New Years Eve Ritual with Mugwort and Citrus
The time just after all of the holiday celebrations of Mid-winter is a wonderful time for dreaming. As we look towards the return of the light, we are reminded of the cycles of the year and may begin to reflect upon the previous year and look forward to the next.
I wrote this long ritual as a way for us to check in with ourselves on the New Year. It’s made up of various ideas I’ve gathered from many sources, from good luck yuzu baths taken in Japan to fire release celebrations I’ve been a part of in the past. I wrote it in a way that is meaningful for me, but feel free to adapt it to your own needs if something doesn’t seem quite right to you. That’s the beauty of these rituals - they’re just a framework! This ritual is an overnight ritual - you perform the first parts of it in the evening on New Years Eve before your celebrations, then you finish up the ritual the next morning by the light of the new year. (Another appropriate time to do this ritual would be annually on your birthday.)
This ritual is aided by mugwort, which is also known as “dream plant,” a powerful herb that is known to give you vivid dreams. It is a member of the artemisia family, and there are various species that grow in the Pacific Northwest, with the more intense and bitter varieties being found in the mountains and the milder plants found closer to the coast. Local Native Americans sometimes used this plant to aid their ceremonies and knew that it could be smoked or drunk as a tea to induce vivid dreams. It is also known to protect people from evil on their journeys to the spirit realms. Mugwort will show you what you are ready to be shown. For me, this is always a wonderful experience. Placing a bit by my pillow gives me intense, adventure-filled dreams that can sometimes be frightening but always resolve. Others may have a less positive experience though - this plant is to be approached with respect. In any case, it is a wonderful plant to acknowledge and celebrate during this time of the year when we begin dreaming of the future. The brightness of citrus balances the energy of this plant perfectly.
some small scraps of water
a jar with a lid
lots of sea salt for your bath water
fresh citrus - yuzu is best, but lemons work well too
White flowers of choice
Hot tea or a cocktail (recipe for my favorite below)
Firewood and access to a fire pit
Freshly-Squeezed citrus juice
Herbs to burn (I recommend lavender and mugwort)
Nourishing breakfast of choice (recipe for my favorite below)
- Bring a pot of water to boil and add some dried mugwort. As you add it, make a prayer for affirmation of your intention. For example, “As I add mugwort to this magic brew I ask that it helps my subconscious and conscious selves communicate effectively with each other to create a fresh new start.” Let it simmer for a couple of minutes, then turn off the heat and let it steep.
- Run your bath and add sea salt, epsom salt, and any other bath time treats you’d like to soak in. Strain the mugwort out of your water and pour the water in. Add the citrus slices saying “For freshness and vitality, I add these citrus fruits with the hope for luck in the coming year.” Add your white flowers and say “These lovely flowers are my offering to the space I am creating right now. Let them bring beauty to all beings, including myself.” Light some candles. Place your jar, paper, and pencil near the tub.
- Slowly undress and gently rub down your body with your hands, a washcloth, or a soft brush. Picture stagnant energy moving freely through your veins. Allow your body to feel alive.
- Enter the tub and relax. Focus your mind on this past year and what you are carrying with you that you would like to let go of. Think of any failed projects, bad relationships, losses, or disappointments. Allow yourself to feel the emotions associated with these memories as well. Write down a list of what you’d like to release on one of the pieces of paper. When you have finished writing it all down, crumple the paper and place it in the jar. Finish your bath, visualizing any stress dissolving into the bath water. Picture bad memories or feelings leaving your body in whatever visualization works for you - I think of it as dark threads being gently pulled out of my fingertips and dissolving into the nourishing water. Continue breathing deeply and releasing stress and bad energy into the bath water until you feel light and relaxed. Then fill your jar with the paper in it up with bath water and seal it. Set it somewhere safe.
- Get out of your bath and drain the tub, reserving the flowers and orange slices. Lay them out on a mat to dry as you rub some yummy lotion on yourself and put on something cozy and comfortable. Move your candle to a table and sit down with a cup of tea or a cocktail (recipe below.) On another paper, begin writing everything that happened during the past year that you feel grateful for. You can write about big obvious accomplishments, but also thing about the beautiful moments the past year offered you that you want to remember. Write them down as specifically as you are able to. Place this pile of gratitude in a bag under your pillow tonight. I like to add a little mugwort under there too, but be warned: mugwort is powerful medicine and may make you have incredibly vivid dreams.
- Leave the jar of bathwater and the mat of oranges and flowers out somewhere safe overnight and continue with your New Years Eve festivities, whatever they may be. I personally like to have a more retrospective evening on this particular night, mostly because I don’t want to begin my new year with a hangover. But there are also those that say that waking up with a hangover is good luck, since your year can only get better from there! I say do whatever feels most authentic and comfortable to you. Throughout the night, if you have any leftover thoughts on the past year (either positive or negative), visualize yourself adding them to either the jar or the stack of papers.
- Before you go to sleep tonight (or if you do, you party animals), say a little affirmation to yourself: “Tomorrow’s light brings new clarity to me. I’m looking forward to a day of reflection, change, and new starts. May I sleep soundly tonight and dream of what this next year might bring.”
