New Year, New Project

Happy New Year’s!

After bidding 2014 a less than fond farewell of the ‘don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-in-the-ass’ variety, it’s time to look to the new year.  My very short resolution list doesn’t include any spiritual goals this year, because there isn’t any particular area that I want to expand or build on right now.  I’m not feeling complacent about my path, but rather just being realistic about what areas need the most attention during the coming year.

So what’s the plan for this blog in 2015? I plan to write more regularly again, rather than just the sporadic random posting that happened during the last year. To that end, I’m participating in this year’s Cauldron Blog Project, a dual level challenge that has monthly themes as well as alphabetical posts every two weeks (possibly every week if I feel really ambitious).  This means that I will need to post at least… gasp… three times per month.  Sadly, this seems, at the moment, a formidable challenge.  Will I keep up with this schedule?  I’ll let you know around this time next year.

Ritual Calendar – January

A few days ago, I posted that, in 2014, I would be creating a calendar of rituals for my own practice.  I plan to share my progress here, but the extent of the sharing is still under consideration.  There is such as a thing as TMI, so I’ll spare you, darling reader, from the deeply personal and squicky parts of the process.  However, I think… or more precisely, I hope… that some of what I create for myself might be of use to others.  So, without further ado, here is the ritual for January:

January Ritual – Moving Into the New Year

Timing
  • To be performed on New Year’s, preferable centering around midnight.

Themes

  • Renewal
  • Transformation
Purpose
  • Banish negative/unwanted aspects of the previous year
  • Maintain those traits that have been helpful in the past
  • Manifest desired characteristics/events in the coming year
Preparations
  • Contemplate what things about the passing year should 1). continue or carry over into the new year, 2). stop or be removed before the new year begins, and 3). start or manifest in the new year.
  • Gather supplies as needed. At minimum, two candles and a tool for carving are needed.
  • If doing the full ritual, set up staging areas for candles and other items.
Ritual- Minimalist Version
  • Choose two candles of matching size, one black,  one white.  Carve the black candle with words or symbols of the things that you wish to banish. Carve the white candle with those things that you wish to attract.  If desired, candles may be dressed with herbs and oils, as appropriate. Light both while focusing on the changes that you wish to make in the coming year.
Ritual- Full Version
  • Set up three separate staging areas prior to starting:
    • An area to symbolize the past year: Include images, words, or symbolic objects that represent various facets of the ending year.  This area should also include a black candle as described in the minimalist ritual.
    • An area for cleansing or purification:  This area should be free from clutter and if possible contain only those items needed for purification. Also include, near the exit if possible, white clothing.
    • An area to symbolize the coming year:  Place a white candle as described above in the minimalist version. Also include depictions of anything that is not currently part of your life, but which you wish to include or manifest in the coming year.
  • When ready to begin, dress entirely in black. Before entering the first staging area, gather depictions that represent who you are. Include all traits and characteristics that define you.
  • Carry the representations of yourself into the first staging area.  Light the black candle as you state your intention to banish certain aspects and events from your life. As it burns, sort the representations of yourself into two piles- those you wish to retain and those you wish to be gone.   Sort the representations of the passing year in the same way.
  • Place the things that you wish to leave behind on the table with the black candle. Undress as you state your intent to move forward out of the passing year, taking only those things that will serve you well in the future.  Pick up the representations of things that you wish to keep and proceed with them onto the cleansing space.
  • Perform a cleansing and/or purification as desired.  If you wish  say prayers or invocations of blessing for the coming year.   When done, dress in white as you declare your intent to move forward into the new year.
  • Carry your the objects into the third staging area and place these with the representations of the things that you wish to attract.  Light the white candle and declare your intent to move forward into the coming year.  When ready, exit the third staging area and begin the new year.
  • Allow both candles to burn until fully spent.

