When people say "thanksgiving" today, the immediate association is "the day when Americans and Canadians eat roast turkey to celebrate....something".
Americans commonly trace the Thanksgiving holiday to a 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation, where the settlers held a harvest feast for three days after a successful growing season.
The origins of Canadian Thanksgiving are traced to the French settlers who came to New France in the 17th century, who celebrated their successful harvests.
The European settlers in America celebrated the end of harvest because thanksgiving festivals which mark the end of harvest have been celebrated all over Europe probably since the arrival of agriculture.
The word "harvest" comes from the Old English word "hærfest", meaning "autumn". It then came to refer to the season for reaping and gathering grain and other grown products.
The harvest season, autumn, begins on the 2nd of August when we find Lughnasadh which is in England known as Lammas, meaning "loaf Mass" and is celebrated on the 1st of August. And the autumn ends on the 5th of November when we find Samhain which is celebrated on the 31 of October and St Martin's day which is celebrated on the 11th of November.
The most well known end of harvest festival is St Martin's day or Martinmas, when people celebrate successful end of agricultural year. Martinmas is celebrated on November 11 each year. This is the time when autumn harvest was completed, autumn wheat seeding was completed, sheep were brought down from the mountain pastures and the annual slaughter of the pigs, which were fattened on acorns, was also done. (An old English saying is "His Martinmas will come as it does to every hog," meaning "he will get his comeuppance" or "everyone must die".)
Originally, thanksgiving was celebrated as a day of giving thanks to "Heavenly father" or the "Sky father" for basically not destroying the crops.
As I said already all agricultural societies in Europe had some form of end of harvest festival. Here I would like to talk a bit more about the end of the harvest festivals which used to be celebrated by the ancient Irish and ancient South Baltic Slavs. The links between these two festivals are so striking that they are pointing at a almost certain cultural link between these two people.
In Ireland the end of the harvest period, the end of autumn, was also the end of the year. The mass held to give thanks for the good harvest and the good year, was held on Samhain, Haloween, Irish New Year, which is today celebrated on the 31st of October. But the date of Samhain was originally probably 5th of November, the true mid point between autumn equinox and winter solstice.
Now the God to whom Ancient Irish gave thanks for their harvest was called Crom Cruach, which is another name of Crom Dubh, the old Irish god of agriculture.
The most famous worshiper of Crom Cruiach (Crom Dubh) was Tigernmas, sometimes called Tiernmas, an Irish high king who is said to have ruled Ireland during late Bronze Age.
According to "The Metrical Dindshenchas" Tigernmas and three quoters of his followers died while worshiping Crom Cruaich, "a cruel deity propitiated with human sacrifice", on the Magh Slécht (Field of Prostration), on 31 October (Samhain, Halloween), 1413 B.C. His grave there is marked by a standing stone.
What is interesting is that this custom of human sacrifices during thanksgiving could have been brought to Ireland by the people known as Fomorians who according to the ancient Irish annals were the first people to settle Ireland. They came to Ireland at some stage during the 4th millennium bc and brought with them the knowledge of agriculture. They lived in Ireland alone for a while. But then, after the flood, during the 3rd millennium bc came the people of Partholón who are credited with introducing cattle husbandry, ploughing, cooking, dwellings, trade, and dividing the island in four. But then Partholon and all his people later died of plague leaving Fomorians as the single inhabitants of Ireland again. Then The people of Nemed came, the descendants of the brother of Partholon, and they found Fomorians living in Ireland. They fought the Fomorians under Nemed and won. But after Nemed's death, Fomorians enslaved Nemed's people and demanded a heavy tribute: two thirds of their children, grain and cattle. The tribute that Nemedians had to give to Fomorians was exactly the same as the tribute Tigernmas had to give to Crom Dubh. Nemed's son gathered an army of sixty thousand, rose up against them. After a great slaughter on both sides, only thirty of Nemed's people escaped in a single ship, scattering to the other parts of the world, leaving again only Fomorians in Ireland. Well actually the Lebor Gabála Érenn says that when the next invaders, the Fir bolg, came then found Ireland empty. But Lebor Gabála Érenn also seems to suggest that Fir bolg and Fomorians were one and the same people. At least Macalister, the translator and editor of the Lebor Gabála Érenn thought that this could be so when he says that:
"The line between the Fir Bolg and the Fomorians is not clearly drawn…"
What is also very interesting is that Fir Bolg are also said to have been the descendants of Nemed who was the descendant of Partholon's brother. This makes Fomorians and the people of Partholon one and the same people.
