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Author Topic: Why is the Wiccan new year when it is?  (Read 1276 times)

jmwbb

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Why is the Wiccan new year when it is?
« on: October 19, 2016, 11:56:48 am »
I'm trying to learn more about Wicca and Paganism in general. I read some Pagan primer stuff from the forum, and one of the links I clicked through to talked about Wiccan Halloween (don't remember the original Wiccan name) and how it's right before the new year. Super cool stuff.

The thing I don't understand is exactly why that's the point where the year ends and the new one starts. It feels pretty arbitrary to me, not being on a solstice or equinox or anything. Basically what significance does that exact day of the year hold? Is it seasonal? Astrological?

Redfaery

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Re: Why is the Wiccan new year when it is?
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2016, 12:05:54 pm »
Quote from: jmwbb;197666
I'm trying to learn more about Wicca and Paganism in general. I read some Pagan primer stuff from the forum, and one of the links I clicked through to talked about Wiccan Halloween (don't remember the original Wiccan name) and how it's right before the new year. Super cool stuff.

The thing I don't understand is exactly why that's the point where the year ends and the new one starts. It feels pretty arbitrary to me, not being on a solstice or equinox or anything. Basically what significance does that exact day of the year hold? Is it seasonal? Astrological?
Samhain? I'm not Wiccan so I can't answer as to any theological significance of the date. But it's no more random than January 1st as New Year's.
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jmwbb

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Re: Why is the Wiccan new year when it is?
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2016, 12:10:20 pm »
Quote from: Redfaery;197667
Samhain? I'm not Wiccan so I can't answer as to any theological significance of the date. But it's no more random than January 1st as New Year's.

 
Yes, Samhain, sorry. I was kind of hoping that there'd be a cool astrological or seasonal reason for the exact date that ties in with the themes of the holiday... I should hope it isn't just some random day that was picked :(

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Re: Why is the Wiccan new year when it is?
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2016, 01:20:53 pm »
Quote from: jmwbb;197666

The thing I don't understand is exactly why that's the point where the year ends and the new one starts. It feels pretty arbitrary to me, not being on a solstice or equinox or anything. Basically what significance does that exact day of the year hold? Is it seasonal? Astrological?

 
To some extent, this has to do with myth cycles, and to some extent with natural cycles.

Myth cycles are a little tricky to talk about with Wicca, because initiatory Wicca, a lot of specifics are not available to non-initiates.

However, in many versions of the myths based on Wiccan practices, the God is sacrificed in the fall, and Samhain (October 31st in many practices, some people use astrological timing for the 15th degree of Scorpio, which is more like November 7th) is when the God appears as Lord of the Underworld or something similar.

And then between Samhain and winter solstice is a waiting period before the God is reborn as the sun child, a baby. It's a time to be introspective, retreat, not be so active in the world.

How this ties into natural cycles is that this is pretty much what the agricultural season is also doing if you're in the British Isles (give or take a couple of weeks on the timing): Samhain was traditionally about the time you'd cull the herds (kill and preserve food animals who wouldn't make it through the winter), do the final preparation of fields for the winter, etc. And then you'd rest, do inside-the-home tasks. So all the agricultural stuff is fallow and quiet.

At winter solstice, the days start getting longer, and while it's nowhere near spring yet, you can start looking ahead a bit more easily, making plans for the coming year.

And on a completely different note, the reason Wicca has 8 Sabbats is basically because Gerald Gardner and Ross Nichols (who founded the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids) basically were each celebrating four of the eight, and decided eight was better. (And honestly, for group work, about every 6 weeks does work a lot better than every 3 months in a number of ways)

Basically, 8 Sabbats as Wicca and related paths celebrate them in a single sequence is not a practice that goes back before the mid-20th century, even though different individual cultures celebrated various of the individual days at different points.

There's several other ways of connecting them, too, besides the ones above - I've got a page on my website that goes into more detail.
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Re: Why is the Wiccan new year when it is?
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2016, 02:46:39 pm »
Quote from: jmwbb;197668
Yes, Samhain, sorry. I was kind of hoping that there'd be a cool astrological or seasonal reason for the exact date that ties in with the themes of the holiday... I should hope it isn't just some random day that was picked :(

It's rather obscure, but I'm inclined to believe that the rough date range has something to do with an astronomical event...namely the culmination of the Pleiades at midnight, a once-a-year event.

