I used to set New Year’s Resolutions– the typical “lose 10 pounds”, “go to the gym 3 times a week”, blahblahblah sorts of goals.
It took a while (sadly, decades) before it became apparent to me that “resolution” was simply a clever code word for “race to see how quickly and spectacularly I can fall short of my goals and tragically disappoint myself”. Heh. But when I finally tuned in and realized how gross it felt to list off the exact same ‘resolutions’, year after year, I settled on a different approach.
For a few years after my shift away from making New Year’s Resolutions, I tried setting ‘Intentions’.
‘Intentions’ had a softer, more encouraging feeling to them, at least compared to the stern, unrelenting, and essentially impossible vibe of ‘Resolutions’. So I intended to replace chocolate with chai tea. I intended to meditate on a daily basis. I intended to do this, and I intended to do that…
Now. This will shock you to hear, I know, but my intentions somehow didn’t translate into real-world actions (!!!), which made me feel miserable and like a failure at conjuring up positive, upward-and-onward vibes. Ultimately, intentions ended up feeling just as awful to me as those no-good resolutions.
I couldn’t ‘should’ my ass into the gym, and I couldn’t ‘intend’ my ass onto my meditation cushion, so for several years, I swore off everything New Year’s-related.
It was a wholesale rejection of the fanfare and glitz surrounding the changing calendars. I was done with New Year hype! I didn’t even stay up until midnight to ring in the new year anymore. (Yeah. Early bedtimes: how badass was I?)
But then: Something shifted several years ago, and I finally settled into a New Year’s ritual that felt right for me.
Now, I like to ring in the new calendar year by doing some (or all) of the following:
The previous year can be appraised, reflected on, thanked, and eventually bid adieu to by:
- pulling tarot or oracle cards
- making an epic list of everything awesome that happened/important lessons learned/experiences and people to be grateful for, etc.
- compiling a series of things (beliefs, habits, fears, relationships, situations, etc.) to let go of moving forward
- ritualistically closing off the calendar year– burning the list of things to release, having a bath and saying goodbye to the previous year as the water drains out, or whatever feels solemn, respectful, or momentous enough for you. 😉
I have been setting a single theme word for the upcoming year since 2010, but I’ve only documented my annual theme words online since 2014. In 2014, my word was ‘Ease‘. In 2015, it was ‘Trust‘. This year, due to a twist of cosmic fate, it’s ‘Congruence‘, but that’s a whole other post and I’ll save that for another day…
“How do you set a theme word?”, you might ask.
Sometimes, this involves digging deep into your essence and asking yourself how you’d really like to feel on a soul level. This is how my Year of Trust was birthed– I deeply yearned to feel held and supported by the rhythms of my life rather than feeling tossed about in an uncertain sea of random happenings. (Check out the game-changing work of Danielle LaPorte for help with Desire Mapping. This book literally transformed me.)
Sometimes, naming a theme word is more of a mental or intellectual process, where you strategically challenge yourself to live in alignment with a certain energy or vibration for the upcoming year. (This is how I selected the word ‘Ease’, by the way: with my mind. Awkward spoiler alert: this approach didn’t end well. It felt more like a resolution than anything, but perhaps you’ll have a different experience setting an annual theme word with your brains.)
Sometimes, a theme word will spontaneously give itself to you– injecting itself into your consciousness like a bolt of electricity, and inviting you to say yes to it. (This is how ‘Congruence’ happened. I’ll report back on how everything worked out next January, haha!)
Confession time: this is my favorite way to start the new year, partly because an annual card spread feels legitimately magical to pull, and partly because an annual tarot mandala just looks so damn cool! (Hey: I gravitate towards visuals, and sacred geometry totally does it for me.)
To draw a ‘Year Ahead’ spread for yourself:
Decide which deck(s) feel right to use.
I am no longer a one-deck woman (by any means), but not everything in my deck collection felt like it ‘resonated’ with 2016. I ended up choosing the Lumina Tarot deck, the electrifying Isis Oracle deck, as well as some Viking Runes for my spread (sorry, no link to this set because ours was a custom-made wedding gift!)
