Winter Ends with New Year Beginnings

WINTER ENDS with NEW BEGINNINGS
Emerging from the Longest Night into a New Year

It is Solstice—the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. This year—2018—it is also the night of the Full Moon—a cosmic coincidence which will not happen again until 2094.

Hogmanay now a World-Scots Celebration

Traditional Christmas pudding, oozing flaming brandy, courtesy Delia Smith

Meanwhile festivities are revving up for a week of celebrations in all corners of the globe—more glitzy in countries with the Santa Claus connection: the USA welcomes his reindeer to school halls and shopping malls. Yule logs burn in grates from Scandinavia to Scotland.

While New Year’s Eve is still a week away, around the globe Scots are preparing. They have their own name and a long rich heritage associated with the last night of the Old Year—Hogmanay.

Theories abound on the derivation of Hogmanay. While I favor the translation given by the Scots Dictionary—aguillaneuf=gift for a new year, below—there are others. The Scandinavian word for a feast preceding Yule was “Hoggo-nott” while the Flemish words (many have come into Scots) hoog min dag=’great love day’. Hogmanay can be traced back to Anglo-Saxon, Haleg monath, Holy Month, or the Gaelic, oge maidne, new morning.

Remembering that Mary, Queen of Scots grew up as child bride at the French court, the most likely source seems to be the French translated bodily to Scotland with her when she became Queen. ‘Homme est né’ (‘Man is born’) in France is the last day of the year when gifts were exchanged. Aguillaneuf is still celebrated in Normandy, and presents given at that time are hoguignetes.

Tar barrel flaming at Burghead on Auld ‘Eel ends with burning the Clavie at the ‘Doorie’ on the ribs of Pictish promontory beach fort

In Scotland a practice similar to Normandy was recorded, disapprovingly, by the Church:

It is ordinary among some Plebeians in the South of Scotland, to go about from door to door upon New Year`s Eve, crying Hagmane
Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence, 1693

Christmas was not celebrated as a festival and virtually banned in Scotland for 400 years, from Protestant Reformation c.end of C.17th until around 1950s. The reformed Kirk portrayed Christmas as a Popish or Roman Catholic feast and it was forbidden. Many Scots had to work over Christmas and their winter solstice holiday was taken at New Year, when family and friends gathered for a party and to exchange presents—especially for children.

Earliest known Gaulish Coligny ‘moon’ calendar of 13 months dates to A.D. 150

In the earliest known Celtic calendar, the Coligny Calendar of 13 moons (months), now in the Palais des Arts, Lyon, the year began at Samhain, November 1st Fire-Festival of the Dead. At this time the veil between this world and the Otherworld was believed so thin that the dead could return to warm themselves at the hearths of the living. And some living—especially poets, artists, clairvoyants and shaman/healers—were able to enter the Otherworld through the doorways of the sidhe, fairyfolk, like the stone-lined entrance to passage graves in Scotland and Ireland

When the Julian calendar was in place in Rome, the Coligny caledar was seen as the Gaulish equivalent of a 10-month/13moon year, beginning November.

Traditions before midnight on Samhain perpetuated in rural communities when the calendar changed to Gregorian (at the Reformation) such as cleaning the house on 31st December—including taking outside ashes from the fire, when coal fires were in vogue. There was a superstition to clear all debts before “the bells” at midnight.

On the stroke of midnight it is traditional to sing Auld Lang Syne. Robert Burns claimed his verse was based on an earlier fragment, and the melody was in print eighty years before he published in 1788.

Partying from Hallowe’en through Hogmanay
An integral part of Hogmanay partying which continues today is to welcome friends and strangers alike with warm hospitality; and to wish everyone a Guid New Year. The underlying belief is to clear out any vestiges of the old year—ancient tradition included literally sweeping the house clean—and preparing to welcome in a young, fresh New Year on a happy and positive note.

“First footing”—i.e. the first step over the threshold into the house after midnight—is less common now in cities, but continues in rural Scotland. To ensure good luck for the house, the First Foot should be male, dark-haired (believed to be a throwback from Viking days when blond strangers arriving on your doorstep meant trouble) and should bring symbolic coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and/or whisky. These days, however, whisky and perhaps shortbread are the only items still prevalent—and available.

“Handselling” was a custom of gift-giving on the first Monday of the New Year, but this may also have died out.

Magical fireworks displays and torchlight processions through Edinburgh, Elgin and many cities in Scotland are reminiscent of ancient custom at pagan Hogmanay parties which persevered until the late C.20th.

Traditionally one New Year ceremony more reminiscent of American Hallowe’en involved dressing up in cattle hides and running around the village being hit by sticks. The festivities included lighting bonfires, rolling blazing tar barrels down the hill—as is still practised in Burning the Clavie at Burghead, Morayshire—and tossing torches. Animal hide was wrapped around sticks and set on fire. This dense smoke fended off evil spirits. The smoking stick was also known as a Hogmanay.

Giant fireballs hefted by strongarm celebrants swing through Stonehaven harbor near Aberdeen on ‘auld ‘Eel’, old Yule

Some customs continue, especially in small, rural communities in the Highlands and Islands where tradition—along with language and dialect—are kept alive. On Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, young boys form rival bands, the leader of each wearing a sheepskin, while another member carries a sack. The gangs move through the village from house to house reciting a Gaelic rhyme. On being invited inside, the leader walks clockwise around the fire, while everyone hits the skin with sticks. Formerly, the boys would be given bannocks (fruit buns, similar to focaccia) for their sack before moving on to the next house. This tradition is reflected in American Hallowe’en, two months earlier.

Scotland’s Legacy of Ancient Customs
One of the most spectacular fire ceremonies to take place is in Stonehaven, just south of Aberdeen on the Northeast coast. Giant fireballs, weighing up to 20 pounds are lit and swung around on five foot-long metal poles that need sixty men to carry them, as they march up and down the High Street. The origin of this pre-Christian custom is linked to Winter Solstice December 21st, with giant fireballs signifying the power of the sun’s return. The fireballs were believed to purify the world by consuming evil spirits in the New Year.

Confusing Samhain/Hallowe’en with Hogmanay is understandable. Longtime tradition holds them inter-dependent. Only the numbers have changed.

Eagle Nebula Pillars of Creation, NASA Space telescope

A theory of gravity is also a theory of space and time — Albert Einstein

According to current thinking, we have gone beyond conventional spacetime and are now floating somewhere in a ‘construct’ of our own imagination.

One hundred years ago Albert Einstein had his great insight.

A decade afterwards he revised his general relativity to include quantum theory. And yet a century later physicists are still beating the quantum drum, trying to figure how to work outside theoretical time, when physicists have always formulated their theories within a space-time framework.

Let the New Year reveal.
And don’t forget. Raise those glasses on Hogmanay.
©2018 Siderealview

Explore posts in the same categories: Animal kingdom, Ascension, astronomy, calendar, Celtic ritual, culture, language, legends, pre-Christian, ritual, seasons

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