Janus, the "God of Beginnings," with one face looking backward and one looking forward, serves as an image of the paradoxical theme for the New Year musical essay, "The New Year & Rebirth In Archaic Myth & Ritual": in order to move forward, one must go backward. In other words, one must go "way, way back" in time to the mythic "the time of the beginning" (illo temore ab origine) in order to begin again in rebirth.
To cure the work of Time it is necessary to “go back” and find the “beginning of the World.” —Mircea Eliade
My friends, all I'm trying to say is that if we are to go forward today, we’ve got to go back and rediscover some mighty precious values that we've left behind. —Martin Luther King Jr.
On the first of January, the Romans sent New Year gifts to each other, which were supposed to bring good luck throughout the year. On epiphany (January 6), Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of ecstasy and the "age-old ram,” was born. The baby Dionysus, crowned with ivy and riding a ram, jumps over the threshold into our reality and toasts the world. (This baby Dionysus may be one of early models for the image of the New Year babe we know today.) The Church famous father Cement of Alexandria (140-215 CE) wrote that Dionysus's birthday was on January 6 and associated it with the birth of Jesus: "The birth of God happened with a lot of Dionysian wonders, such as the changing of water into wine." On the same day, the Christian feast of Epiphany celebrates the event in which Jesus changed water into wine at the wedding at Cana.
New Year celebrations then and now
Thematic Images for Ancient New Year Ritual
Babylonian New Year (Akitu) ritual (with Ishtar)
Babylonian New Year (Akitu) festival
For the ancient Babylonians, when their creation myth was recited over the New Year period, the creation of cosmos out of chaos actually happened all over again. First, the world fell back into chaos, as symbolized by, for example, chaotic behavior such as orgies. Then, through the ritual, the god Marduk slew the chaos monster Tiamat and created the cosmos out of his body. As part of all this, time, seen as profane by the end of the old year, was abolished, then recreated as sacred once more.
Assyrian New Year (Akitu) festival
Babylonian Akitu Festival
Babylonian Akitu Festival
"Bacchanal of the Andrians"
"La Jeunesse de Bacchus"
Dionysus festival of Ambrosia-wine (Greek vase 4th c. BCE)
Thematic Images for Modern New Year Celebrations Around the World
Chinese New Year in San Francisco
Chinese New Year mandala
For information about the old Germanic celebration of "Sylvester's Eve," click here
Thematic Images for New Year Celebrations of Native American Tribes
Many Native American tribes celebrate the New Year as part of their great Winter Solstice ceremonies. For them, the New Year traditionally falls on the Winter Solstice day. This commemoration parallels the universal observance of the Winter Solstice by ancient indigenous European peoples (as discussed in the GS’s previous Winter Solstice season musical essays).
For detailed information on Native American New Year Commemorations, click here
Thematic Memes of New Year Celebrations for Calendars Around the World:
In order to understand how the Western world came to celebrate the New Year on January 1, it may be useful to summarize the calendrical history of this date with some basic facts about the lunar and solar calendars of the Sumerians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans.
For a brief history of the dating for the New Year, click here
Father Frost & Snow Maiden (Slavic-Russian)
Ded Moroz, translated to (Grand)Father Frost, or Old Man Frost, is a legendary Slavic character that makes his rounds every New Year’s Eve. Along with his companion, Snegurochka, he brings delight to children as the two provide the little ones with gifts.
The Rose blooming in winter, symbolizing the hope of spring and new life
The Gypsy Scholar presents:
The Argument-in-Song Behind the Orphic Essay-with-Soundtrack series, “The New Year & Rebirth In Archaic Myth & Ritual”
According to Prof. Mircea Eliade, archaic and traditional societies had a profound need to regenerate themselves periodically through the annulment of profane time and enter into “mythic time” (the time of the gods, heroes, and ancestors). Archaic and traditional peoples periodically sought, through “archetypes and repetition,” to abolish profane time and thus regenerate the sacred “time of the beginning” (in illo tempore, ab origine) or “those days” (illud tempus, or “in the days gone by”) in their sacred New Year rituals. Eliade holds out the possibility that we modern people may come to see that the archaic “thirst for being” and “nostalgia for beginnings” is still alive within us today and lies at the bottom of the need to participate in our contemporary secular New Year’s “profane rejoicings.” This, I believe, is what is behind our profane New Year’s ritual. In other words (or lyrics):
"Behind the ritual, behind the ritual You find the spiritual, you find the spiritual ... Behind the rite, behind the ritual Drinking that wine making time in the days gone by ...."