From what I can recall, that is the original source for the Western belief that the veil is thin at that time of the year. Damned if I can find the exact reference book again, though.

The Pleiades star group, or Seven Sisters, has been important to humanity for (in all likelyhood) since we first cast our gaze to the sky. Ancient depictions have been found all over the world.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2016, 02:47:10 pm by Allaya »
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Noctua

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Re: Why is the Wiccan new year when it is?
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2016, 03:19:07 pm »
Quote from: jmwbb;197668
Yes, Samhain, sorry. I was kind of hoping that there'd be a cool astrological or seasonal reason for the exact date that ties in with the themes of the holiday... I should hope it isn't just some random day that was picked :(

 
It wasn't random, but rather an active choice based on the Celtic cultural festivals that Wicca derived their systems from. Lots of different religious systems have had different new years, and they're always a propitious date within that particular system.

 In fact the only New Years Day that came close to "some random day that was picked" is the one we celebrate on January 1. That one came about with the institution of the Julian calendar in 45 BC, and even then into the middle ages many rural people in Europe were celebrating the New Year in the spring (I've heard that this new year was tied with the progression of the sun in the zodiac from Pisces into Aries but can't find that source) and it's not until the corrected, Gregorian calendar was implemented that it became consistently January 1st in areas under the dominion of Rome.

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Re: Why is the Wiccan new year when it is?
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2016, 09:48:44 am »
Quote from: Noctua;197679
In fact the only New Years Day that came close to "some random day that was picked" is the one we celebrate on January 1. That one came about with the institution of the Julian calendar in 45 BC, and even then into the middle ages many rural people in Europe were celebrating the New Year in the spring (I've heard that this new year was tied with the progression of the sun in the zodiac from Pisces into Aries but can't find that source) and it's not until the corrected, Gregorian calendar was implemented that it became consistently January 1st in areas under the dominion of Rome.

 
I seem to recall Koi mentioning once upon a time that it was the marked date of Jesus's bris (given the mass of his birth being on 25 December), but that does not actually explain why that would be a date of significance for a new year.  Maybe something about that being the point post-birth when the baby could enter into the public world?  That might make sense.
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Noctua

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Re: Why is the Wiccan new year when it is?
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2016, 11:41:25 am »
Quote from: Darkhawk;197708
I seem to recall Koi mentioning once upon a time that it was the marked date of Jesus's bris (given the mass of his birth being on 25 December), but that does not actually explain why that would be a date of significance for a new year.  Maybe something about that being the point post-birth when the baby could enter into the public world?  That might make sense.

 
Except January 1 as the first day of the year precedes Christianity, and even Christ himself. Looking into it more (thanks Wikipedia!) apparently the year beginning in January started sometime during the period when Rome was ruled by kings, even before the Republic. Ianuarius and Februarius was added to the previous Roman liturgical calendar during the rule of Numa, turning their 10-month calendar into a 12-month. The first month possibly was named after Janus, which seems like the appropriate time to start the new year as he was the god of both endings and new beginnings.

The Julian calendar established by Julius Caesar was just a correction to the already established Roman liturgical calendar to bring it more closely in line with the actual length of the year at 365.25 days. However it looks like when it was implemented it was basically just Julius Caesar saying "we're using a new calendar, starting . . . now!"

The Gregorian calendar was just a further refinement of the Julian calendar implemented by Pope Gregory in the 15th(?) century, which really only tweaked the frequency of leap years. Everything else stayed the way it had been since the Romans, so I'm always suspect of any claims that certain dates on the calendar were chosen due to Christian myth when the calendar predates Christ. I've even seen a Christian website once claim that Easter was chosen to be in the spring because that's when Mary's conception would have occurred (9 months before Christmas!), which completely ignored the fact that Easter was always tied with Passover and the last supper was a Passover seder.

jmwbb

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Re: Why is the Wiccan new year when it is?
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2016, 12:09:03 pm »
Quote from: Noctua;197709
Except January 1 as the first day of the year precedes Christianity, and even Christ himself. Looking into it more (thanks Wikipedia!) apparently the year beginning in January started sometime during the period when Rome was ruled by kings, even before the Republic. Ianuarius and Februarius was added to the previous Roman liturgical calendar during the rule of Numa, turning their 10-month calendar into a 12-month. The first month possibly was named after Janus, which seems like the appropriate time to start the new year as he was the god of both endings and new beginnings.

