January is coming to a close, as we have six days left of the first month of the Julian calendar (not to be viewed as the calendar system, but rather a calendar system used throughout the world). Most of us are familiar with January as the month that we really stick to our New Year’s resolutions, only for them to fall by the wayside in February. For this reason, most people in the Western world, January represents new beginnings.
However, January is the month of new beginnings for a more obscure reason; the name January itself means “new beginnings”. “January” comes from the Latin Ianuarius meaning “month of Janus”. Janus is the Roman guardian god of portals (doorways, gates, etc…) and transitions (beginnings, endings, time, etc…). There is a natural relationship between portals and transitions, as doorways and gates give us access to something new…or at least something different from where we are currently standing. Likewise, doorways are barriers that separate two worlds, two ways of thinking or existing, two ways of perceiving or engaging life. I think about one of the most famous portals in history: the Door of No Return, home to the House of “Slaves”. I would argue that West Africans forced into servitude experienced a monumental shift in their way of life. (Sidenote: Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi is a great read on how not only individual people experienced transitions, but how said shifts affected the lives of the descendants of “slavery”)
Janus was said to have two heads because he “looks to the future and the past”. January 1st serves as a symbolic gateway for many people, hence the reason why they create resolutions to change up some part of their life.
Change requires us to ingress to something new, better, or maybe just more meaningful and applicable to our lives. With each year that passes, we should be getting closer to our personal gold standard- something that gives us stability throughout our lifetime. Something to reach or progress towards.
January. New beginnings. Portals.
Of course, it is also said that January is named after the tutelary goddess Juno, who is said to protect the Roman state. Her Etruscan counter part, Uni, was known as the guardian of all women in society. But most scholars connect Juno to the month of June, leaving Janus to sit upon his throne of beginnings…at the gateway of change, and hopefully growth.