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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.

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.

Olympian Magic

April 26, 2010 Leave a comment

On my ride up to the beach on Friday evening, I had the very great pleasure to see a bald eagle up close. I know eagles are plentiful on the Chesapeake, but to see one this close, and with such drama was a rare occurrence for me. It flew up from a swampy area with a snake clutched in its talons to chase away an osprey flying overhead, presumably to protect food and turf. The spectacle of it, so close, was breathtaking, even if the whole thing only lasted mere seconds. The event made me wish my dad was with us to see it. He loves bald eagles, next to dogs one of his favorite animals. When I see them in any form, I think of him. They symbolize the American patriot, his coveted ’67 Thunderbird, which he has stored within various effigies of bald eagles.

Later, on Saturday evening, I went to the movies with my younger brother to watch “Clash of the Titans”. Inaccuracy and poetic license aside, it was entertaining. One of the most amusing parts about it was Zeus’s many transformations into…a bald eagle. Seemed a bit queer to me, seeing as a bald eagle is a North American native subspecies. Wouldn’t a golden be more appropriate, more historically accurate? Then I thought back to the eagle I saw on the ride up, and many connections began to forge themselves in my head.

When I think of bald eagles, I think of my father. I’m sure Perseus in the movie must think of bald eagles then when thinking of his father? I imagine the actual Perseus must have thought of eagles when thinking of his father. I think of my father, and I think of how he always would say, “I have to keep those big birds flyin’!” Those “big birds” are the C-130 military cargo planes, also known as the Hercules–a half-brother to Perseus. And when I think of Perseus I think of Pegasus, and when Pegasus comes to mind I think of the patch representing my dad’s wing, featuring a winged horse, rearing with wings outspread.

Seeing the eagle was a numinous experience. A good omen–the grace of the gods, the safety, and inner strength, of my father. I feel a profound sense of peace, and look forward to seeing him walking off that plane in May, under the broad wings of the Pegasus.

A storm is raging outside as I type this, thunder and lightning crashing closer and closer to my house. It somehow makes me feel more at peace.