The Julian calendar established by Julius Caesar was just a correction to the already established Roman liturgical calendar to bring it more closely in line with the actual length of the year at 365.25 days. However it looks like when it was implemented it was basically just Julius Caesar saying "we're using a new calendar, starting . . . now!"

The Gregorian calendar was just a further refinement of the Julian calendar implemented by Pope Gregory in the 15th(?) century, which really only tweaked the frequency of leap years. Everything else stayed the way it had been since the Romans, so I'm always suspect of any claims that certain dates on the calendar were chosen due to Christian myth when the calendar predates Christ. I've even seen a Christian website once claim that Easter was chosen to be in the spring because that's when Mary's conception would have occurred (9 months before Christmas!), which completely ignored the fact that Easter was always tied with Passover and the last supper was a Passover seder.

 
To my knowledge, Christianity just kind of sucks in general at picking significant dates to celebrate holidays. A good bit of that is stealing Pagan holidays, I would imagine there are other factors though. I wish we had cool astrological or seasonal significance to our holidays, but those aren't really terribly significant to Christian theology.

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Re: Why is the Wiccan new year when it is?
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2016, 12:48:03 pm »
Quote from: jmwbb;197711
To my knowledge, Christianity just kind of sucks in general at picking significant dates to celebrate holidays. A good bit of that is stealing Pagan holidays, I would imagine there are other factors though. I wish we had cool astrological or seasonal significance to our holidays, but those aren't really terribly significant to Christian theology.

 
The stealing Pagan holidays things really isn't very correct: essay about it on my website with details and specifics, that grew out of discussions here and links back to a couple of those and some further references.
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jmwbb

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Re: Why is the Wiccan new year when it is?
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2016, 03:37:16 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;197713
The stealing Pagan holidays things really isn't very correct: essay about it on my website with details and specifics, that grew out of discussions here and links back to a couple of those and some further references.

 
Dang, slightly disappointing. I've been thinking lots about Paganism and especially Wicca lately, the holidays are pretty cool and the narrative I had in my head on the Church stealing those holidays up was pretty interesting. Cool though to know at least that it happened to some extent with Halloween, and that what I remember hearing about Pagan gods being reattributed to Christian saints was true! Nice essay, too!

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Re: Why is the Wiccan new year when it is?
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2016, 06:31:08 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;197713
The stealing Pagan holidays things really isn't very correct: essay about it on my website with details and specifics, that grew out of discussions here and links back to a couple of those and some further references.

 
Seems I was misremembering the Christmas/Easter connection and had it backwards, so I hereby redact my playful indignation over that one. ;) However my point about New Years still stands, that the only reason the western Christian world celebrates it on January 1st is because that's what the Romans did and they didn't bother to change it.

Honestly my impression of the coincidences of most of the holidays has always been that around the world we all live in the same solar/lunar cycle and therefore tend to establish holidays that coincide with those cycles. No appropriation needed.

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Re: Why is the Wiccan new year when it is?
« Reply #12 on: October 22, 2016, 07:17:50 pm »
Quote from: jmwbb;197666
I'm trying to learn more about Wicca and Paganism in general. I read some Pagan primer stuff from the forum, and one of the links I clicked through to talked about Wiccan Halloween (don't remember the original Wiccan name) and how it's right before the new year. Super cool stuff.

The thing I don't understand is exactly why that's the point where the year ends and the new one starts. It feels pretty arbitrary to me, not being on a solstice or equinox or anything. Basically what significance does that exact day of the year hold? Is it seasonal? Astrological?

 
According to my research in Ireland  (1 of 7 Celtic peoples), they celebrated two holy days per year. Samhain which was Summer into Winter, and Beltaine which was Winter into Summer. The six weeks until Winter Solstice was the Between Time. The Veil had comes down during these two times of the year, although the Beltaine veil is less about the dead than about new life. Newborns would be shown to the Gods for Their blessings. In some areas (Co. Mayo for one) didn't name a child until Beltaine, if it was born during the Winter. Between things were important to the Irish. A between time or place could be a doorway to the Otherworld.
The other days that were celebrated were more secular holidays rather than sacred. They were agriculturally motivated. They gave thanks or petitioned the Gods for fruitful harvests. Lughnasagh is actually a funeral celebration... a wake as it were. Even today the Tailtien Games are held to celebrate the memory of Lugh's foster mother Tailtu.

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