Column: A New Year, A New Vow

Pagan Perspectives


Today’s column comes to us from Clio Ajana. Clio is an Archieria for the House of Our Lady of Celestial Fire in the Hellenic Alexandrian Witchcraft & Spiritual Tradition, and she also practices Romuva (Baltic Heathenry). She currently lives in Central Minnesota.  Her interests include divination, eldercare, prison ministry, and death midwifery. 

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Traditionally, the change of the calendar from December 31 to January 1 marks a time to start new habits and to sweep away the debris of the previous year, regardless of whether it was a happy or sad one. Within a month, the role of the dark moon fulfills a similar purpose. We can look at what we do not want and choose to make changes that draw us closer to fulfilling our desires for a healthy and happy life.  A dark moon is effective for putting new plans into place and walking down formerly unexplored paths. A partial solar eclipse, while not as powerful as a total solar eclipse, still magnifies the energy of the dark moon.  We can have sudden unexpected beginnings, information may pop up that we did not seek, or people may appear or disappear from our lives. During eclipse times, we come to expect the unexpected; major changes are not unusual. The combination of a new secular year, a dark moon, and a partial solar eclipse raises the odds for an even cleaner slate than usual.  We leave the year behind with a bit of regret, just as we embrace the year ahead with optimism.

[Pixabay.]

Many of us take resolutions at this time of the year: to lose weight, to quit smoking, to change jobs, to start new relationships, or just to try something different. Advertisers push us with promotions for a “New Year, New You,” as they present products guaranteed to part us from our money. Do you need to drink more water, but hate the taste? Add flavored drink tablets that double as super vitamin shots. Are you lamenting that you can’t find someone online? Try a traditional dating service or put the word out to friends and family that you are available and looking for someone who has more in common with you than a pulse. Are you looking for deals? Check your phone, email, Facebook, or even physical mail flyers. Merchants are ready to soothe the restless need to start the year differently with sales on exercise gear, vacation deals, office supplies, packaged diets complete with the key phrase “no exercise,” new computers, furniture, and whatever else seems like it could help in to leaving the previous year’s woes behind.

For members of the Pagan, Heathen and Polytheist communities, this is a year to take up the challenge to be more present. In the entertainment arena, shows like Charmed and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina provide a public representation which may be slanted in a way that is not positive for all Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists. Recently, the term “witch hunt” as it might be considered by our community came up on CNN – twice. While on the surface, it seemed to address the reason why the term is offensive to witches, it lapsed into certain stereotypes. The follow up as a response to the community was even worse

For the year of 2019, in the midst of all the turmoil, perhaps what can be done is to take what we do best and present ourselves before others can continue to twist the perception of who we are to our detriment. How about taking a vow, making a promise to do one thing that helps to improve our communities as a whole in understanding and public perception?

A vow is a promise, an oath, a pledge that we will do something or act in a certain way. We take oaths in our traditions with the utmost seriousness as these are bonds between ourselves and the gods or gods we worship. We promise those of our circle, grove, kindred, coven, house, or lodge to be reliable, faithful, and true to the values of our individual traditions through our deeds, words, and actions. We choose to bond with those who are like us in tradition because of the oaths that we swear or the promises that we make in open circle or privately with the gods.

Let us take the energy of this new year, this new cycle, this new eclipse, and blast away the negative impressions and stereotypes that keep our communities separate from the mainstream public. This call for action does not mean that one should enter harm’s way or endanger others. On the contrary, there are those who do not know us because they only see what they choose to see before them. There are ways to test the waters in areas where it is not clearly 100% hostile. Self-preservation comes first; however, for those who are in areas where there appears to be interest, gains in public perception can be achieved.

In tarot, the year 2019 is the year of the Hanged Man. For many, it is also a 12/3 year. In current times, the Hanged Man expresses the need for patience and seeing the world from a different angle than we have before. Although the overall three year in numerology changes the revelatory 11/2 energy from the year 2018 to a creative, vibrant, and social energy in 2019, there is a downside: gossip, depression, cynicism. In our individual communities, we practice recognizing the positive side and the shadow side of our natures.  Given the recent rise in entertainment re-booted series, and a mild, if stereotypical acceptance of a certain brand of “Paganism,” this may be one of the best times to reshape the narrative that flows around us.  Small gains, such as approval for headstones for our departed Druids, Heathens, and Wiccans, have been a first step. We can build on respect for the dead with an understanding for the living.

Recently, Manny Tejeda-Moreno wrote that 2018 was the “year of the hex,” a representation of the protective aspect of Witchcraft; however, the larger community of Paganism also includes many who do not consider themselves Witches. The danger of being defined by one aspect of one part of a community increases the isolation factor for the other parts of the community. For those who are new and entering the community, not everything is about hexes and protection, just as not all practitioners are Witches. Public perception is based in part on media representation. Stereotypes are easier to toss out as the definition of what our community represents and whom it represents. 

For those who embrace resistance, consider this a call to action for 2019. As we gather in groups, or see each other on the street, let’s remember how we each represent a part of the whole and start to change the public narrative. Keeping safety in mind, we can talk to those around us. We can expand our communities. We can choose to do more public community works, such as local Adopt-a-Highway programs where group members clean a section of the road, help with local animal shelters, show up for school board meetings, work with homeless shelters, or run for public office. While each of these requires some level of exposure, the more that the larger public sees representatives of Pagan, Heathen, and Polytheist communities, the more we start to create the change that we seek in the world.

[Pixabay.]

For some, due to poverty, religious discrimination, social or economic risk, this may not be possible. Maybe the only way to help is to be an ear for someone else who needs to know why being in the community is worth it. Be that ear; it is enough. For others, start with baby steps: show up for school board meetings to keep an eye out for how non-dominant religions are mentioned, if at all, in choices for books, school plays, and causes promoted at the local school. If possible, give to the food drive at the school or the school supplies drive for kids in the community. Large enough groups can volunteer for a park or highway cleanup. Few towns will turn away such help! What makes us less threatening is when we are known. 

Yes, in some cases, the geographic area in which we find ourselves is not ready for such action. Often, we may be hidden in plain sight. A friend of mine reminded me of an occasion when she visited a group in Alabama; they made it clear that they only survived by being considered a reenactment group. They were accepted within reason for that area, but no more.

These realities may urge us to arm and to reach for hexes and protective magic. I agree that protection for self, home, and family come first. The larger community is also our family; therefore, when we reach out as we can to present a different point of view of who we are, our family can gain the protection from being known. 

Such an endeavor may take more than a year. It may take the same decade that it took to gain the pentacle for Wiccan veterans on headstones. Regardless of the time, we cannot give up because as a community, we are growing. We are individuals who may be bothered by how the Pagan, Heathen, and Polytheist communities are portrayed. In the year of the Hanged Man, and at this time of the partial solar eclipse,  we can view the problem through a different lens, and make a start at changing the narrative.