Monday, January 1, 2007

A New Year

By tradition, the New Year is a time of new beginnings. Today may not be every one's New Year, but it is New Year by the current solar calendar, although I am very fond of the lunar Chinese New Year. In fact, I had the privilege of celebrating the Chinese New Year in traditional fashion when I trained actively and regularly in martial arts. I have celebrated the Islamic New Year and Nawroz as well.

In any case, the concept of a New Year's Resolution is not a bad one, but I shan't air my dirty laundry or my weaknesses and failings in public. Suffice it to say that I hope to achieve something truly worthy this year. When I use the word 'worthy' I am reminded of a scene in Lawrence of Arabia when a proud Bedouin chieftain pronounced a war trophy in the form of a beautiful stallion as far more 'worthy' than any amount of 'filthy lucre'. For better or worse, I am inclined to agree with that assessment. In my case, however, I would like to make a contribution in the realm of literature, whether or not this results in any pecuniary gain. (Sorry, Fleming. I know you will shake your head sadly at this and wish that I would be more practical. Perhaps I can kill two birds with the proverbial stone this year and write something that eases my material circumstances and still be defined as 'worthy'.)

Calendars are strange really. From the complexity of the Aztec Calendar to the simplicity of a prehistoric lunar calendar consisting of no more than a few scratches on a rock, it appears that humanity always has sought control over time. Regimentation is part of it, but it goes far beyond that. It is a desire to have power over the future as much as a need to define the past.

Obviously, the sun, moon and planets do follow a natural course and the 'dance of the planets' is one that has fascinated humanity since the dawn of time. Many of the most beautiful religious verses are concerned with the movement of those natural heavenly bodies and their effect on our lives. People throughout the ages have sworn oaths by the Sun, Moon and Stars. Seasons are determined by the effect that these bodies have on the earth and cultures were shaped accordingly.

In the deserts, the Sun often was seen as a powerful adversary, a cruel Deity rather than a Protector. Sekmet was a typical Sun Deity, cruel and merciless.

In the North, however, the Sun usually was perceived as a Golden Deity bringing warmth, light and life, dispelling the forces of darkness. In desert cultures, the attributes of kindness and mercy belonged to the Moon. Her gentle light illuminated the time when human beings could move freely across the landscape, and the cool nights were times of celebration and socialisation. One sought refuge from the Sun in the desert, rather than welcoming the Day. In fact, many Islamic festivals still occur at night, even when transplanted to other climates.

Traditional Christmas celebrations are festivals of the North. In a place like Australia, where Christmas occurs in summer, evergreen trees, holly and mistletoe are strange reminders of a distant homeland. Even in Southern California, home of Hollywood, where eucalyptus grows more plentifully now than pines or fir trees, the idea of a 'White Christmas' is a product more of fantasy than reality. It is a powerful fantasy, nonetheless and there are many Southern Californians who undergo an annual pilgrimage to the mountains during the Yuletide season simply to experience the magic of snow.

Snow seldom falls on Christmas in many Northern lands actually. On the east coast of the States, snow falls more often in January or even February than it does in December. The little talisman of the 'snow globe' where figures inside a glass globe experience the magic of falling snow is as close as many people come to the experience of a 'White Christmas'. Is the similarity of the glass globe to a crystal ball deliberate or accidental? As a child, I often meditated at Yule using a snow globe, imagining myself a part of the tiny world encapsulated within. It was a world that pain and sorrow (not to mention modernisation, that scourge of civilisation detested by Tolkien) could not touch.


Fleming said...

It is a joy to see your beautiful prose and your great knowledge of mythology (and just about everything else) shared in your new Weblog. I particularly appreciated your comments on the Sun, the Moon, and other heavenly bodies because of my own long study of human ideas about the influence of the stars and planets on earthly events. As usual, of course, you told me a lot that I didn’t know.

Yes, a shake of the head and a cluck of the tongue from Fleming in reaction to your intention to bring fresh meaning to the term “starving artist”. May you somehow manage accidentally to gather in some filthy lucre, or at least a fine horse, or even a purebred cat, in the course of writing something “worthy”.

You are the first person I’ve ever met who has managed to make ME look like the practical one.

Freyashawk said...

As ever, you are too kind!