Sunday, July 6, 2008

What to wear?

Ok so you are serving as a Warrior in some capacity? What to wear? That is a common question for every pagan. “I’m going to a ritual, with a new group, what should I wear?” It’s important, you don’t want to stand out, offend, or look foolish (unless you wish to achieve any of those looks). So by serving as a warrior, consider what that will mean? Are you acting as a mystical buffer inside and outside of a ritual circle? Then practicality is less important and symbolism is probably more important! So ask the ritual leader(s) what they would like. However you are acting as “event” security, direction, first aid etc? Dress practically. Screw looking impressive. I do not recommend any form of weaponry be visible, however ceremonial it is. More on that next. I recommend dressing for the weather (and having back up for changes in the weather) wearing good sturdy footwear, and something to carry supplies (first aid kit, water, cell phone etc) in. I also recommend that ritual/festival goers be informed look for the person wearing this, and have some sort of easily recognizable but unique “uniform”. Uniform? No I do not mean look like a member of some militia, but rather every one wears the same thing, and it’s not a generic thing brought from a store either. The ADF Warrior’s guild (of which I am a member, and have been since 1999) decided on a red sash, with the Guild crest. The only people with the guild crest are members of the Warrior’s guild who have paid their dues. I’ve seen others wear a red t-shirt printed with “XYZ event aid” printed on it. Ok weaponry. While as a warrior you should not be against the ideas of weapons (as symbols or tools), they do not often aid in conflict resolution, and have no use in a first aid situation. So resist the temptation of carrying a large knife, sword, etc though a staff may well be appropriate. There are legal repercussions about carrying a weapon too. If the Police come on site, and they often do, they will get nervous when they see a lot of weapons on display. If a situation gets so bad that you NEED a weapon you have bigger issues! That being said if you can carry a legal knife in your area (a small folding one) then do so, it can be useful as a tool, just do not wave it about! So we’ve gotten down to a “uniform” for ease of identification, no big weapons, and practical footwear if you are serving in a practical role, and whatever is appropriate in a ritual only role. How about other people attending? If you are involved in the planning of an event, make sure any “media releases” (i.e. what will get people coming) explicitly states what is and is not allowable. Remember some pagans still think sky clad (weather permitting) is the way to go, but again police are not going to be that interested in the aesthetics as they handcuff the naked man who is screaming about his religious rights being violated. Similarly take a note from the SCA and Renaissance festivals, anything weapon like is either banned or peace bound. I recommend the banning of weapons (legal definition) but that is up to the entire organizing committee.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Patron Deities, Alters and offerings

