Spiraling Out With The Light: Witchy Ways to Plan the New Year
Sometimes, a witch just has to go with the flow of the mundane world around them. The new year is one of those times for me, I just don’t feel it at Samhain the way I do at Yule. And while the magic of retail marketing might be influencing me, I believe there is deeper meaning that comes from my practice.
On the Wheel of the Year, Samhain marks the end of one year and the beginning of the next, thus the Witch’s New Year. But let’s take a closer look at that, because there’s a lot to unpack there.
The wheel is based in an agricultural lifestyle. Samhain is positioned at the time of the final harvest of crops. This marks the end of a cycle of preparing land, sowing seeds, tending, and finally harvesting. After the last crops are brought in, the labor is done, the year is over. When one year ends, a new year begins.
“The modern-day Wheel of the Year” was first suggested by the scholar and mythologist Jacob Grimm (1785-1863 CE) in his 1835 CE work, Teutonic Mythology, and fixed in its present form in the 1950s and early ’60s CE by the Wicca movement.”¹
Neopaganism and the early Wicca movement put forth the idea that the Wheel of the Year has ancient roots. There is no evidence to support that claim. However, the ancient Celts as well as other cultures did celebrate similar festivals fixed in agricultural society.
Based on an agricultural model, one might think that spring would be the beginning of the year. One wouldn’t be wrong. In fact, March 25th was once the start of the new year. But spring in the northern hemisphere is autumn in the southern hemisphere. You can see the problem that creates for a universal calendar system.
So who decided that January is the beginning of the year?
The Origins of our Year
“We can partly thank the Roman king Numa Pompilius. According to tradition, during his reign (c. 715–673 BCE) Numa revised the Roman republican calendar so that January replaced March as the first month.”²
That would make sense. The month of January is named for the Roman God Janus—the God of all beginnings. Some sources claim Numa created the month, as well, to suit his declaration that this would be the beginning of the new year.
Additionally, the Winter Solstice is a halfway point,–a neutral position–neither spring nor fall. By that reasoning, why not Summer Solstice? Perhaps because it is the peak of the growing season, neither a beginning nor an end—although that is not true for the southern hemisphere. This leaves me with following the light. At Yule, we begin to the journey toward light.
Julius Caesar would make changes to Pompilius’ calendar some 700 years later when he established the Julian calendar. He let the new ,year stand on January 1. Though the Julian calendar failed to calculate for what we know as leap years. This effectively threw time off track from the seasons, causing many observations to take place at the wrong time of year.
When the Roman Empire fell in the 5th Century, many Christian countries returned to celebrating the New Year on either March 25th or December 25th. Enter Pope Gregory XIII, who not only resolved the extra time glitch by adding leap years, but also restored January 1 as the start of the New Year.
So you see, it’s all relative. There is no single deciding factor of when the year ends and begins other than choosing an agreed upon date to keep a global society on the same time frame—sort of. Don’t get me started on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and Daylight Savings Time.
We live by a solar calendar, and Yule marks the transition from decreasing light to increasing light. It just feels right to me that this is the beginning of the New Year. I see the movement in a spiral; traveling inward, we have reached the center, and as if walking a labyrinth, now we turn to begin the outward journey.
Perhaps if I were a southern hemisphere witch, I’d feel differently about celebrating a new year at the height of summer, but I practice where I live.
There is an experience of liminal time from Yule until the Spring Equinox. Evidence of the returning light is not yet seen nor felt; instead we wait in quiet darkness. Much like the mythology of the God born at Yule, this rebirth, this new start, is a time of both anticipation of what is to come, and expectation of how it will manifest.
My magick turns inward at Samhain, when I delve deeper into the shadowland of true self. At Yule, I’m ready to begin my ascent back to the light. Now is the time to close the file on the previous year, and open the book on the year ahead, setting the course for manifesting my desires.
Your First Step to Planning
I’m all about finding the perfect planner at this time of year–it’s my quest for the Holy Grail. But, I could write an entire book on the subject—suffice it to say, use what works for you. I usually end up deconstructing two or more planners and reassembling a smash book that includes monthly calendars on two-page spreads, followed by pages with undated days of the week, and plenty of lined pages for further journaling.
Once I have the basic format of my yearbook laid out, I’m ready to go to work on the front material. Other than starting with the year end summary, the order of these pages doesn’t matter. You may want to do divination up front. I save it for last, to see how the energy reflects back on my plans, rather than letting a reading influence what my plans will be from the get go. I’m kind of risk taker like that.
If you keep the front material (other than a vision “board”) to one page, there’s usually room to paste them into the front of most planners (inside cover, facing page, etc). You can also “hinge” in double sided pages using clear, wide tape. Lay the pages in the book where you want them, snug up against the seam, then tape down, centering the tape over the seam. Flip your insert, and tape over the back seam.
Year End Summary
Just the highlights. Where did I expect to be by year’s end? Am I there? Where did I go off course, fall short of goals, or change my mind—and why? What did I accomplish? What did I learn? How have I changed.
