Sunday, November 10, 2013

Being Thankful for What’s on the Inside

 November has arrived and with it the season of Thanksgiving. Cultures around the world recognize and celebrate the harvest reconnecting them to ancient ways. In the United States the connection of Thanksgiving to the harvest festivals of old is not taught as part of the history and meaning of the holiday celebration. This is not surprising in a culture dominated by a religious group that strives to disconnect itself from anything that existed prior to its inception outside the history recorded in its holy text. I was taught that as an American I was to give thanks on this day in honor of the pilgrims befriending the Native Americans at Plymouth Rock and receiving their aid in surviving the harsh winter. The only connection to celebrating the harvest was the poorly documented history of a feast celebration. I found the celebration left a bad taste in my mouth as I got older. I disliked celebrating this feast because of the resulting devastation of the Native Americans at the hands of the immigrating people from across the pond. It took me many years in my pagan path to realize that Thanksgiving was a twist of the harvest festivals I celebrated as Lughnasadh, Mabon, and Samhain. So here we are in the throngs of yet another harvest festival yet this time we also find ourselves in the midst of windershin spiraling. We have celebrated the grain harvest. We have celebrated the fruit harvest. And we have celebrated the livestock and soul harvest. So what are we to celebrate now?
We are taught that this celebration calls for us to be thankful for all that we have. As a pagan, I have celebrated my thankfulness for all that I have in my life three times over now. I learned that in conjunction to celebrating the grains, fruits, and meats each of the harvest festivals is a time to list all the things I am thankful for in my life and honor the blessings bestowed upon me by the gods. So as I watch the thanksgiving parade of Facebook posts each day describing one thing each of my family and friends are thankful for I find myself thinking I’ve already shown the gods my thankfulness for these things; family, extended family, friends, job, pets, health, home, etc. My list got longer and longer with each harvest festival but now at Thanksgiving I seem to have run out of things to give thanks for. That is when I realized I was working against the spin of universal energy. I noticed many of the posts and nearly all of the things on my list were external and I needed to be internally focused.

During this time of year, many pagans turn to self-reflection and shadow work. My shadow work, like many others I have talked with, involved looking within for negative aspects so that we may work on them in order to learn and grow. But I conjecture that not all shadow work must flow in this frightening manner.  A positive, thankful spin can help in addressing our shadows and keep us in the holiday spirit. This is also a great way to begin one’s shadow work for the winter months and show our thankfulness to the gods for their teachings over the previous year.  

In recent years I have begun to review my personal journal and think back to all things that I didn’t record. Like many, I start the year out making daily entries but within a few months those entries get further and further spread out. I look for situations that I either recorded something about myself that I learned or situations that now looking back I realize I could have reacted differently. I make a list of all the lessons about myself I have learned over the past year. Some of the things this year include not reacting in anger to someone else’s anger, state my beliefs and opinions in conversation in a manner that is not argumentative as if trying to force others to believe as I do, and do not give ultimatums I am not willing to live up to. These are but a few. Some of the lessons have appeared on previous years’ lists. Some of them may show up on next year’s list. I take note of lessons that repeat and those that do not. This year I plan to incorporate a small personal ritual. I will cast a circle and call to the gods. Light a pink candle for self love and acceptance, and a black candle for banishing. In the cauldron I shall burn incense made of 3 parts Frankincense, 2 parts Myrrh, and 1 part each of Mugwort, Rosemary, and Bay. I will have on my altar several slips of paper, a new journal, and a writing instrument. I will begin by lighting the candles, which will be anointed with my personal power oil and charged for their purpose. Next, I will write each lesson I have learned on a slip of paper; something like, “I reacted with violence when emotionally threatened.” The next step is to thank the gods for helping me to recognize and learn from this lesson. I will then banish my old habit by lighting it in the flame of the black candle and announce, “I banish my fault of violent reaction.” And throw it in to the cauldron to burn away. I follow this by focusing on the pink candle and allowing myself to recognize that I have learned and grown from the experience. I will thank the gods for my growth. Next, I will write in my new journal what I have learned, “I am thankful I have learned to think before I act especially when threatened emotionally.” I will continue in this manner with each lesson on my list. When I am finished I will again thank the gods and ask them to help me remember these lessons I have learned and to not make the same mistakes again. Of course this means that the gods may give me opportunities to show what I have learned. And I hope I live up to the experiences. I will ask the gods to bless my new journal. And lastly, I will dismiss the gods and close the circle.

One lesson that always seems to make my list is the poor recording of my experiences. The gods have given me an opportunity to begin anew this year by inspiring me and gifting me with the pleasure and honor of being a part of this blog. I do hope that in the coming years this lesson will be learned.

I thank you for your time in reading my article and hope that at least some of you have found it informative and inspirational.

Blessed Be.

Kevin Red Patrick
Kevin Red Patrick is a seeker at Temple of the Sacred Gift – ATC. Raised in Memphis, TN, and educated at the University of Mississippi. His pagan path began at the age of thirteen after understanding that his views of life, spirituality, and sexuality did not align with his Christian upbringing. He has followed an eclectic Wiccan path with strong Celtic influences for twenty-two years. Divine direction led him to TSG-ATC in December of 2012, where he is now receiving formal training with aspirations of becoming clergy. He now lives in Southaven, MS with his partner of thirteen years and two dogs.

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