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Pagans and the ‘Warrior Path’ Take II

May 30, 2011 2 comments

So it’s early morning, and it is Memorial Day. I also have a hangover, and a neck injury (don’t ask). But I figured if there was any day I needed to tie up any loose ends on this topic here, it would be today.

First off, I don’t always have time to individually respond to all comments posted to this blog. The needs of gods, spirits and men–and dead critters–keep me occupied much of the time, and the internet largely takes a backseat. But I do approve all comments, even dissenting ones.

Secondly, while I’m on the topic of Pagans who Get Shit Done (see my last post on highlighting nifty polytheists), Erynn was one of the commenters in my last post, and she had some good things to say that people should consider. I was going to use this post to respond to some other comments, but she already beat me to the punch on a couple issues. She is a disabled veteran and activist in a number of different areas including feminism and veterans issues, so look her up sometime.

Anyway, jumping straight to the meat and bones of the post–something I’m going to touch on very briefly but something I should have mentioned in my first post. Patron Deities. In fact, I’ll just break it down simply.

Having a Patron who is a Warrior Deity does not make you a warrior. It doesn’t make you a warrior anymore than being the son or daughter of a plumber makes you a damn plumber. You can stare at your dad’s asscrack all day long as he works, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to unclog a damn toilet unless you go to school and make the necessary steps to become a plumber. My dad is a veteran, so are both my grandfathers, several uncles, a couple friends, and some people I have volunteered for. I am not a warrior. At best I can be classed the damn water-boy. Even warrior deities need more than just warriors amongst their mortal crew.

Recently I was reading a book written by someone who was calling themselves a warrior (had a Warrior Deity as a Patron, of course), when, to the best of my knowledge, they had not listed military service amongst their many religious and temporal credentials. This isn’t the first time I read such a thing, and every time I do it’s like nails on a damn blackboard to me. When people claim a title which isn’t theirs, it disrespects the people who rightfully earned that title. In my case, it disrespects the many people I know who have earned and sacrificed for that title.

Especially on this day, we should remember the people who are the true warriors, who have made the ultimate sacrifice. If we as Pagans and Polytheists want to harp on at length about “honor” and “duty”, perhaps we need to reflect today on those who really put their money where their mouth is. Who took that ultimate step. If honor goes anywhere, at least on this day, it is to them.

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Pagans and the ‘Warrior Path’

May 22, 2011 22 comments

I’m beginning to wonder if there is really no way for me to discuss this without coming off as sounding extremely biased and opinionated. But either way, this is something that has been building in my craw for awhile. You must forgive that this is going to be a touch disjointed, and rambling. You have been warned.

I notice many Pagans talk a big game about things like ‘honor’, ‘duty’ and the ‘warrior path’. But that’s all I seem to notice, a lot of the time (but not ALL the time and I’ll get to that in a moment). A whole lot of talk, and very little action. You see, it’s so easy to sit in front of a computer, in relative comfort and safety, and speak these things, when you don’t have to worry too much about having to back them up. People within the (various different sectors of) the Pagan “community”(ies) are very eager to point the finger at so-called “sheeple” within the perceived evil machine of monotheism, and yet they themselves are so easily led by flowery platitudes, emotional pleas, hive mindsets, cults of personality (especially if you write a book–newsflash folks–any idiot can write a book these days), and talks of things such as ‘honor’, ‘duty’ and the ‘warrior path’. Here are, if I may, a few thoughts for you to consider:

–The ‘warrior path’ isn’t about owning a sword (most swords which modern Pagans own are, nine times out of ten, display pieces and would serve as bludgeoning weapons at best) and swinging it around prettily. It isn’t about owning a gun, either (and if you do own a gun, you should have the proper licenses, training, psychological and physical conditioning to operate and keep one properly). It isn’t about going to train at your martial arts dojo and getting kicked around by your sensei–if you think that’s the warrior path, you still have never tasted it (but trust me, I know–during Krav Maga practice I was screamed at, punched, kicked and urged on until I almost vomited and passed out. It is brutal, but not the same thing.). What IS the warrior path? Volunteer for the USO. Sign up for organizations like Soldier’s Angels. You’ll see. Those of us who have parents in the military know. I can’t tell you how many times I watched my father fly away on that C130, and had to (attempt to) mentally prepare myself for the horrible possibility that he may come home in a fucking box. And no, you don’t have to be in the military or be a veteran to walk the warrior’s path. You don’t even have to be in the Coast Guard, or police or fire (or related service duties). There are others who experience that path on the liminal spheres of society (which may actually be unacceptable to many people, including a lot of other pagans). But, to those of you who glorify the “warrior’s path” while sitting safely at the soft glow of your computers–I ask why. I myself have never gone to war, but I’ve experienced having to fight, having to defend myself. Having been frequently stoned, beaten and hazed when I was younger, I had no choice. And it’s a terrifying sensation. It stays with you forever. There is a price you pay for that sort of thing. There always is.

