Thursday, November 22, 2012
Feast and be grateful
The masseter is the strongest muscle in your body - well, except your heart which, though technically a muscle, is a completely different kind of tissue. When the masseter contracts, your jaw closes. Sometimes your jaw snaps shut with incredible force. If not for the masseter we could not bite, and if we can't bite, we die.
I'm thinking about this magnificent muscle on the American harvest feast day we call Thanksgiving, not that the masseter has to work overtime on T-day. Most traditional Thanksgiving foods are very soft and easy to chew. You could practically eat Thanksgiving dinner without teeth. But you still need your masseter.
I'm not here to deliver a big lecture about the hazards of overeating, overdrinking, and/or getting into a screaming fight with the family member of your choice.
Thanksgiving is a pagan ritual of abundance, a sacred drama in which we act out our deepest hopes that we will be well fed throughout what was, once upon a time, a long, cold, dark winter.
The ritual requires a sacrificial animal, of course. We roast it and then display it proudly before feasting on it. There's a whole thing about placing the turkey on the platter and adorning it, before carving it, then displaying it so the dinner guests can oooo and ahhhh at the perfectly roasted bird. There is also a thing around who carves the turkey. It is an important role in the ritual. I swear the Romans could not have designed this ritual any better than we have. It is so pagan.
For the best results in rituals of this sort, as a participant, you're supposed to overeat and drink too much. There should be too many people, too much food, too much drink. There must be some period of chaos in the putting together of the ritual foods, to stir the energy and capture the attention of the gods. There should be a huge mess afterwards, evidence of the sincere devotion of the participants. It's a ritual of abundance; hence the too much factor should apply universally.
We gather with our blood clan, or adopted clan, or both. Initially it's a pleasure to bring everybody together. As the festival days wear on, tempers begin to flare and fights inevitably break out. Rituals need energy in order to work. The crankiness, shouting, crying as well as the laughing and joking, adds to the energy of the spell which is not complete until the last of the leftovers have either been consumed or relegated to the compost pile.
Some choose to eat way too much, until they are in pain. Others will eschew the rules of abundance, and pick at their food. Each must choose according to his/her values and sense of what's proper. Most will eat just a little too much, in accordance with the Tao of Goldilocks. By being slightly overfull as the result of our feast, we show the gods we wish to be well fed all winter. May it be so!
When I say everyone is a shaman, I am not being facetious. Everyone really is a shaman today in the U.S., enacting a sacred drama of the harvest.
May we never hunger. May we never thirst. Shalom.
The sacrifice, elegantly presented.