Friday, November 25, 2011
Deconstructing the Feast
Yesterday was a big ritual, a personal taboo breaker, a healing. The day was a complete and total success. The food was good, the guests were lovely, the music was just right. You can plan forever but when the time comes, you never know if a dinner party is going to plotz or soar. Don't ask me to explain why - I have no idea. Believe me, I've thought about it a lot.
I planned and co-priestessed many a ritual during my years with Reclaiming. Some worked, others were total disasters, even with the same basic structure. Some of the rituals were huge, like the Spiral Dance with its 1500 participants. Some were smaller, around 300 or so, and others were very small - 20-30 people. What I'm saying is, I have ritual planning creds.
Yesterday we feasted, toasted, laughed, listened to music, traded stories. Afterwards everyone pitched in with good humor. We cleaned the kitchen in seconds flat, or so it seemed. Later I sent everyone home with a plate of leftovers, including enough for my own dinner tonight. The ritual went very well indeed. I keep saying "ritual" because it is - it really is. Google "feast days." Humans have been gathering for harvest feasts forever!
Thanksgiving, even in spite of its wild expansive energy, arises from a rather elegant ritual structure. The structure is practical as well as superstitious. In assembling the meal, I had to re-stock my larder with flours, oils, spices, sugars and other staples. What a great thing to do just before winter sets in! The fact that the feast must always yield leftovers is a sacred drama of abundance, a way of sending out to the universe a wish to remain well fed during the dark quarter of the year.
In all prayer we ask but also say thank you. I realized this morning that Black Friday is the second part of the prosperity ritual. We've taken it out to extremes, as we Americans do, but the idea - to go forth and make offerings - is exactly perfect in terms of ritual form. Gifts, i.e. love and generosity in physical form, are offerings to the divine, always. Gift shopping the day after a big feast is so right!
One of my guests cut her finger (small cut) while carving the turkey, hence she inadvertently made an offering to the spirit of the animal (in many cultures blood is shed as a sacrifice after a successful hunt). My goodness we are all shamans. You can't make this stuff up!
One of my great teachers used to say that we set a particular energy into motion whenever we gather with a shared intention. Once that energy is in motion, it's our job to dance in alignment with it, go with the flow.
In a few minutes I'm going to head out to walk off yesterday's feast, take pictures, and enjoy this sparkling clear, crisp day. My goal is to buy at least one Christmas gift, probably from one of the Smithsonian stores. In that way I will have completed the elegant, oversized ritual of prosperity we call Thanksgiving. So may it be!