by Aaron Leitch
(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)
You might have noticed New Year's Day tends to fall at different times in different cultures. For example, Chinese New Year falls in late January or February (at the new moon of their first lunar month). The Jewish New Year (aka Rosh Hashanah, or "Head of the Year") occurs in the fall, at the beginning of the seventh month of their ecclesiastical year (Tishre, which is also the first month of their civil calendar.) The Islamic New Year also falls late on our calendar, beginning with their first month (Muharram), and the new moon is important here as well. Some ancient mystical traditions recognize the New Year at the spring equinox, when the Sun passes from Pisces back into Aries and the daytime overtakes the night in length for the first time in the cycle. Wiccans place the New Year at Samhain, as that is the time when the final harvests are brought in, the cattle culled, and we settle in to ride out the dead months of winter while enjoying the fruits of the previous year's labor.
Our own civil calendar is, frankly, a mess, and very few of our "holidays" (derived from "holy days") retain their original astrological or seasonal bases. However, that hasn't stopped this time of year from possessing a recognizable mystical significance. Even though it is not based upon the appearance of a new moon, nor the turning of a season (in fact, it falls smack dab in the middle of winter), we can't deny the feeling that overtakes us each December 31st as the final seconds of the old year are counted down. We feel that distinct change-over from the old to the new. It is when we let go of what has passed and look with full purpose toward what is to come. It is when we set our personal goals (resolutions). We have even enthroned the sentiment in the lyrics of the song we traditionally sing as the clock passes midnight on January 1st: "Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?" ("Auld lang syne," in case you've ever wondered, basically means "Days gone by.") Regardless of which religion or mystical tradition from which we hail, we all recognize the significance of the civil New Year.
Therefore, it is not surprising that our culture has developed its own magickal traditions surrounding this important time of change and hope. By this, I do not mean such things as attendance at religious gatherings (such as mass or temple). I mean good old fashioned witchery—simple little charms and rituals (quite often borrowed from folk tradition) performed at home, allowing ourselves and our families to grab the reins of the new year and attempt to steer it in a positive direction right from its very first moments. It is the performance of these little spells, these family traditions, that truly make a household magickal.
So, I thought it might be fun to share a few of my family's New Year's folk traditions with you. Then (because, why not?), I asked some friends from my Solomonic Facebook group to share their own folk spells for the New Year, resulting in the following 10 charms you can do with your family to say goodbye to the auld, and attract only what is good for the coming months.
- Encourage Money to Flow Into the House.
Or, perhaps, this is more about illustrating to your house spirits and geni loci what, exactly, it is you want them to do. In the last minutes before midnight on December 31st, take a small handful of change outside your front door and place it somewhere nearby. (You can then go back inside.) Then, just after the big countdown is complete, go back outside to collect the change and carry it back in. In this way, the very first action of the new year is the entrance of money into the house—a trend that we hope will continue all year long.
- A Southern Trick for Abundance.
This is a tradition my family has observed throughout my lifetime, and so have many of my friends' families because it's an old Southern thing. (This was also suggested by a member of my Solomonic group, George Allison, so I assume he must be Southern as well.) On New Years' day, my mother (and, nowadays, my wife) cooks a big meal of ham or ham-hocks, collard greens, cornbread, and black-eyed peas. You might recognize this as soul food, representing what's best (or, at least, most fattening) about Southern living. The meal is enjoyed by the family just as any other holiday feast—but make sure to leave a black-eyed pea (some say two) on your plate at the end of the meal, so you "won't be broke" throughout the rest of the year.An interesting addition to this concept was mentioned by two members of the Solomonic group, Alena Allen and James Baker. Apparently, in their homes, the black-eyed peas were always cooked with a coin (a penny or dime) in order to further link the peas to money and abundance.
- Epiphany Blessing Traditions.
