Merry we meet - Merry we meet - Merry we meet
The History of Thanksgiving
Cornucopia—Original Art by Patricia J. Martin © 2008
An article by Lillian Norman
Americans think about Thanksgiving, we usually think about Pilgrims, turkeys,
the Mayflower, and a shared feast with the Native Americans. Many of us also
think of large family gatherings, a huge supper, and football watched through a
tryptophan-induced haze. As Pagans, we think about thanksgiving in many
different ways. There is, of course, the traditional American Thanksgiving, but
there are other traditions of thanksgiving as well. Most are related to a
harvest or a turning of a season, a thank you to Mother Earth for her bounty. It
is a human tradition, regardless of race, religion or culture, to give thanks.
Welcome to a celebration of Human Tradition, and the glue that binds it,
in the 1600’s the Church of England was having problems. The Church of England
wanted to stay as it was, its own entity with many lingering remnants of
Catholicism still incorporated within the liturgy. There were two factions, the
Separatists and the Puritans. The Puritans thought that the church was
salvageable and still wanted to work with it to blend their beliefs with the
Church’s, to ‘purify’ it. The Separatists, however, didn’t believe
anything was salvageable and wanted to split off into their own church.
Unfortunately, back in that day, it was treason to do so. The Separatists pushed
their agenda and the Crown pushed back. Queen Mary, also known as “Bloody
Mary,” wanted England to return to Catholicism and persecuted the Puritans and
Separatists severely. Queen Elizabeth strove to unify England and tried to be
accepting of the different religious views, but she liked her church just the
way it was and although she did not actively seek out the dissenters, she did
nothing to change the laws.
persecution fed the fires of righteous indignation and martyrdom. The
Separatists had no option but to leave. They went to Holland for several years
where they enjoyed their religious freedom. Then the new world became an option
in a commercial venture. These Separatists did what they needed to do. They
commissioned two ships, the Mayflower and the Speedwell. The Speedwell ended up
being a leaky ship and did not make the journey. After setting sail, both ships
turned back to England where they left the Speedwell behind. All the people
crammed into the Mayflower and they came to the shores of North America late in
the fall of 1620. The 66-day journey was fraught with storms. They ended up
landing way north of where they were aiming. Their settlement was supposed to be
in Northern Virginia.
arrived at Cape Cod in November to find they were totally alone. They did what
they had to do to survive, but by the time spring arrived, only half of the
Pilgrims had survived the harsh winter. It looked like the new settlement may be
in March of the New Year that they met the Native Americans. Samoset, a member
of the Abenaki tribe from Maine, had learned to speak a bit of English from
British fishermen. He walked into the camp and welcomed the Pilgrims in their
own language. Later he introduced them to Massasoit, chief of one of the local
Wampanoag tribes. It was with Massasoit a treaty was struck and for as long as
he lived, the Native Americans and settlers lived in peace.
Native Americans taught the settlers how to fish, plant corn and hunt game. In
the fall, when the harvest was brought in, the settlers and the Native Americans
held a three-day feast to give thanks to their respective gods for their bounty.
By English accounts, they gave thanks “according to English custom,” a
custom handed down over the ages from ancient Pagans. By Wampanoag accounts, the
feast was one of four thanksgiving celebrations held by that tribe over the
course of a year, each coinciding with the changing of seasons or a harvest.
Wampanoag people have lived in southern New England since the glaciers began to
recede northward, at least 10,000 years. Wampanoag means, “Eastern People,”
or “People of the first light,” because they live so far east and see the
sunrise before those who live more inland. By the time settlers came, they were
fishermen, hunters, and planters. They grew the crops known as The Three
Sisters, corn, beans and squash. Every day was a day of thanksgiving for them.
every day was a day of thanksgiving, the Wampanoag honoured four major
Thanksgiving celebrations. One was late in winter, a thanksgiving for the maple
trees that give up their sweet sap to make syrup and sugar.
is celebrated with Strawberry Thanksgiving when the first wild berry ripens.
