based settings like drum circles, rituals, and social events with my Coven. But...this year, Albert and I will be going to see The Dead for NYE instead. I never saw them on New Year's when Jerry was alive, so this will be a bittersweet and wonderful opportunity to fulfill a longtime dream.

However, concert aside, I will complete my annual trek on New Year's Eve day to a local beach to make offerings to the ocean and gather water from the 7th wave that strikes the shore after I begin singing to Her. I will leave gifts there for Yemoja and Aphrodite and the womb of the planet. Later, I will add that water to my bath of purification, and save some for blessings later in the year.

On New Year's Day, I typically make certain to chant "Om mani padme hum" 108 times at some point during the day. I have alternated with other mantras as well, but this one is really my favorite for New Year's Day. It feels like a clean way to open the year, like the jewel at the center of the just-blossoming lotus sparkles forth with a crystal fire. Clean. Open. Fresh. Ready. It used to be that I would do my chanting very first thing in the morning, and still usually is, but life can be unpredictable. I go with the flow.

The other thing I LOVE to do for New Year's Day is to Draw The Future. For the past 7 years, I have done this activity, with some startling and delightful and eerie results. I thought I might share some of the pictures and stories with you here.

In 2007, I drew a figure of the Goddess and wrote the Charge of the Start Goddess all around Her. As it turned out, I was ordained in the Dianic Tradition that year, though I did not know that I would be at the time. One of the requirements of that ordination was to memorize the Charge of the Star Goddess, which I did via this drawing. This same Goddess figure also ended up adorning the front of my ordination dress, which was designed and made for me by my friend Hummingbird. (We recently upcycled it and now it's a skirt that I am going to give to my best friend of 20 years, Angelina. Honey, watch the mail. Any day now I'll be sending it to you. Love you.)

In 2007, I also drew this imagining of what my store would look like from the outside. I pictured a big window, a dummy wearing a cloak, and a garden box out front. I also pictured this orangey-brown color, and the canopy above. I am not a very good artist, so this is imprecise, but when, 6 months later, Barry and I saw the building that is now The Sacred Well, I had an immediate shiver of recognition that so many of the elements were there. Myrtle doesn't wear a cloak anymore. She is now hip and modern in her TSW tee shirt and witch hat. Instead of a garden box, we got a stone bench. It used to be a garden box, but after vandalism they covered it over.

Here is another example of my reindeer fascination. This drawing in 2008 (blurry photo, sorry) referenced some of my studies in circumpolar shamanism. However, later that year I was taken on a shamanic journey by a longtime Finnish shamanism practitioner, in which I met the Reindeer Mother for the first time. We established a strong natural rapport, and I dedicated myself to Her that same year. She has many various forms and names among the Turkic peoples, each unique but bearing very close similarities to the others. We eventually settled on the Yakut/Sakha name for Her for my dedication, which is Khotun, or "The Celestial Hostess."

In 2010, I decided to do a collage instead. I used paper made by my friend Kismet to create a wreath of lotus flowers, each marked with a skull (an important symbol in Tantra, the kapala represents wisdom beyond the flesh, the defense of the dharma, and learning to hold the mysteries of life and death in perspective). In 2010, my Buddhist studies shifted and deepened. I read the Book of the Dead, and received my first empowerments that year. The night after my initiation to Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal, I had a dream that the thangka of them on my wall came to life, and they were speaking to me, giving me teachings. The teachings were unintelligible, and just sort of streaming in from them rather than being actually explained. In the dream, I looked down at my hands and saw eyes opening in my palms. I took it as a sign that the initiation was a favorable one, and have continued my studies ever since. I like Buddhism because there is no way I could possibly exhaust all study of it in one lifetime, and the most basic lessons of it are endlessly refreshing to me.

In 2011, I chose the word "Fulfillment" as my touchstone for the year. I literally wrote the word on a stone and placed it next to my front door where I would see it coming and going to remind myself that I was seeking to finish some big projects and shift to the next level. As I placed the stone beside my door on Jan 1, I knew in my heart that I would soon be moving out of my beloved Hobbit House. I wrote about that move in September, here.

In 2012, I chose the Prajnaparamita mantra as the centerpiece of my drawing. And, as it turned out, I received the Prajnaparamita empowerment in November of this year. Prajnaparamita consciousness has profoundly opened my eyes to the Great Perfection of all things in ways overt and subtle, joyful and painful, this year. I am so grateful for this learning.

In 2012, I also moved into my current wonderful communal home, which my friend and housemate Rowan affectionately nicknamed "The Beehive."

Going back over my previous Draw the Future workings, I am always heartened that there is proof of magic, and the actualization of my visions, everywhere in my life. I am endlessly given opportunities to be grateful for it. As for my 2013 Draw the Future working? Ahhh...that's going to stay my little secret :) But I encourage you to try it! This exercise is one I deeply enjoy, and find to be exceedingly magical. I often pick a single word or theme to start with, then let myself get creative from there. But there is no wrong way to do it, except for over-thinking it. That kills it. Put in joyful effort, but don't let it become a chore.

I also tend to start a fresh, white 7-day candle on Jan 1st, to symbolize the unwritten possibility of the year ahead. I charge it with my intentions for who I want to be in the year to come. When you know who you are, you don't need to worry about what you will say or do in any given instance. Who you are will lead the way. This year I am finding "being in right relation" coming up a lot. I'll get one of The Sacred Well's Hope/Serenity candles going on Jan 1, and then off we go in the Future!

Happy New Year, friends!