Modern Date : January 1st
The Kalends of January
This is one of the dies fasti on which legal actions are permitted.
The kalends were the day on which interest payments were due in Rome. In stable economic times the interest rate was 1/2% (per month).
January is named for the god Janus, the god of Beginnings. This day, the Kalends, was not originally the first day of the year (it was March 1st), and therefore they had no traditional celebration of this day. On this day the Romans traditionally exchanged strenae (French etrenne), or gifts.
In 153 BCE this day became the beginning of the Roman Civil year, when the Consuls entered office. This had previously occurred on March 15th.
Vediovis, a god representing a young Jove (juvenis or juvenile) was honored this day and in 193 BCE a temple to Vediovis was dedicated in Rome.
Pertinax became emperor this day in 193 AD.
This day was also known as the Festival of Juno. Juno was called Unial by the Etruscans. Known as Hera to the Greeks, she was also known as Saturnia to the Romans. Juno was the goddess of marriage and childbirth. She was wedded to Zeus in the Garden of the Gods where Gaea created in her honor a tree of life bearing golden fruit.
On this day in 104 BCE, Gaius Marius held his triumph, in which he led the captured North African rebel Jugurtha, in Rome.
By our modern calendar, January first is the beginning of the New Year. It is a time filled with new possibilities. January’s guardian, the Roman god Janus, is the two faced divinity of endings and beginnings. He is the male equivalent of one among a host of versions of Juno. As the twin-faced Antevorta and Postvorta, she also looks frontward and back. Modern tradition would have us look forward only and forget the past year like a bad memory. I would advise those who follow this tradition to remember... That which is forgotten is soon repeated.
To the Irish, January is Eanáir or am Faoilleach, the ‘wolf month.’ The full moons of February and December are also sometimes referred to as Wolf Moon. The first Full Moon between Yule and the 25th of January is most often called Disting, and it shares the name Cold Moon with December. It may also be referred to as the Quiet or Chaste Moon, or the Moon of Little Winter.
Capricorn and Aquarius are the signs for January, Aquarius gaining power on or around January 20th. The flower for January is the white carnation. Garnet is the favored stone of this month, though Jacinth appears on some lists. Garnet, along with the ruby, is also the birthstone for Capricorn, while Aquarius lays claim to aquamarine. Other stones associated with Capricorn are amber, amethyst, carnelian, fire agate, green tourmaline, labradorite, peridot, and sapphire. Aquarius also holds sway over chrysoprase, garnet, labradorite, lapis lazuli, and opal.
It is said, whatever you do on New Year's Day, you'll do often in the coming year. Displaying a new calendar before this day is considered very unlucky.
In the Greco-Roman calendar, 1/1 is the birthday of the lord of time: Chronos/Uranus, father of Zeus/Jupiter. This is why the Saturnian figure of Father Time, with his hourglass and scythe, is associated with this day. The New Year Baby who supplants Father Time is a version of the newborn Solar Child (Dec. 21st or Dec. 25th). As the Ruler of Capricorn, Saturn has traditionally embodied the limiting forces of age, illness, death, separation and estrangement -- but he is also the bearer of wisdom, as represented in the Hermit card of the Tarot as a black-robed, hooded figure whose lantern bears hidden wisdom for those who can see. Saturn is also the teacher of karmic lessons that can be exceedingly painful if the student resists, and noticeably astringent even for those who have learned to love Saturn. One way or the other, the effect of his instruction is always bracing, the stroke of his sickle in cutting away old illusions is always swift and exact. The placement of his birthday on Jan. 1 is yet another reminder that this is the day to discard what is unneeded, and seek new wisdom, at the turning of the New Year.
Generally observed on January 1st, the Gamelia commemorates the Hieros Gamos (Sacred Marriage) of Jupiter/Janus and Juno (Greek Zeus and Hera). The name comes from a surname of Juno, as Gamelius was of Jupiter, for their dominion over marriages. It is a festival privately observed at three different times in addition to the public holiday. The first is the celebration of a marriage, the second is in commemoration of a birthday, and the third is an anniversary of the death.
