Pagan, Paganism, Public Speaking, Unitarian Universalist, UU

Speaking of Thanksgiving with the UUs

Today, my ADF (adf.org) friends and I spoke at our local Unitarian Universalist congregation. We were asked several weeks ago to speak on the subject of Thanksgiving from a Pagan (for me) and Druid (for them) perspective. I was included in this because, while I am not a member of ADF, I do attend the weekly meetings and I am considered part of the group. I really enjoyed the experience, despite nearly setting the building on fire in my nervousness (long story–okay, not really, but embarrassing story), and I would be happy to do so again. Following is the short speech that was my contribution.

“In our Druidry, we have learned to view the Deities as real persons—independent, freely acting individuals of great wisdom and mighty magic.”

These words are written in the essay “The Case for Choosing a Pantheon,” by Ian Corrigan, longtime member and former Archdruid of ADF. He speaks of a notion of deity that, in Pagan circles, is known as “hard polytheism.” The gods are real, they are not archetypes. They are individual people, with individual desires and agendas.

As such, when we engage in relationships with them, they should be approached as one would any relationship. No matter what kind of relationship we’re in—be it familial, platonic, romantic, or an uncountable number of variations—there’s always a bit of give and take. Reciprocity.

When it came to writing something for today, I had some trouble trying to figure out how to go about it, what to talk about; for one thing, I’m not a member of ADF myself.

I’m just some random Pagan who attended a Yule ritual a couple of years ago, and they put up with me and let me attend their rituals. They also let me babble about pop culture while they’re trying to have serious conversations about Celtic lore and anthropological discoveries. I really appreciate it, and enjoy my time with them.

And see, the other thing is, it’s a little difficult to speak about Thanksgiving in conjunction with ADF, or from a Pagan perspective, because one, Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, and two, those of us for whom deity-worship is a central part of our Paganism tend to give thanks to the gods on a routine basis. It is, or should be, part of our regular practice, whether daily, weekly, monthly, or whenever we feel compelled to do so, usually some combination thereof.

We’re Pagan, but we’re also humans, and if I’m going to be honest, we don’t always do as we should. Altars go untended for a while, we get busy with the day-to-day of living, and sometimes we just don’t feel up to it.

They say it takes three weeks to make a new habit; in reality, things are a bit more complicated, and depends on the person. I can say that for me, personally, it took a while to really get into the swing of daily prayers, but now I say a prayer when I wake up in the morning, and when I go to bed at night. Included in these prayers are the words “I thank and honor you.”

Just that. Just, “I thank and honor you.” I don’t go into detail with the gods for my daily prayers, because the things I’m thankful for don’t change often, they are the seemingly small things that are actually much bigger and more important than we think.

When I say, “I thank and honor you,” I’m saying:

“I thank you for being here, and for listening.

I thank you for the opportunities I have had to make my life better, even the ones I didn’t take.

I thank you for my friends, who are the family I choose for myself.

I thank you for the family I didn’t choose, and the challenges they represent.

I thank you that I am here, for my life, which having, I have the power to change.”

There’s more, a thousand tiny bits of gratefulness that are the sum of me, the person I have been, the person I am, and who I can be.

It took almost as long for me to decide how to end this as it did for me to decide how to begin. I didn’t want to end by asking all of you to wonder and remember what you’re grateful for, because I wouldn’t be the first person to ask that question.

So here is how I will leave you:

Being thankful, this is what it means to be Pagan; in truth, this is what it means to be a spiritual person. Gratitude to the Divine of our choice is what brings us together here, what binds us. For some, that difference is insurmountable. Here, in this place, today and every day we gather together, we show that it doesn’t matter to Whom we are grateful, so long as we are grateful.

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