A Mythological Look at the New Year

A Mythological Look at the New Year

January was named in honor of the Roman god Janus—the god of gates, doorways,  beginnings and endings—and one of the oldest members of the Roman pantheon. He was depicted with two heads facing opposite directions, allowing him to simultaneously see forward and backward, past and future.

Image from Flickr by codicetuna


Janus was considered the “god of the gods,” consistently first in the ancient lists of Roman deities. That his name was given to the first month of the year when the Gregorian calendar was established in 1582 is significant. Not quite finished with the old year (think taxes and the IRS) and thus not fully engaged in the new year, we live January spanning two worlds— what was, and what is yet to be.

Can we gain in our 21st-century, technology-laden lives by understanding the role of this ancient, bi-directional god? I believe we can.

For me, the lesson of Janus is that every day is a door, a beginning, and it is up to me to choose to create and act upon a vision for the future, or stay beholden to the past. Perhaps you see it differently.

So I challenge you this January: As you develop your life and business plans for the next months, imagine you wear Janus’s double face.

Imagine you can see past and future simultaneously, and ask yourself:

  • What practices and behaviors of the past will I allow through the doorway of the new year, and what should be left behind?
  • What treasures of body, mind, and spirit sustain me? What trash holds me back?
  • How have my attitudes and beliefs in the last twelve months colored my perception of what is to come, and am I willing to close the door on those that do not serve me?

January, like its namesake, is the portal between the past and the future. Make it a month of reflection and beginnings for you, for your business, for your family. And when you walk through the door to February, remember that it was named for the Roman Festival of Forgiveness, and the Latin word februare, meaning “to purify.”