--Van Morrison, 'Behind the Ritual'
See images below for what's really "behind the ritual" of our secular/profane New Year observance: transcendence and rebirth
In archaic or ancient myth and ritual, the celebration of the New Year meant REBIRTH -- for the sun and sun-gods, for nature, for the tribe or society, and for all human beings. It still does for traditional societies -- and it still can be for modern ones. The concept of "rebirth" is an archetypal motif that applies to various levels of meaning; a common metaphor or literal event in myth and religion, in the "hero’s journey" in mythology, poetry, and romance, and even in the process of human creativity. Thus, even today, at this time in the cycle of the season, our contemporary New Year's celebrations still contain, however secularized and profaned, vestiges of the perennial need of humankind to suspend the flow of time and regenerate the mythic "time of beginnings" (in illo tempore ab origine); in other words, to make all things new -- "to be born again." (See images of Rebirth below.)
The Broken Egg Symbolism of Rebirth
In a Buddhist text, the Suttavibhanga, the Buddha draws an analogy to the Enlightened One bursting the shell of ignorance with a chick breaking out of the egg. The laying of the egg is likened to the "first birth;" i.e., the natural birth of man. The hatching out corresponded to the supernatural birth of initiation, or "second birth." It should be noted that Brahmanic initiation was regarded as a second birth. Furthermore, on the cosmic plane the supernatural birth of the Buddha is analogous to the breaking of the egg containing in germ the "firstborn" of the universe, which also has its origin in the "cosmic egg" of Brahmanic traditions, whence at the dawn of time there issued the primordial god of creation, variously named the "Golden Embryo", the "Father or Master of Creatures, " or "Agni." This, of course, is a variant of Prof. Eliade's "archaic cosmogony."
The artwork is entitled "Illud Tempus the Dream World"
Thematic Images for Rebirth
Uterine and Thalassal Regression
In many of the major ancient civilizations, from the Mesopotamian to the Roman, their solar mythos meant that the concept of Rebirth was associated with the return of the Sun at or around the time of the Winter Solstice, which also marked the beginning of the New Year.
You are not dead, no. You are reborn
With the roses, in every spring Like life, you have Your dry leaves; You have your snow, like Life . . . But your earth, Love, is sown with Deep promises Which must be fulfilled even in the same Forgetfulness.
The attempt not to love is vain
—Juan Ramón Jiménez
For more quotations about the New Year, click here
Thematic Images for New Year's "New Beginnings"
Thematic Images for Re-Inventing Yourself
And in the Tower of Song re-birth or re-invention comes from re-discovering the "lost song" in one's soul.
Thematic Images for the Archaic Lunar Myth of Regeneration
Thematic Images for the January "Wolf Moon"
January Wolf Moon
The Full Wolf Moon of January
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, because wolf packs howled hungrily amid the snows of midwinter outside Indian villages, this January full moon was called the “Wolf Moon.” In North America, the second full moon of the winter season is often called the “Wolf Moon.” (Other names are the "Moon After Yule," "Snow Moon," “Hunger Moon," or "Old Moon.") To some Native American tribes, this was the “Snow Moon,” but most applied that name to the next full moon, in February. Since the lunar (synodic) month is roughly 29.55 days in length on average, the dates of the full moon shift from year to year.
Supposedly, these full-moon names date back to when Native Americans lived in what is now the northern and eastern United States. Those tribes of a few hundred years ago kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon. Those names were applied to the entire month in which moon each occurred. To be sure, there were some variations in the moon names but, in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes, from New England to Lake Superior. European settlers followed their own customs and created some of their own names. But while the "Wolf Moon" may have its roots in Native American history, it is inexplicably tied with folklore and storytelling from around the world. In common usage, the moon is said to be full for a few to several days. To astronomers, however, the moon turns full at a well-defined instant: when the moon is directly opposite the sun (180 degrees from the sun in ecliptic longitude). That full moon moment comes on January 28, 2021, at 19:16 UTC. At North American and US time zones, that translates to January 28, at 3:16 p.m. Atlantic Standard Time (AST), 2:16 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST), 1:16 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST), 12:16 p.m. Mountain Standard Time (MST), 11:16 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST), 10:16 a.m. Alaska Standard Time (AKST) and 9:16 a.m. Hawaiian Standard Time (HST).