So if you are reading this, I will assume: (a) You are Neopagan (b) You have an interest in the Warrior spirituality And (c) You have an open mind If you are not in (a) through (c) and can stay polite, read and comment on ;) Otherwise the door is over there *points* So I’ve talked very little about he spiritual side of the Neopagan Warrior thus far, time to change that. Taking on a Patron Deity: So generally in Indo-European cultures (upon which a good 90% of modern Neopaganism is based) a warrior (a member of the warrior caste) would be beholden to a Chieftain, King, Council, etc. Think of the Patron Deity/Deities as something akin to this. Those, which make you more than a baseless thug, those who give you a place and a meaning. Indeed you may have adopted a community to serve, but you need a sounding board, a place to have a steady footing. This (to me at least) is the Deity/Deities we honor. So if you don’t have one, go research the deities out there. It can be Jehovah (though chances are you need to go to the nearest church to talk to him/it) or it could be Coyote (in which case please keep the pranks to a minimum). Once you find a deity that seems interesting (or indeed a whole pantheon of them, and no they do not have to be of the same cultural group, though mine are). Begin to make a working relationship with them! Reach out to them in meditation. You don’t meditate? Ok Trance work? Astral Traveling? No? Hmm find something. Assuming you meditate, when you “hit the sweet spot” as I call it (where you feel your mind soar away, and can maintain it). Go looking. Say it’s Odin (not one of mine, but a deity I respect), are there a pair of Ravens near by? (There usually is for me, and another singular raven (more in a second about that one). Follow them. They are Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory), and they are his spies, yeah I said it, spies. He also has a pair of Wolves Geri and Freki (also Gere and Freke. Freki is translated as "Ravenous." Geri is "Greedy", if they are there. Don’t bug them, just trust me. Those ravens will likely take you back to a one eyed, intimidating gentleman, who may or may not be hanging from a Tree. Talk to him. So look for a sign of a deity, this means you will have to research them. Personally I hold the Tuatha De Dannan as my Patrons, most particularly the Dagda, Lugh, Danu, and the Morrigain. But any of them have my service if they ask it (and a repercussion of this is I have their “protection” if I need it). It took me years of meditation, and self-searching, yeah I’m a bit slow, to forge this. So you now have a deity or two you call patron. You have researched them. Time to show them honor. Chances are you have picked a martial deity (but this is not certain, I will progress as if you have). Set up an alter to them. If you have more than one deity, and they are from different pantheons/cultures, I’d advise separate alters. They don’t have to be huge. Does your deity have a known representation (statue, art work, wall painting?), if possible have one. If not, it’s not essential. Does your deity have a weapon of choice? Thor liked his hammer, if you follow Him, a hammer (usable!) might be a good idea. This may take some time to find, and should not be the first piece of junk you come across. Junk? Yeah Junk. Say a sword is the symbol; say you have a “Celtic” deity you honor. Don’t buy a cheap and nasty Katana, not only is it ethnically wrong (the Katana) it’s not very polite to say “here is a weapon to honor you, it cost me sweet FA, and will bend in a slight breeze, but thanks you are a cool deity”. I am not saying you have to have the most expensive thing out there, but well made, and potentially ethnically correct helps. Personally I have a very nice sword, hand forged in England. It is worth a lot more now than when I got it. Next have an offering bowl/plate on the alter. It’s nice to leave something for the deity. A glass of beer/wine/mead/whisky to share, some fresh water, some nuts, whatever. I do not advise something that will turn putrid however, unless the smell does not bother you and anyone else who may “sample” it in the air. Offerings out side the alter? This is a touchy one. Offering implies sacrifice (yes it does) and the s word turns most Neopagans queasy. Any of the religious Reich into frothing lunatics (sorry more so) and is not wise. By sacrifice/offering we mean giving something of value up. NOT a chicken/small child on an alter. So offerings. I make offerings to my patrons as often as I can (every high day, and oft times when I feel like it). These are often in the form of silver jewelry and small but well made knives to a river, lake or the sea (a common path way to the “other world), mead or whisky to the earth (and I share it) and poetry/prayers and incense to the air. Fire is not something I use much, it’s the vector to the air for me (burn a bit of parchment with the ONLY copy of a prayer or poem, burn the incense burn the witch… uh sorry). But like water, fire is a vector. You don’t have to (nor should you) ruin yourself for the deity in question. That certainly is not being responsible or honorable! Ok so Shrines, offerings, what else? Dedications. I when I exercise dedicate it to a deity. “Just ten more reps for Lugh” “I will bench 100 kg by June 1st in honor of the Morrigan?” Deeds speak loudest. So if you are going to do something of note (even of just to you) dedicate them. The Abrahamic don’t have to have all the monopoly; though don’t be obnoxious about it either. Don’t “thank the goddess” over and over. Just let them know (the deity) it was for them! Ok so that is a start. More soon

Monday, April 7, 2008

When it all goes pear shaped....