Marriages on January 1st are a good omen and the month of January was Gamelion among the Athenians. Presents (Strenae) may be exchanged as a token of friendship. The word comes from a Sabine tutelary goddess, Strenia, corresponding to the Roman Salus. The traditional Strenae consisted of branches of bay and palm cut from the sacred grove of the goddess Strenia and sweets made of honey, figs, or dates, symbolizing, and causing by their nature, a year of joy and happiness to come. On the first day of the year, consecrated branches were carried up to the Capitoline in Rome from Strenia’s precinct beside the Via Sacra. The custom of strenae continues in the Etrennes, French new-year's gifts.
The Triple Goddess
The three-day transition period of Dec. 31 through Jan. 2 also represents the Triple Goddess in her aspects as maiden, mother and wise woman. Among the many Goddesses honored at this time are the Greek Hecate, the Roman Fata (i.e., Fate), the Celtic Etain and the Norse Wyrd.
On this day Venus moves retrograde into Capricorn for a very long stay of two months, until March 5. For the goddess, this placement is neither sweet nor sour. It is like Elizabeth Taylor being escorted by Malcolm Forbes. The experience is posh, correct -- and carries no element of risk.
Thingyan, the Buddhist festival of throwing water starts today and continues until the 4th. Derived from a Sanskrit word, "Thin ka ran" which means change, Thingyan connotes change from the old season to the new, a change from the month of Tabaoung which is the twelfth month of Myanmar calendar to the month of Tagu, the first month of the following year, or movement of the sun from the South to North or the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer. The movement of the sun causes the seasons and its return to the North marks the beginning of Myanmar's three-season year.
According to legend, Thagyar Min or Indra and Athi Brahma disagreed over the solution to a mathematical problem. Referring the matter to the sage Kavalamine, they agreed his verdict would be accepted as final and that the winner should cut off the loser's head. The sage judged that Indra's solution was the right one and Indra cut off Athi Brahma's head. Athi Brahma was so omnipotent a god however, that if his head were thrown down to the Earth, the Earth would burn to ashes and if it were thrown into the oceans, all the water would dry up. So the seven goddesses of the days were made to hold his head in turn. The time when the head changed hands corresponds to Thingyan. So that Athi Brahma's body should not remain headless, Indra cut off the head of Mahapingala Elephant and joined it on the Brahma's body and Brahma became Ganesha.
One of the traditional festivals of the Myanmars, it was celebrated at the Court where royalty and nobility participated in the water pouring. King Narathihapate (1254-87 AD), the last ruler of the Pagan (Bagan) Dynasty, reportedly built enclosed corridors running from his palace to the bank of the Ayeyawaddy River. Inside this corridor, he and his courtiers reveled in water throwing. On the first day of Thingyan, a water pot was observed in symbolic ritual. It is believed that on the first day of Thingyan, Indra descends from his Celestial Kingdom to Earth to record in his golden parabeik the merits and demerits of all humans so that he may pass impartial judgment. The first day of Thingyan is known as Akya, day of descent. On this day, at the precise time of the descent, the water pouring rite is performed.
This is the beginning of the Shogatsu Sanganichi or 'three days' of New Year in Japan. Preparations for the New Year include cleaning the house, inside and out. Called Susuharai, or soot-sweeping, this is done to purify the home for the new year. A pine decoration, known as Kadomatsu, is set up on both sides of the front entrance. Some homes add bamboo, plum branches, and oranges to this decoration. The display welcomes good luck into the home. The two weeks during which the kadomatsu decorates the doors is called Matsunouchi, or inside the pine. A recent tendency in Tokyo is to remove the trees on Jan. 7th. Another important decoration is the Shimenawa, a sacred rope made of straw on which zigzag strips of paper have been hung. This is placed above the front entrance in order to prevent evil spirits from entering the house.
Omochi, steamed rice pounded and formed into cakes, is grilled on a brazier or eaten in a stew called Ozoni. Vegetable dishes are also popular during the New Year. Presents are given called o-toshidama.