Thematic Images for the Shaman's World Tree (Axis Mundi)
Thematic Images of the Hierogamy: Orgiastic & Tantric Sexuality
The New Year & Rebirth: the Hierogamy
"More generally, religious man needed to enter sacred time periodically because sacred time was what made ordinary, historical time possible. For the events of the sacred time of origins, enacted in ritual, were paradigms on which made the conduct of ordinary life was based. Thus, ordinary sexual unions between men and women were possible because of divine sexual union between god and goddess in the time of origins." ~Mircea Eliade
"Man only repeats the act of the Creation; his religious calendar commemorates, in the space of a year, all the cosmogonic phases which took place ab origine [from the origin]. In fact, the sacred year ceaselessly repeats the Creation; man is contemporary with the cosmogony and with the anthropogony because ritual projects him into the mythical epoch of the beginning — of the illud tempus, or 'those days.' … this reproduction [in ritual] made him contemporary with the mythical moment of the beginning of the world and he felt the need of returning to that moment as often as possible in order to annul profane time and its burden of memory and guilt; in other words, to regenerate herself or himself and the fallen world. . . . . The creation of the world, which took place, in illud tempore, at the beginning of the year, is thus reactualized each year. The hierogamy [the cosmic union of heaven and earth, male and female] is a concrete realization of the 'rebirth' of the world and man." ~Mircea Eliade "Around 2000 BCE, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon (actually the first visible crescent) after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring). The festival observed the annual rebirth of the god of fertility, who was known as Tammuz in Babylon, the embodiment of rebirth in nature and son/consort of the goddess Ishtar. Their sacred marriage [hierogamy or hieros gamos] symbolized the cosmic union of heaven and earth, male and female, as a concrete realization of the 'rebirth' of the world and man." ~Mircea Eliade
"And when one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy and one will not be out of the other’s sight even for a moment." ~Plato, The Symposium
"Marriage is no marriage that is not linked up with the sun and the earth, the moon and the fixed stars and the planets. Marriage is no marriage that is not a correspondence of blood … a communion of the two bloodstreams." ~D.H. Lawrence
T H EARC HAICREVIV A L
Prof Mircea Eliade identifies the primary ontological trait of archaic peoples as a "nostalgia for beginnings." The GS argues that we have not altogether lost this kind of "nostalgia." It is manifesting today in the form of a longing for our own pre-historic cultural beginnings--"nostalgia for the lost archaic." To see what the GS means by "The Archaic Revival" and its "nostalgia for the lost archaic," click on image above.
A glossary of the major terms used pertaining to the archaic worldview.
Cosmological has to do with the universe, its structure. Cosmogony is a mythic model of the origin and evolution of the universe. Ontological pertains to that which is real, that which exists. Ontology is a mythic model of the nature and relations of being. Anthropogony is the model of the origin and development of man. Eschatology (lit. "study of the last") is a part of theology and philosophy concerned with what are believed to be the final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity; "the end of the world." Eschatological relates to or deals with the ultimate destiny of mankind and the world. Eschato-cosmological refers to the cosmology of the end of time Hierophany (from the Greek roots hieros, meaning “sacred” and phainein, meaning “to reveal” or “to bring to light,” as in our word epiphany) means a manifestation or breakthrough of the sacred into the world. In the hierophanies recorded in archaic and ancient myth, the sacred appears in the form of ideal models, or “archetypes” i.e., the actions of gods, heroes, ancestors, etc. Telluric refers to terrestrial; pertaining to earth. Archetype, as used in this essay, is simply a synonym for “exemplary model” or “paradigm,” because archetypes are models for institutions, norms, and various categories of behavior believed to have been “revealed” at the beginning of time, regarded as having a superhuman and “transcendental” origin.) By manifesting itself as ideal models, the sacred gives the world value, direction, and purpose.
Latin terms ab origine = from the origin. in illo tempore = in that time. in illo tempore, ab origine = the time of the beginning; the "great time" before history; mythic, transcendent time; "once upon a time." illud tempus = that time, or "those days;" a mythical time before time. incipit vita nova = beginning of new life; rejuvenation of life itself. fons et origio = the source and origin; primary cause.
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