There is a British colloquialism about things going “pear shaped”, I guess the American equivalent would be FUBAR (f****d up beyond all recognition). In either case it means something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. We like to avoid that… right? In the Neopagan community, we have a self-destructive little habit called the “witch war”. It’s almost always over something pointless, and it’s almost always the older members of the community that are doing it. Witch wars are all about power, influence and ego. Ego? But we are enlightened beings right? Yeah right. So for those of us who have been caught in the middle of a witch war, we feel it is totally pear shaped. What to do? How to handle it? First identify the main players. The herald, the source of all the fuel for witch wars…gossip. They may not even maliciously be doing this, but they are spreading rumors. “Did you hear about XYZ and her coven?”, “That group from the next town over are doing black magic” etc The “Victim”. The person ostentatiously being targeted by someone. The “Aggressor”, the person who is apparently attacking the victim. The goons. Both the aggressor and the victim (whether they want it or not) are likely to attract a gang of goons, who do deeds in their name (whether they are asked too or not). These are the main players. So you are now in the middle of a witch war? As a warrior the first tendency is to, well, do war. Not a wise idea! Chances are you are with out the full story, and thus vital information. Also no one has asked you to help yet. So as I’ve stressed before we are here to serve and protect, not enforce. Gather information, but be cunning about it, being seen to poke your nose around may make it worse! Gather both sides of the story. Ok so done that? Is the aggressor really the aggressor or actually a victim, or both? Probably the last. Is the victim, a victim or the instigator, or both? Is the herald spreading the information in a clear and concise manner? Are they skewing it? Is it even real? Ok got the information? Take a step back. Observe the community. Is this being ignored? Is this splitting it down the middle or worse into many fragments? How bad is it? Is this contained in a mailing list? Is it public? Has violence been threatened? All of these items are incredibly important to consider because how you deal or do not deal with them depends on the context and the level. If the witch war is on a list. Ignore it. Stay out of it; it is typical of any mailing list. The typed word is a blunt instrument for conveying emotions, humor etc. Joining in, even to chastise both sides will not help. The exception is the moderator of a list (if it is moderated) if you are the moderator it is your job (and only your job) to enforce rules of civility. Don’t take a side even if your best friend is involved. Just deal with it. If people can’t behave you throw them off the list! If it’s public, try not to get involved if it’s words. You will paint a huge target on yourself if you do get involved. I know I’ve done this and while not regretting the outcome, regret the personal repercussions! If it escalates to pending violence. This is where you step in. Make sure you calmly, and clearly get in-between the antagonists. Be rational and firm. Do not threaten, and be prepared to act, acting may include calling the police. Be warned this last action will make you very unpopular in a community, no matter how justified you are. So levels of response? This can range from a “cut it out” to a “you are not welcome here”. In ritual if two antagonists are in circle, keep an eye on both. I’ve seen a ritual where one antagonist had for weeks been pushing buttons, including spitting at a proclamation about the other party. This was seen by the other party, and they began to make demands. If it had been allowed to go unchecked, I think the so-called ritual knives (athemes for you who call them that) might not have been purely ceremonial to be honest. It was resolved with myself and three others acting as “Dragons” outside circle, and the ritual leader (a well respected member of the community) telling the spitter they would behave or be banished for good! In this instance, the apparent problem was well behaved. Sadly there were other problems… another story for another day! So lets recap. Your community, be that a coven/grove/circle or the actual community, is in the middle of a witch war. As a warrior your first instinct is to “get em”, but that is wrong. You take several steps back (I recommend about two meters… sorry Combatives joke about reactionary space in a knife attacks) and observe. Take the time to gather intelligence, and then start forming a plan. Don’t act unilaterally; the community will only remember that action not the cause! This aside violence is never acceptable, and you are obliged to stop it. Violence can be mental, physical or metaphysical. Last reminder. We (the warriors) are NOT the pagan police; we are protectors and servants only at the sufferance of those who accept our authority! If you have no place acting, don’t! The caveat to this is once asked to act, remind the person(s) who asked exactly what they are getting. Check before acting in most cases, and adjust down the level of response, never up. Your first instinct is usually the best, but it’s still just instinct! Slan agat Noinden Note This information was mostly gained from years of being online (the major area for Witch wars) and Reading Mr. Hubbard’s "Witch War survival Guide"

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Choosing a Martial Art to fit my Spiritual needs.

