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Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

As a Thanksgiving treat, I’m providing a list of articles I’ve written which covers Thanksgiving in some way. Check them out and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 


 

Thanksgiving or Harvest?

Is it a Christian or Pagan celebration?

Is Thanksgiving Dying?

One pagan writer is concerned if Thanksgiving is being preempted by all the other distractions. My thoughts on this.

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving with Christian Relatives

Most of us Heathens have Christian relatives and friends. Here’s how to have a peaceful Thanksgiving.

The Month of Gormánuður or the Slaughter Month

The Month of Gormánuður or the Slaughter Month

By now, we’re in the midst of Gormánuður according to the old Norse calendar. It is the first month of winter according to the ancient calendar, and it is the month of slaughter or butchering. I figured that since I’ve talked about Haustmánuður, the Harvest Month, I should continue with the months…well,…monthly, so you can get a feeling of the ancient Norse year.

A Bit of History About Refrigeration (Stick with me on this)

Nowadays we have refrigeration, which is possibly why Gormánuður may be puzzling to some of you. After all, we can get meat year round and keep it in the freezer or refrigerator. And you’re probably quite aware that our ancestors didn’t have refrigeration until 1913–not that long ago–available for home use. Even then, owning a home refrigerator was expensive and it didn’t become popular until the 1930s. So, your recent ancestors probably had iceboxes–that is actual boxes that held ice to keep their food fresh. The icebox was invented and patented by a farmer in 1802. The original icebox was made from wood, rabbit skins, and lots of ice (duh!).  The icebox took off, and there even was a market for harvested lake ice up until the 1930s. These required ice houses that kept the ice together even during the summer months until the lakes started freezing over again.

As an aside, as a child I did hear adults use the term “icebox” for refrigerator, even though the days of the icebox were long since gone. I assumed that they meant “freezer” because that’s where you kept the ice. Yeah, that makes me older than dirt. Deal with it.

How Did Gormánuður Get Its Name?

So, how did Gormánuður get its name? Well, if you didn’t have refrigeration or even an icebox, slaughtering an animal was a bit problematic. You had to either slaughter and prepare the

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

animal right there or risk spoilage, or you had to wait until the weather was cool enough to keep the meat fresh. Since it was very expensive to feed animals during the winter months (using up valuable resources of hay and grain), most farmers slaughtered all but their breeding stock for the next year. That required a way to preserve the meat so it would last during the winter and into the early part of the summer.

In many climes, Gormánuður was cold, but not brutally cold yet. Although the days were significantly shorter, there was still daylight left. And you could pretty much count on the weather keeping your food cold before you could salt it and preserve it further.

Common Practice Even into the 20th Century

Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

Surprisingly, the idea of butchering meat in the fall was common practice until fairly recently. It wasn’t that uncommon for farms to slaughter pigs in the fall and store to have “pork sales” in the months leading up to Christmas and Yule. If you ever wondered why it’s still popular for people to have a Christmas ham, there you go. That, and our ancestors had a ham to celebrate Freyr during Yule and the increasing daylight. In fact, after hunting season, I’m going to be slaughtering goats and geese to reduce the herd. I suspect other farmers and ranchers out here do that out of necessity, too.

Nowadays, we see some of the remnants of this, but in the age of factory farming and a global economy, we can get foods we like anytime and don’t have to wait to get our favorite foods. All we have to do is shell out a bit more money to get what we want. When I buy foods, I tend to choose local, so the seasons are more apparent to me.

Ways to Celebrate Gormánuður

With Thanksgiving or Harvest coming up, celebrating Gormánuður is easy. Farmers and ranchers have raised turkeys to be slaughtered during the fall just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. While they’re not pigs, goats, or cattle, you can certainly go with the intent of the season. Here are some other ways to celebrate Gormánuður:

  • Look for deep deals on local pork.
  • Choose foods which would have been harvested in October and November as part of your Harvest meal.
  • Choose local foods over those imported from the gods know where.
  • Learn all you can about local farming and slaughter practices. Find those farmers who use sustainable methods and patronize them.
  • Hunt for your meat. You’ll have a learning curve if you don’t hunt, so if you can find a knowledgeable and ethical hunter who will let you tag along this year just to help them (and maybe get some yummy venison), do that.
  • Get your pantry stocked up for Yule.

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How to Celebrate Thanksgiving with Christian Relatives

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving with Christian Relatives

It’s that time of year again.  It’s the time when we have to see our families, many of whom are of a Christian faith, and celebrate the holidays together.  If your family get togethers are something you dread, I have some recommendations for keeping true to being a Heathen while celebrating Thanksgiving.

