The following is taken from the writings of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Jungian analyst. As we move in time, not only from one age to another, but also into a new year, it is good to remember the stories from mythology.
The Lost Story About What The Old Man and the New Baby Used to Mean for Human Renewal of Body, Mind, Spirit, Heart and Soul… at New Year’s
We’re led to believe that New Year’s images are about the Old Year going out as a bent over old man…
and the New Year toddling in as a grinning infant.
That’s what the buycandy buywine buybeer folks would have us believe.
But those are degraded images.
Long ago, there were far brighter symbols for this ending of one revolution and beginning a new revolution of earth around sun…
Long ago, the child of ‘the new year,’ was named Dionysus; and as an infant he was carried about by the old men Silenus and Hermes.
Back in that day, the child Dionysus, was born at this time of year …when the dark is lifting and the light of day is growing and remaining with us longer…
Long ago, the child represented bright new life, fresh imagination, sunny impetuosity, joyous spirit without end.
Though in late forms, Dionysus was degraded into the ‘God of drunkenness,’ in earlier times, the way I would put it, is it seems he may have stood for the kind of psychic intoxication– that comes from knowing what could be called the et Deus, the God in all things.
And the old man who carried the child in his arms, represented the senex, that is, the old wise man; the one who had lived long, who knew the preciousness of new life, the locations of the ‘trip and fall-down’ places, the detours and long-cuts, the underground pathways through…
and the old man was the child’s protector.
New Year is a Time of Mending and Melding: The Elders Need the Young, and The Young Need Their Elders
Long ago, the child and the old man were not separate ideas, but one. The older one did not die in order to be replaced by the younger. Instead, they represented a hieros gamos of sorts, a sacred union… two critical aspects of inner nature, that when melded together by inquiry, plans laid, and actions taken, created a third: a more conscious and awakened psyche.
If one were severed from the other, that is, wisdom separated from joyous potential… than disorder would follow. Ennui, self-centeredness, immaturity of outlook, not seeing oneself accurately, defining oneself as ‘always right,’ or ‘always oppressed by others,’ peevishness, loneliness.
One without the other, creative life without the long view, wisdom without action of invention, could cause each to falter, eventually go awry, then sicken and die… for lack of their life’s work in balance with one another… enthusiasm and a reliable over-and-inner sight.
In our time, in reality, many older persons remain in high spirit by creating deep friendships with the very young, and/or with ideas and attitudes that carry fresh vitality.
In our time too, many of the young feel they are living in the shelter of a mountain, because they are near the heart of an elder who is reasonably aged and wise in love, loyalty, praise and prescience.
The ancient mythos of the very old and the very young, is not just a nice story. Both wiser consciousness and the energy of youth are strong in each individual’s psyche…if both are allowed room and nourished, by inquiry and actions…
As a pair, the wise old one and the newly born potential are the essence of creative power that can make ideas manifest through deliberate actions… much needed in our world, so that decent wishes can become manifest in progressions through ‘inspirited’ and focused actions.
In each person’s psyche, regardless of spare number of years lived, there is a senex function too. This is sometimes symbolized by ‘the wise old man’ in mythos.
Even in the very young, there is a source of wisdom, uncanny and reliable, if it is sought out and acted upon… it tends to increase.
In the psyche too, despite a person’s slim number of years lived, or many gathering decades, there is also an eternally young spirit, one that never, ever, grows old.
Thus, even in those older, even in the frail elderly, there is a source of leaping in spirit, of laughing, of creating anew daily, each according to their own capacities.
New Year’s was once a time when people turned to consciously ‘remember,’ reclaim these dual aspects of themselves once again; The wiser, patient self, and the ever-leaping inventive one.
They strove to rejoin this duality of the senex and the puer (the eternal boy) (puella, the eternal girl—both positive in terms of energy, but can become negative in those adults who want to remain as child only, eschewing all long term responsibility, for instance) in themselves… after a long year of being worn down and away from center… having been in some ways ‘parted out’ from true self…
But even now, we can still find the old rituals being encacted amongst agricultural people who marry the old seed to the new seed, who honor the ancestors while welcoming new life… there is a time of year at winter solstice, when human beings, since time out of mind, have sought to join one valuable aspect of the core self, to another venerable aspect of human dignity… and some postulate that this sudden ‘reassembling’ oneself, is prompted by the sunlight staying longer and longer with us… that we are affected, just as the earth is affected, moved, to bloom again.
Thus, the rituals are in preparation for the year ahead… This time, at the New Year’s turn is, literally, the setting of intention in stone, rather than all watery a
set of wishes for the New Year that runs out all over the place.
Thus, we make rituals and prayers and repasts and such that recall and help us to be rejoining the steady to the spontaneous;? the more arid to the empathic; the thoughtful to the impetuous; ?the longing for life, to the life spark itself…
The home which in some part, we have all come from… that we are in some part striving to return to now at the turn of the year…
In the tiny semi-rural village I grew up in long ago, population 600, just a very few weeks from now, you’d tramp way out into the fields with us in preparation for disking new ground. You’d clean and then open the sluice gates on the creek, letting the new water join the old water
…and you’d see how the metal spades of the diskers opened the dry gray earth down to the moist black-rich-black earth that has always lain underneath?… and you’d see how cleaning the weeds and detritus out of the sluice gates made the old water leap?… and you’d see how this let the new water join the old water, and create currents never realized before …
May you hold this idea—the ever young spirit in yourself… and the true wisdom you carry… all in your heart, together, throughout the entire year.
The symbols of scythe and hourglass (later additions) and the baby sometimes carrying ‘first flower’ of the fields, and other objects including ‘new light’ surrounding the turn of the year… carry also many roots in ancient religions and mythos, Greek, Asian, Middle Eastern, Africa, North Countries, Teutonic, Celtic, Mezo-American, Roman, Slavic, Polynesian, Native, old, old tribal groups that are now in modern guise, and many more.
The breaking apart of the wiser psyche from the energetic psyche, and the repair, remelding of same, appears to be a deep archetypal pattern that appears to surface in many diverse persons across the ancient world without disparate groups ever having had contact with one another.
As you see, it rises in us too, near the time of winter’s sunlight returning to us… as in ancient times. Often we ritualize this time in the ancient ways without ever realizing it… with New Year’s resolutions.
Think of it, most of those are aimed toward a new melding of the child spirit with the wisest force of the psyche in order to bring certain matters closer, do good in the world, enjoy oneself from time to time, and to create anew, and… to FINISH what creative endeavors one has started if it carries meaning, and to discard it if it does not.
Prescient and precise. Since time out of mind.