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Author Topic: Of Samhain and Thanksgiving  (Read 1548 times)

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Eternal Seeker

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Of Samhain and Thanksgiving
« on: August 29, 2009, 10:39:09 PM »

I wrote this in my public UU blog, explaining to my fellow UUs why I was a Pagan.

Why does someone with solid nerd-cred (I still own and still occasionally use a slide rule, complete with leather sheath) follow an Earth centered religion, celebrate Earth centered holidays? Because I came to learn that there are eternal verities we are missing by being so separated from nature, and lessons we can learn from the holidays associated with it.

We know Thanksgiving as a secular (or at least non-denominational) harvest festival, and rarely think deeper than that. We get it that the summer’s hard labor is over, and there’s a ton of fresh food to party down with, and yes, they’d want to give thanks for the bounty. But did it ever occur to you that for most of mankind’s existence, it wasn’t until that final harvest and accounting that he knew for sure he’d live ‘til spring? A bad crop, and he’d have to slaughter his animals; a worse crop and... did you ever wonder what kind of stupid, fanatic zealot would volunteer to be a human sacrifice? Look deep into your children’s eyes tonight, and say to yourself, “We’ll never make it through winter- there just isn’t enough. But if I died tonight, these two could make it to Spring...” Feeling like a stupid, fanatic zealot yet?

So, are you giving thanks that those days are gone? Don’t. Yes, it’s been centuries since there was a truly major rust or blight epidemic; but then it had been centuries since the black Death when AIDS struck. Ask a botanist; while unlikely, it’s not impossible that an entire continent could lose a crop. The Wicker Man might yet return- and if he doesn’t, it’s important to remember why he was ever here.

Then Thanksgiving will be closely followed by Yule. Ok, we get it; despite all the promises of his Gods, early man didn’t know, really know that Spring would return until the solstice passed and the days started getting longer again. Of course, he didn’t understand Celestial mechanics; today we can predict Spring to the very hour; we don’t need God’s promises or the evidence of the longer days.

Or do we? The Sun is a raging nuclear inferno, and we need every erg it’s pumping out to maintain our steady seasons. One microscopic fraction of one percent of reduction in that output and we have another Ice Age. We don’t have the interior of the Sun mapped out, we cannot predict exactly what it will do at any given moment... it’s well within the realm of possibility that even as I write this, a shift is occurring deep inside the Sun, and Spring will never come next year. We need just as much faith today to believe that Spring will come as our ancestors did; the only difference is that modern man places his faith in science instead of Mithras- usually without realizing that science, in this case, deals only with probabilities, not certainties...

Now do you get why a nerd would follow an Earth centered religion? By studying nature’s rhythms, I regain my humanity; by studying my ancestors’ mythologies, I understand my own. When I understand how much I have in common with a malnourished primitive in a mud hut, I understand how much I have in common with all men, everywhere today.

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