On New Year's Eve, the Takarabune, (Treasure Ship), sails into port carrying the Seven Gods of Luck and the takaramono (treasures). The takaramono include the hat of invisibility, the lucky raincoat, the sacred key, the inexhaustible purse, the precious jewel, the clove, the weight, and a flat object apparently representing a coin. Pictures of the Takarabune are sold on the streets, and during the night of January second, every person who puts one into the little drawer of his wooden pillow is supposed to ensure a lucky dream.
Grown children, who have moved away, return to their parents' homes to spend the evening together. Others visit shrines and temples where they pray for good luck by the light of bonfires and make resolutions for the coming year. Local shrines give out special charms to protect the happiness of worshipers in the coming year. The nation waits up to hear the Joya-no-Kane, the midnight tolling of the Tsuri-Gane, the temple bells. The Joya-no-Kane consists of 108 solemn tolls on the temple bells. According to Buddhist traditions, this represents the 108 sins of man, and the sound of the tolls will relieve all of them.
On the first day of the year, the Chorti Indians of Southern Guatemala drink water from five sacred coconuts, pouring out libations on the ground. During the previous night, the women of the tribe guarded the coconuts, dedicating them to the goddess.
Sir James Frazer
Sir James Frazer, author of the Golden Bough, was born today. Sir James Frazer was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion.
He studied at the University of Glasgow and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated with honors in Classics (his dissertation would be published years later as The Growth of Plato's Ideal Theory) and remained a Classics Fellow all his life. He went on from Trinity to study law at the Middle Temple and yet never practised. He was four times elected to Trinity's Title Alpha Fellowship, and was associated with the college for most of his life, except for a year, 1907-1908, spent at the University of Liverpool. He was knighted in 1914. He was, if not blind, then severely visually impaired from 1930 on.
The study of myth and religion became his areas of expertise. Except for Italy and Greece, Frazer was not widely travelled. His prime sources of data were ancient histories and questionnaires mailed to missionaries and Imperial officials all over the globe. Frazer's interest in social anthropology was aroused by reading E. B. Tylor's Primitive Culture (1871) and encouraged by his friend, the biblical scholar William Robertson Smith, who was linking the Old Testament with early Hebrew folklore.
Frazer was far from being the first to study religions dispassionately, as a cultural phenomenon rather than from within theology. He was though the first to detail the relations between myths and rituals. His theories of totemism were superseded by Claude Lévi-Strauss and his vision of the annual sacrifice of the Year King has not been borne out by field studies. His generation's choice of Darwinian evolution as a social paradigm, interpreted by Frazer as three rising stages of human progress—magic giving rise to religion, then culminating in science—has not proved valid. Yet The Golden Bough, his study of ancient cults, rites, and myths, including their parallels with early Christianity, arguably his greatest work, is still rifled by modern mythographers for its detailed information. Notably, The Golden Bough influenced René Girard; and led him to study anthropology to develop his mimesis theory of the scapegoat. The work's influence spilled well over the conventional bounds of academia, however; the symbolic cycle of life, death and rebirth which Frazer divined behind myths of all pedigrees captivated a whole generation of artists and poets. Perhaps the most notable product of this fascination is T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land.
The first edition, in two volumes, was published in 1890. The third edition was finished in 1915 and ran to twelve volumes, with a supplemental thirteenth volume added in 1936. He also published a single volume abridgement, largely compiled by his wife Lady Frazer, in 1922, with some controversial material removed from the text.
Today starts the Muslim month of Dhu al-Hijjah, of which the first ten days are the time of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, commemorating the journey of the Prophet Mohammed, his family and supporters from Mecca to Medina, to establish a new faith based on the revealed word of the Qu'ran. This solemn rite of pilgrimage, which every Muslim must make once during his or her life, emphasizes the central Muslim tenets of submission to divine will, brotherhood, and unity, and also commemorates the trials of the Prophet Abraham and his family in making their arduous, perilous God-directed journey into Egypt. The days of the Hajj are followed and climaxed by the holy days of Eid al-Adha.