Epiphany is a Christian holy day that falls on January 6th. In older times, this was the day people did their Christmas gift-giving. (Or they'd do it over the twelve days between December 25th and January 5th, which you might better know as the Twelve Days of Christmas.) The feast of the 6th commemorates the visit of the Three Magi to the infant Jesus, whereupon they brought him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It is traditional for Catholics and Eastern Christians to attend a Mass on this day, during which the priest may bless water, chalk, incense and/or oil for the members of the congregation to take home. These items (often called "Three Kings," water, incense, oil, etc.) are then used to exorcise and bless the house for the coming year.On a more folksy note, the blessed chalk is then used to inscribe the initials of the Three Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) along with the new year above one's front door. For example, it would be written for 2016 as follows:
20 + C + M + B + 16
with each number and letter separated by a cross. A prayer invoking the aid and intervention of the Three Magi (who are considered Saints) throughout the year is then recited. Further, the three letters are also understood to stand for the Latin phrase Christus Mansionem Benedicat (Christ Bless this House). Once in place, every person entering your home will have to pass beneath this charm, hopefully picking up some of its positive influence.
- Watch For the First Visitor.
This is more a divination than a charm or spell. However, divination is a big part of New Year's tradition—as we seek for clues to what fate has in store for us in the coming months. Besides the usual Tarot readings or astrological castings, make sure to also keep an eye out for the very first visitor to your home in the new year. Much like the little trick we do with the change before and after midnight, this depends upon the idea that the first day of the year will be a microcosm of the entire year to come. Does the first visitor bring good or bad news? Was it a delivery or a gift? Or was something picked up and taken away? Was it an old friend, a new acquaintance, or even an enemy? These things will give you a heads-up on what kind of energy is looking to take up residence in your house this year.
- Bring Luck by Spreading Prosperity.
While we are working on ways to encourage our own prosperity, what could be better than making sure we spread it around a little? At the very least, it should earn us some brownie points with our spiritual patrons and familiars, and attract luck back to us. To accomplish this, Solomonic group member Kenshin Shoden has suggested blessing some change and distributing it to seven different people in need. Plus, if you have the means, I'm sure this simple ritual could be scaled up, so the seven people in need could receive significant donations (in one form or another) that could really make a difference for them.
- Attract the Gods of Wealth.
Like the very simple ritual described in #1, this entry is also about encouraging wealth to flow into the house. This case, however, is a bit more involved. Another member of the group—Stephen Skinner, author of such books as Techniques of Graeco-Egyptian Magic and Techniques of Solomonic Magic—mentioned the Chinese practice of making New Year offerings to the God of Wealth. First, the direction from which he will come must be divined. Then, a bucket of seawater and other offerings are set out, and formal greetings are made to welcome him into the home.
- Offerings to the Fairies.
Group member Mark Davie describes a similar tradition practiced by his family, but aimed at the Sidhe and the spirits of nature. A plate is set outside but sheltered form the storms of the season, and bread, berries, silver, a lump of coal, matches, and a candle are placed upon it. The spirits are blessed and thanked for their kindness over the previous year, and the offerings provide them with food, light, and warmth "to guide their ways through briar and bracken."
- Find the Coin for Luck.
Group member Goritsa Svortsan shared a Bulgarian custom observed in her family's house: Her grandmother would bake a type of round bread after placing a coin in the dough. Just after midnight, the bread would be divided among the members of the family and eaten. Whoever got the piece with the coin would be lucky in the coming year. Interestingly, she stressed this was not a form of divination to predict who would be lucky, but a ritual to draw fortune to the lucky recipient of the coin.
- Want to Travel This Year?
While researching this topic, my wife stumbled across a couple of interesting New Year's folk charms. These are not things we have done ourselves, but I found them worthy of inclusion in this list. For instance, if you would like to travel in the upcoming year, you might pack a suitcase on New Year's day, load it into your car, and drive around the block. Like the entry in #1, this is intended to show the local spirits what you desire, and to initiate a pattern that you hope will repeat throughout the year.
- Don't Take Anything Out!
This last one is certainly the easiest to accomplish, since it only requires you to take a day off from cleaning house. It works on the same principle as the other examples in this list: the establishment of a pattern one hopes to repeat. However, in this case, we are attempting to keep things from flowing out of the house, rather than encouraging something to come in. Hence, we should keep everything inside the house on this day; take nothing out the door, don't even take out the trash. That way we won't counteract the energies we have raised in the hopes of bringing abundance, prosperity, and good fortune into our homes.This is a practice my own family will certainly adopt next New Year's day.
I hope this has given you some good ideas for your own family's New Year traditions. And not just New Year's, either! Each and every holy or feast day observed by our families should include these kinds of folk magick rituals. It is in these simple ways we reconnect with the Earth and her seasons, making our homes true centers of magick throughout the year.
Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2016. All rights reserved.