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Thanksgiving and Gratitude

So we in the United States are once again gearing up to celebrate the U.S. Thanksgiving Day holiday.   My nation will celebrate with cranberry sauce and Turkey and sweet-potatoes and the mass-market tyranny of pumpkin-spice flavored everything.

There is a fair amount of ambivalence and some controversy about this particular Holiday is some parts of the Pagan community.     It is often pointed out that much of the dominant public narrative of this Holiday whitewashes the complex and tragic U.S. history of oppression and even genocide against Native American peoples.  We should certainly look at history, even the ugly and complex parts of it, with clear eyes if we are to truly honor our honored and beloved dead.

The interesting thing about the Thanksgiving tradition in the U.S. is that while it has its roots in Gratitude and Harvest Celebrations, much of the ‘Pilgrim Forefathers’ and ‘First Thanksgiving’ schtick, the mythologizing of Thanksgiving came about as a result of jingoism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries of the common era as the demographics of the U.S. changed under pressure from immigration.  There were many cultural and social measures, great and small, taken to ensure that these suspicious foreigners from Europe and elsewhere were transformed into proper citizens.

I suppose one could simply ignore the Holiday, but ignoring problems does not make them go away… and we would be poor Pagans indeed if we ignored the value of Community and communal celebrations.  The Wild Hunt recently ran a story wherein correspondent Heather Greene mused about the possibilities of the Holiday

“Once again, my thoughts return to the secular Thanksgiving – a holiday that focuses on community, compassion, tradition, and natural abundance. Can we re-sculpt the mythos to breathe a new spiritual life into that holiday? The story centers on an indigenous population, the “Indians,” teaching the new inhabitants, the Pilgrims, about the land and its creatures. It ends in a peaceful shared community feast that we now replicate every November.

Can we bring the spiritual into the secular? Can we transform this myth to focus on the teachings of the wisdom keepers who strive to bring humanity back into balance with Nature? Can we rededicate Thanksgiving to that ever sacred and shared wisdom that passes effortlessly from hand-to-hand, from drum beat to drum beat, from the heart to the heart through the eternal spirit fires of this wonderful Earth?”  ~Heather Greene

For me, Gratitude is the key.

Now it could be easily argued that most of Pagan worship forms somehow and somewhere in the proceedings boil down to gratitude.  After all, at some point Hospitality and food and drink are offered to the Holy Powers.  But just as the ancients had far more than 8 agriculturally based festivals, so to can we.  We can celebrate ideas and ideals and individuals who have shaped our world and nation.  We can honor various iterations of the Honored and Beloved Dead.  We can embrace our lives and world in all of their complexity.

We can welcome and explore this most healthy and helpful of values.  Gratitude is a very hot spiritual and psychological topic right now and there are a lot of interesting resources out there on the topic.

In a world that often seems filled to the brim with anger and fear-of-the-other, where various political and social forces seem intent on stirring up fear and division, where the voices of extremism dominate the public discourse… what could be more of antidote than to come together with our families and neighbors and celebrate Friendship and Fellowship and Family and Gratitude?

(did you know that nations outside of North America also celebrate their own forms of Thanksgiving Days?)

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Hospitality and Community

So in addition to being a Pagan, I am a Unitarian Universalist.  Recently I blogged on my personal blog about the process of becoming a Worship Associate at  1U Orlando and some of the things I learned about myself in writing and preaching a Sermon on Hospitality and Radical Hospitality.

In the Sermon I go into detail onto how I as a Polytheist see Hospitality as integrated into my worship and faith…

“In addition to being a Unitatian Universalist, I am also a Contemporary Pagan and Polytheist. In my own spiritual journey I look not only to the Worlds Religions, but also the the Religions of the Ancient World and centuries long tradions of Western Mysticism and Occultism for inspiration and guidance. In my daily life Hospitality is not just the field I work in, it is also the fertile ground that I grow from Spiritualy and Religiously.

