Goddess Cards

Thanksgiving & Harvest Celebrations


On Thursday, November 26th, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving. Families will gather, and feasts, including turkey and pumpkin pie, will be eaten. Some may go to church. Some may even think back to the first U.S. Thanksgiving, celebrated in New Plymouth, Massachusetts in November of 1621. The fifty-three survivors of the one hundred two passengers who had set sail from Plymouth, England, aboard the Mayflower, in search of religious freedom, adventure, and profit, in the New World, offered thanks that they were still alive.

Of the eighteen women who embarked on that grueling two-month journey, fourteen died during their first brutal winter ashore. Only four remained to prepare that first Thanksgiving dinner for the forty-nine surviving men and children.

Added to their catering challenge were ninety Native American guests, led by Chief Massasoit. The natives generously contributed five deer to the feast of waterfowls, wild turkeys, and fish, provided by the thankful colonists.

That three-day celebration was an affirmation of Life! The Pilgrims were grateful both for survival, and for their first successful harvest.  The harvest of 1621 gave them hope and the promise of future survival. That reminds us of countless earlier pre-Christian Harvest celebrations.

The Pilgrim Fathers were obviously not the first to suffer deprivation, disease, and starvation. Our Pagan ancestors knew well what it cost to survive a bitter winter. That is why, in Greek mythology, the goddess Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest, was one of the most beloved of the Olympians.


The Greeks loved her, not just because she showered them with abundance from on high, but also because they credited her with teaching them how to grow, preserve and prepare grain. Demeter’s promotion of the cultivation of the Earth to provide agricultural sustenance meant that her followers could progress from being nomadic hunter-gatherers, to becoming settled villagers and townspeople, whose harvests could sustain life through the cruelest winter. Even when game was scarce. Furthermore, she walked among them. She loved, and shared in their life.

It was for that, above all else, that they worshipped her.

The great story of her love for her abducted daughter, Persephone, and her relentless search for her, also endeared her to the people. They identified with her feelings of loss and despair. And while they suffered terribly when, in deep depression, she withdrew her care for the world, they understood her grief. Their petitions to Zeus, King of the Gods, for Persephone’s return, helped bring about the restoration of Demeter’s lost child for spring, summer and fall.  (She would still have to return to the Underworld to spend winter with her abductor and husband, Hades.)

Still, it was enough to guarantee a fine harvest. And that was all the excuse they needed for a great Harvest Festival!

Such festivals occur and have occurred at harvest time in every part of the world, throughout history – though dates vary according to the time of their harvest. Many customs and traditions have sprung up that reflected the culture of their people.

Our Celtic ancestors created corn dollies by plaiting wheat stalks to create a straw figure that was kept until spring. This was done in order to keep the spirit of the corn alive for next year’s crop. In spring, the dolly would be ploughed back into the soil to ensure an abundant harvest.

In Egypt, the spring harvest festival was dedicated to Min, the god of vegetation and fertility. When Egyptian farmers harvested their corn, they wept, to fool the spirits they believed lived in the corn into thinking that they were grieving – so they wouldn’t take revenge on the pickers.

The African people hold festivals at harvest time. In some parts of Africa, good grain harvests are cause for celebration. But the tribes of West Africa celebrate the yam harvest with a Yam Festival, held in August at the end of the rainy season.  Yams, songs and dances are offered to the ancestors and the gods.

In Alaska each fall, after the end of salmon fishing and the berry harvest, people hold a series of festivals with feasting, dances and songs addressed to the spirits who help them, and to the souls of animals on whom their lives depend.

Across Britain, Canada and the USA, churches still celebrate harvest festivals after the wheat has been cut and fruits and vegetables picked. Churches are decorated in flowers and greenery. Fresh produce is displayed, with a loaf of bread in the middle, symbolizing the bountiful harvest. Food collections are taken up for the poor, so that they too may share in the bounty of Harvest.

And so it goes. People across the world, in every time and place, have given thanks for Earth’s bounty that sustains them. That statement is particularly true of farmers, and of those agrarian cultures that still live close to Nature, and to the bone.

For those of us who live now in great cities where food appears magically in supermarkets, and where abundance is so common that we take it for granted, it is hard to imagine the profound relief and gratitude that our forefathers felt for a harvest that might guarantee them another year of life.

But on Thanksgiving Day, it is good to remember that abundance is a blessing that should never be taken for granted. We should always approach it with grateful hearts.

In 1844, 223 years after the celebration in New Plymouth, Henry Alford wrote the lyrics to a hymn by Sir George J. Elvey, the organist at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle for nearly 50 years. Come Ye Thankful People Come has become one of the most beloved of all Thanksgiving hymns.

Our Pilgrim Fathers, the ancient Greeks and Celts, Africans, Alaskans, and Egyptians, would all have recognized the sentiments it expresses:

Come ye thankful people come,

Raise the song of harvest home!

All is safely gathered in,

Ere the winter storms begin;

God our Maker, doth provide

For our wants to be supplied:

Come to God’s own temple, come,

Raise the song of harvest home.

Harvest blessings to all. Happy Thanksgiving!

Anne Baird, Designer/Owner of GODDESS CARDS, is a self-taught artist who has been painting and writing since childhood. Her chosen media for her unique line of greeting cards is watercolor, with touches of gouache, ink and colored pencil.

Her GODDESS CARD line grew from a birthday card she created for her daughter, Amanda, in 2001. Amanda was disheartened at being a curvaceous beauty in the Land of Thin. (Los Angeles.) That seminal card declaring, “You’re a GODDESS, not a nymph!” evolved into a long line of love notes and affirmations for ALL women. At over 125 cards, the line is steadily growing.

Anne is inspired by the archetypal Legendary Goddesses, who have so much to teach today’s women. Her greatest inspiration however, comes from the Goddesses of Today, who write her with wonderful suggestions and thoughts that expand her consciousness and card line.

She has launched  an E-Goddess Card website, where the Goddess on the Go can send Goddess “e-cards”, enriched with music and stories, at the click of a mouse. (A virtual mouse.)