the wheel of the year, part 2: samhain

janus, namesake of the month january

i mentioned in the first wheel of the year post that this may seem like an odd place to start a calendar, but it really isn’t.  rather serendipitously, i’d started my blog just before the celtic new year, samhain (pronounced SAH-wen)—better known to us today as halloween.  traditionally, our new year happens on january 1, but seasonally speaking, this is a little odd, since january 1 is smack dab in the middle of the winter.  in the first century b. c., the romans set this day as new year’s day because janus, the god for whom the month was named, was imagined as having two faces, one of which faced forward and one backward.  this simultaneously forward-backward-looking month, then, seemed the most logical place for new beginnings.  for the celts, the indigenous peoples of europe, however, notions of beginnings and endings followed more physical markers.  samhain, for the neolithic europeans, represented the end of the growing season and thus the beginning of the new year. Read the rest of this entry »