We have to ask ourselves why are the Fomori most directly linked to Fir Bolg. The Lebor Gabála Érenn states:
"Partholon took Ireland: he dwelt there five hundred and fifty years, till the Cynocephali (dog headed, wolf headed) drave him out, and there escaped [survived] not one of his children alive."
Who were these wolf people? Macalister suggests that “the Cynocephali introduced into the subsequent Partholon story have no place in the orthodox narrative, unless we are to equate them to the Fomoraig". But maybe they are to be equated with Fir Bolg. What is the old Irish word for wolf? It is "faolchú". Could it be that Fir Bolg are Fir faolchú, wolf people, wolf head people, Cynocephali? The Fir Bolg are first mentioned in the 9th century Historia Brittonum, where they are referred to as the Builc...
Then came the Tuatha Dé Danann, another group of descendants of Nemed who was descendant of Partholon's Brother. They defeated the Fir Bolg in the first Battle of Magh Tuiredh and took possession of Ireland. But then they had to defeat the Fir Bolg again, this time under the name of Fomorians at the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh. Interestingly the Annals of Loch Cé call Magh Tuiredh "Magh-Tuiredh-na-Fomorach" and explain that Magh-Tuiredh what the place "where the Fomorians were imposing their tributes on the men of Erinn..." So here Irish annals are equating Fir Bolg with Fomorians. The name Mag Tuired (modern spelling: Magh Tuireadh) means "plain of pillars" or "plain of towers". Crom Cruach, the god venerated by Tigernmas on Magh Slécht, was represented by a large idol, made completely of gold, which stood on the plain of Magh Slécht Twelve smaller idols, these of stone, formed a ring around the Crom Cruach. Were pillars which were standing on Magh Tuireadh the same pillars which stood on Magh Slécht and which represented , Crom Cruach (Crom Dubh)??? And if so was Magh Slécht actually the same as Magh Tuireadh?
At the end of the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh, Bres, the leader of the Fomorians was found unprotected on the battlefield by Lugh, the leader of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Bres pleaded for his life with him. Lugh spared Bres because he promised to teach the Tuatha Dé Danann agriculture. Bres is said to have possessed the the secret knowledge of "How shall the men plough? How shall they sow? How shall they reap?". He gave that secret to Lugh, the leader of the Tuatha Dé Danann and his life was spared. From this we clearly see that it was Fomorians who brought the agriculture to Ireland.
What is interesting about this story is that both Bres, the leader of the Fomorians and Lugh the leader of Tuatha Dé Danann at the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh were half Fomorian and half Tuatha Dé Danann.
Lugh's father was Cian of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and his mother was Ethniu, daughter of Balor, of the Fomorians. Bres's father was Elatha of the Fomorians and Eri, daughter of Delbaith of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
This means that the Tuatha Dé Danann, who are said to have replaced Fomorians as the rulers of Ireland actually claim descent from or at least close kinship with the Fomorians. Actually the line between the Fomorians and the Tuatha Dé Danann is so blurred, that in the "lebor gabála Érenn" we read:
“At the end of three days and three nights thereafter the Sons of Míl broke the battle of Sliab Mis against demons and Fomoraig, that is, against the Túatha Dé Danann"...
This line literally equates the Fomorians and the Tuatha Dé Danann.
