Thanks Giving

Thanks Giving

By Donna Henes, Urban Shaman

At the close of the growing season in Autumn, people, like squirrels,
like ants, like bees, get busy gathering the great bounty of the land.
We forage and harvest, hunt and herd; industriously amassing the
abundance proffered by the earth, water, and sky. After the toil,
the patient tending of the soil, the months of work and worry, we
are ready and relieved to collect the crop and the kill.

Hi hianai hu!
Here on my field
Corn comes forth,
My child takes it and runs,

Here on my field
Squash comes forth.
My wife takes it and runs,

Papago Song of the Corn Dance

We set about preparing it, preserving it, salting it, saving it,
packing it away for future use, making feverish haste in the
race against the coming cold. But, first, before we store it,
horde it for the hard times ahead, we take the time to glory
in its goodness. With grateful prayers of thanksgiving we
acknowledge our precious fortune, and gorge ourselves and
the god/desses, too, with fabulous feasts of plenty.

Harvest festivals are pandemic. They represent the successful
completion of another fertile cycle. Another season of life and
growth come full circle. Another round. In agricultural societies
the annual cycles are counted from sowing to scything. The
cycle from birth to slaughter is followed by the keepers and
stalkers of stock and game. And the season starting with
the spawning and culminating in the running of the salmon,
the cod, the squid, the whale, is observed by those who fish
to live.

Ultimately, all harvest festivities celebrate one more season
of our tenuous survival. We have managed to live through
another year. Another fertile period has passed in our favor.
We have been lucky. One way or another, we will have the
wherewithal to sustain ourselves through another winter,
another dry spell, another monsoon, yet another tricky test
of time.

Our own familiar fall festival of Thanksgiving is an amalgam
of Old and New World harvest celebrations. The pilgrims
brought the Harvest Home Festivals of the Ingathering from
England with them. And very little else. By the time the
Mayflower landed in Massachusetts in December of 1620, all
of their supplies had been depleted at sea. They had little left
with which to survive the first winter.

Indeed, by spring, only 55 of the original 102 settlers were
still alive. And they had no seeds to plant. It was only
through the generous sponsorship of the indigenous
Wampanoag people that they would establish a foothold and
ultimately thrive. Thrive and spread like the native vines,
sending out endless shoots of sticky tendrils that strangled
everything they touched.

The locals introduced the colonists to the domestic foods of
Turtle Island (a common original name for the Western
Hemisphere) and taught them cultivation techniques. By
the following Fall, the pilgrims’ first crops of corn, squash,
and pumpkins were planted, tended, and harvested
successfully. A major celebration was called for. So the
Indian hosts were invited as guests and ninety attended,
joining the fifty-some whites.

Abundant stores of cranberries and oysters were collected,
countless deer and turkey shot. Four English women and
two teenage girls did all the cooking for the giant banquet.
As in the Harvest Home tradition and also that of the great
Autumn Green Corn Festivals celebrated by the agricultural
tribes of the North, southeast, and southwest of Turtle
Island, they sat down together to eat in fellowship and true

Games were played. Corn was popped. Arms were displayed.
The rest is history.

I liked the whites
I liked the whites

I gave them fruits
I gave them fruits

I am crying for thirst
I am crying for thirst

All is gone –
I Have nothing to eat.

Arapaho Ghost Dance Song

We, too. We have nothing to eat. It is autumn and we
haven’t put anything away safe for our own survival. We
hunger and thirst for the spirit of reverence and respect
for the world that sustains us. But in our push for ascendancy,
for power, for dominance – over the land, over each other,
over the odds, over Mother Nature Herself – we have
poisoned our providence and sullied the source of our own
livelihood. Our very ability to live at all.

And what of our children? Our grandchildren. The great
grandchildren of us all? What have we saved for them?

The conservative infatuation with the restoration of
family values – albeit singularly shallow and dangerously
narrow minded and myopic – has certainly risen to reflect
a profoundly felt human desire for a realigned awareness
and reconnection with those things in life that really matter.
This Thanksgiving let us remember that we are part of the
potentially functional family of humanity. Kin, clan,
mishpocheh, Mitakuye Oyasin, to all the inhabitants of the

For this, let us be thankful.

xxMama Donna

Donna Henes is an internationally renowned urban shaman,
eco-ceremonialist, award-winning author, popular speaker
and workshop leader whose joyful celebrations of celestial
events have introduced ancient traditional rituals and
contemporary ceremonies to millions of people in more than
100 cities since 1972. She has published four books, a CD,
an acclaimed quarterly journal and writes a column for UPI
(United Press International) Religion and Spirituality Forum.
Mama Donna, as she is affectionately called, maintains a
ceremonial center, spirit shop, ritual practice and consultancy
in Exotic Brooklyn, NY where she works with individuals, groups,
institutions, municipalities and corporations to create meaningful
ceremonies for every imaginable occasion.

For information about upcoming events and services contact:

Mama Donna’s Tea Garden & Healing Haven
PO Box 380403 
Exotic Brooklyn, New York, NY 11238-0403
Phone: 718/857-1343
Email: [email protected]

Read her blog at:

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