Modern Paganism has many occasions when we can begin again. Any of the eight sabbats or thirteen new moons are appropriate, while some are especially auspicious: Samhain and the Celtic New Year; Winter Solstice and the return of the light; Ostara and the return of Spring. In the secular world, I’ve always thought the new year should begin the Tuesday after Labor Day.
But there is something beyond tradition that’s right about starting a new year on January 1. We’re past the Solstice and the commotion of all the December holidays. The cold weather slows us down and keeps us inside. Even industries that aren’t tied to the outdoors – like construction and agriculture – are slow this time of year. This gives us an opportunity to pause, reflect, and decide what we want to accomplish in the coming year.
Sometimes we take beginning again too far. We spend too much time starting over and not enough time continuing and finishing. Now, starting over is better than giving up. If you’re in an bad situation, getting out is better than continuing down a path that’s clearly not working. But if, for example, you’re on your sixth marriage, maybe it’s time to consider that the problem isn’t that you can’t find the right partner. Maybe it’s you.
Making New Year’s resolutions is a long January tradition. Abandoning New Year’s resolutions is a long February tradition. Most times, we abandon our resolutions not because we’re weak or lazy, but because the goals we set are things we’ve been told we should want, not what we truly want. Rather than representing our True Will, our resolutions represent our whims, or they represent our fears and anxieties.
We are 28 days into the new year, but there are still seven weeks until Spring – plenty of time to get this year off to a good start. A different start. A start that begins with exploring your true will. A start that begins with a commitment to what’s most important to you as a Pagan.
A commitment to Nature. A commitment to the Gods and ancestors. A commitment to community. A commitment to yourself and to strengthening your true self.
Take a walk outside.
Follow the Moon through her phases.
Stand beneath the night sky and gaze up the stars.
Pray – speak the yearnings of your heart.
Meditate – let the Gods speak to you.
Make offerings to the Gods.
Honor your ancestors.
Get to know the spirits of the land where you are.
Listen for the voices of the Gods, for the voices of your ancestors, and for the voices of the spirits of the land.
Listen for the voice of your true self, and your true will.
If you committed to a spiritual practice at the beginning of the year, continue it. If you didn’t, pick up one of these practices and commit to doing it every day. Make it a part of your life. Let it work its magic on you, helping you to separate what you really want from what you think you’re supposed to want. Let it help you separate your true will from your whims… and from the insecurities the advertising industry works to exploit.
As we celebrate Imbolc, let us use this cold, slow time of the year to prepare ourselves for a warm, vibrant Spring.