Reclaiming the New Year from ball dropping to proper Saturnalian debauchery.
New Year’s celebrations are the largest festival in many cultures, and it must be said that they fall short in the Americas. Holidays such as Canadian Christmas, US Thanksgiving, and Mexican Easter are celebrated with greater verve than the ringing in of the New Year. What a pity.
In reclaiming this holiday, and looking back to its origins, theAbysmal Calendar is well suited to properly ring in the New Year old schoole.
[Check the Myth of the Eternal Return for source material]
also see Myth of the Year a series regarding the symbolism of 13 months (or days, or weeks)
Out with the Old, in with the Big Bang
The New Year buries the old year, and welcomes the new. I know, huge revelation, right? It explains why we use the image of the wizened elder handing off the scepter to the newborn babe to signify the flipping of calendars. The hourglass is a typical device to signify the last moments slipping away, and the scythe is the inevitability of the end of all things, including the year, and thus time. I have no idea about the top hat.
…the essential thing is that everywhere a conception of the end and the beginning of a temporal period, based on the observation of biocosmic rhythms and forming part of a larger system – the system of periodic purifications (cf. purges, fasting, confession of sins, etc.) and of the periodic regeneration of life. This need for a periodic regeneration seems to us of considerable significance in itself. ..a periodic regeneration of time presupposes… – and especially in the historical civilizations – a new Creation, that is, a repetition of the cosmogonic act. And this conception of a periodic creation, i.e., of the cyclical regeneration of time, poses the problem of the abolition of ‘history’… –Mircea Eliade, the Myth of the Eternal Return
A few points I’d like to look at in the above passage. The first is that the end/beginning of the temporal period is based on biocosmic rhythms. That would be something like the New Moon to ring in the Chinese New Year, the Sun passing in front of the constellation of Aries to mark the South and Southeast Asian New Year, or the Vernal Equinox for the Persians. What of January 1st? As far as my research has been able to reveal, it has nothing to do with anything. It may have, long ago when the Romans followed a lunar calendar, but the date has no significance in the biocosmic order of things. theAbysmal Calendar’s New Year falls on the Southern Solstice (winter in the northern hemisphere, summer in the southern), which returns us from the meaningless January 1st date to something biocosmically significant, and certainly part of a larger system (call it ethno-astronomy).
The second point, dealing with purifications, is based in culture, but there is a tradition associated with the Winter Solstice which symbolizes the regeneration of life. It originates (according to Eliade) with the phases of the Moon, where the Moon was thought to die at the New Moon, and then rise again through it’s apex at the Full Moon, and then wane back to renew itself. The cycle of birth, growth, life, and death, as seen in the celestial rodoscope. So with the Sun through the Year. For those between the Tropics, the Sun’s path across the sky moves from overhead at noon on a particular day (depending on the latitude of the observer), then northward from day to day until it reaches the Northern Tropic, then it makes its return journey south, passes overhead at noon, then continues south until it passes directly over the Southern Tropic.
To the observers in the higher latitudes outside the Tropics, the Sun appears to fall lower and lower towards the horizon as it approaches the winter solstice. At the winter solstice, the sun reaches its lowest point, and appears to do so for 3 days. After this, it gains altitude from day to day, until it reaches its highest point at the summer solstice.
In the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice reaches its lowest point on or about December 21st, sits there for 3 days, and rises again on December 25th. See? The Sun (son) is reborn (born) on December 25th. This is the myth of Easter as well as Christmas combined. I’m not sure why Easter’s mythology was shifted to the Vernal Equinox. Maybe to contend with all the fertility rituals the pagans were involved in (you didn’t think rabbits and eggs was really about chocolate did you? that’s just to distract the children from all the adult entertainment in the air).
The point here is that the Winter Solstice is an event that represents death and rebirth.
For the southern hemisphere, where this time is the Summer Solstice, the celebrations are based on the Sun’s highest point to the North, and to celebrate its apex.
The last point is that of a periodic recreation. Celebrations in many cultures are repetitions of creation stories, either acted out, or what have you. Given the wide variety of creation myths, theAbysmal might do better to leave that up to each community to decide. The idea of properly sketching out a story of the Big Bang (as opposed to the factual description – informative but boring as all get out) may do well. If told properly, the act of participating in the story is not so much a retelling, so much as a transformation of participants to the point of creation. Since creation is outside of time, and proper storytelling it outside of time, the two occur in the same place outside of time. Neato.
don’t believe me? (and why would you, this is a blog after all):
…the beliefs, held almost everywhere, according to which the dead return to their families…at the New Year season… (during the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany) signify the hope that the abolition of time is possible at this mythical moment, in which the world is destroyed and recreated.
Twelve Days of Christmas? Hell no. The 13 Days of theAbysmal!
It is also because the New Year repeats the cosmogonic act that the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany are still regarded today as a prefiguration of the twelve months of the year.”
- the twelve intermediate days prefigure the twelve months of the year;
- during the twelve corresponding nights, the dead come in a procession to visit their families…’
- it is at this period that fires are extinguished and rekindled; and finally
- this is the moment of initiations… [In this same mythico-ceremonial complex of the end of the past year and the beginning of the New Year, we must also include the following facts:]
- ritual combats between two opposing groups; and
- presence of the erotic element (pursuit of girls, “Gandharvic” marriages, orgies…)
I’m all for orgies at New Year’s (that’s where all the drinking comes from – and the carousing, let us not forget the carousing). The UFC has begun to hold large events at the end of the year to coincide with New Year (a tradition begun by a now-defunct Japanese predecessor, PRIDE) – for those who don’t know, the UFC is the biggest promotion for Mixed Martial Arts competition. Today also marks the first day in the UFC’s 19 year history when they have had two events on the same day (although one is in Australia, and aired in North America’s yesterday). The UFC’s official New Year’s event takes place on Saturday Dec 29th.
However, the point I want to focus on is the first, the prefiguring of the New Year. theAbysmal is well set up for this. Here are the 13 Days of the New Year:
Each day in this series prefigures a month in the upcoming year. Today, for example, as Day 0, represent the 28 Days of Month 0, which runs from Dec 22nd to Jan 18th inclusive. If you have a great day today, that bodes well for the first month of the year. If you have difficulty getting around, well, it might be best to stay at home that month. Something like that. The principle idea is that this is a microcosm of the upcoming year (and of the 13 days of creation, whatever those are).
Because the number 13 works throughout theAbysmal Calendar, these 13 days might also prefigure the 13 weeks of the first quarter of the year. Why not?
Day 0 of the New Year
Equivalent to Month 0 (Dec 22nd to Jan 18th), Week 0 of Quarter 0 (Sat Dec 22nd to Fri Dec 28th)
Day 0 of Creation
In terms of creation, in the most general sense, this is the moment when all that is necessary for the potential to be present, and spill over into the kinetic, moving forward into the act of creation, whether it be human gestation, birth, and growth; evolution of life on earth; birth of the Sun and solar system; birth of the Milky Way; creation of the Universe.
In each case, it’s the progression from void, to chaos, to cosmos – disorganized and generalized, to organized and complex (screw you 2nd law of thermodynamics).
So, for theAbysmal Calendar, Day 0 is the day of balance, the infinitesimal countless moment when the universe sits on the head of a pin (so to speak).
For this day 0, the symbol that most appropriate suits it, is mu, the Japanese zen symbol that represents non-being.