Consider Your Support System

Oddly enough, how you handle Thanksgiving depends a lot on your family’s religious views.  If you’re the only Heathen and 20 relatives are Christian, you’re going to have a harder time than someone whose family is mostly Heathen, or their family is a mix of Christians, agnostics, Jews, Wiccans, and atheists.  You’re more likely to have more acceptance and more support with the latter two, since your family is at least used to the concepts of having relatives of different faiths.  This of course doesn’t account for those warring families who do not get along.  If you have one of those, I’d sincerely suggest you skip the holidays and celebrate it with like-minded friends or go out to eat.  Honestly, you don’t need that kind of stress in your life.

If You’re Having Thanksgiving at Your House

Having Thanksgiving at your house can be simple enough when it comes to celebrating it.  Consider it a harvest festival and look on it as a way to celebrate the end of hunting season, the end of harvest, and the beginning of the Yule month. Look at the images we use for Thanksgiving: turkey, cornucopia, pumpkins, gourds, fall leaves, and colorful Indian corn. Yes, we also use pilgrims and Native Americans as images as well, but if you want to avoid the Christian connotations, you can emphasize the friendship aspect.  If it hadn’t been for the Native Americans, it’s unlikely the pilgrims would have survived.

Because you’re inviting your relatives to your home, you have quite a bit of power when it comes to ground rules and behaviors.  Which means if they want to enjoy Thanksgiving with you, you can insist that there is no talk about religion and no arguments.  (And stick to this rule.  Yes, you may have to tell them to leave if they misbehave).

Here are some ideas for compromise:

  • Decorate your home with harvest images and nonreligious Thanksgiving images.
  • Make traditional recipes, plus recipes from Viking era feasts.
  • Serve mead.
  • When it comes time to say a prayer, ask that each of your guests silently pray.
  • End the prayer session by saying, “We give thanks for this food and for each other. Let us remember those who are no longer with us, and let us be thankful for the time we had with them.  I propose a toast to <name deceased family members and friends>”  (Yes, I know that many of us still consider our ancestors with us, but for the sake of euphemism, let’s leave it at “no longer with us.”
  • Focus on the positives with your Christian relatives.  Compliment new clothes, a tasty dish they brought, or a new style.  It’s hard to be negative toward someone who is complimenting you.
  • If someone brings us your Heathenry in a negative way, tell them gently that this is not the time to discuss it, and that you’ll be happy to talk to them about it later. If they insist, then remind them of the ground rules.  If they persist, you may have to tell them to leave if they are rude.

If You’re Having Thanksgiving at a Relative’s House


Unless you have some open-minded Christian relatives, or relatives that are basically agnostic but identify as Christian, you could be walking into some pretty dangerous territory if you’re the only Heathen in a majority of Christians — and they know it.  They also have a lot of power because you’ve come into their home.  It’s different than them coming to your home, because you are being hospitable to them and they are there by your graces.  As above,

  • Focus on the positives with your Christian relatives.  Compliment new clothes, a tasty dish they brought, or a new style.  It’s hard to be negative toward someone who is complimenting you.
  • If someone brings us your Heathenry in a negative way, tell them gently that this is not the time to discuss it, and that you’ll be happy to talk to them about it later.

If they don’t know you’re Heathen, keep a low profile and just go with the flow. You don’t have to say their prayers or talk religion, just keep the conversation at Thanksgiving and get profoundly interested on what is going on in their lives.  You’ll find that people — even your relatives — like to talk about themselves, so ask some questions, sit back, and listen.

If your relatives know you’re Heathen and are open minded — awesome.   You might even have an interesting discussion about faiths.  But again, you’re there for each other company and not a debating match.  Often if some other relatives who follow other faiths are there, it can be a very positive experience.

Observe Your Own Heathen Rituals

Before the guests arrive, or before you leave to attend a Thanksgiving dinner, take time to thank the gods, ancestors, and wights for their aid and support.  Offer them a prayer you wrote and meditate on how fortunate you’ve been over the year.  Even if you’ve had a difficult year, the fact that you’re alive and breathing may be enough to say thanks.  Let the gods help clear your thoughts and help you do what is right.  When the dinner has ended and you’re home and the guests (if any) are gone, offer a blot to the gods as a thanks.  Mead or wine works well.

