Our Thanksgiving Prayer

M. and I have this little tradition where every Thanksgiving we read aloud (people who eat with us have to participate) Gary Snyder’s poem “Prayer for the Great Family.”[1]He says it was inspired by a Mohawk prayer, but you can feel his Pagan-ish form of Zen Buddhism in it too. You can say “in our minds so be it” in unison if you like.

Prayer for the Great Family

Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day—
and to her soil: rich, rare and sweet
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing, light-changing leaf
and fine root-hairs; standing still through wind
and rain; their dance is in the flowering spiral grain
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and silent
Owl at dawn. Breath of our song
clear spirit breeze
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
freedoms, and ways; who share with us their milk;
self-complete, brave and aware
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;
holding or releasing; streaming through all
our bodies salty seas
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through
trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where
bears and snakes sleep— he who wakes us—
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Great Sky
who holds billions of stars— and goes yet beyond that—
beyond all powers, and thoughts and yet is within us—
Grandfather Space. The Mind is his Wife.
so be it.

Snyder has been influential in my life since I was in high school, as a poet and in a sort of “What would Gary do?” kind of way.[2]And we went to the same college, for what that is worth. He is an old man now, 91, I think. He won’t be around forever. I would walk in his funeral procession to the pyre, if I could, but I probably will not find out in time to dash to California.

Notes

Notes
1 He says it was inspired by a Mohawk prayer, but you can feel his Pagan-ish form of Zen Buddhism in it too.
2 And we went to the same college, for what that is worth.

2 thoughts on “Our Thanksgiving Prayer

  1. As a post WW II child growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, many of the influences around Gary Snyder similarly influenced me. The San Francisco Renaissance and The Beats among them. Likewise, Zen Buddhism. And the Land, its mountains and tides.

    I really did not know Snyder and some of his works by name until college. Nonetheless, carried along by some of the same currents.

    A splendid and deep poem. For Thanksgiving and any other time…

  2. My own passion for Native American tradition and spirituality, was gifted to me by my great Grandmother on my mother’s side, who was held as a captive, and my great grandfather managed to pay the ransom after 12 years. I worked with them myself for a good 20 years, and still feel a connection, possibly even from previous lifetimes. And it’s true, that there is a great deal of their influences that have saturated modern Craft practices. Oddly enough… especially in the United Kingdom, where there is a resurgence of their own Native spirituality. Tribalism is still alive and well, but now shared with many Native cultures and subcultures, around the globe. We noticed that fact, while smuggling food and fuel, into the Standing Rock “Water is Life,” Camp in the Dakotas.

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