Modifications and Notes

  • The purification/cleansing portion can take any form. My personal preference is for a ritual bath, but smudging or other method would work well.  The method here is less important than the action itself.
  • Colors may be altered as appropriate for individual symbolism.
  • If carrying representations is too difficult or unwieldy, you can symbolize  each group of depictions with a single object for each representation- i.e., one object for things you wish to carry from the old year into the new, another for the aspects about yourself you wish to carry forward, another for those that you wish to leave behind.  Other possible alternatives -small representations pinned to clothing  or symbols painted on the skin.  Each of these could be added or removed as appropriate.
  • Staging areas can be as elaborate or as simple as desired.  My only recommendation is to set up three distinct but adjoining areas that you can move through progressively without backtracking or crossing through other non-ritual areas.

 

I admit that this year, the full version only happened in my head.  Life has been hectic during the holidays and my resources for coping stretched pretty thin, making me glad that I decided to create both minimalist and full versions of the ritual.   The candles are still burning on my altar as I type (note to self: buy smaller candles next year!).  Now, time to brainstorm for February’s ritual…

New Year’s Resolve

The Gregorian calendar will soon turn to yet another year, giving us pause to reflect on the passing year and to make resolutions for the coming one.  We set ourselves up with grand goals… and usually epically fail to achieve them.  So why do we do this to ourselves, setting ourselves up for failure every year?  Perhaps we make these resolutions in a fit of new year’s optimism (inebriation?).  Or maybe we just forget the promises we’ve made to ourselves as the daily minutia fills yet another year of our lives.

I’m trying a different approach to my resolutions for the coming year – setting a limited number of SMART* goals and prioritizing these according to the impact that each would have on my life.  In the end, I’ve chosen four goals for the coming year – the first two of which are entirely unrelated to this blog’s subject matter  and don’t bear mentioning here.  Goal #3 involves creative ventures, including writing.   Its impact on this blog will only be a more regular posting schedule in 2014.  I’m still deciding on the frequency of posts, but think it will likely be either weekly or bi-weekly.

In spite of being assigned the lowest priority, Goal #4 is the most important in relation to this meandering, eclectic path of mine:

4. Create and implement a workable annual cycle of rituals.

You would think that after all these years, I’d have something like this set up by now.  I don’t and as a result, I tend to be a bit blaise about observing holidays and transitions throughout the year.   Statements like “Oh, it’s equinox already?” and “What am I going to do for (insert holiday here)?” have come out of my mouth far too many times.  2013 has been particularly bad, as I observed exactly two holidays in an spiritual way… and neither of those were done well.

I am resolving this year to create a do-able calendar of rituals, something that I can use, not just in 2014, but in future years as well.   My plan is to create a series of rituals/activities for each of the holidays that I observe with any regularity (i.e., seasonal transitions and Samhain), as well as a ritual for  each of the months that don’t contain a major holiday.  In reflecting on the reasons why I haven’t been more consistent with ritual practice, lack of energy/time/spoons ranks highest, with inclement weather and failure to plan also both being factors.  All of these things fluctuate in ways that are not predictable and I may find that I have only a small reserve of resources available on the most important days.

Here’s my proposed solution: Create, well in advance, a hierarchy of rituals for each month, preparing for them as much as possible in advance (buying supplies, preparing incenses, etc), and then doing the ritual according to the resources I have at that time.  By creating a framework that allows different levels of depth to each ritual, I can provide some flexibility to do the work within the limitations that exist at the time of the ritual.  With advanced planning, inclement weather alternatives can be created as well.  So, no excuses this year. There will be a regular ritual practice (because I said so dammit).

 

*SMART = specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-targeted.  A more elaborate explanation of this can be found on Wiki.

 

New Year’s

It’s New Year’s Day and two candles burn on my altar.  One is white and the other black, one for attracting, the other for banishing, one for dreams, the other for nightmares.  Each has been carefully carved on every surface with words, the whispers of potential for the coming year, all of the wishes and hopes to flow into my life, all of the fears and worries to be carried away.  Each is surround by herbs and filled with energy. The white candle is endowed attraction, tranquility, openness, prosperity, love.  To the black candle is given sorrow, depression, hatred, misery.  They burn equally bright and will be allowed to do so until each, in its own time, burns out.

