First of all, I hope that all my readers had an excellent holiday season filled with laughter, friends, family and all your favorite food and drink (in moderation, of course). Welcome to 2015 and the beginning of the third year for Monsters and Magic. My own holiday season proved to be a trying one – I came down with the flu on the Monday before Christmas and spent that holiday wrapped in a blanket with fever, chills and upper respiratory goodies that made me wish for a wonder cure.
I survived, however, and am back for this third year which, for me, will be packed with martial arts. I have, through most of my adult years, been involved in one martial persuasion or the other but I have hit the perfect storm since coming to Atlanta, finding both a Japanese sword school and an excellent Chinese kung fu school that specializes in the internal arts as well as one of the praying mantis forms. I am training a lot between the two of them and have even dropped some weight (the flu helped) so my New Year’s resolution this year will be a simple one – develop and maintain a regular course of practice. Both of these arts fold neatly into the magical arts since they require intense concentration.
Before I became ill, I had the chance to participate in a Yule rite. The setting was a cabin up in the mountains north of the city and the rite, part of which I had written, turned out to be a very powerful one in which we invoked Woden and the Wild Hunt (no lala Christmas stuff for me!). The Christian mythos around the Hunt holds it as a thing of terror, an opportunity for “Old Nick” to scoop up the unwary and carry them off to foreign places, either here on earth or “elsewhere”. In actuality though, the Wild Hunt, which moves through the world from Samhain and through into the New Year, depending on what sources you read, serves a very important spiritual function: the Hunt is one of the mechanisms by which all the dross and disharmonic energies in the world are cleaned up and transmuted into more neutral forms. In addition, the Hunt aids in the transition of those spirits who might need a little help to cross over into the Otherworld.
I am not, for a moment, suggesting that experiencing the Hunt is not an awe inspiring and somewhat frightening event. Woden and his Huntsman, their horses and hounds, are not out and about for fun. Our group treated them with utmost respect and made offerings of food and drink that the Hunt might be refreshed as they went about their business. We asked, as they stripped away and ‘recycled’ energies around the world that they take certain energies from our lives and left tokens outdoors, charged with those energies and obstructions, that they might be swept away. A good night’s work and I am looking forward to seeing the results of the Hunt’s work in my life over the next little while.
While I do not recommend the summoning of the Wild Hunt for most occasions, it is common practice, at this time of the year, for people to make resolutions. It is also common practice to have abandoned those resolutions by the beginning of spring. Sometimes, this abandonment is caused by unrealistic or unworkable resolutions. Sometimes, the falling away comes from a realization that one really did not want to bring such a change into one’s life. Other times, the resolution simply gets swept away in the tide of busyness that descends on us once the holidays are done. And, of course, once one resolution is broken, it is easy to remain in that cycle, year after year.
I realized, some time back, that such a cycle is unacceptable. As a practitioner of the magical arts, my word has to mean something or I am compromising my ability to relate to people in this world and the Other. Suddenly, the taking of a New Year’s resolution became a much more serious matter to me and there were years when I simply did not resolve to do anything. What I have found, though, is that the liminal time of the New Year is a great time to put an intention into the ether and really focus my attention on bringing something to pass. Last year, I really wanted to get in better shape and, lo, and behold, despite some bumps in the road (like another major move), I am about 25 pounds lighter and working out four times a week.
So, my word to you, in this New Year, is to allow this time between the years to work for you. Come up with one goal you would like to reach. Make it a bit of a stretch but do not make it so lofty that you have little hope of attaining it. Remember, if you have never run a step without being chased, it is unlikely that you will be able to qualify for the Boston Marathon by the end of the year. Look at where you are now, think about where you would like to be and make your resolution a good stepping stone toward that ultimate goal. Then make a plan for how you will bring that resolution to pass, step by step, micro-goal by micro-goal. Plan for the resolution like you might plan for a trip to another country or for a business project. This year, I encourage you to make your word really mean something and, by doing so, to improve your life, even if just a little.
Happy New Year to you all and off I go to find new things to talk about in 2015.