In Polytheistic worship and practice, the Gods are called out to with poetry and praise. Called upon by their names and attributes, and invited to come and join the worshipers in celebration of the relationship between worshiper and Worshiped, and of the special events in our lives. Offerings are made, of poetry, of song, of incense, and of water or wine and food. The gods are given their portions and those worshiping also partake of the food and beverages. A Polytheist shares what bounty and blessings he or she has with both their fellow worshipers and with the Divine, and thus the offerings and blessings are multiplied in love and respect and fellowship.

Worship is seen as being in some form of active and ongoing and MUTUAL relationship with that which is Divine.

For me as for most Polytheists, as long as you are engaging in whatever the agreed upon practices of hospitality and offering are for you particular group and faith, your actual beliefs about what the Gods are not that important. Whether you see them as Beings on some other level of reality, or if you see Them as inspiring Ideas and personifications of what we might now-a-days call the Web of being… that does not matter. How you understand Them does not matter. It is the respecting of The Gods, and your fellow Worshipers, and the act of being hospitable and gracious and in Right Relationship, in worship and in your daily life… that is what matters.

As a U.U. Pagan, I also take some inspiration today from the fact that for myself as for many Polytheists… there is no challenge or disrispect implied in Worshiping differently from ones neighbors. Indeed, for many Polytheists, when in another land or house it is simply being a good guest and not at all disrespectful, to honor or at least be respectful of the Gods of that land or house.

You can look at the history of the Ancient World and see how this form of religious pluralism was the assumed rule, and not the exception. It was thought only natural that people of widely different beliefs and faiths and philosophies and experiences, could live and work together.”

The journey of writing this Sermon was very interesting to me as I discovered some interesting paralels between ancient Pagan thought and values and those I encounter in the contemporary world.

Frith, when you get right down to it has some startling similarities to ideas and ideals of The Beloved Community.
The idea that Peace can come through people being in Right Relationship to one another…

Or how universal the custom and practice of Hospitality was in the ancient world…

Hospitality and Community….

It seems like there is always some new scandal or schism in contemporary Paganism, I think that too often we let our practices and faiths, despite their ancient sources and inspirations, get clouded with the fears and insecurities of the contemporary overculture.  What if we dug deep into the wisdom and cultures of our Pagan ancestors and practiced a bone deep hospitality?  What if we welcomed the Stranger and sought to be in right relationship with others even as we acknowledged the ambiguity of our relationships with others who are neither stranger nor friend, Xenos as the ancient greeks said… what if we STILL welcomed them and showed them Xenia, and STILL sought those right relationships that can bring peace?

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Pagan Family Values…

So in doing some searches to update/make sure that the 2012 event archive was complete, I discovered a couple of posts from 2011 that I had missed adding…

Pagan Family Values by Stacy at Inspired by Life (original blog here, and new domain here)

and

Pagan Family Values? by Anne at Muse Mama

I added them to the 2011 archive, and share them here for your enjoyment and pondering.

You might also enjoy this post by Sarajean at Pagan Journey from July of that year…

Household worship, and the religious care and maintenance of the Family and the familial Gods and Spirits seems to have been a part of every one of our ancestral Pagan cultures.  I remember reading somewhere in my exploration of Hellenismos that one of the challenges presented to worshiping and honoring Hestia and the other Household Gods is that so little was written down about these practices because everyone knew them intimately… so they weren’t written down…

So how do you honor your Ancestors and Gods and Spirits in the every day?  Do you relate at all to the spirits of your hearth and home?  How do you live with the Ancestors in the day-to-day, or do you?  What impact do the Values inspired by your Paganism influence your relations with family and friends?  What are the lessons you teach your children?  How do you live the Values and Virtues and Ethics of your path in your day to day lives at home?