From the above we see that Fomorians brought the secret of the grain agriculture to Ireland and preserved it until the time of Tuatha Dé Danann. We also see that when the Milesians came to Irleand, the Fomorians were still there. Lebor Gabála Érenn tells us that the Irial Fáid father of Ethriel and grandfather of Tigernmas:
"...cleared twelve plains, dug seven royal forts, and fought four battles against the Fomorians..."
The Fomorians were apparently still in Ireland at the time of Cú Chulainn. In the medieval Irish tale entitled "The Training of Cú Chulainn", preserved as a copy by Richard Tipper in British Library, we read:
"Cúchulainn came to the place and saluted them. 'What is this sorrow or the misery upon you?' says Cúchulainn. The damsel answered and this she said: ‘A royal tribute which the tribe of Fomorians carry out of this country every seventh year, namely, the first-born of the king's children. And at this time it has come to me to go as that tribute, for to the king I am the dearest of his children.’‘What number comes to lift that tribute?’ asks Cúchulainn. ‘Three sons of Alatrom of the Fomorians,’ she answers, ‘and Dub, Mell and Dubros are their names.’"
This means that we still find Fomorians in Ireland during Iron Age, 4000 thousand years after they arrived to Ireland.
Finally we find Crom Dubh as the main agricultural deity of Ireland in the 5th century AD when St Patrick had to defeat him in order to Christianise the Irish.
And even today, in some parts of Ireland, the last Sunday in July, which marks the beginning of the harvest season, is called "Domhnach Crom Dubh" which means "Crom Dubh's Sunday"...
So here is the question:
Did Fomorians, who brought agriculture to Ireland, also brought with them their god of agriculture, Crom Cruach (Crom Dubh) and is this why the both Crom Cruach, Crom Dubh and Fomorians demanded human sacrifices? And if Tigernmas was worshiping From Cruach (Crom Dubh), was he worshiping Fomorian god? And if so, was Tigernmas a Fomorian king? I believe so.
James Bonwick thought so too. In the book "Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions" he identified Tigernmas, the king who perished while worhiping Crom Cruach, Crom Dubh, the god of agriculture, with Balor, the King of Fomorians. This is based on the fact that the ancestry of the god Lugh is usually given as Lugh son of Eithliu daughter of Balor but in the text Baile in Scáil it is given as Lugh son of Eithliu son of Tigernmas, thus equating Tigernmas and Balor, the king of Fomorians.
So who were these Fomorians then and where did they come from? Irish historians agree that the name Fomorians means probably sea people, or people who came from across the sea, or sea pirates. Where could have been that land across the sea famous for its sea pirates whose name sounds like Fomori?
This is south Baltic part of Germany and Poland, called Pomerania or Pomorje. Pomerania, Pomorje is a Slavic word meaning the land by the sea. The word comes from po + more = by, along + sea. The people living by, along the sea are in Slavic languages called pomori, pomorci, pomorjani, meaning the sea people, coast people.
This is the territory of Pomerania, Pomorje:
Pomerania (German: Pommern, Latin: Pomerania, Polish: Pomorze) is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. The name Pomerania comes from Slavic po more, which means Land at the Sea. The adjective for the region is Pomeranian (Polish: pomorski, German: pommersch), inhabitants are called Pomeranians (Polish: Pomorzanie, German: Pommern).This land was famous for its sea pirates and traders. Pomerania is also the place where we find Baltic Slavs who made human sacrifices in medieval time to their gods at the end of harvest at the beginning of November, at Samhain.
