Pagan Gratitude and My Thanksgiving Table

This November, Patheos Pagan is observing the Thanksgiving season with a gratitude series. Too often we focus on what we want or wish to change, and not on what we are thankful for. Lots of other great Patheos Pagan writers have contributed to this series, including: Aine Llewellyn, Christine Kraemer, Nimue Brown, and Julian Betkowski.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and by a wide margin. It’s a day of eating and watching football, and all while surrounded by people I love to pieces! What could be better? I also get to cook most of it, and I surprisingly love to cook, all while checking in on the Detroit Lions game. My life has been truly blessed, sort of like my Thanksgiving table, so I thought I would combine the two for this series. I’d love to have all of you over for Turkey Day, but my house just isn’t big enough. Also be sure to check out my most awesome History of Thanksgiving article.

Turkey: I’m sorry to all of my vegetarian and vegan friends out there, but turkey is the main course at our Thanksgiving table (or TV tray). For the last twenty years the main course of my Pagan life has been my relationship with the gods, and that doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon. At first I knew them as simply shadows and archetypes. I called to the Triple Goddess and the Lord of the Sun, but over the years they became less shadowy and more substantial. Now I use their names: I call to Pan, Cernunnos, Ariadne, Aphrodite, Dionysus, and Aradia. They grace my altars and bless my life. My life as a Pagan and a Witch is about experiencing them!

Mashed Potatoes: I love mashed potatoes. I’m sure some of that love is because they make a great vehicle for delivery of gravy, but it’s more than that. Mashed taters stick to your bones, and take up a huge section on my Thanksgiving day plate. Similar to those potatoes is the circle that meets at my house and does ritual with me every two weeks. Those folks are the glue that helps me to experience the gods. I’ve had many fine experiences with the gods on my own, but the best ones have always been with those who practice with me “in perfect love and perfect trust.”

Stuffing with Chicken Sausage: Change is good. For years I simply served a traditional stuffing on Thanksgiving but several years ago I added some crumbled chicken sausage to the mix, and the result was a dish with two flavors that complemented each other perfectly. California is my stuffing with chicken sausage. It has opened up new worlds for Ari (my wife) and I, and I’m grateful for all the friends I’ve made here and all of the opportunities. This blog doesn’t exist without us moving across the country.

Lima Beans: I don’t know why, but my Grandmother served lima beans at holiday meals. You’ll get no complaints from me, I love lima beans (cook ‘em with real butter and then add generous amounts of ground pepper), but I know it’s not typical. My family is a lot like lima beans. A lot of people are probably confused as to why I like them so much, but I do. To come to the family I have today has been a strange journey, but I’m very grateful to the Mankey, Kuchta, and VanOppen clans for it happening. I also love my new Mom, for my Dad the third time truly was the charm.

Chicken and Turkey Gravy: Gravy is an important part of the Thanksgiving meal at my house, so important that I make two bowls of it. The first bowl is a chicken/turkey gravy (I make half of it a day early, and then add a turkey component to it on Thanksgiving day), made spicy with a dash of white pepper and a generous amount of black pepper from the pepper mill. My internet community is my chicken gravy. It adds spice to my life, and makes something that’s already delicious (mashed potatoes or stuffing) even better. My friends online are great to argue and debate with, and they enrich my life by sharing their wisdom, insights, and aggravations. The internet allows me to form friendships with people who lives hundreds of miles, if not a few continents, away. My life is much richer for it. All of you who read this blog and leave comments are my gravy, you’ve made my Pagan journey so much more interesting the last two years. I spend more time making the gravy than anything else on my Thanksgiving table.

Country Gravy: I spent my high school years in Tennessee, and as everyone knows Southerners love their gravy. The South is also big on tradition, and tradition has served me well in my Pagan journey. When I’m pondering a Witchy question I tend to think about how it would be answered by those in the Traditional Craft Community, and that’s usually always the best answer. Traditions work because they are time tested. That doesn’t mean that nothing is ever added to them, just the opposite, but there’s a core there that works. I’m so grateful for the teachers I’ve had in the BTW (British Traditional Witch) Community. It’s a part of my heart (and my plate) and it’s a part of most everything I do.

Green Beans: I used to cook Green Bean Casserole for Thanksgiving, but now I saute fresh green beans in olive oil and sesame seeds before boiling them in chicken broth. It’s delicious, and probably the only semi-healthy thing I eat over Thanksgiving weekend. The last few years I’ve been lucky enough to consume a whole lot of intelligent Pagan books and other writings. I believe that we live in a new golden age of Pagan publishing. Histories are better than ever, there are dozens of great rituals online, and we even have Pagan journalism now! It’s not always the most exciting thing on our plates, but it’s necessary, and often times just as good as anything else.

Cranberry Sauce: Cranberry sauce gets a bad rap, but it shouldn’t. Real cranberry sauce (made with fresh cranberries, orange juice, brown sugar, and other assorted ingredients) is really good. Canned jelly cranberry sauce is not. The words “blog” and “blogging” leave a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Some of the best writers in all of Pagandom are doing it strictly online, and that’s going to become the norm over the next few decades. There will always be a place for books (and rightfully so) but there’s an immediacy that comes with blogging and that’s the way our culture is moving.

On a similar note I’m so grateful that I’ve been allowed the privilege to write alongside so many great wordsmiths at Patheos Pagan. Sure, I’m vain enough that I long on every morning to see how many people have been reading my drivel, but I’m also excited to sign on and see what’s here every day! I’ve been writing here for a year and a half, and I keep waiting for someone to realize they’ve made a huge mistake. The staff at Patheos Central has been great too, and I’ve had my words read by so many more people than I dared dream two years ago.

Pumpkin Pie: I love pumpkin pie, it’s the perfect mix of savory and sweet, and it also contains two very different textures. There’s the flaky crust and then the soft filling, it’s like two treats in one. The Festival/Gathering Community I’ve been privileged to be a part of the last fifteen years is a lot like that. There’s the sweetness of the parties and the whiskey/absinthe and then the savory of workshops, rituals, and new knowledge. Pumpkin pie always reminds me of home and family, festivals are often like going home to see my extended family.

Apple Pie: I could eat pumpkin pie as a side dish on Thanksgiving, the pie that really says “dessert” to me is apple pie. It’s the end to a perfect day, just the right compliment to everything else. My wife not only makes the apple pie on our table, she’s the apple of my eye, and the perfect compliment to about everything I do in my life. None of the rest of this would exist without her.

All right, now I’m hungry.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.

  • Kat Emralde

    This will probably be the best Thanksgiving post I’ll read all season. Thank you.

  • JaneGalt

    I’d like to see how other Pagans say “grace” on Thanksgiving. I’m busy trying to put one together but welcome ideas!

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I’m sure that those who think the gods are only metaphors will point out how I, on this point, have “missed the boat” once again…

    I can’t help but read your post here and, instead of being filled with thankfulness for all of the wonderful things you’ve outlined as far as modern Paganism is concerned, I’m just damn hungry and wanting some of the food you’ve described! So, well done for making an extremely tasty post! :)

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      You missed the gravy boat. ;)