A Few Words About Dogmatic or Fundamentalist Families

If you have staunchly Christian family, or a family that is dogmatic when it comes to their faith, and you don’t have something more important to do (like make ice), you can go to Thanksgiving dinner with them, but I don’t recommend it.  You can expect some sort of abuse if they’re the types who have taken exception to your choice in religion. No matter how hard you try to explain your side, they will not be enlightened enough to believe anything other than you are going to the Christian hell (or insert your relative’s religion’s version of fire and brimstone here). Unless there are ground rules in place, i.e., no talk of religion and no attempts at “intervention” or conversion, you will have a miserable time and feel like a prisoner trapped with a bunch of raving manics.

Okay, maybe that’s a little strong.  But you get my point.  I grew up in such a family where if you didn’t tow the line (whatever line that was), they used holidays to gang up on you and hammer away.  I wasn’t the only one brow beaten, either.  Oddly enough, it was not over religion, although my family has since been worried for “my eternal soul.”  Hels bells, kids, you can have a peaceful dinner at a restaurant for a lot less than the psychiatric counseling you’ll probably need after undergoing one of those holidays.  To this day, the memory of Easter where my family was mad at me for something (fuck if I can remember) and took it out on me and my husband, and then after we beat feet, took it out on my mother-in-law.  I stopped going to Easter dinners because of that (sorry, mom, I’ve got to wash my hair).

I know I’ve probably given you no hope when it comes to families, religion, and being a Heathen. But I want to point out that having really negative experiences over holidays make the holidays even more stressful than they should be. Maybe you’ve had better luck with your family than I have, but if you do have a family that is insistent on you converting to their religion, it’s an uphill battle to get them to accept you.

My Thanksgiving will be mostly not stressful because other than my husband, my relatives think I’m agnostic or atheist.  Which is fine by me. The gods know where I stand, and that’s fine by me.

You can have a fairly stress-free holiday, and I hope you have a great Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving or Harvest?

Thanksgiving or Harvest?

Thanks to Magickal Graphics.

Thanksgiving is often touted as a truly traditional American holiday. As Heathens, we should be quick to note the overall similarities between Thanksgiving and harvest celebrations, but is Thanksgiving truly a harvest celebration, or is it mired in Christian beliefs to the point where we should just ignore it for something else like Freyfaxi?  Here are some of my thoughts.

A Brief History of Thanksgiving

Unless you’re from a country outside of the United States, you’ve heard the story of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims, so I won’t bother repeating what is common knowledge. For those who either live under a rock, or in another country, (or maybe both) here is a nice piece by The History Channel.

Thanks to Magickal Graphics.

But thanksgiving celebrations were common in the New World even before the Mayflower showed up at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Jamestown had thanksgiving celebrations as early as 1607.  Before that, the French and the Spaniards had thanksgiving celebrations in the 1500s.  So, the Pilgrims were not exclusive when it came to thanking the Christian god for harvest, victory over enemies, or any time someone wanted a party. The pilgrims had a thanksgiving celebration in 1621 and again in 1623. The second thanksgiving probably  sparked the observances.

Okay, Maybe Not So Brief…

People in different states, particularly in New England, had thanksgiving celebrations after that time. George Washington requested a thanksgiving celebration in 1777 in December after the colonial army’s victory against the British at Saratoga. There were national proclamations for thanksgiving in 1782, but it was more a day of prayer.  In 1789, Washington declared November 26th to be a day of thanksgiving. But this was a one-time shot which he declared again in 1795. Later presidents also declared days of thanksgiving.

It wasn’t until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln fixed the national holiday of Thanksgiving as the last Thursday of the November. Franklin D. Roosevelt tinkered with the holiday date as making it the fourth Thursday of the month because November occasionally had five Thursdays.

So Where Does Harvest Fit In?

Thanks to Magickal Graphics.

Originally, the pilgrims probably held thanksgiving in September or October to coincide with harvest and to give thanks to the Christian god for their food. The British harvest festival, celebrated around the equinox since pagan times, no doubt inspired the pilgrims’ day of thanks. So, is our celebration Harvest or Thanksgiving?

Well, the answer depends. If you take it purely from the American historical perspective, then yeah, we can say that the holiday is Christian. All the Christian trappings pretty much tie into Thanksgiving nicely. But if we look at the original harvest traditions that inspired Thanksgiving, we can accept it as a pagan holiday, even if the celebration is during a month when the fields are already fallow for the winter. There are certainly great harvest traditions that we can add to Thanksgiving to give it more meaning besides eating turkey and pumpkin pie. Giving thanks to our gods and goddesses for making the food possible is never a bad thing.

Has Heathenism Beaten Christianity?

Has Heathenism Beaten Christianity?

I got in a conversation with another pagan on Huginn’s Heathen Hof, and he had a different outlook on the whole Christianity versus Paganism argument.  It hit me as having some merit, so I’d thought I’d explore it more in depth.