Now remember Tigernmas, the Irish king who died in Mag Slecht, with three fourths of the men of Ireland in his company, on Samhain night to be particular, while worshiping of Crom Cruaich; for he was the king-idol of Ireland? Tigernmas is said to have been the first king to give drinking-horns to his follower. The god to whom Pomeranian Slavs sacrificed people on Samhain was Svetovid. He is sometimes referred to as Beli (or Byali) Vid (Beli = white, bright, shining), and is often depicted with a sword or bow in one hand and a drinking horn in the other. Drinking horn was used for divination during the Slavic ceremonies. In Slavic mythology, the "horn of plenty" is the equivalent of Dagda's "cauldron of plenty". Dagda is then in turn believed to be another name of Crom Dubh, Crom Cruach.
In "The Handbook of Religions in Ancient Europe" by Lisbeth Bredholt Christensen, Olav Hammer, David Warburton we read that written source about the Baltic Slavs stress the importance of a feast held in the autumn, in Arcona "after the harvest" and in Riedegost in November.
The harvest in the South Baltic ends at the same time as in Ireland, in October, when the last acorns are collected. So "after the harvest" is basically the same as "in November". And November is actually not "in the autumn" but at the beginning of the winter according to the old Serbian calendar which is the same as the old Irish calendar. I already talked about this calendar in my post about "Two crosses".
A pan Slavic term for sacrifice "treba" means "something that has to be done, something that should be done". Another general Slavic term for feast "zertwa" originally meant sacrifice, the meaning it still has in Serbian. It also meant "to praise god".
Obviously Slavs and particularly Serbs, equated praising god with sacrifice.
Ibn Rosteh noted in the sixt century that Slavs prayed to the god of heaven and fire for good crops. This god of heaven and fire was Dabog, who was also among Serbs known as Triglav. Triglav was, as the Book of Veles states, at the same time Svetovid (Sun god), Perun (Thunder god) and Svarog (Fire god). So when we read in the ancient histories that Slavs sacrificed people to Svetovid and Svarog, there is really no contradiction here. And what is most interesting is that Dabog (Good, Giving god) was among Serbs also known as Hromi Daba. Which is very close to Chrom Dubh who Máire MacNeill in "The Festival of Lughnasa: A Study of the Survival of the Celtic Festival of the Beginning of Harvest" identifies as another name of Dagda (Good, Giving god). Dáithí Ó hÓgáin in "Myth, Legend & Romance: An encyclopaedia of the Irish folk tradition" identifies Crom Dubh as another name of Donn, god of death and ancestral deity. Which is interesting considering that among Serbs Dabog, Hromi Daba, is also considered to be god of death and ancestor of all Serbs...
Saxo Grammaticus describes the the appeal made by the priest and the people to the Sun god Svetovid (Sventovit), asking for abundant future harvests over a huge offering of bread during the autumnal (read November) feast held in Arcona. This was clearly a thanksgiving mass performed at the end of the harvest period, where thanks was given to the heavenly father for giving the good harvest.
Sources discussing the pre-Christian Slavs briefly mention the sacrifice of animals (mostly Cattle). Cattle, especially bull sacrifice, was since antiquity considered to be a replacement for human sacrifice. In Ireland the main sacrificial animal offered to Crom Dubh was bull, which was sometimes sacrificed at the beginning of the harvest and the beginning of autumn, on Crom Dubh day, the 2nd of August, and sometimes at the end of the harvest, at the end of autumn, the 5th of November, on Samhain.
But in South Baltic Slavic lands, main sacrifice performed during the thanksgiving was clearly human sacrifice. Most of the documentary evidence comes from the West Slavic Polabian area and primarily concerns Lutitians. Brun of Querfurt mentions that the Lutitians carried out human sacrifices to Svarozic, or more precisely, that they offered human blood and human heads to the deity.
This sound strangely similar with the obsession of the ancient Irish with cutting off their enemies heads...Did Irish offer them to their god, Crom Dubh as a sacrifice?
Contemporary chronicles connect the Lutici to the Veleti (Wilti, Vilci). Adam von Bremen (Gesta II,22) refers to them as "Leuticios, qui alio nomine Wilzi dicuntur", and Helmold von Bosau (Chronica Slavorum I,2) says "Hii quatuor populi a fortidudine Wilzi sive Lutici appellantur." Modern scholarship sometimes refers to both entities by a double name, e.g. "Wilzen-Lutizen" in German or "Wieleci-Lucice" in Polish.
