This post by Nancy Jardine
Who was Janus? What’s with the coal? What’s the key for? And why 5 days late?
Taking the ‘5 days’ question first. Since this is my first ‘Wranglers’ post of the year, I apologise for it being 5 days already into this brand New Year of 2013, and here I am still wittering on about New Year and what it means to me!
I’m sure you’ve already guessed, the other things are all associated with opening doors and heralding in the coming year. However many faces Janus might have: bearded or shaven; with or without coal; and maybe brandishing a key in his right hand – I’m ready for new beginnings.
The Scottish tradition of ‘First Footing’ with a lump of coal is a well practised custom. The Old Year is let out and the New Year ushered in. If the first person to pass over the threshold after midnight is a dark haired male bringing coal or whisky, respectively for warmth and general wellbeing in the New Year, it’s deemed a good omen. (Alternatives used when necessary!)
See my archived post of Hogmanay (31st Dec) 2012 for more details of ‘First Footing’ if interested. http://nancyjardine.blogspot.com
That explains the coal, but who is Janus?
If you don’t already know, Janus was the Roman god of beginnings and endings, and of gates and doors. With two heads he was able to look both ways, and was considered the guardian of peace when the door to his shrine in Rome was closed. If neighbouring cities were informed of open doors they knew Rome was at war, and Janus could intercede through those open doors.
He also represented transitions-for example changes in the aging processes from childhood to adulthood, or the opposites of country and city life. He was worshipped at births and weddings, clearly new starts in the life cycles of those individuals. At harvest, he was given due deference as the end of the growing season gave way to the rest of winter.
The two faced/headed Janus was depicted on many Roman coins, the god being associated with money. (Of course, the two-faced Janus is also associated with duplicity…though we’ll skirt over that one!)
Now… someone is bound to say… but what about that sneaky four faced Janus?
A temple to Janus was also built with four portals where he could look to all four quarters. A very clever idea for detecting enemies coming at you from all directions, so BEWARE of any four-faced Janus for he’s likely to corner you just a bit too much!
The image I like best about Janus is the two-faced god, bearded or not, holding a key in his right hand.
That brings me to the key!
You may care to disagree, but I’m happy with the interpretation that it opens the door to my future year…and maybe even beyond. I believe I can hold that key in my hand just like Janus. New openings and new beginnings are a fabulous concept. As a writer how can I not get excited about new openings, new chapters, and new places to venture into? So this coming year I’m aiming to open new doors – to find more new places for my work to feature; new hosts to meet in blogs; and I’m aiming to welcome new guests to my blog. I’m also aiming to use that key a whole lot better since I’ve made access to new social media during 2012 but don’t have a clue how to use them effectively!
Perhaps my new friends at Writing Wranglers and Warriors will help me achieve some of those aims during 2013?
All the best wishes for 2013 to you!
Try these for info about the god Janus:
http://camphalfblood.wikia.com/wiki/Janus (This one is a more fun reference for you! BTW – I really liked reading the Percy Jackson books to the kids in my class (11-12 year olds) when I was still teaching, because I could do a mini- project on gods and goddesses)
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