The Argument

The person who put forth this argument to me was a Heathen and a Gnostic. (Let that sink in a bit before dismissing it outright.)  His basic argument was that Christianity at its beginning had nothing — no holidays, no formal sacraments, etc, — so it took from other religions.  In fact, it took so much from pagan religions that the pagan religions actually triumphed.  I’ve been mulling it over for some days and while I don’t think it’s entirely correct, I think it has some merit to at least think about.

Christianity at its Core

Christianity is, at its core, a death cult. It focuses not on rewards in the here and now, but after one dies. It even focuses on the gruesome torture and death of their god. While I think that knowing where you’re going when you die is important, I think that this life is just as important on how we live.  Yes, Christians do focus on how well behaved they should be because they will receive a reward in “heaven,” but honestly, it takes a fear of eternal punishment to behave correctly?  Think about that for a bit.

The major holiday that Christians have recognized since its inception would be Easter, that is the day when Christ allegedly rose from the dead.  We know that Easter arose from the Passover festival, around which Christ was allegedly crucified.  Easter follows Passover.   But we know that it took the name Eostre, and it may have borrowed the pagan trappings of festivals during that time, presumably to make it more palatable to the audience.

Yule and Christmas

We do know that Christmas was pretty much taken from pagan midwinter festivals, celebrating the celebrating the god of agriculture for a full month starting a week before the solstice.  We know that Christmas wasn’t instituted until the fourth century CE when the Church thought to take those midwinter festivals and sanction them.

return of the sun.  While us Heathens can lay claim to Yule, we aren’t the only ones that had midwinter celebrations.  The Romans had Saturnalia, which was spent

The Puritans actually banned Christmas (and the saints) because they recognized the pagan origins. For about 25 years England under Oliver Cromwell made Christmas illegal.  That joy was brought over with the Puritans who made Christmas illegal.  Such was the control of the Puritans that anyone found in Boston exhibiting the Christmas spirit during the years 1659 to 1681 could be fined. What a great bunch.

Incidentally, the Christmas tree came into vogue with Queen Victoria, taking the customs of her husband’s homeland.  The Christmas tree popped up around the 17th century in Germany have its, …ahem, roots in paganism.

Plenty of pagans have pointed to Odin’s ride, Slepnir’s eight legs changing into eight reindeer, and other similarities, that suggest Odin is Santa Claus, so I don’t need to go through that argument.

Harvest and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, itself, is more of an American holiday that was celebrated in New England for some time before Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday in 1863.  George Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789, thus putting it on the table, so to speak, when it came to having a national day of thanks.  A quote from History.com:

Autumn Comments & Graphics
Image by Magickal Graphics

“As an annual celebration of the harvest and its bounty, moreover, Thanksgiving falls under a category of festivals that spans cultures, continents and millennia. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. Finally, historians have noted that Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking long before Europeans set foot on their shores.”

We have our own celebration of Harvest Home, so saying that Americans “invented” a harvest festival like Thanksgiving isn’t truthful.  Now, we did put our own spin on it, but in the end, it is the celebration of family and home, as well as harvest.

The Days of the Week

The months are named after Roman months (gods, Caesars, and numbers), but the days of the week were Roman names changed to our gods, with the exception of Saturday because people probably thought Ymirday might not catch on.  (Yeah, I know the story is that there’s no German equivalent to Saturn who was an agricultural god slain by Jupiter, but that’s another story for another time.) So, when we say we’re meeting someone on Thursday, we’re meeting them on Thor’s-day.

Saints versus Polytheism

Becoming Polytheistic was easy after being Catholic for me. Any religion that allows veneration of saints actually lost to the polytheism.  Even the Episcopalians have the saints and the time I went to an Episcopalian mass proved to me that they’re Catholics without a pope who allow divorces. We know that some saints were actually gods that got incorporated into the ranks of saints to make the religion more popular (such as Saint Bridget).  So, yeah, in some Christian religions, we got some of the gods and goddesses in.

Catholics will tell you that they do not worship saints. That is true at the highest level, but the line gets mighty blurred with the veneration of Mary and other saints.

So Did Heathenism Win?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I would argue yes and no.  In the long run, we still have the Christian god, complete with all the stupidity that has subjugated women, condoned slavery, and given us plenty of hangups due to the “do this or you go to hell” mentality.  I’m not saying that heathens were morally superior as we had slavery and human sacrifice, but most of us are willing to make the change in the right direction.

By the same token, we got our holidays and other pieces infiltrated into Christianity. People who celebrate the holidays are often celebrating the secular holidays rather than what their church would like them to celebrate.  Sure, they keep Jesus in Christmas, but seeing as the whole nativity scene is pretty much made up, and seeing we really don’t know much about the historical Jesus, or even if there was one, we can call it a myth and be done with it.