What? What does a martial art have to do with spirituality? Well grasshopper, if you go to some TMA (traditional martial art) dojos, you will discover you are being taught along with board breaking (uh sorry martial arts) some eastern spirituality. Even if it’s a little, it’s there. So what should a Neopagan (be they a warrior or not) be looking for? That is a loaded question. Because we as Neopagans are generally proud of being an eclectic bunch, thus meaning the answer is going to be vague. I’ll skip that and move to, what as a Neopagan warrior should one be looking for? Lets assume (a) You are a Neopagan warrior who is fresh to the path and has no training at all (probably a bad assumption) (b) You are of the type of Neopagan warrior who sees that action is often required (i.e. not he Peaceful warrior) and (c) You are mentally, spiritually, and physically up to the challenges training will bring. So what should I be looking for? Trainer: This is the MOST important part. You could be learning the right style (for you) but have the wrong trainer. A trainer should first and foremost be modest. Not humble, no that is a bad trait, but modest. They do not overstate (or even lie) about their accomplishments. This sadly is all too common. There is a feeling that you have to be “the best” to teach. That is not so, you have to be competent, and able to teach first. A style that fits you: If you are slight of build, grappling arts (say BJJ (Brazilian Jujitsu) are probably not what you should learn first. Sure it’s important, but in a situation, grabbing the 800lb Gorilla that is trying to rip your ears off, is not the brightest move, similarly if you are that 800lb Gorilla type, learning a style that relies on speed and fine motor skill (say Capoeira) is probably the wrong choice too. It’s best to start with a primary style then branch out. I say start, as part f the battle is to learn to trust yourself. So if you manage to progress in a style, picking something new up is easier. The best approach once you’ve “blooded” yourself is (in my honest opinion) to train Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). It can be a competiton based MMA, or just mixing different styles in to what you know. Why is this the “best”? Well it gives you a wide variety of skills, hopefully at least two instructors, and hence perspectives. Modern MMA is most known in the cage fighting circuits. Here BJJ is ‘king”, as most of these fights end in grappling and submission. It would be wise to remember that in a real fight submission is not as effective as in a competition, because you eventually have to let go (unless you really wish to cripple the opponent). Apart from sports MMA, there are other styles too. Military Unarmed Combat aka Combatives is a form of MMA (even if the zealots in sports MMA will have a stroke over this statement), as it mixes various techniques (including ground fighting (aka grappling) to form an effective style. So with style, pick one and move on to others, take the best and forget the worst. Confrontation control: This is an undervalued skill. A teacher that shows you how to first assess, then avoid, and last option deal with confrontation, is the best. A fight avoided is a fight won! Sadly many MMA’s ignore this as they are competition focused (even if they are selling themselves as “self defense”). They will teach you effective ways of causing joint and muscle pain, but there is always the chance you screw up, and having tried to apply a hold on Mr./Miss double joints, he/she may decided to retaliate, when a few simple soothing words would have fixed the problem Medical consequences: What you are taught always has consequences. Know them Would I use it? Would you use a technique or a style? Seriously outside the Dojo/gym would you see yourself applying this? NO? Then don’t try. It’s that easy, learn another option. Does it fit my mentality? An important ideal. Many who walked into my Combatives School, walked out fast as it was “too rough” for them. Which is fine, don’t do something you do not agree with. Forcing yourself to try will only cause internal conflict. Ok so that is some considerations, physical and mentally, how about spiritually? Well assuming we are partaking in a Neopagan faith that has martial deities in it (or at least as aspects of the deities they have), why not? Do we think Mars or the Morrigan will appreciate a nice little peaceful turning of the other cheek? Or perhaps letting someone get hurt when we could stand in the way? Probably not. Similarly our actual act of training can be dedicated as an offering to the deities! It’s always hard to make a non material (silver, gold, etc) offering to a God. If (like me) you suck at poetry, it’s some food, drink, or something else. I’ve dedicated my exercise and training to my four patrons (three of which are martial like) Dagda, Danu, the Morrigan and Lugh. Your actual sweet (and in some cases blood!) make a much better offering than just going and buying some cheap silver and offering that! Indeed I think they perhaps enjoyed the lumps and abrasions and cuts I took in Combatives much more than anything else? Weapons: This is a very touch subject. Martial arts at higher levels usually incorporate weapons training into their syllabus, many modern WMA’s (Western Martial Arts) actually focus on weapons exclusively too. A friend of mine (online only) Phil Elmore even wrote a book (Street Sword) on the use of the sword in self-defense. Admittedly he also pointed out it was not he most common way of doing it, but an option. All that said and done. Training with weapons is a great focus. In eastern styles weapons kata’s (ok all kata’s) let the Martial artist achieve an almost meditative state. Can you apply this to your path? Obviously you are not going to be walking around with a sword (Right?) most of the time, so it’s not so much a personal defense option, as a spiritual one? Indeed can you work magic/energy while you train? I certainly can, and it’s a lot easier than you would think. One thing though make sure you are (a) Alone (b) in a room with room (my old bed room at the family house (recently sold) has scars thanks to me not getting this point and (c) Unlikely to be seen by the police! “Officer it’s a ritual” he screamed as he was hand cuffed and taken in for mental evaluation So to close the answer is “ummm it’s difficult” but yes pick and choose for you! Ok in addition to this, are there any martial arts I would avoid? YEP, I’ll not name them directly but at least ONE martial art out there claims to be a survivor of pre-Christian Germanic/Scandinavian times. All evidence points to it being a modern invention (indeed the forms are from eastern martial arts). Don’t be suckered in by fanciful claims. Just like don’t let a high priestess/priest say she/he is from an unbroken line of pagans, it’s rot! Don’t try to learn just from DVD/books, get a training partner at least.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Pagans and the Law.

