GUEST POST: A New Year’s Ritual
by Danford and Hawthorne
Happy Belated New Years, Atheopagans! I hope your year has been kind to you so far <3
Like many Atheopagans, I try to celebrate the turning of the Gregorian Calendar with special occasions.
This usually involves beer, friends, and sharing New Year’s Resolutions (perhaps more beer than
resolutions, lol, but always in good company). My friends and I did something similar this year, but with
a twist – we decided to add a layer of ritual to our resolutions – both to release what should be left in
2022 and to materialize what we want to bring with us into 2023.
My initial idea for this was pretty simple – imagining my goals for the New Year like an egg that needs to
be “hatched” in order for it to materialize. I wanted to associate this process with new life, treating my
goals like living things born every new year – things that must be nourished, that mature with time, and
that require my constant attention to survive. Rather than treat my goals as things that just happen in
the background, I felt the need to take ownership of what I’m trying to actualize, treating each goal like
a mini act of creation – as fragile and helpless as any other life that’s born into this world.
Last year, I ran a prototype of this ritual, which worked pretty well (considering I didn’t burn my house
down), but it only felt like half of the total ritual. The egg brings new life into the New Year, but it
doesn’t abandon those things behind that no longer serve me. As much as I love my little egg, it needed
some help, which is where a friend came in! Another Atheopagan, Hawthorne, created a sister ritual for
this New Year (out of shear synchronicity), and this blog post will be a collaboration of our efforts! I’ll
briefly go into the symbolism and making of my New Year’s egg, and Hawthorne will close this article by
describing their New Year’s Release ritual, the symbolism baked into it, and the making of the sacrifice.
😊 This was a fun collab, and I highly encourage other Atheopagans seek-out ritual collabs when
As for the egg, the spell had four main components: 1) the eggshell, 2) the ledger of goals/themes, 3) an
offering of incense, and 4) the spell’s verbal invocation. I made the eggshell using papier-mȃché and a
latex balloon, cutting construction paper into strips that appear like dragon scales (because dragons are
cool, and because phoenixes are a tad overplayed). The ledger is also typically made of construction
paper, red in color, with the names of participants stretching top-to-bottom, their goals/themes parallel
on the sheet. For incense, I normally choose a scent that is either sweet or “smoky”, depending on the
mood (or whatever I think will smell best when burnt).
Once I’d gathered all my ingredients, I arrange them in my black offering bowl (pictured below) and take
them outside for the invocation. With hands placed to the sides of the egg, I read my spell aloud and set
the egg on the fire (invocation included at bottom). Once ablaze, I give myself a few moments to stare
into the flames and acknowledge what all had transpired this previous year: “what goals were
accomplished?”, “which ones weren’t?”, “where can I still grow?” … once I’m satisfied with my
reflections, I let the egg burn to cinder and thank the fire for this act of beautiful destruction.
Dragon Egg Invocation
“By serpent’s tongue and dragon’s flame, I build this nest to stake my claim.
With hope and fright, I’ve braved this night, to deliver my wants with ash and light.
Twix‘t leaves and hay I’ve mold to clay; an egg shall mark this New Year’s Day.
And with it shall burn, shall smoke, shall cinder, these cherished notes, now burned to tinder.
And upon my pyre that I make bright, I give to thee my humble plight:
That you may make, through chance and through choice, the dreams of many, through whom I voice.
On their behalf, I do this deed, and on the New Year, I bid farewell this white Winter’s Eve.”
When Dan informed me that he would be carrying out a communal ritual designed to birth goals and
aspirations into existence for 2023, my immediate response was one of excitement, to participate in an
externalization of my promises to myself for this new year. Paired with the excitement, though, was a
gnawing sense that this ritual was somehow fundamentally incomplete, missing an important and
necessary aspect for a ritual being carried out for the new year. I realized that while the ritual as
planned would work excellently for bringing new things into the new year, it needed a companion ritual to leave behind unwanted things in the old one, and to that end, I decided that I would plan and carry
out such a ritual myself.
For the core of the ritual, I decided that the things people wished to leave behind in 2022 would be
destroyed by fire, just as the things that were desired for this new year would be birthed by the flames.
I gathered the unwanted intangibles from my friends and community through the use of a Google form
(never hesitate to use technological tools in your practice to help stay organized!) so that anyone who
wished to commit something to the flames could inform me of what that is privately, emphasizing that
the ritual was merely symbolic and that each participant would still need to do the work if they
genuinely wanted to leave what was mentioned behind. Each person’s unwanted things were carefully
written down on small pieces of what I call “fire paper”, paper colored bright orange in a dye bath of the
simmered skins of yellow onions that I have been using to burn my wishes and petitions for many years
now and, after this ritual, need to create more of. A bit of loose incense sourced from a metaphysical
shop local to me was then folded into each slip, a pinch of altar incense meant for all ritual purposes and
a pinch of happy times incense intended to, well, bring about happy times. The bundles were then
carefully folded such that their contents would not fall out, received an inscription of “X will no longer
carry this” on the outside (with X being the person’s name), and tied tightly with cotton twine.
After the bundles had all been created, I decided that I would enclose them all within a papier-mâché
effigy, as a practical concern – it is, after all, much easier to place one object into flames than it is to
shake out nearly a dozen tiny parcels and hope they all land in the fire the way I want them to. The
bundles of incense and unwanted intangibles were wrapped in tissue paper with a bit more incense for
good measure, to keep them together. This paper packet was then placed within a mass of excelsior, a
material of fine, soft wood shavings loved by taxidermists and people packing fragile objects alike that
would form the inside of the effigy, reducing the amount of papier-mâché necessary and providing more
material to burn. The effigy itself was a very simple design – a corpse wrapped in a shroud, befitting of
the almost funerary tone that the ritual would take on. Of course, a simple design was also an ideal one,
given that my skills with papier-mâché are not exactly those of a master craftsperson, and not being
more ambitious than is realistic given my capabilities is a good way to avoid frustration with the work
Layer after layer of cooked flour paste-soaked strips of paper were wrapped and draped over the
excelsior core, mindfully transforming a mass of wood wool into something that resembled a humanoid
form. When the effigy was complete, I placed it at the center of my focus for several days to dry, and to
stay in my line of sight, acting as a catalyst to reflect upon the things that I personally wish to leave
behind, and the work I know I need to do in order to actually shed them.
After the effigy had had sufficient time to dry completely, it was packed up with a number of other
supplies and brought to the lake shore to be burned. A dear friend assisted me with building a small
bonfire to destroy the effigy in, an endeavor that proved much more challenging than I imagined that it
would. Once flames had been coaxed from the logs, birch branches (selected for their association with
guidance, adaptability, and new beginnings), paper, egg cartons, and pecan shells we had brought, the
effigy was nestled within, and allowed to burn. Handfuls of dried herbs were fed to the flames as well -lavender, for peace and to symbolically wash away the things people wish to leave behind, and bay leaf, for prosperity and luck. Originally, I had planned to include a spoken component to this ritual, but this was scrapped in favor of a silent vigil, watching over and tending the flames as the effigy and unwanted intangibles within were slowly reduced to white ashes and wisps of fragrant smoke drifting over the water.
After the effigy was burnt to my satisfaction, I silently thanked the fire for the role it had played in
symbolically destroying the many things people wished to leave behind in 2022, and proceeded to heap
more wood on the flames and be merry – after all, why not have a good time with a bonfire by the lake
on a bright January day?
Dan Smith and Hawthorne Williams