In the United States, this is the time of the Thanksgiving holiday (Canada has theirs in October and Australia will be having theirs in May). Christians (and most Americans) use this time to thank their god for all the blessings that they have received while they eat a huge turkey and carbohydrate meal, complete with cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. And let's not forget that half of the folks at that first Thanksgiving in 1620 were Pagan Native Americans! We modern Pagans celebrate with great abandon, thanking the Earth Mother and Land Spirits for the blessings of food and family, of plenty, and cherished loved-ones, eating just as much as everyone else. And then there's American football!
And despite these difficult economic times we do have plenty to be thankful for. Most of us have enough to eat, and if we don't have jobs at the moment the governmental social safety net is still in place. We have our families and our Grove families, our e-mail list friends, our religious practices, and our gods. And we find joy and peace in our lives.
This time of year reminds me of the Gaelic story of Eochaid Bres, "Bres the Beautiful". During the devastating First Battle of Moytura, Nuada, the king of the Tuatha Dé (Tribe of the Gods), lost his hand in combat, and since he was no longer perfect, he could no longer be king. The folks settled on Bres to be their new king - he had knowledge of agriculture (something the Tuatha Dé lacked) and being half Tuatha and half Fomoire, he might be able to bridge the differences between the two peoples.
But Bres turned out to be stingy and unwilling to share - he forced the gods to perform hard labor, and when they went to his house, "their knives were not greased and their breaths did not smell of ale." A terrible state of affairs, to be sure.
Only through a hand replacement, a satire, a new champion, and another fierce and bloody battle would things be put right. And in the end, Bres traded the secrets of the seeds to Lugh in return for his life, giving Ireland the blessings of plow and harvest.
So even when times are rough we can laugh and celebrate. When we need to fight for what is right and just, our knowledge and wisdom will go a long way in aiding us. And if we keep focused and determined, strengthen our divine relationships, and hold our dear ones close to us, we will find joy and peace in both the best and worst of times.
And these are blessings, indeed!
Rev. Kirk Thomas