It’s the beginning of the year, according to Jewish tradition, the tradition of my birth. I always resonate with September as a New Year time, because although long out of school, I always loved how the High Holy Days, the New Year, coincided with the start of the school year.
The shortening days, the crispness of autumn in the air in this part of the world, the changing of the light, rode along with the energy of a new year. The sacred trip to the store for new school supplies. New school clothes and dress-up clothes. Services at synagogue with my grandparents. Holiday treats.
I love how the Jewish holy days are aligned with the Moon’s phases. Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, is always the first day of the month, and every month in the Jewish calendar starts with the New Moon. Simple! (And yes, because 29.5 days—the length of a lunar cycle—times 12 does not equal 365 days, and because the rabbis in their wisdom decided to keep the calendar seasons consistent, every 13 or so years there is another month added to keep things straight! Brilliant.)
So, the Sun and the New Moon together in Virgo welcome the start of the New Year, this sacred season of reflection, review, recommitment, release, and renewal. You don’t have to be Jewish to embrace the invitation to cleanse, to purify, to forgive, to contemplate, and to prepare for a new state of awareness. This is a time to initiate, to begin anew. Not the only time, certainly. In my pagan tradition, we initiate at Imbolc, midway between Winter and Spring. There’s the calendar New Year, a customary time for reflection. Pick one. Pick now. You can always come back and deepen your initiation on December 31st, or at the beginning of February. Or both! Or any time you are so moved…
I love this image of the Shofar, the ram’s horn, which is sounded during the New Year services. I accompanied my sister to a Shabbat service this last Saturday. Her congregation holds their service outside, in a gorgeous spot by the estuary in Berkeley (egrets!) this time of year. The service was part prayer, part singing and drumming and part deep and insightful discussion. I got to hold and (attempt to) blow the shofar for the first time in my life. Hooray for renewal congregations and for the toppling of traditional sex roles! (Only men blew the shofar in the synagogues of my youth.) The sound I made was pretty awful, but there was a second or two there when it rang out clear and true. A powerful experience.
A ritual to mark this time, this transition.
Take some time for yourself, preferably during the New Moon/New Year window of the 15th through the 17th.
Find a stone, big enough to write on, small enough to hold in one hand.
Assemble some markers or paint, your journal and a pen, and a candle. Set your intention. For me it’s gratitude for and completion of what was planted and harvested in the summer, and inviting all that’s ready to be expressed, created, manifested in this coming season.
Light the candle and spend some time in meditation. Sink into this moment, breathe, relax, invite, allow…
Take your journal and pen, and write for a minute or two on each of these questions:
- What’s been harvested?
- What skills have been developed?
- Where have you found joy?
- Where has there been sorrow?
- What’s complete, and ready to be released?
What’s the theme? What one word rises up in your heart to describe your intention, moving forward into this new season? Write that word on your stone, using paint or marker.
Find a place to plant your stone. Outside. Preferably in the dirt. Somewhere where it won’t be disturbed.
Know that, as the seasons change, the stone will weather. Your word will fade over time. Know that this fading is your word going below the surface, sending down roots, creating deep roots that will winter over and begin to bear fruit in the Spring.
Set your powerful intention. Give this gorgeous blessing to your gorgeous self!