This is a favourite. Legend has it that there were two children, orphans who
lived with their grandmother. They were very close to each other and were
constant companions. One day, though, they argued. The boy stormed off to the
west, in the direction of the sun, and the girl went east.
time, they both began to feel bad and asked the Great Spirit for forgiveness and
a way back to each other. The little girl asked for something to take back with
her to show her brother that she was sorry. She looked down, and there amidst
the straw and grasses were red berries. She filled her basket with them and
brought them to her brother. They ate them in peace together.
thanksgiving of the strawberries is also about being thankful for forgiveness
and peace. As the celebration is held today, no one comes to the party with a
grudge against another. The strawberry is a symbol of a peace offering.
Green Bean and Green Corn harvests come at midsummer. When the people found that
they could eat the beans green as well as ripe, they found another reason to
thank the Great Spirit. At this time shellfish were a main staple of the diet so
a clambake with shellfish and green beans became the tradition.
thanksgiving celebrated by the people coincided with the traditional
Thanksgiving we know today. It’s the only one the Wampanoag told the settlers
about. For them it was a celebration of their harvest, the fields, woods and
on the other side of the globe, the Chinese were celebrating Autumn Moon
Festival, or Mid-Autumn Festival. It is one of two important festivals on the
Chinese calendar, the other being the Chinese New Year. Autumn Moon festival
goes back over 3,000 years and is a celebration of the harvest, abundance and
-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month on the
Chinese calendar, which coincides with the autumn equinox on the solar calendar.
Traditional activities for this festival are eating moon cakes in the moonlight,
carrying brightly lit lanterns, a dragon dance, and lighting incense to the moon
Israel, the Sukkoth, an autumn festival of thanksgiving has been celebrated for
over 3,000 years. In Korea, Chuseok is celebrated on the same day as the Autumn
Moon Festival. This is when Koreans return to their ancestral homes and pay
respect to their ancestors who provide rice and fruits. They visit ancestral
tombs and offer food and drink to their ancestors.
The list of Thanksgiving traditions goes on and on. As human beings, we give thanks to Mother Earth, the Great Spirit, the God of Abraham, Allah, Buddha, the Goddess.... one does not have to be American to celebrate it. One does not have to be Pagan. One just needs to be a human being with a heart full of gratitude.
2008 Lillian Norman
Norman lives in northeast Ohio and is a solitary pagan witch. She has been a
member of EW since 2005.
First published in the Mabon/Autumn Equinox 2008 newsletter "The Controversial Cauldron" produced by the Yahoo group "Email Witches." A copy of which can be downloaded free from my website below.
Best wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
The Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) / Esbats & Full Moons / Links to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft Resources / What's a spell? / Circle Casting and Sacred Space / Pentagram - Pentacle / Marks of a Witch / The Witches Power / The Witches Hat / An esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism / Pow-wow / The Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / A history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope Innocent VIII / The papal Bull / The Malleus Maleficarum / An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum / The letter of approbation / Johann Nider’s Formicarius / Jacob Sprenger / Heinrich Kramer / Stefano Infessura / Montague Summers / The Waldenses / The Albigenses / The Hussites / The Native American Sun Dance / Shielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Festivals:
The Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Rituals contributed by Crone:
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder
Rocks and Stones:
Stones - History, Myths and Lore
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:
Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Wisdom and Inspiration:
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murdered by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A Kelly / Albertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred / John Michael Greer / John Score / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot - "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" / Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) / Rudolf Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough" / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - (includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest /
Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
"FAIR USE NOTICE"
While I have taken due care and diligence to credit all sources where possible, this website may contain copyrighted material which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. My use of making such material available here is done so in my efforts to advance our understanding of religious discrimination, the environmental and social justice issues etc. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this website for purposes of your own then you must obtain permission from the relevant copyright owner yourself.
My online email discussion group:
Dove of Peace
Help send a message of peace around the world! The Dove of Peace flies from site to site, through as many countries as possible. It does not belong to ANY belief system. Please help make a line around the globe by taking it with you to your site, by giving it to someone for their site, by passing it on to another continent or to the conflict areas of the world. May trouble and strife be vanquished in it's path.