Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Traditions and My Personal Spirituality

Janus -- Looking Both Forward and Backward
This time of year, it's only natural for me to be doing a lot of reflecting on the past year, as well as some serious thinking in regards to what I would like the coming year to be all about. I've already done my babbling in this regard on my personal blog, but I still think I would like to address the subject here using this prompt from Pagan Prompts.

What is your personal take on the 'new year'? Do you honor the change in Oct-Nov, or do you wait until January like everyone else?
Or, perhaps you follow a faith that has its own unique calendar - tell us about it.

Are there any specific traditions that go along with the new year?

Even though I use the pagan label a lot to refer to myself for the sake of clarity, I really am probably more non-denominational in other people's eyes than anything else. I have no real preference as to what season's greeting people use when wishing me a happy holiday. I mix a lot of different faiths when it comes to what I believe and how I apply my personal spirituality to my own life and my holiday celebrations. I definitely have reached a place where I celebrate both secular holidays and pagan ones. For instance, this year we celebrated both the winter solstice (Yule) and Christmas. I personally think pagan beliefs and secular ones go just fine together, so I see no reason to choose one or the other.

That said, I tend to ride the fence when it comes to New Year's as well. When Halloween/Samhain rolls around, I do tend to treat it as a New Year's of sorts while also still participating in secular traditions. Samhain mentally marks the end of the seasonal year for me, as I do feel that starts with winter, as opposed to ending with it. However, January 1st is still the day I tend to think of as the official beginning of the new year. That's our Western calendar's beginning, after all. I'm a businesswoman. I'm a Westerner living in America. It would be silly not to factor secular New Year's into my personal plans and traditions since it is so important to the world at large and "everyone else" as the prompt put it.

New Year's for me is largely about the same thing it's about for everyone else. I take that time to reflect on what's come to pass over the past year and think in depth about what I'd like to accomplish or change about my life going forward into the year to come. I don't make anything as official as a list of New Year's resolutions to follow going forward, but I do find I like to blog about the thoughts I naturally have this time of year (as my more dedicated readers have no doubt noticed). I also like to celebrate with loved ones -- usually with some sort of delicious meal, some drinks, and some good times.

That's really what New Year's (either one of them) is about for me -- a good time to be had in comfortable settings with people I love. Spirituality factors into that a bit for me, but not too heavily.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Will It or Won't It? -- Assessing the Proposed End of the World According to the Mayan Calendar

Xibalba, the Mayan Afterworld
It doesn't seem like that long ago that we first started hearing all about the whole end-of-the-world thing that was supposed to happen due to the whole Mayan calendar ending on the winter solstice of 2012. However... here we are! Facing the end of the world at long last,  the solstice is nearly upon us.

OK, not really. I really don't believe in that bullshit and I'm guessing that as most of my friends and readers are sensible people that you don't either. I've had some people who realize I'm into alternative spirituality ask me about my feelings on the matter here and there over the years and... that's what they are. Don't worry. I'll tell you why. In the meantime, just take my word for it that there's no reason to actually think the world will end on December 21, 2012.

Why do people even think this will happen?

To be totally fair to our good friends the ancient Mayans, there is nothing in their records or their history that says they thought the world would end on the winter solstice of 2012. This is simply the date their long-form calendar ran through. (They had to pick some date, right?) They don't say anything about the doom and gloom you keep hearing about... at all. All that talk is really nothing but a bunch of gossip about an ancient people that isn't here to defend itself.

In truth, ancient Mayans viewed time and the world as being cyclical in nature. They believed in cycles that ran their course, culminated in a period of change, and then progressed naturally into the next cycle on the agenda. They also believed that these kinds of cycles had repeated themselves many times throughout human history. At most, the upcoming solstice will mark the official beginning of a new age and a period of change. However, there is actually no reason to believe that this means doom and gloom are on their way. In fact, I personally believe  that this may be the beginning of something fabulously wonderful.

The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius

Students of astrology and lovers of 60's-era music alike have no doubt heard of the Age of Aquarius before. The Age of Aquarius is one of several astrological ages that have come to pass since the beginning of recorded history. Since the ages last so freaking long though, it's up for significant debate as to whether or not we're still in the Age of Pisces (the era during which Christ was born and Christianity rose) or have officially progressed into the Age of Aquarius. Every astrologer has his or her opinion on the matter.

I personally happen to believe that we're in the transitional period, but swiftly progressing into the Age of Aquarius. If we're not there yet, we're only a sneeze away from it. I also think that the Mayans agree with me and that the "end date" of their long-form calendar is proof. These Mayans were smart peeps and master astrologers, guys. They had a reason for ending a major cycle of their calendar on that day and I think it was the Age of Aquarius (or whatever the Mayans themselves called it).

Don't believe me? Let's look at the signs of the times for ourselves. Do you see them all around you? I certainly do.

  • Aquarius is characterized by the bringing together of people through technological advancements in ways that previously would have been considered impossible, especially over massive distances and in defiance of time. Think about the internet... and Facebook... and e-mail... and the blogosphere. Does that not sound Aquarian to you? It blows my mind that I can type out a blog entry like this in Monterey, California and have it instantly read by people all over the world in places as remote as India, Russia, or Australia using common technology that can be found in virtually all modern homes these days.
  • Humanitarianism, concern for our fellow man, and philanthropy will become major themes. Granted, there have always been people who were interested in helping others, but earlier this evening, I watched an amazing live-streamed concert from New York raising money for Hurricane Sandy that was extremely successful. People could easily make donations to the relief effort via text, phone call, or any number of other means. (There's that technology again!) What's more, nearly everyone I know was also watching this and participating in one way or another. This is only one of many things that have made me feel like giving back and helping others is officially becoming cool... or even trendy.
  • Idealism, rebellion, and an emphasis on noncomformity are going to become major themes as well a la the 60's-era free love movements. I personally happen to believe that the 60's were a major harbinger of the culmination of the Age of Aquarius... and proof that the whole thing was picking up speed in a big way at that time. I am not alone in this.
  • As far as the technological advancements go, we can go back even further to the turn of the century and the discovery of electricity, steam power, and so many more wonderful things that have revolutionized the way we live, think, and progress as a species. Aquarius really had his toe in the water by then in a way that was really obvious to those who were looking.
Exciting Times, People

People can beg to differ -- and God knows that they will -- but it is this spiritualist's opinion that anyone alive right now is experiencing something wonderful and fabulous in so many ways -- the dawning of a new age in ways that are going to blow us all to the moon and back in the years to come (and already have, really... quite literally). Be excited!! Not many humans in the history of time have gotten to witness such a thing. 

I wouldn't expect the 21st to come along with many fireworks though. As I mentioned above, the progression of one astrological age into another is extremely slow and gradual. Things aren't going to be much different in a week than they are right this minute. We'll just have a lot of stupid people doing stupid things and making headlines is all because they think the universe actually functions according to our ridiculous Western calendar, but how is that different from any other day?

Why not make this year's solstice a time of celebration and merry-making? After all, that's what this time of year is for. We're personally going to be making all our favorite foods and having a blast watching movies we love to death. I think that you should do the same!