A magical year

moon 008

“There is no place so dangerous as a world without magic.”  Terry Goodkind

I wake this morning to a world still dark, even more quiet than usual as it is all partied out, the New Year has arrived and it is a Bank Holiday so few are working and the roads very quiet. There were the usual midnight fireworks, but the traditional first footer will probably be me on my way back from work. That is not the only tradition I have broken this year… and we are only a few hours in…

When I was a girl we often spent New Year’s Eve with my great grandparents. Unless a neighbour could be relied upon to spontaneously perform the service, the tallest, darkest man of the company would be ushered outside via the back door at five to midnight and the door locked behind them… Heaven forefend that a woman should enter first by accident! Duly armed with a silver sixpence, a piece of coal and a slice of the rich, dark fruit cake to make sure the conditions for first footing were met… that there would always be wealth, food, and warmth in the home throughout the year…. They would be welcomed back in through the front door, not able to speak until the gifts were distributed.  The symbolic gifts were kept all year in a small box on the big mahogany dresser, while the old year’s cake and coal were given to the fire… and the sixpence usually to me.

As a young wife I kept this tradition, not through superstition but because it is a tradition… a bit of sympathetic magic that reaches far into our history and is backed by the centuries of its own evolution as a custom.  I also kept an adopted one, learned from a Glaswegian friend, that as the house be on New Year’s Eve, so will it be all year… which meant a thorough clean, a well-stocked larder and those you love around you.

There is a lot in these old traditions, even on a purely practical level… it was absolutely true, of course, that there was always silver, coal and food in my great-grandparents house all year, and the care with which the household was prepared for the family celebration says a lot about how the family is likely to live for the rest of the year.

Beyond the practical though there is something deeper… an almost instinctive belief. These traditions have a hold on a pretty visceral part of our collective imagination and though we may dismiss them as superstition, especially when we fail to meet the conditions, we feel an unreasonable, almost guilty, satisfaction when all is in place. It doesn’t matter if traditions differ region to region… whether the black cat that crosses your path be a harbinger of luck or doom where you were born… the tradition you know at your roots will always linger at the back of your mind.

Of course, none of us really believe in these things these days… do we?

Yet isn’t this precisely what is behind all the self-help and motivational books? Hasn’t the power of positive thinking become a bit of a buzz –word? They have a point though, the power of the imagination, of belief, is not to be underestimated. It changes our world every day.

“What is now proved was once only imagined.” William Blake

Everything we are, everything we achieve in our lives, from the great to the small, depends upon a belief we create within ourselves… a belief in possibility. This is the basis of superstition on the lowest end of the scale, of psychology at a practical level and of the magical, creative, incredible things we are capable of bringing into the world. How others see us reflects only how we have chosen and learned to see ourselves in an endless exchange of projection and reflection.  Imagination is only held captive by belief…  We may accept that if we can truly believe in our dreams we can achieve them… We can work for that promotion, save for that holiday, lose those extra pounds… we do what we really believe we can.

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” J.M. Barrie

But the same applies at the deepest level of who we are… we are who we believe we are, we alone limit the horizons over which we can fly. When imagination and belief are allowed to play together, anything is possible.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
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24 Responses to A magical year

  1. reocochran says:

    Magic and imagination are both important. Hope you have a lovely new year, Sue. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. sknicholls says:

    Beautifully written. My grandmother would believe this computer, you people, and what we do here magic. And it is!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. barbtaub says:

    What a lovely appeal to the practical truths behind tradition. I wish every happiness to you and yours in the new year.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. FlorenceT says:

    Family rituals/traditions are like a hearth, welcoming us back to warmth, certainty and safety.
    Sue, may your year be filled with magic!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: A magical year | oshriradhekrishnabole

  6. We were raised with almost the same tradition, however my mother was Italian and my father German. Ours was a loaf of bread, sugar, and coins on my mother’s side. Pork roast and sauerkraut, rye bread and coins from my father’s side. My mother would always make sure that no one was alone on the holiday and for years a priest from our parish was invited to our table and would bless our home. You make a good point and the memories flood my mind and make my heart smile, and the beat goes on. Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. BunKaryudo says:

    I’m slightly worried about the superstition mentioned by your Glaswegian friend’s. Now I can look forward to a year of the dishes needing washed. I’m not off to a good start. I had a doughnut a little earlier today, so there goes my first New Year’s resolution already.


  8. adeleulnais says:

    I truly love this post. Just this second my wife, who is watching the Vienna concert came through to where I write, the kitchen, and told me about her tradition, sadly no longer upheld, where her Nana would be watching it with her, while either preparing veg for the dinner or doing her cross stich. She was very sad but also happy remembering. Tradition and how we uphold them as a family is a rich and varied tapestry. My own family tradition was similar to yours. I come from Orkney and as I was dark, I was always shoved out the door and come back in again with a lump of peat, a slice of Clootie dumpling and a bottle of whiskey. Even as a child, lol, it was the best of times.


  9. You have magic here, as always, Sue. ☺


  10. Mary Smith says:

    Happy New Year, Sue. Lovely post, which brought back memories of Ne’er Days of when I was a child. For us it was a lump of coal, salt and, of course, whisky and the first footer should be tall and dark. One year, walking home in the early hours of January 1st my then boyfriend and I met a woman returning to her home. She invited us to come and first foot her as she didn’t want to bring bad luck by being her own first foot. We went in, she gave us whisky and then she had to go to early Mass, told us to help ourselves to another drink and make ourselves at home. I can’t imagine anyone nowadays inviting two strangers into their house and leaving them there alone!
    I still have a compulsion to clean the house from top to bottom before the New Year.


  11. Eliza Waters says:

    Love reading about your old traditions. It explains why I was in a bit of a cleaning frenzy yesterday, vacuuming the house top to bottom! 😉


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