Healing Arts and Pagan Studies ~ Let’s celebrate!
In Denmark the New Year is brought in with even more noise than in most countries.
Young people go around pounding on their friends’ front doors. To raise the New Year spirit even more, they throw
shards of pottery, collected throughout the previous year, against the sides of houses. And we thought we had it loud!
Greece: On New Year’s Eve [St Basil’s Eve] children sing kalanda, from door to door; they carry an apple, an orange,
a paper ship, a paper star and a green rod cut from a cornel-tree. They tap the family members on the back with the
rod for luck. The householders give them treats. On New Year’s day this continues, sometimes with customary acts
such as stoking the fire and sprinkling wheat in the yard.
In many parts of the world the New Year is greeted with a lot of noise, sometimes made by church bells. Originally this was to frighten away evil spirits that might try to sneak into the New Year and try to spoil it. People in the Northern Hemisphere sometimes lit bonfires for the same reason.
New Year is celebrated at different times according to various calendars, eg Jewish, Chinese, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu.
We have records from 4,000 years ago in Babylon of resolutions, as part of their New Year festivities. Often these were made publicly. To make good any outstanding debts and return anything borrowed were the most common. Today to lose weight and give up smoking are the most common, followed by – making good any outstanding debts and returning borrowed goods.
The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all had the tradition of parading the first babies born in the year. In the 14th century the custom of showing a baby with a banner of the New Year around it began, in Germany.
In Germany prowling demons & spirits of darkness must be routed this night by mummery & lots of noise. People used to dress in straw clothing with deerskin masks of animals & run through the streets, clanging & dragging chains (Birt?).
Mobile, Alabama: COWBELLION HERD ESCAPADE & REVEL honors Michael Krafft, who founded mystic society, “Cowbellion de Rakin” in 1830, first of all the mystic societies & crewes which stage the Mardigra’s extravaganza in Mobile & New Orleans.
Japan: NAMAHAGE. Men dressed as devils go door-to-door screaming,
Dec 31 St Silvester’s Eve
Austrians consider this a rauchnacht or smoke-night when all rooms and animals must be purified with the smoke of incense and holy water, a purification ritual.
In The Winter Solstice, Matthews describes another Austrian custom, involving a masked figure called the Sylvester (from the Latin sylvan, meaning “from the woods”), a sort of Green Man who hides in the corner at inns throughout Austria and leaps out when a young man or woman passes to give them a kiss. The Sylvester wears a wreath of mistletoe, perhaps an emblem of fertility which he bestows with the kisses. When midnight comes, he is driven out of the room as a representative of the old year.
Source: Matthews, John, The Winter Solstice, Quest 1998
Dec 31 Yemaya
Yemaya-Olokun, the Mother of the Sea, is honored on New Year’s Eve. In Brazil, people dress in white, go down to the ocean, light candles in the sand and throw white flowers into the waves for Yemaya. Alma Guillermoprieto, the author of Samba, asked an older woman how she should pray and the woman suggested she say something like this:
Yemanja, our Mother, please make [this year] a better year than [last year]. Not that [last year] was a bad year; don’t get me wrong; I received many benefits, many good things happened to me and I’m not complaining. But now, thinking over everything that’s happened, I would like to ask you for something from the bottom of my heart:: please bring me twice the amount of good things and take away half the number of bad. [p. 123]
Luisah Teish provides suggestions for a beautiful Yemaya ritual in her book Carnival of the Spirit, along with good ideas for a New Year’s ritual.
Guillermoprieto, Alma, Samba, Vintage 1990
Source: Teish, Luisah, Carnival of the Spirit:Seasonal Celebrations and Rites of Passage, Harper San Francisco 1994
Dec 31 Vesta
This day is set aside for honoring the Roman goddess of the hearth (see Hertha, Dec 21). As Hestia, the Greek goddess of the hearth, she was credited with the art of building houses (since every home was built around the sacred central fire).
Robert Graves speculates that the archaic white aniconic image of the Great Goddess found throughout the Eastern Mediterranean represents a heap of glowing charcoal, kept alive by a covering of white ash. It was tended by the woman of the house and was the center of family life and clan gatherings. He also mentions the Pythoness who induced trance by burning hemp, laurel and barley over an oil lamp in an enclosed space, and suggests that burning the same herbs over hot ashes would be just as effective for producing visions because of their narcotic fumes.
Source:Graves, Robert, The Greek Myths, Penguin 1955
xoxoxox Rev. Donna