As the year turns, many are conscious of a long-drawn out process of multiple ‘new’ years. There are different ways to end the year differently; we are all celebrating the ending of one year and the starting of a new one. Samhain, or Hallowe’en is often celebrated as the end of one year, as it is traditionally seen as the end of harvest and abundance and the beginning of the fallow months. This seems a fitting end to a year; the ghosts of our ancestors walk amongst us, our trials have reached fruition and have been harvested. Yet, not all ‘pagan’ spiritualties would say this was the year’s end. Instead the long, darkening months of November and most of December are seen as the death rattle of the year. We cannot truly die until we have been dying awhile. Then comes the solstice, when darkness is complete. A point is reached in a very real sense, far from the warmth of the sun, far out into the desperately cold wastes of Nothing. This is the physical end to the year, for this marks the point where we can’t get any further from the Heart; it heralds the returning sun, all gets lighter, brighter, we as one half of planetary consciousness are invited back into the warmest embrace of the Sun’s hearth.
But then we have the mythological birth of the Son of God. The ancient, shattering importance of this moment rings through the ages, so important it was that the invading Christ’s Church chose this moment for himself. To be born anew on this Earth is so brilliantly pure that all are drawn inexorably to honour this moment. Christians, pagans, atheists, Gnostics and mystics are all drawn to the simplicity of this moment: a god-child is born on Earth, a star has been moulded into human form to live a life of challenge and pain, to remember his godhead, to fearlessly share the Truth and to ascend into enlightenment. This is not a mere two thousand years old story, and we know that, deep in our bones. Whenever we hear carols at our door, or see the Nativity scene of parents and child, gifts from Mages and of simple herdsmen we hear angels speaking to us from aeons past. This speaks a truth so simple that it transcends learning and dogma, it dares us to believe that this year, this birth, is one of hope. Not of some god, but our own birth, our own hope. This is the true message of Christmas; we all have stardust in us, we all are the Baby, born at the return of the light to Earth to awaken into our embodiment of sacredness, to live and to die enlightened.
Then, we have the official end of the calendar year and many westerners really allow themselves to let their hair down at this one, as this is the Left Brain saying it’s OK to know that an end has come. It’s written into bank holidays and work patterns, so it’s acceptable to allow the cells to realign.
Then January 2nd comes and it’s back to work we go. Nothing much has changed at all really, has it, even with the obligatory New Year’s resolutions. Still the same job, same family, same alarm sound, same commute. No Thing Has Changed. No wonder we suffer so terribly from a malaise of the spirit at this time of year like nothing else collectively felt. It even has a name: Blue Monday. It falls on January 15th this year [written 2018] and it is the most depressing day of the year (Watkiss, 2018), although this ‘theory’ has been debunked by many a psychologist. Although contested by psychology, it doesn’t take away from the reality that something is amiss with our collective happiness levels. Here I must acknowledge that not everyone feels this dip. Some sail through the festivities and into January without so much as a backward glance. Not all see this time of year as this heart-opening and I understand this. Yet something difficult to deal with comes, whether this is a deliberate act to actively avoid the magic, the Mysticism, or a deliberate act of entering into closure, death and renewal.
Why may this be? It may just be the weather and the dark, we’ve over-eaten and spent too much, but there is more to it than this, I believe. It is as if so many feel all these feelings of peace and hope and joy, of renewal and all the other powerful things we’ve actually allowed and encouraged into our hearts, only to find that the ‘real’ world has no capacity at all to let us embody this. People kindly ask if I had a good holiday? Was Christmas stressful? Did I eat too many mince pies and drink too much wine? My mouth says lightly-fashioned quips, while my heart wants to sing: I danced barefoot in the ice and snow under a waxing moon, my children held candles and blew away the-end-of-things wishes they no longer needed, I cried as I played In the bleak midwinter on the piano, I made love to my husband for the last time before the solstice and then again when it had turned to greet him back into my being, I vowed to be more grounded this year and to be more Druid, I gazed with love at the moon at New Year’s Eve and I was called by the stars to remember my birth and I did, I did and I do.
Our heart language is muted by normal life. The change-over from heart expression to mind and logic is managed in the only way we know; by silencing our hearts, falling into a muted depression and silently despairing until we finally forget that we ever dared to believe in the miraculous births of our own majesty and soul’s potential. January is littered with the corpses of good intentions that we simply cannot sustain, we were manipulated into opening our hearts to the magic and we find out that this is not actually very acceptable, because the world we have created around us has long conspired to keep our souls silent and under strict control, let out only for state-endorsed national holidays and times like Christmas when we are actually allowed to let our hearts speak and be spoken to. One of the significant messages our hearts receive at this time of year is one of self-renewal. We actually glimpse the mystery of our souls; the magic of the Birth works!! We aim with all our hearts to sustain this, by going vegan, losing weight, giving up the booze or volunteering at a local charity.
Once, cultural ceremonies allowed for much deeper emotional investiture; our hearts were opened and gloriously, wildly in charge at Imbolc and Beltane, even at Samhain. In the modern world this yearning for cultural ritual connection remains: if only we put our heart-feelers out there we would feel the loving embrace of our ancestors. Instead, at Samhain we have been conditioned to fear Death, covering up the true value and potential belonging to our own mortality and the miracle of living by plastic-coated ghosts on 99p brooms in Scream masks. At imbolc barely anyone even notices it pass.
What solutions should I propose? Any quick Google search will return many, many suggestions for detoxing and for ‘beating the blues’. Yet, these suggestions are body-bound, looking to shed weight or save money, to kick-start a ‘new you’ (as if the real you is too wild to make friends with). These are of course valid and sensible ways to realign us after a particularly spectacular splurge. Yet, this malaise of which I speak, one that psychologists are reluctant to endorse, for fear of devaluing the grave and serious nature of the mental health crisis that is depression, can only be addressed if it is truly acknowledged. And it is this: we are manipulated into cracking open our hearts for consumerist purposes, only to have them slammed shut by the world, once the tree has been chipped and the cards cut up for a craft project.
My response to this is: firstly, light a candle at the Solstice and then blow it out at the very darkest point of the year. Feel the darkness and know that it is from here that all light comes. Then light it again, inviting the small pinprick of light into your vision, your sight and heart. Then, on Christmas eve walk barefoot in the garden under the moon and feel our being becoming renewed again. Work further on the light ceremony of the solstice, think of your own body being born again, starlight made human. The Baby is you. Then, finally, when our culture, friends, calendar and everyday life celebrates the coming of the New Year, you have been readying for this moment, twice already. In this way, you have three-fold opportunity for moving down the birth canal of renewal. Every year this happens. Every year we are given this extraordinary opportunity to go within, into the darkness of our souls, three-fold, through music, light, gifts and birth. The angels truly have given us the darkest moment of the darkest night, to be born anew, time and time again. It is our gift to ourselves to be born to ourselves and to each other, once we step again into the world, to touch that magic and to bring it back, blinking into the light.
Watkiss, J, 2018: When is Blue Monday 2018? Five ways to beat the January Blues http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/cambridge-news/blue-monday-2018-five-ways-14089982