This is a topic many in the community hate to see, as it actually implies that we “shock horror” have to conform to societies norms on some level. At one time Neopagans were at the edge of society, the rich and strange or the hippy. But never middle class normal. Sometime around the mid 1990’s this began to change on a few levels. Thanks to Practical Magic, Charmed, etc Pagans became an acceptable path to the majority of society. Sure the ultra hard right still saw us as dangerous weirdoes and used us as excuses for many things, attacked us even, but on a whole, wearing a pentacle (if that was your thing) was no longer painting a bulls eye on your back! With this acceptance came the realization, we could be more public in what we did. Public ritual became commonplace. Indeed some of the best Pagan festivals are open to all, in the middle of cities, or at least in easy reach. So when we went public, certain things had to change. Ritual nudity was not a great idea, and the “great rite” went to a symbolic thing (the arrival of HIV also had a big part in this). What some realized and others did not, is our ritual tools were also something to reconsider. Every decent pagan ritual usually involves fire. Funny thing about fire is the authorities tend to worry about it. Thus the people running a ritual really should invest in training as fire wardens (accredited training) and also getting a fire permit. Imagine if a large fire was sparked by a careless ritual, the media would probably not be too understanding. Ritual Knives, swords, Staves, sickles, and even wands. If it looks like an offensive weapon, if it can be used as one, then it IS an offensive weapon. The law will not differentiate “ceremonial” over “functional”, so it’s wise to either talk to the law first, or not use them. Use of illegal substances in public. This can range from alcohol to hallucinogenic, and every thing in-between! No just no is all I have to say to this. No alcohol in public, and absolutely nothing that can get you arrested. Just don’t. End of story. This leads to the point of “attitude”. Be polite, be calm. Show the police, fire service, or security guard the utmost respect, even if they are idiots. Kerr Chulainn gives the best advice for a ritual in progress that the police try to stop: Stop and listen to them, place the items that may be “weapons” under the alter or the center of the circle, you can reconsecrate them later and they HAVE to be returned anyway (as they are holy items) step out of the circle (you can ground later, it’s not going to kill you or end the world, no matter what some people think), and obey them (gun beats knife). DO NOT try to cut a door in the circle (that will be brandishing a weapon to the police). Ok what rights do we have? The same as every one else. Neopaganism is a religion, and in the USA and most of the Western world, it is free from obstacles. HOWEVER: We are no MORE entitled than any other to practice what we do (i.e. we can not demand reparation for centuries of mistreatment or whatever) but we cannot be persecuted for what we do either. Many Afro-Caribbean Mesopagan faiths (Voodoo, hoodoo, etc) have won court cases to be allowed to follow their faith with out persecution, thus by extension we can too. Find a nice pagan friendly lawyer if people start to question your rights! Ok so we have duties and rights, remember that we have both! Not just rights. Act like a responsible adult, and try to enforce it in the community. If the community will not listen, don’t be a part of it, as the law and the media will not make the distinction between members!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Balance, and no this does not involve an gymnastics beam!

