This time of the year -- the space on the calendar from December 24th or so until January 2nd (and, this year, really, until January 5th) -- is special to me because it's always seemed to me to be almost the very definition of liminaltime. And liminal times are when it's easiest for change to happen. That's what makes them scary to some people, but it's also what makes them special and, even, fun. They're the times when a small shove, be it magical and/or mundane, can make a big difference in ultimate outcomes.
Even when I was a good catholic girl who'd never heard of Wicca, or magic, or a Goddess of the Crossroads, I liked to inhabit and really use this time between semesters, between seasons, between years. It's the perfect time, especially when everyone else is in a food coma and slumped in front of the tv, to make changes, to, in fact, change consciousness at will. (Yes, it's natural to want to hibernate about now, and a reasonable amount of hibernation is a good thing. But it's interesting to me how often magical workers are those who are out and DOING (even if the out is in and the DOING is internal) during those times when everyone else is asleep. Night is the most obvious example; everyone knows that night is when the witches gather, the sorcerers work, the fairies dance. The dark Moon is another example. Too dark for most people to be out, but it's when serious magic can happen. And, wow, just your luck; there's a dark moon TONIGHT! Twilight, when most people put down their tools and head for home is a lovely liminal time.) For many of us this time of year is, at the least, a slow time at work, if not actual time off. The overcommitment of the holiday season, which hits women hardest of all as they bake, give parties, go to parties, shop, clean, etc., comes to a sudden stop and there's often some open time on our calendars. Open, liminal, waiting for us to work magic and move things in a new direction.
And calendars are part of what can make this liminal time so productive. IMHO, there are few magical tools as powerful as a calendar, be it the lovely new WeMoon calendar (I was gifted mine by my wonderful DiL), the calendar on your iPhone or Blackberry, or a plain old FiloFax. If it's got the phases of the Moon and plenty of room to write stuff, you can work magic with it (and starting today, you can usually find a lovely one on sale for half off). If magic is a way of being in control of your life, a calendar is possibly the most basic magical tool there is. (And don't just take my word for it. The Druids, the Mayan priests, the ancient Egyptians: they all understood that keeping track of time, knowing what's coming and when it's coming, being aware of precisely "when" you are, was magical.)
First, as with any magical working, you need to Ground. You need to get the basics of your life down onto the calendar. Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays that matter to you. Dates when important financial things occur: car insurance due, taxes due, CDs need to be renewed. Important medical information; you can calendar monthly breast self-exams, write a note reminding you to call X number of months in advance to schedule your annual physical, your Pap smear, your dental check-ups. (Better yet, use some of this down time to actually schedule as many of those appointments as you can. Some doctors will let you schedule stuff like this up to six months in advance.) Stuff that needs to get done every year around your home: check batteries in smoke detectors, get the rain gutters cleaned, have the furnace and the air conditioning checked, etc. It's amazing how much grief you can avoid, not to mention how much control and power it gives you, just by taking a half an hour or so and getting all that stuff organized into your calendar.
Second, you need to do some Air work. Dream. Plan. Strategize. Have a conversation with your Higher Self, your ancestors, your Younger Self. Read tarot, cast runes, journal. What do you need to accomplish this year? What do you want to include in this year? Project yourself into the future, a year from now, looking back at 2009; what challenges would you feel really happy to see that you'd met? One year, I calendared one day a month to visit art museums. I calendar time every other month to get off into nature and spend at least half a day alone. You can calendar days to go to the gym, days to clean out closets, days to work on writing your dissertation, days to spend with people you love. You can write down the amount of debt that you will have paid off by the end of each month, the number of miles you will have jogged by the end of each week, the magical work that you will do each Moon.
Third, add some Fire to the mix. Get yourself excited about what you want to do. (Here's a hint: if you can't get excited about any of it, you need to go back to Air. What do you really WANT to get done this year?) Dance your year. Drum your goals. Chant your accomplishments as if they'd already (as indeed, somewhere on the Web, they already have) been achieved. Go for a walk and find a talisman to carry with you throughout the year: a rock, a feather, a scene captured on your cell phone camera. Charge it with your intent and wear it, put it on your altar, tuck it into your calendar. Draw yourself a year from now. Make a magical collage. Can you calendar some periodic Fire workings to help you to stay fired up about your goals as the year goes on? I lack Fire in my chart and this part of the process is often the most difficult for me. But I find that I can use some of my strong Earth tendencies to help. If I use this liminal week or so on the calendar to start actually doing the things that I've picked as goals, I develop a lot of enthusiasm for finishing, I convince myself that it's not really so difficult/scary/painful as I thought it might be. If I'm going to need supplies, I go get them. If I'm going to need to read information, I get it printed out, lined up, organized into folders or notebooks or bookshelves. If I'll need to be out late in order to accomplish a goal, I might make and freeze soups so that I'll have something good to defrost when I do get home. By the time the new year starts, I've already got a running start and a bit of momentum.
Fourth, add some Water. One of Water's most amazing qualities is its ability to cleanse. And you've got to wash away old stuff if you're going to start on an amazing new adventure. Use some of this liminal time to clean house, literally. Get rid of old stuff; give it to charity, give it to a friend, recycle it, throw it away. Clean out and organize your files, your ritual supplies, your checkbook, your purse. Actually take all those coins to the bank and deposit them. Clean all the old stuff out of your refrigerator and wipe the shelves down with white apple cider vinegar (charge it first, if you like!). Take a ritual bath or shower and chant the things you want to wash out of your life, your heart, your days. Start the year with every bit of laundry done, ironed, folded, mended, back from the dry cleaner, put away in an organized closet. Visualize water washing away the old year, falling like warm gentle rain on your calendar to grow your lovely new year, full of accomplishments and fun.
Finally, you want to add the Fifth Sacred Thing: Spirit. I can't tell anyone else how to do that. I can only remind you of the Charge of the Goddess: And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.
For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.
(A final note. Nowadays, I go through this process in the days leading up to Samehein, as that's the beginning and end of my spiritual and magical year. Luckily, you can now buy a calendar for the next year anytime from about August on, especially if you go on line. That means that I've already got the Grounding and Air portions of this process pretty well completed by October 31st. That allows me to focus even more on the Fire, Water, and Spirit portions of this process during the liminal days at the end of the secular calendar. Either way works; it's just a question of what works best for you.)
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."