The Original Day of Thanksgiving

By C. Marguerite Hafeman © 2005-08

One of the most cherished American tales concerns the trials of the Pilgrims during their first years of settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts. The first winter was devastating; less than 50 of the original 110 passengers and crew aboard the Mayflower survived. That next growing season was bountiful, thanks to the friendly efforts of an Abnaki Indian named Samoset, and his friend Squanto who had learned English by taking trips with fishing boats to England and Spain. The Pilgrims would not have survived if not for Squanto; it was he who taught the settlers how to tap maple trees for syrup, showed which plants were poisonous and which had medicinal value. He also patiently demonstrated how to plant native crops and make them thrive.

The October harvest was very successful, with enough food to put away for the winter. The next year brought mixed results, as the Pilgrims still had much to learn about survival in the new land. The third year was marked by hot weather and drought. Plymouth Governor William Bradford ordered a day of fasting and prayer, and soon afterwards the rains came. In honor of this omen, November 29th of that year was proclaimed a day of thanksgiving, and is thought to be the true beginning of the present holiday. By the Gregorian calendar this day would fall on December 9, 1623. Perhaps a mundane horoscope cast for Plymouth, Mass. for noon on the day in question can shed some light on the spirit of the colonizing group, and their interactions with the friendly Indians who made survival possible in the new world.

Mystical, idealistic Pisces rules on the Ascendant, ringing in a keynote for the people as sacrificing and otherworldly oriented; the angular Pisces-Virgo axis in general is expressive of an innate Judaeo-Christian social orientation. A zealous but emotionally capricious Mars in Pisces sits at 7° Pisces 28’ in the twelfth house of hidden agendas and secret enmity, hard by the Ascendant and opposing the Descendant of Partners. The Pilgrims were being generously served by the native people, but did they see the Indians as saviors or as a resource to exploit when the time was right to impose their own culture and value system? Note that in this chart Mars rules the ninth house of organized religion, the law and interactions with foreign cultures.

Wounded healer Chiron sits immediately on the other side of the Ascendant with Mars in applying conjunction, aptly symbolizing a band of individuals who would have an unestablished sense of self-identity (Chiron, Pisces in the first house), who felt persecuted for their righteous lifestyle and religious beliefs, but were also energized as spiritual warriors in the fight against frivolity and barbarism. Chiron sextiles Pluto, squares a high-minded, independent Venus-Sun conjunction in Sagittarius near the Midheaven and trines a deeply emotional, nurturing Cancer Moon. This combination suggests leaders ambitious to impose certain dogmatic values upon their flock, coupled with a heartfelt desire from the people to creatively grow and prosper in their new surroundings.

An upsetting Saturn-Uranus conjunction sits in the mundane sixth house of work, food, militia and general health of the populous. In an immediate sense, the conjunction illustrates the unexpected upsets (Uranus), hard work and obstacles (Saturn) faced by the new settlers in attempting to tame the alien environment and impose their superior sense of entitlement (Leo) in taking what they wanted as civilized white men. This conjunction is part of a grand trine in fire, with an Aries South Node and the Sagittarian Midheaven-Venus-Sun combination. This aspect pattern could show great spiritual inspiration, however it would also imply a dogmatic tendency to take it for granted that God was on one’s side. Jupiter in Virgo also in this house is traditional ruler the Ascendant, suggesting that the founding fathers’ own religious preoccupations, coupled with uncompromising and opportunistic attitudes would come to present a series of unresolved problems (sixth house) for the people at large in the future.

In a mundane chart, the Moon’s Nodes can represent influences of the past and the path of future growth for a culture in general. In this case, Aries ruling the second house of making money and the South Node of the past indicates a militant heritage, a people who in the main were used to taking initiative, pushing aggressively out into unknown territory, not hesitating to conquer by force in order to get what they wanted. Opposing is the North Node of future path of growth in the seventh house of partners and open enemies, conjunct an idealistic Neptune in the eighth house of ancestral inheritance and other peoples’ resources; both abide in diplomatic, socially adept Libra.

Neptune in the eighth house can signify paranoia; one easily projects the shadow instead of accepting responsibility for one's own need to exercise power over others. Neptune can also represents a contact with the divine that comes from the heart and has little to do with the trappings of organized religion. Might not the call of destiny for America include learning true tolerance for all faiths, races and classes under one brotherhood of man?

Neptune also rules the first house of essential identity (nothing is as it seems), squares the Moon (the desires of the people interfering with their true path of social evolution) and sextiles Uranus and Venus-Sun (very gung-ho for social reform and the spreading of Puritan dogma to foreign lands). The exuberant Venus and Sun sits in harmonious aspect to the Nodes; perhaps at this point in time Pilgrim values were sincerely in tune with the higher potentials inherent to the Nodal position. Venus-Sun in this sign and house position can also signify the Indians and their amazing generosity in teaching the newcomers how to survive in the New World.

Asteroid Ceres, associated with nurturing, food crops and the cycles of nature in general, sits in the tenth house of executive authority, trine Jupiter; on this day the hard-won fruits of labor are officially honored and enjoyed by the people at large. The mundane Sun is supposed to represent the essential focus of national identity for the people. Sun in Sagittarius, natural ruler of the ninth might see itself as a bastion of civilization and higher moral values, but Scorpionic Mercury (communications) retrograde also in this house would not be inclined to speak openly and honestly about its intensions.

Scorpio rules on the cusp of the 9th house, indicating a fundamental agenda to transform a foreign land with a set of governing structures more suitable to its needs. Ruling planet Pluto in the second house of values and making money stands ready to carry out the promise of that mandate quite literally. This day might have stood as a sacred landmark of thanksgiving for our founding fathers, but it would seem to have also foreshadowed some of the darker themes that hide today behind the red, white and blue.

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