The wheel of the year turns another click onward, and one of the many new years we can choose to celebrate these days has arrived. Chaos magicians can choose to move the exact date (which is handy) so I shall be ‘doing’ Samhain in a week or so, while today is reserved for a nice secular witchy style evening with friends, tarot cards, and beer.
Annual party occasions give us regular markers in our lives, the Christian names (having taken over for a while) now reclaimed by other more pagan sounding titles (e.g. Christmas – Saturnalia/solstice, Easter – Eostre, Hallowe’en – Samhain). As each one rolls around, as our planet rolls around the sun, we recollect what we did last year and imagine what we might do next time round.
This circular notion of time, is ages old. A day is obviously circular, we can see the sunlight moving overhead; the year then must surely follow a similar shape. And what type of things do we do on these auspicious (or dangerously liminal) days? We do what humans have done for thousands of years at any excuse. We dress up, we eat, drink, and we meet with our friends, our tribes. We might even listen to repetitive beats.
These anchor points of parties and known shapes to particular days and evenings give us a sense of continuity, in the otherwise formless day by day sameness. Fictional as they may be, like the days of the week, they provide us with a progressive narrative, punctuations in the stories of our lives. Yet as with all Life, the yin-yang balance of the feast days means that no two are ever the same. What costume shall I wear to Halloween this year? What present shall I buy for my love to unwrap on Christmas day? Comforted by the familiar we can express our agency through the versions of themes allowed.
But this year, this year is different. It is 2012; this could be the last time we celebrate these festivals. While we know for sure in our rational minds that the world will keep turning long after December the 21st, a part of us wonders, checks, before settling on that sensible conclusion. Here, in this moment of uncertainty, we can see a blank slate. For as certain as we are that death and taxes await us in the New Year of 2013, we know with equal surety that the calendar we use is arbitrary. 365 days in a year, yes, but… hang on isn’t that not quite right itself?! As for the number of the year, the names of months and the days, the way we divide up that year: So much depends upon the place and time we took our first breath, the culture of our parents.
And so for a split second we wonder, What if?
This gives us a kireji moment, a cut between two contrasting actions. The intrinsic sameness and differentness of each feast, the simultaneous looking forward and backward as symbolised so perfectly by Janus god of doorways, as we pass through the signposts of one year to the next, an opportunity for change or continuing arises.
Whether you celebrate tonight with a traditional turnip lantern and a surfeit of Soul cakes, or in a traditional zombie blood spattered outfit at a massive party, or dress your children as traditional pumpkins and go out to collect sweets, I wish you a safe journey through this space of esoteric choices, practising for the times we face choices in those ordinary, mundane days between times which make spooky ghouls and vampires look like a picnic in comparison… to change, or not to change, that is the question.