–When it comes to “honor” and “duty” that shit tends to walk hand-in-hand. I have no damn right to speak of either of those. I am a very frail, very flawed, very misguided human being very frequently. I can only say that I have had the honor and privilege to serve and assist those who have themselves served with great duty and honor. One of them was a Heathen, Odin’s man and devotee of Freyja. He was the first soldier I worked with through SA (who arbitrarily assigns you your soldier, by the by). He had served several tours of duty, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. I cannot say much more about him without violating a code of privacy, but he has seen many things. He leaves his beloved family behind each time to do what he feels is right, despite how much he may disagree with others. I have saved every letter he’s written me during his tour of duty. We lost contact after he came back home to his family. Most people don’t realize this, but a warrior’s battle doesn’t end after the tour of duty does. It never does. Even still, I’ve saved all his letters. Whenever I want a reminder of what “honor” and “duty” is, I pull out his letters, saved on my Patron’s altar, and I read them. Or, perhaps most importantly, I go to my father, an OEF (Afghanistan) veteran twice over. Even since childhood, he was integral in my lessons of what it is to have integrity, the wellspring of things that honor and duty feed from. These himself he learned from his father, a WWII veteran of the Pacific arena. My Grandfather on my mother’s side is a WWII veteran of the European arena. I have many great teachers in this area, though I myself am horribly incomplete just the same. I cannot begin to reach their level or understand what they have been through. I can only hope to grow to be a solid man with good integrity.

In the meantime, I figured something like this needed to be said. I’m not much a fan of baah’ing with the emotionally overenthused masses when it comes to such things. I think so many neopagans and related are very sheltered, or deliberately shelter themselves from the realities going on around them, which is why things like this is something they feel can easily be put on like some kind of roleplaying device. The same can be said for the role of “shaman”, another hotbutton issue, and one I’ll likely be addressing at a later time.

Thankfully though, not all of modern Paganism has my cynicism jacked up. I have had the privilege of seeing a great amount of awesomeness in the area of spiritwork, community service, and activism come out of some really awesome polytheists. Rather than go on another long-winded rant, I hope to showcase them here individually as I get this blog kicking and rolling again.

Jewelry Sale to Benefit Temple

I’ve recently re-opened my little shop on the net, The Relic Hound, a place where I can sell some of my animist wares and such (more on that later). I’ve fairly recently started working on a sales project to benefit Breidablik Temple, a Northern Tradition Sacred Space and sanctuary for abused horses and other sacred animals. I made a number of polytheist-friendly devotional jewelry with an equine theme–profits will go to the temple and its animals. They operate on a shoestring budget, and could use all the help they can get as they work towards nonprofit status. Here are the themed pieces:

Freyfaxi, Horse Canine Pendant
Hrimfaxi, Horse Incisor Pendant
Skinfaxi, Horse Incisor Pendant
Svadlfari, Lokean Horse Incisor Pendant

These horse teeth are sourced from American Paint horses that were humanely put down due to health complications. When making anything to sell made from animal bits, I always try to give back. Profits from the sales of these pieces will go to the temple, so consider making a purchase and helping out.

Multiplicity and the Spirit-Worker, Take II

May 12, 2011 2 comments

This is a follow-up to my original post on the issue. This was mainly brought about by a number of thoughtful questions that Dver brought up. Multiplicity is a huge issue, and not every group or system functions in quite the same manner. Rather than exhausting my time in reinventing the wheel and addressing every single subcategory and such, I’ll simply be writing from my perspective, as a spirit-worker and as someone who is a member of a multiple-system. For context, the original comments where I’m lifting Dver’s questions from can be found here.

