Here we are, beginning a new year. Let’s hope it’s a good new year. I grew up in a working-class family in St. Louis. We were Calvinist and Republican. I’ve escaped from the last two, but I still claim my working class background. My father was a lithographer, my mother, a housewife. And I will never forget the advice given every year (actually, more than once every year) by my Dutch grandmother: Whenever you start something new, start clean. Take a bath, brush your teeth, wash your hair. More than that, she meant clean your house. Wash dishes. Dust. Vacuum. Pick up stray books and pet toys. Gramma put the fear of god in me, at least about cleaning. Every time she took the bus down to visit me while I was in graduate school, I spent two days cleaning my apartment.
It’s thanks to Gramma that when I wrote a daybook titled Pagan Every Day, I started the year writing about home. Here’s the page for January 1:
Usually, we invoke Janus on this first day of the year. He was the Roman two-faced god of the doorway (ianus), the transition point between the safe indoors and the outside world, where anything could happen. Roman weren’t alone in believing that this opening needed to be protected. The mezuzah, which holds verses from Deuteronomy, is affixed to doors of Jewish houses, the façade around the doorway of a medieval cathedral is as elaborate as the altar, and nearly every pagan is taught to cut a “doorway” into the energy of the circle. As the doorway stands between inside and outside, so does the turning year stand between an old year we knew and a new year we don’t yet know. Janus gave his name to January and the Romans honored him all month. Before he came to the city, however, he was Dioanus, an Italian oak god whose consort was the woodland goddess, Diana.
Let’s honor Janus, then let him be. Let’s turn to Cardea, the Roman goddess who represents the hinges on the door. As the hinge goddess, Cardea supervises our comings and goings. Every time we go through that door, there she is, the hinge of our busy life. Sometimes she squeaks. Sometimes she sticks. Could these be auguries? Almost always, she permits us to move at will. She knows that we will come home again. Reader, in your mind’s eye see Cardea at your door. Expand your vision and see her balancing on the hinges of your life. Where will you go this year? She’ll be with you. And just so we have it by heart, let us repeat with Dame Julian of Norwich: All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.
Of course, Gramma didn’t know anything about pagan pantheons. She meant clean your house. I will not say whether or not I had Gramma in mind when I wrote Finding New Goddesses and Found (i.e., invented) The Queen of Clean:
Here is a true Goddess for all lands and seasons. The Queen of Clean is the Found Goddess of just about Ten Thousand Names. As we get out the dust cloth and the sponge and prepare to vacuum the cat hair out of the carpet, we can invoke Her in any of Her multitudinous manifestations: Sultana of Swab, Our Lady of Ablution, Hagia Hygienica, Maiden of the Mop, Mother Laundry, Crone of Cleanser, Dowager of Disinfectant, Empress of Pumice, Pristine Princess, Duchess of the Duster, Wench of the Whiskbroom, Grisette of Degreasing, Dame of Dry Cleaning, Señora Scrub, Frau Spick’n’Span, Madame Fumigaterie, Soeur Sanitique, Tsarina of Tsterilization, Abbess of Antisepsis, Witch of Washing, Hag of the Hoover, and (finally—whew) the Three Clean Sisters: Detergencia, Immaculata, and Cleanessa.
Your grandmother was right, you know. Cleanliness is next to impossible, but you still have to clean your room. So come on, gals and guys, do it with a happy heart! Meditate while you’re washing dishes. Sing while you’re scrubbing the grout in the shower. Give thanks while you’re dusting all those nice little tchotchkes your Tante bought you. Dance while you’re mopping the kitchen floor. Think of all those poor people who don’t have floors to scrub and tables to dust and toilets to clean. Remember how lucky you are.
The Queen of Clean, who is no doubt closely related to Our Lady of Guilt [the Found Goddess of Modern Motherhood], wants us to keep a tidy home. “A new broom sweepeth clean,” She reminds us, and, “Create in Me a clean heart, and renew the right spirit in Me.” Sometimes She’ll quote, “When I was in love with you, then I was clean and brave and…how well I did behave.” And occasionally Shakespeare comes to mind: “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood from my hand?” But She’ll never, ever say, “Let other people clean up the mess we’ve made.”
Well, I have a confession to make: I think it’s really nice when other people clean for me. They dust, I write. They vacuum, I edit. They scrub, I rewrite. To me, that’s a fair division of labor. Still, the Goddess bids us to be clean, and the least we can do is cheer Her and Her Tidy Helpers on as They work:
Tote that barge, lift that bale,
Wield that mop, fill that pail.
Ignore each broken fingernail,
And clean, clean, clean.
Scrub it out! Wash it out!
Whisk it out! Sweep it out!
Happy New Year, y’all. Clean your room. Tidy up your desk. And comb your hair.
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic. Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.