The ritual is simple enough, but I don’t do it nearly as often as I should.  In fact, I don’t think I ever managed to do this one at all  in 2012, a.k.a. the year of not getting things done. I’d intended to do this ritual at Samhain but failed to go anything more than give it a passing thought.  Solstice, as well, came and went without this being completed.  So here we are at  the dawn of the New Year, on the threshold of 2013, and the candles are finally lit.  Out with the old and in with the new.  May 2013 be better than its predecessor and may you find yourself blessed with all that you need in the coming year.

 

An Unprettier Year

New year - which direction?
Image by randihausken via Flickr

About this time last year,  I was bemoaning the fact that 2009 had been an ‘unpretty’ year.  Leave it to the universe to interpret this as a request to make 2010 even ‘unprettier’.

I don’t have many kinds words for 2010.  It was a year of things gone wrong – battles with cancer for two people I know, struggles to maintain ‘unshakable’ relationships, economic woes for all, a reopening of old personal wounds, and the ugly end of a project that had once been a passion for me.  Overall, it was a disheartening twelve months.

What was the lesson of 2010?  I’m not sure.  I’m not sure that I actually care what it was.  I’m glad the year is finished and  hope that the turning of the calendar signals a turning of the tides as well.  I’m holding 2011 to a higher standard – I expect that it will more than make up for the last two years and will bring wonderful things to all.  For me, it looks to be a year of changing directions and refocusing on those things that are most important to me – friends, family, writing, my path.  I’m actually looking forward to the coming year and am feeling optimistic that it will be a positive one.

However your 2010 may have turned out, I hope that 2011 finds you blessed, love, safe, and happy!

An Unpretty Year

My evening on this second day of 2010 has been spent reading through several New Year’s blog posts from friends, colleagues, and fellow seekers.  Expressed in a range of emotions from resignation to rage, the theme of all seemed to be the same – 2009 was a rough year that dragged everyone through the proverbial mud and kicked us squarely in the teeth while we were down.  No one has proclaimed it the “best year ever” or even a “pretty good year.”  Whether it’s been financial, health, family, or career woes, it seems that everyone is bemoaning the year that was. 

I’m no different from any of those blog authors.  Kind words are difficult to muster when speaking of the year that has passed.  If I can’t be kind, then at least let me be honest as I search for words to describe the year that was: challenging, gritty, scary, and often melancholy.   I can’t point to a single incident that made 2009 a miserable companion. Rather, it was the collective of all of the little hiccups, upsets, and bumps in the road that made it an annoying and sometimes regrettable 365 days.  As one friend described it, the year was just plain unpretty… not actually ugly, but by no means pretty either.

Unpretty has been my path this year as well.  2009 began on a strong spiritual note and my plan had been to spend a good deal of time codifying my beliefs while working on the Path Forging portions of this blog.  Mundane concerns derailed me quickly however and my intentions fell to the wayside.  Chronic health issues kept me from all but the most basic practices during the fall and even those simple things were completed with great difficulty.  No dark night of the soul this, but rather a dark night of the body and mind, both too worn down to do much more than light a candle and say a prayer.  I wanted to do more, but physically and emotionally could not.

Therein lies the lesson of 2009.  Whether it be spiritually, physically, or financially, it seemed that we all wanted to do more and get more out of the year than we were actually able to.  2009 reminded us that there are limitations, both self-imposed and forced upon us from the outside.  We can rally and rage against those limitations, but there comes a time when we must acknowledge that we are not superhuman, that we can only do so much, that we are confined within boundaries.  So often this kind of acknowledgement is accompanied by a sense of defeat or failure.   Knowing that we face limitations should not make us feel diminished, but should empower and inspire us to make the most of what we’ve been given.  The year may have been unpretty, but it was mine to live and I lived it as fully as I could.  It is this thought about 2009 that I will carry forward into 2010.