- In the morning, get up and get dressed in something comfortable that is warm enough for outdoor activities. Take the gratitude notes from under your pillow and read through them one last time, allowing the happy memories to wash over you. Then prepare a bundle for release: use a piece of parchment paper or brown paper or even newsprint. Place the now-slightly-dried oranges and white flowers in it in a pleasing arrangement. You might consider adding something sweet as an offering - a sprinkle of sugar, some leftover holiday cookies, etc. Lastly, place your gratitude notes into the bundle and wrap it all up well, folding the edges so it stays closed. Place the bundle next to the jar of bathwater and paper.
- Squeeze yourself a fresh glass of citrus juice. Now is the time for the final stretch of your ceremony. Head outside with the bundle, the jar, and more paper and a fancy pen and get set up near a fire pit. Start a small fire in the pit and sit by it with your bright citrus juice and a pen and paper. Now is the time to reflect on what you want to bring into your life in this coming year. What would you like to improve on? What would you like to learn? What would you like to DO? Are there any specific ideals you are looking for this year (“a true friend,” “love,” etc.)? Write these all down, along with more concrete goals and resolutions. Place these somewhere safe, like in a small box or glass jar.
- Make sure your fire is burning steadily at this point. Give it an offering of lavender and say “Thank you, fire, for beginning my year with your radiant warmth and safety. I will now begin the release portion of my ceremony.”
- Take your jar of bathwater and shake it well so that the paper inside has turned into a pulp. Find a spot of ground where you don’t plan to plant anything and dump it all on that area. Sprinkle a few buds of lavender on top as a thank you to the Earth for absorbing what you chose to release.
- Go inside briefly and wash both the jar and your hands.
- Come back out and place the paper bundle of oranges and gratitude into the fire. Think about all of the sweet memories it contains and allow that feeling of gratitude to wash over you again as you offer your memories to the fire. It may be difficult to burn such beautiful memories, but by releasing them you allow yourself to live in the present as you move forward to make new memories.
- Sprinkle some lavender into your jar of resolutions and hold it up to the fire, saying “First Fire of the year, I ask that you bless this jar of hope and help me live my best self in this coming year.” Then, once again, thank the fire for its service. You can now let it burn out, or extinguish it with respect (as long as the bundle has already burned.)
- Bring your blessed jar of intentions inside and place it on your altar or somewhere else special to you. You could even just hide it under your bed. It is wonderful to be able to return and check in with your resolutions later in the year, perhaps around the Summer Solstice.
- Cook yourself a hearty breakfast of your favorite food - my favorite New Years Day breakfast is Crepes Suzette, but feel free to prepare whatever makes you feel happy and nourished. Spend your day doing something you love, like being outside in the beautiful winter weather or curling up with a new book.
New Years blessings to you all, I hope your coming year is filled with hope, love, happiness, and gratitude.
Smoked Mugwort Sour:
This is designed as a low-alcohol cocktail. Just a little bit of buzz, and a lot of delicious flavor.
1 oz. gin
1 1/2 oz meyer lemon juice
3 tsp. elderflower syrup (or sugar syrup)
1 egg white
some mugwort and a lighter
- Smoke the juice: place the lemon juice in a shallow dish under a medium glass bowl. Light the mugwort with the lighter and place inside the bowl so that the smoke is sealed in there. Let sit for about 10 minutes to infuse, then take the gin out and dissipate the smoke.
- Mix the cocktail: in a cocktail mixer, combine the smoked lemon juice, gin, elderflower syrup, and egg white with some ice and shake vigorously. Pour into a rocks glass and put a dash of bitters on top of the froth. Garnish with a meyer lemon slice and some mugwort that you light on fire. The scent of the charred mugwort is an important part of the sensory experience of this cocktail that is both grounding and uplifting.
Elderflower Crepes Suzette:
1 1/4 cups milk
1 Tbs. cooking oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
- Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on low until well combined and smooth. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet on the stove over medium heat with a light coating of butter or oil.
- When the pan is hot, grab the handle (you may need an oven mit if the handle is metal), then pour about 2 Tbs. of batter into the middle of the skillet. Immediately lift and tilt the skillet in a circular motion to spread the batter to cover the bottom of the pan evenly. Return to heat. Cook for about a minute or until the bottom of the crepe is light brown, then flip with a spatula and cook the other side for 30 seconds.
- As you finish the crepes, slide them onto a plate in a stack. Your first couple of crepes may turn out a little uneven or oddly-shaped, but you’ll get the feel for the technique quickly!
- While you are making the crepes, prepare the sauce:
zest from 1 orange
1/2 c. elderflower syrup
1/4 c. butter
2 Tbs. grand marnier
5. Place all ingredients except grand mariner in a small saucepan and heat until bubbling. Turn down to low and let gently simmer for about half an hour. When the crepes are finished, add the grand marnier to the mixture and carefully light the surface of it with a long match. Let the alcohol burn off until it burns itself out.
6. Dip the crepes one-by-one into the sauce and flip to coat, then fold on a plate. Stick a fresh orange slice in between each crepe. Garnish with chopped pistachios and candied elderflowers, if desired.
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