There is no certain etymology for the name Wiltzi (Vilci). But what is very interesting is that in Slavic languages Vuk, Volk, Vlk, Vilk means wolf. So the tribal name Wiltzi, Vilci could mean "wolf people". These wolf people, who were also known as Lutitzes, Lutitians are the biggest South Baltic Slavic tribe which is mentioned in relation to the Samhain human sacrifices. Now remember Fir Bolg, who seemed to have been the same as the Fomorians and who seem to have been the same as the Cynocephali, the Dog Headed or Wolf Headed people?? Were Fir Bolg, Fir Faolchú, Wolf People, Volci, Wiltzi from Pomorje, Pomerania? After all both the Irish Fomorians and the Pomeranian Wiltzi performed human sacrifices during Samhain thanksgiving feast...
In "The Handbook of Religions in Ancient Europe" we can further read that according to the earliest account, from approximately 990 written down by Tietmar, a commander of a Polish stronghold surrendered and was then beheaded on the battlefield as a sacrifice. Apparently some years later, the Luttitians similarly executed two missionary monks. This alleged practice of human sacrifice in Rethra is confirmed later by Adam of Bremen, who mentions the martyrdom of the two monks and the execution of Bishop John of Macklenburg on the 10th of November 1068, probably during the annual feast held at that time. The bishop had been captured during a revolt by the neighbouring Obodrites some months earlier, but was sacrificed in Lutitian Rethra at the beginning of November. He was executed on the main square of Reidegost-Rethra, the main sanctuary of the Luttitians. His corpse was dismembered and the head stuck on a spear and offered to the main god of Rethra. The importance of the head of the victim is emphasised by Adam of Bremen, describing how the Lutitians treated the bishop's head 'sacrificing it as a token of victory to their god', probably bringing it to the shrine, while the corpse of the dead bishop, with hands and legs cut off, was left in the consecrated field in front of the sanctuary. Many of our sources specify that human sacrifice took the form of beheading, which may suggest that the sacrificial blood was of some importance. The head as an object of Slavic human sacrifice to Svarozic is mentioned already in 1008 by Saint Brun of Querfurt in his letter to the German king Henry II....The victims of human sacrifice among the Slavs were mostly captured enemies...
The fact that the Bishop John of Macklenburg was kept alive until the beginning of November and only then executed, shows that he was kept as a sacrificial victim for the thanksgiving feast marking the end of the harvest and the end of autumn. This shows that Baltic Slavs might have always made human sacrifices in November, on Samhain, just like Tigernmas was accused of doing in Ireland millenniums earlier.
I believe that so many links between the descriptions of human sacrifices that Fomorians intoduced in Ireland and which were performed on Samhain (beginning of November) and the descriptions of human sacrifices performed by Pomeranians at the beginning of November (Samhain) is astonishing.
Are we here talking about one and the same people, worshiping one and the same Sky god, Good god, Giving god, Dabog (Triglav who is Svetovid, Perun, Svarog) (Dagda), Hromi Daba (Chrom Dubh)? Or is this just another amazing coincidence?
Whatever the answer, I bet you will never look at thanksgiving in the same way.
For the end I will leave you with this image of a Scythian feast taken from a golden plate found in Sachnovka kurgan. If you glance at the image you will see the scene of a joyous party with lots of eating, drinking (from drinking horns) and singing.
But if you look more carefully at the first two figures on the left, you will see this:
Two men sacrificing a ram? If so, why does the second man have his hand on the first man's head, as if to pull his head back before slitting his throat? Is this maybe a depiction of a bound man about to be slaughtered as a human sacrifice? Does this image depict what later Slavic chroniclers described as Slavic Samhain Thanksgiving feast?