If you want to rename Thanksgiving, how about Jupiter’s Feast Day?
America’s Turkey Day has deeper roots in pagan tradition than you may realize
As I was laying in bed this morning, contemplating the cooking ahead, my smart speaker read the expected Thanksgiving-themed stories, including one on the politics of the name “Thanksgiving.”
Of course, the Thanksgiving mythos is complex. Even today, school-kid textbooks gloss over the twin genocide’s upon which the United States was built: the Native American conquest and the African Slave Trade. As a nation, we’ve still got a lot of soul searching to do.
But, current affairs aside, this morning’s story made me want to do a little of my own research…
American Thanksgiving, of course, is just one of a long line of traditional harvest festivals. It doesn’t seem to matter where in the world you come from, humans are naturally happy and celebratory when we bring in our crops. It’s a time of feasting before we prepare for the winter to come.
But these festivals are usually tied to the end of the growing season; in the colonial Americas, this was around the beginning of October. So that’s the time of year we’d traditionally celebrate. (And still is. In Canada.)
America’s Official Harvest Festival
So, how did the officially designated U.S. Thanksgiving end up so late, and why always on a Thursday?
I looked up Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation that recognized the final Thursday of November as a federal holiday:
“I … invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Okay… but that still doesn’t really answer the question. I mean, why not pick the second Tuesday of November?
A Google search didn’t yield much other than a reference to Lincoln’s proclamation. But eventually I stumbled across an article in the Old Farmer’s Almanac:
“It may be that Thursday became tradition in order to distance the event from the Sabbath day among the Puritan colonists. Thursday was also a typical day for lectures in New England, with ministers giving a religious talk each Thursday afternoon. This practice may have contributed to the Thursday Thanksgiving tradition. Since George Washington’s time, Thursday has been the day[.]”
Now I wish I had more time to do some research, because the astrologer in me suspects everyone’s missing the obvious:
Thursday is Jupiter’s day! There are seven days of the week, because there are seven visible planet. Each day is named after one of the planets, which gave the classical pagans an easy way to know which deity to honor each day.
And, during the final Thursday in November (or even the fourth Thursday, as the modern Thanksgiving is), the Sun is always in the tropical Zodiac sign Sagittarius. Sagittarius, of course, is ruled by Jupiter.
That’s a double dose of Jupiter vibe on America’s day of Thanksgiving.
Jupiter’s Feast Day
The name Jupiter is a Latinized version of dues-pater, which translates as sky-father, or god-father. In astrology, he’s called the Greater Benefic, a god of wealth, abundance and gratitude.
In other words, Jupiter is the original template for the benefic sky-god to which Lincoln dedicated his “day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Still doubting? Then consider this, our image of a Thanksgiving Cornucopia is another ancient symbol of Jupiter. The “horn of plenty” was a gift bestowed by Jupiter to those who cared for him. It’s the perfect symbol of giving generously to those in need during the Thanksgiving season.
Jupiter’s color in Indian astrology is saffron yellow. His favorite herbs are the aromatic scents that fill our holiday kitchens — things like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, sage, chestnut and maple. Anything spiced with these makes a fitting offering Jupiter’s table.
Even those New England ministers giving religious lectures on Thursdays were tapping into the spirit of Jupiter — also known astrologically for his affinity for religious and philosophical reflections. Praise, prayer and Jupiter go hand-in-clasped-hand.
Really anything that can help us feel uplifted and united with something larger than ourselves is Jupiter’s domain.
So, consider this during your own jovial holiday feasting — there’s cosmic significance hiding in the heart our Turkey-day traditions.
And, if you need a way to divert a dinner-table political debate, now you’re prepared to point out that Thanksgiving is really a pagan feast day in honor or Jupiter.
Just saying. There’s always more than one perspective. Truth is complex, too.