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Lisa Manterfield
Lisa Manterfield

Out With the Old

The importance of ritual and new beginnings

It's mid-January already. We're 1/24th the way into 2012 and my New Year hasn't yet begun. I feel as if I'm still spinning my wheels, playing catch-up, and going through the same old motions as last year. Sure, I've taken time to think about the coming year and what I want to accomplish. I've set realistic goals and broken them down into bite-size projects, and I've even started work on some of the new ones. So why do I feel as if I'm still living in the same old year?

Because this New Year I didn't stop. I didn't draw a line in the sand and say, "This is where the old year ends and the new year starts." Yes, I drank champagne and rung in the New Year with my loved ones, but what was missing this year was a ritual washing away of the old to make way for the new.

A few years ago, my husband and I had weathered a particularly bad year. I'd received a life-changing (although not life-threatening) diagnosis, we had each suffered the death of family member, plus we'd had some financial strain thrown into the mix. We were so wrung out by the holidays that we didn't even stay up to see in the New Year.

The next day, we both knew we'd made a mistake. If ever there was ever a year we needed to see the back of, it was this one. So we did something that, for us, was a little unorthodox. We performed a Wiccan cleansing ceremony.

We downloaded instructions from the Internet and went to our local New Age store to pick up supplies - a bunch of sage and a white candle. That night, we performed the cleansing ritual together. We swept our home of all the negative energy, "smudged" each room with burning sage, and then sealed the doors and windows against evil spirits, while chanting a spell.

Now, maybe your personal belief system doesn't stretch to this kind of thing, and that's okay, but for us, it worked. Did we actually chase out evil spirits and create a protective barrier with a spell? I can't be sure, and it doesn't matter. What's important is that my husband and I joined forces and created a united front against the crummy year that had dogged us. We made a pact to not carry the negative effects of the previous year with us into the New Year. Even though we still had to mourn our loved ones, adjust to our new situation, and fix our finances, performing a ritual at least signified a fresh new start.

Before the first month of this year is over, I plan to perform a ritual again. It probably won't be anything as elaborate as a Wiccan ceremony, in fact it might just be a walk to a significant spot on a hilltop or simply lighting a candle together and saying, "This is where the New Year begins."

Nothing much will change in our lives, but symbolically we will agree to let go of last year's baggage and focus on the year to come.

Because, you can't truly start over with Plan B until you say a proper goodbye to Plan A.

About the Author
Lisa Manterfield

Lisa Manterfield is the creator of and the author of I'm Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood.

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