Keep it brief. The idea isn’t to rehash what has likely been sliced and diced in your previous yearbook, but to give oversight and insight. Why don’t I include this at the end of last year’s book? I like to keep it in sight, a reminder of what I want to change, and what I want to continue.
I didn’t accomplish a major goal this year, and while I’ve always put something like this off to either not having enough time, or my own procrastination, I’m starting to think it’s more lack of motivation. It might look like this is my summary.
- Second novel—didn’t make that happen.
- Procrastination or lack of motivation?
- Do I want to write another novel, edit it, hire line editors, and find a publisher?
- Maybe I don’t have to.
- Maybe I can just enjoy being retired.
Here I like to include major themes or goals for the year ahead. This is the place to include a word for the year, broader goals, and actions.
Last year my word was “RECEIVE.” I wanted to remain open to receive what the Universe had to offer. Also, I wanted to actively pursue forgiveness. I started out believing that I couldn’t expect others to forgive me if I didn’t forgive those whom I’d been unable to forgive in the past. In the end, I learned that I have to forgive myself first.
I’m an artist, so there’s always a vision board. But I want others to understand you don’t have to be artistic for this magick to work. And it is powerful magick. It also doesn’t have to be a big production on poster board of large canvas. A page in a journal has the same magick.
I’m a trained SoulCollage® facilitator, so trust me when I tell you that cutting and pasting pictures is all the skill you need. But you don’t even have to actually cut and paste. You can make digital mood boards. I’m old school and still use ancient, clunky software from Adobe, but there are fun and easy apps for that now. If you don’t know them, let Google show you.
Whether getting out the glue stick or letting your device do the pasting, don’t think about finding exact images, just hold space for what you want and choose images that draw you in, or trigger emotion. Many of the pictures I was pulling for forgiveness were wide open spaces (though I wasn’t aware that was the central aspect of them). Turns out, that in forgiving myself for being unable to become what others want, I set myself free to be who I am. Those wide open spaces were the desire for expansion and freedom calling to me.
A brief note on copyright and intellectual property: Basically, every image you see in print or online, belongs to somebody. Copyright laws are meant to protect the artist/creator/owner from somebody else profiting from their image in some way. When you make a vision board, you are not profiting in that sense of the word. The images are for personal use and you’re not violating copyright law. That said, it’s best practice not to share the images publicly unless they are in free domain. You can find free use images at Pixabay(dot)com, Unsplash(dot)com and Rawpixel(dot)com.
Still not into artistic expression? Consider a mind mapping app (a type of brainstorming), word clouds, or doodling.
Divide a page into 12 squares, one for each month. This is your dream grid. What do you want to manifest, and when do you want it? In my experience, the simple act of writing down what I want (and saying it out loud when I do) has all the power of any elaborate spell I can craft. If you like, you can cast a circle and light a candle, toss a bunch of herbs around and lay a crystal grid over your paper to make it feel more magical.
For example, I have a vision of my garden, the way I want it to look by Summer Solstice. I’ll write that down in the square for June—or maybe paste a picture that represents it. Also, I want to deepen my knowledge of the tarot this year. I have a study schedule broken down into 52 weeks (the number of minor arcana). I’ll write in March that I’m one-quarter through, half-way by end of June, three-quarters in September and completed in December—so be it. All of this is intention magick.
If you do a twelve-card, year ahead tarot spread, this is the place to note which cards were pulled, (or key points from any other year ahead divination) so that you can quickly refer back.
I’m a tarot witch, so I definitely include a year ahead reading. There are many to choose from, most featuring a card for each month. I’m not a real fan of the 12-card spreads, one for each month. For one thing, I look at tarot as a heads-up to what lies ahead in the current trajectory. But every single day we make choices that change our direction and outcome. Six months from now a lot of what turned up seems stale. However, if you’re analytical and interested in tracking how your choices changed your course, this type of reading is for you.
In a simpler version, you could pull one card for each of the first three months, and three more cards to cover each remaining quarter season. To carry through for the year, on April first, pull three cards for April, May and June, using the original card pulled for that quarter as a significator. Repeat the process in July and again in September.
For a read with a numerology spin, add the numbers of your birthday in the coming year. For example if your birthday is May 21, add 5+2+1+2+0+2+1. The equation equals =13. This corresponds to the Death card (I swear, I pulled that date randomly). In numerology, that would be further reduced to 4, the Emperor. I’m not going to speculate on a certain would be emperor with no clothes and what his fate might be in 2021. Instead I’ll say that this combination might indicate losing your power in certain areas of your life, or somebody losing power over you.
Yellow Brick Road Year-End Tarot Spread
I’m all about keeping my witchcraft simple and fun, so I designed this Yellow Brick Road spread for divining the year ahead as we spiral out to the light. I recommend pulling your guide (first card) from an oracle deck, or from only Major Arcana separated out from the deck. If you chose the latter, return the remaining Major Arcana back to the deck and shuffle well before drawing the rest of the cards.
1: Who is my guide?
2 – 4: Who will be three allies in my journey?
5: What is my quest?
6-8: What obstacles or challenges will I meet?
9: What do I need to know to over come them?
10: What is my super power?