My husband prefers oracle card decks to tarot, so he used the Connected & Free deck, the Isis Oracle, Animal Medicine cards, and Viking Runes for his spread. I have done spreads before with just one deck, or you could go wild and use a different deck for each month. Go with your gut and choose what feels best.
Create a sacred time and space to draw your cards.
You might want to light a candle, set up a crystal altar, invoke your angels and/or spirit guides to be with you, or otherwise infuse divine, reverent energy into the practice. This isn’t an intellectual exercise to rush through or a complicated process to merely skim the surface of. Give yourself ample time (15-45 minutes), and feel your way through the process.
There’s no right or wrong way to do a Year Ahead spread for yourself, but you definitely want to cultivate a sense of magic and conscious attention to the ritual.
Choose how many cards you would like to pull.
Maybe you’ll pull a single card and set that as your annual theme word. Maybe it feels better to draw a theme card for every month, or perhaps you want to pick cards for every quarter or season. Again: it’s up to you! Do what feels right.
Because I’m apparently an overachiever when it comes to creating tarot mandalas, I picked a single card to represent my annual theme (‘Opportunity’), a Rune for each season, and two cards for every month– one from Lumina, which represents the monthly theme and another card from the Isis Oracle, which offers a sacred practice I can dive into for that month. Don’t feel you need to go to that sort of length with your own spread. If a hyped-up spread feels exciting and exhilarating (like it does to me), then go for it! Otherwise, if it feels overwhelming to have a zillion cards laying out in front of you, then keep it simple, my dear.
Draw your cards, using your intuition to guide you.
Focus your attention on the month (or season) you are pulling a card for, and silently (or not) ask what you will need to know for that month. Alternatively, you can also ask what energies you might need to be aware of for that month, which essence/vibration you are asked to attune yourself to, or what symbolic guidance would like to come through for you.
Pull a card however and whenever it feels right to you. Don’t get caught up in ‘proper’ shuffling or deck-cutting techniques, because seriously: the ‘correct’ way to draw a card is however it feels best for you. Repeat until you have pulled a card– or cards– for all the months and/or seasons for the year.
(Optional) Arrange your selected cards in a badass mandala or grid format.
Because WOW. Feel your cards become electrified with the energy of possibility and connection by the simple act of placing them in a geometric pattern with one another. Drink in the awesome visual of your Year Ahead, as represented by the cards you’ve selected! Take copious amounts of photos. Share your photos far and wide!
Journal out your initial impressions and the preliminary intuitions you receive from your Year Ahead spread.
What jumps out at you right away? Are there any obvious themes or patterns you can observe without diving in too deeply? What trends do you notice? How do you feel about the year ahead, based on looking at your cards? Are you excited, terrified, grounded, trusting? Write as much (or as little) as you like. You can focus on individual months or on the year ahead as a whole.
Periodically revisit your spread throughout the year, and reflect on how it is serving you.
I like to copy each of my monthly cards into my daytimer, so that I am reminded of my personalized themes and guidance every time I open my planner. (Clearly: I am a bit of a nerd.) I also like to set aside an hour or so at the end of each month to reflect on the previous month and to plan ahead for the next month. Lots of journalling is involved.
You might be amazed by how uncanny the card picks seem in retrospect for each month, but even if they feel sort of random or inapplicable, journal it out and see what comes up for you.
I’d love to hear about your rituals and practices for the new year, and if you’re so inclined, I’d adore seeing your Year Ahead spreads, too!
If you have any questions, please e-mail me or pipe up in the comments below. Otherwise, have a warm, loving, and divinely-saturated 2016!
PS: If you’d like even more insights about sacred rituals and at-home magic, perhaps you’d enjoy being a part of my intimate online circle. I send out thoughtful messages and love-soaked notes to my wonderful subscribers every few weeks, and I’d love to include you in the next letter. xo