Is this similar to concepts in therianthropy, and possibly also like people who are intersexed?

In the sense that there can be certain members who do not identify as the sex of the body, or who may identify as a therianthrope. In my own system, there are two who are female-to-male transgender, and the third who identifies as asexual and nongendered/null/neuter. Since the three of us identify all as separate people, our experiences vary, as do our interactions with our physical body in which we share. We are not “multiple sides” so much as multiple people, each with our own attendant multiple sides, or facets.
(Though then again, some would argue that, depending on the situation, being intersexed or being a therianthrope isn’t a facet, but an integral part of who you are! I know that, although I’m very androgynous, I am all male, and there’s no other facet of me that’s anything else–but that’s probably a side-tangent!)

Do you feel that it is a spectrum, from those who might feel somewhat distinct personas within themselves but not necessarily identify as multiple, to those who are absolutely autonomous entities occupying one body – or is the former situation not really the same thing?

I’m not ruling out the idea that personas can become autonomous over time, so I suppose it can be a spectrum in that sense. I don’t think that one automatically leads into the other in every case. I’d say the former situation overall isn’t really the same thing. For example, in our case–each of us, as people, have our own “personas” and moods and other such things, just like everyone else. But they’re not separate people. We wear them like masks to get by and cope with certain situations and things, but it’s really the same thing that everyone does. For example, the you at work isn’t always the same as the you out partying with friends, and so on and so forth. The same goes for those of us here. We have our “work-masks” and our “out-with-friends” masks (and yes, most of our local friends do know, and have known for years, and interact with each of us in turn as individuals and such). But it’s not the same thing. It’s not a separate person, just a persona or mask that’s worn to adapt to a certain situation. But we don’t wear the same “work-mask” for example, each has their own, just like mine wouldn’t be the same as my supervisor’s. Am I making sense?

If I understand you, you’re saying it’s *not* a situation of there being one core or original, human personality, and perhaps some others that are more like spirits that permanently possess that body simultaneously?

Yes, you’ve pretty much got it. At least, that’s how it is in my particular, ah, “living situation”. To add a little more clarity, myself and my twin brother were born together within this body. This isn’t an unheard of condition–we’d be called a “natural multiple” in this case. Then we picked up a walk-in on the way, who permanently established himself in here. Essentially, he grounded himself within the body on a permanent basis. We do have others that hop in and hop out, they are equivalent to our friends and family, and they always remain very close. They also interact with a select few other folk here, through our body.

To explain it in metaphor, it’s like having three admins on a protected network of sorts, while certain others having established “user accounts” they can log into and make use of if needed. We definitely don’t do an “open door” policy sort of thing–these fellows we’ve been working and dealing with for years and we’ve developed a real close relationship. Interestingly, this phenomenon isn’t unheard of–Mircea Eliade documented numerous instances of shamans and other spirit-worker types with spirit-spouses, families, and many other different types of relationships–some of which interacted with the physical world by use of the shaman’s body.

I think there is a big reason why some spirits and entities, namely Gods and greater beings like certain Elemental spirits and such, cannot be horsed (or channeled, borrowing the newage term) on a permanent basis. And well, I’m probably stating the bloody obvious here, but anyway. This is mainly because, well, they are so much bigger than us. Any horse will tell you that channeling a deity can and will fry your brain. Same could be said for varying other situations where people have such close interactions with these great entities, many of which have consciousnesses which are far greater, or even alien, than our brains can fathom or meatware can even process (I think it’s one of the reasons why “shamanism” and “insanity” tend to walk hand-in-hand at times).

Anyway, thank you again for your questions, and I hope I managed to address them properly. I’m always open to thoughtful and intelligent discussion on this. I know some people have approached me curious about my life in a multiple-system, and were worried about asking questions which may be offensive. Please put your thoughts at rest on this, I’d be more offended if people didn’t ask and simply assumed certain things about me and those other folk I share a mind and body with, than those who ask out of genuine desire to learn more and expand their knowledge base. There is quite a lot that is assumed and stigmatized about multiplicity, and I think the only way to dispel those myths is intelligent, honest discourse. Thanks again to those that ask and give me that opportunity.