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Valuing our Elders

As part of the 2011 Pagan Values Event, M. Macha NightMare posted a wonderful piece Growing Pagan Elders: An Exploration of  Sustainability.   I just rediscovered the post about it today, on one of my many online groups, and discovered to my distress that it was never added to the archive last year… I’ve added it and by way of apology am highlighting this excellent essay.

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Should we keep our Minds on our Money?

So one of the posts to this years Pagan Values Event was Hecate making some interesting observations and asking some good questions in Money & Pagan Values.  I was reminded of a piece I wrote a number of years ago about Invoking the Power of The Pagan Dollar, and I was equally fascinated in the next few days to find both Diana Rajchel’s deep and courageous exploration of her own relationship with money in her Money Drunk Money Sober series of posts, and Pythia Theocritos of the Daughters of Eve: Pagan Women of Color Speak blog writing the first of what appears to be a series on Pagan Finance: Supporting The Pagan Economy.

There is certainly a stereotype of Pagans as being on the lower end of the economic scale, it is interesting to muse how much of this is self-fulfilling prophecy on our part.  I also find myself wondering of this is across the spectrum of Contemporary Paganism or if different faiths within the movement have different self-images in their relationships with money.

What do you think?  Are we cash poor but spirit rich?  Contemporary Paganism demands a certain level of focus on Spiritual and Religious identity… are many of us cash poor in part because we are still so enmeshed in the overculture’s ideas of a dichotomy between money and spirit?  Or is the stereotype of the poor Pagan just that, a stereotypical image that only has some fun house mirror relation to the reality?

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Edited 6/17/12

Hecate has written some follow up thoughts and advice about money in her Bloomsday Potpourri….

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Edited 6/18/12

The folks over at Faith, Fern & Compass podcast have recently posted an episode on The Green Marketplace, discussing the intersection of economics and the Green movement… with plenty of useful and interesting links…

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The event archive is up and running!! Now feel free to join in!!

Just a brief hello to the many people who have started following the Blogject since RevKess over at The Pagan Musings Podcast was kind enough to invite me to a discussion/interview.  Thank you all for you interest and support of this project!

The event archive is up and running and you can click on the link on the button below the title bar or on the link at the beginning of this sentence. 

I would also like to invite anyone reading this to join in this years event by writing, or commenting on posts you like… you never know where inspiration or even a kind word can take you in your own spiritual journey!

Thank you,

Geoffrey Stewart / Pax

 

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Ethical Eating?

So one of the early contributions to the 2012 Pagan Values Event was from Selina over at Cauldron to Kitchen, who shared the first of her series of posts “Pagan Kosher” from August of last year on our 2012 event FB page.  I was intrigued because last year Jessica from over at Malaise Can Sit, Jeeze! shared a similarly themed post “Eating Gi“.

Another contribution from last year posted in From David Salisbury’s Cauldron, entitled Animal Rights: My Pagan Value is not unrelated to this topic as he discusses the global food industries treatment of animals…

A little poking around the Interwebs also showed that the good folk over at Pagan Blog Prompts did an Ethical Eating prompt back in June of last year; and Lady Lala from the multi-author blog Practical Pagans also wrote about Ethical Eating last year…

Ethical Eating is sort of a catch-all term that can include moral and ethical bases for things from buying/eating Organic and Fair Trade items, to Vegetarianism and Veganism, to engaging in the Slow Food or Localvore movements.

I really don’t have much to say for myself on this topic yet, since most of my food choices are trying to navigate what seems the sometimes competing complexities of eating healthier, and buying what I can actually afford.  But I am trying to learn more about this topic, and figured a post connecting to several posts and resources was in order…

There are a number of very useful resources out there on the topic of Ethical Eating, including a very basic guide from New York Magazine, a list of resources and links on Ethical Eating from the Unitarian Universalist Association, the transcript (because the link to the video sadly does not seem to be working) of a segment on Ethical Eating from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, and an enjoyable post about Ethical Eating from the Aquarian Newspaper

So what do you think of this topic?  How do you engage with the practice of Ethical Eating?

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