The Celtic calendar was built on a wheel, an ancient wisdom of spirals and turning on which they trusted all life to be built upon. It was a dance that humanity participated in along with everything else cosmic to microscopic.
There were two halves, the “Sam” (summer) and the “Gam” (winter), and those were divided again with Samhain in October (the start of winter) and Beltaine in May (the start of summer), and further divided by Imbolc in February and Lughnasadh in August. In between all of those were the celestial markers of equinoxes and solstices, further providing some guidance as to what rhythm the Celts would be adopting at a particular time of year.
This is the eightfold pattern of their year, spinning round and round.
And each day itself was said to mirror this pattern with dusk (wintering) and dawn (summering) and noon and midnight. In other words: each day held a year.
A similar wisdom is seen in the ancient creation stories (Genesis follows this pattern), and also the eschatalogical understanding that each day holds the liturgical year (waiting, celebration, mourning, growing, etc.).
All of this is ancient, cycling wisdom at play, if we’re willing to pay attention.
In a modern Celtic understanding, January affords us the opportunity to focus in on thresholds (liminal spaces from the Latin “limen” which literally means “threshold”). Though it was not the ancient New Year for the Celts (which was probably Samhain), the mentality of the people was one of adaptation and so we find it has shifted to enfold the Gregorian calendar into its thoughtful rhythm.
January is our modern threshold month. It is the doorway, the threshold, to a new year. For the ancient Celts thresholds were holy places in the home, the barrier between the world and the family, a portal through which humans, as well, as other spirits traversed. It was neither here nor there. The dirt of thresholds was seen as holy ground, good for repairing relationships and cleansing the soul (haven’t you ever said, “it is good to be home!”?).
When entering an ancient Celtic home you’d say a quick blessing just inside the doorway called “The Welcome of the Door.” This is mirrored in many religions, but specifically for Western Christians we see this practice adopted on January 6th as doorways are blessed in honor of the Epiphany and the Magi crossing the threshold of the home of Mary and Joseph to see the Christ child.
January, as our modern threshold, provides us a similar opportunity for blessing and newness, is what I’m saying. The wheel is spinning, but there are important markers throughout, and now we are at the threshold of 2023 and a “Welcome of the Door” is in order.
What will be the blessing you say here?