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New Year's Celebration and Renewal

Each year, peoples from across the Western World gather with friends and family on the first day of January to celebrate and greet the hopeful arrival of a brand new year.

Each year, in the Western World we party down, playfully saying our farewells to the worn out, weary, frail, and long bearded Old Man Time.

Some years... we're rather happy to say our goodbyes to the nasty old fellow. We sense that perhaps, hope against hope, the New Year will be an opportunity to start over fresh with a brand new and clean slate.

Old Man Time and Baby New Year
In our modern day Western World rituals, at the striking of midnight, Old Man Time gives way to the precocious and lovable newborn Baby New Year - and then later that morning we sit down to read the bizarre and outlandish predictions for the upcoming year that inevitably show up in tabloid newspapers across the world.

As always... our Western World celebrations owe much to ancient Greek and Roman myths and rituals. However, certain other crucial elements of our modern day traditions are, mysteriously enough, leftover remnants of old and forgotten traditions having their origin in ancient Babylon (circa 3500 BC).

New Year's Festival Akitu
In ancient Babylon (circa 3500 BC), the New Year’s festival, Akitu, was celebrated each year at the time of the Vernal Equinox (the beginning of Spring). The festival, Akitu, was an annual ritual renactment of a mythical battle fought between the new god Marduk and the old goddess Tiamat.

This mythical battle between the new male god and the older female goddess was part of the Babylonian story of creation, and their yearly ritual renactment was for the purposes of bringing heaven and earth, macrocosm and microcosm, back into proper relationship and synchronization.

Putting it more simply, Akitu was a yearly ritual performed for the purposes of starting over fresh with a brand new clean slate.

According to D. Stephenson Bond in The Archetype of Renewal, 2003, at the end of the Akitu festival, "oracles were cast... in order for the fate of each of the coming twelve months to be determined, predicting the prospects for the weal and woe of the city."

The Myth (the long version)

Ancient Babylonian Story of Creation - Enuma Elish
Long before the time of the new gods, and long before our human world... there was nothing in existence but chaos. This chaos was ruled by the old gods Apsu (fresh water) and Tiamat (the sea).

The Young Gods
So a new or younger generation of gods were brought into being for the purposes of bringing order to chaos.

"Very clearly the enmity that arose was over the difference between the inert, quiet mood of the old gods and the boisterous activity of the younger generation of gods." John Weir Perry Lord of the Four Quarters

One of the young gods, Ea, the god of wisdom, slayed the old god Apsu. This made the goddess Tiamat angry at Ea and all of the other youthful gods. Tiamat, who was a dragon goddess, gathered her forces and successfully waged war against all of the younger generation Babylonian gods until finally, just in the nick of time, the great Marduk was born.

Marduk is Born
Marduk, son of Ea, was destined to be the strongest and wisest of all the new gods. As such, he was persuaded by his father, Ea, to deal with the old goddess Tiamat once and for all.

"The divine offspring [Marduk] was wonderful to behold, enormous and lordly, with four eyes and four ears, his mouth blazing fire, clothed in a halo, to whom the fourfold winds were given." John Weir Perry Lord of the Four Quarters

Summoning the other young gods, Marduk went to war against Tiamat. Finally, in a dramatic one on one battle, Tiamat discovered that even she was no match for the great Marduk, Lord of the Four Quarters.

Cornering Tiamat with the four winds at his command, Marduk caught Tiamat up in a giant net. When Tiamat, the dragon goddess, opened her mouth to breath fire at Marduk, he let loose the Imhulla, "evil wind" or hurricane.

The many winds of Marduk filled Tiamat up. The winds churning her up from within, rendered her further defenseless. Then Marduk speared her with a lightning bolt.

Marduk Creates The Zodiac Wheel
Splitting the dragon goddess Tiamat (the sea) in two, Marduk then raised half of her body to create the sky and with the other half he created the earth. In the process of this "splitting apart," Tiamat's eyes then became the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

In the realm above (heaven) Marduk set Anu, the sky god, and in the realm below (earth) Marduk set Ea, the earth god. Between the two, Marduk set the air god, Enlil. Other gods were then also given their places in the heavens and then the stars were formed in their likeness.

The Sun, the Moon, and stars were at that time given special courses to run, and the constellations were meant to mark the passage of time. Through the measuring of time by the revolutions of the planets, order was established for ancient humanity.

So, according to Babylonian mythology, it was the new and powerful god Marduk that divided both space and time into a 360 degree circle, the astrological wheel of the Zodiac with four cardinal directions of the Sun's path representing the four seasons.

For these ancient peoples, the Sun's yearly journey through the astrological wheel of the Zodiac was a progressive pathway that told a story of bringing order to the universe.

Note: Also of interest, later Babylonian astrology assigned the god Marduk to the planet we nowadays know as the planet Jupiter.

Summing It Up
So, yes, today's modern traditions of celebrating the beginning of a New Year unknowingly carry with them many remnants of this ancient Babylonian creation myth and festival.

In modern times Old Man Time (Tiamat) gives way to Baby New Year (Marduk), and each year "the weal and woe" predictions of world events are given out and then read in our tabloids as we hope for our clean slate and the chance for a fresh start.

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