What it does say to me is that Heathens can celebrate those so-called Christian holidays and feel good about putting their own spin on things. At least, that’s how I look at it.

Added for Clarity:

The point the person made was that arguing whether or not to worship Christ was irrelevant because basically Christianity took all the trappings from pagans anyway. We can argue semantics, but that was his point. I was willing to consider his belief and came up with a yes and no observation. I rushed the conclusion, which perhaps I shouldn’t have done, but I wanted to get the piece out, late as it was.

That being said, I think he does have a point. Is it Heathenism under another flavor? No. Our gods are not revered, although one might be able to point out some obscure saints the Church may have created to appease Heathens. Is Christianity the same as it was when it was conceived? No. It is mostly pagan with the foundation of the Abrahamic faith. Depending on your beliefs in Asatru and Heathenism, you can argue that what parts of paganism was added is superficial. Maybe so, maybe not. I just found it an interesting opinion, and one I couldn’t completely dismiss.

Do All The Things!

Do All The Things!

One thing I don’t seem to have gotten over very well is my Catholic need to martyr myself.  (I can just see Tyr shake his head in exasperation when when I do this) — if the Lord of Swords thinks it’s folly to overextend myself, I suspect it is folly.

But the holidays are a great time to overdo everything, including overextend oneself.  But as Loki constantly reminds me (and yes, somehow Loki pops in to remind me to self-care– more on that some other day), there’s no way I can possibly care for anyone else if I don’t care for myself first.

(At least, if you’re going to have psychoses, have useful ones where the gods talk some sense into you to do things that are good for you and those around you.)

Anyway, Back to the Holidays…

My mom used to put on a big shindig every Thanksgiving and Christmas.  When my ancient Mother-In-Law moved to our town, I channeled my mom and tried to put together celebratory meals. The reality was far from wonderful. My husband and I hunt and hunting season chews up Thanksgiving handily. While I am grateful to Skadi and Ullr for our meals, hunting takes up a lot of energy. Having Thanksgiving later than the prescribed day helped, but by the end of it, I was channeling my inner bitch.  I was exhausted, overworked, and feeling overwhelmed.

Loki reminded me to self-care.
I threw something at him.

Sick Critters, and Life Intrudes

To make matters worse, the weather got evilly cold. The Jotun were here to plunge us into temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.  Skadi granted us more opportunities to hunt. A bunch of my livestock got sick and no matter what I did, they remained sick.  So, I finally got a veterinarian out. Blood draws and plenty of medicine.

Then, there was the little matter of butchering the deer we got the week before. Usually I would have it all cut up, but with the amazingly brutal weather, the quarters froze right up.  So, I could thaw them out and butcher them at a slightly more leisurely pace.

I still need to take care of the skins, even though they’re salted.
I have writing work and other work to do. My plants in the greenhouse are questionable now.  I finally get around to watering them anyway.

Got a bunch of food that needs to be preserved still.  Managed to get the dehydrator full with squash.

Loki reminds me to self-care.
I whimper.

I have this blog and three others to write. I have assignments to get done.  I have to make money somehow…

To Drag this Back on Point…

The problem that we as humans deal with is what society constrains us when it comes to things we must do. Sometimes, we take what we perceive as obligations when in fact, they’re simply man-made constructs. We do things because we were taught to do them, whether or not it makes sense for our lives.  As much as I love Tyr, he has enough control over my life with physics, the laws of nature, and the laws of men. Chasing after some perceived societal norm around holidays when it stresses me out isn’t healthy.  Hence, Loki steps in and whines about my lack of self care.

That’s why when my husband pointed out that doing a dinner thing wasn’t working for me, I needed to step back and rethink what I was doing.  I was trying to follow my mom’s style, which isn’t mine. Holidays, as wonderful as they are, need to be something that aren’t done “just because that’s how we do them.”

Whether celebrating Thanksgiving/Harvest or Yule/Christmas, we as humans must make them joyous occasions and not stressors in our lives. Loki reminds me that being human means being fallible.  That means that sometimes we can’t do “all the things, all the time.”  Tyr agrees.  Which suddenly has reduced the stress in my life.

I still have all the other things to get done, but somehow, the gods make them a little less frenetic. Probably because they don’t judge me on what I accomplish in the minutiae of my daily life. Not like the Christian god purportedly did.

Thanks, and hopefully this rambling post made sense to you.  And maybe, just maybe, you’ll listen to your inner Loki and remember self care as well.