Looking backward to look ahead
The Romans celebrated the first day of the year as a festival to Janus, their god of gates, doors, beginnings and endings. They named the month of January after him, and portrayed him with two faces: one looking back and one looking forward. Janus presided over transition from past to future, the passage from childhood to adulthood and into old age. One of his faces was often portrayed clean-shaven with the other bearded.
Gates and doors are both portals from one experience to another. We enter through a gate and leave a part of ourselves behind; we enter the world of the unknown when we transition from one phase to another. Sometimes we seek change, sometimes we embrace it. Other times we fight it – holding on to the past for dear life. However we approach change it is, of course, inevitable. No matter how hard we wish for the day to remain, the night will come – followed by the next day of new beginnings.
For many, the first day of a new year is a day like any other, and to think otherwise is just a trick of the calendar. But a magical life is filled with symbols and meaning, and the passage through the doorway into a new year can be filled with the magic of transformation.
I love the African concept of “Sankofa,” which literally means “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot.” The word “Sankofa” comes from the Sankofa bird which flies forward while looking backwards. Sankofa teaches that we must look backwards to look forwards, reclaiming and preserving the past as tools for the future. In this way we can pass through the gateways without losing any part […]