Something I think every human should try to achieve is balance. In life, be it physical, mental or spiritual. It’s vital.

Studies have shown that many of our modern “illnesses” are due to an imbalance of lifestyle. Nutrition has suffered, we eat “ready to eat” junk food, and suddenly society in the west is plagued by obesity and malnutrition. We work to hard, and stress (generally mental in nature) causes us to loose years off of what should be a higher life expectancy. We feel disconnected with the world (somewhat a spiritual issue) and society stops being societal, and we become individuals in the worst sense. This leads to people like the Unabomber, serial offenders in violent crime, or just a plethora of sad individuals that make society hard to maintain!

For a Warrior, balance is vitally important. As we deal with conflict as part of our path, we need to be able to “decompress”. Studies during the second world war onwards showed that soldiers (yes I know not always a warrior) who could not take a break, suffered mental “issues” at a higher rate than those who took a break. I think the most startling of this is the residents of Stalingrad (considered the longest siege in history, as it was pretty much 24/7 for months, while Medieval sieges would stop (generally) at sun set) had a life expectancy at least a decade less than those who were not there. The stress was constant, thus they could not ever relax!

So a warrior needs to find something that they have a passion for that is not warrior related. Art, poetry, whatever, but the warrior needs to be able to not be a warrior at times.

So for those of us on this path, even though the idea of “being vigilant” is there, there also has to be the idea of “doing it for yourself’ sometimes, because we are of absolutely no use to our community if we can not function at peak performance when needed. Worse still we may go off the path of the Warrior onto other less acceptable paths, and may never find our way back.

Out side of the community issues, or how to deal with "persistent" missionary nuisances

Perhaps the most serious threat to large Pagan events are the “proactive” Christians. I use the term proactive as to be honest it’s how they see themselves. They are here to stop Satan and save the souls of the poor misguided sinners. Generally they are “Jehovah’s warriors” and thus the enemy for the Neopagan Warrior. They are making war on us, and we need to (a) respect them and (b) be ready for them.

Wait a second, I said respect? Yes indeed. Respect is not accept. Acceptance is admitting defeat, respecting is admitting they exist and can possibly be a treat.

Now some of the more skeptical of you will argue that how can they be a “threat”. I might even get the old rhym “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”. But I would like you to consider the following links (part of a very fine Blog FYI).

http://www.wildhunt.org/2007/02/god-wants-you-to-be-intimidated.html

http://www.wildhunt.org/2007/01/freedom-to-harrass-us.html

If you clicked the links you will have seen that a group of overly zealous evangelical, extremists (I am avoiding the T word) picked on a little girl. Well gee how bloody brave of them. They will of course if confronted about the tactic us the time honored get out of jail free card of “saving souls” or “Christ compels them”.

That latter one really should not be a defense for poor behavior as a number of mentally unstable individuals have committed crimes and tried to use “the Devil made me do it” or some such as a defense. However as Christianity (and the other Abrahamic faiths) are widely accepted in the west (yes even Islam was till 9/11), allowing them free reign to be arses!

So what can the “Warrior” do? Well any large event needs security in my humble opinion. The security is there to stop problems from legitimate attendees and interlopers. A small well disciplined, trained and motivated group of individuals can maintain order with out being seen as too authoritarian by the community. There job is not to tell most people how to act, but rather stop a small number of people affecting a large number of people in an adverse way.

So at that pagan pride event if there had been such a group, they could have “quarantined” the group of Christians early on, and waited for the Police to show up and remove them.

Now getting the pagan community to accept that this is a necessary evil is a whole other matter. But the larger we get as a community the worse this can become. So far it’s been minor harassment in the grand scheme of things.

The question is, do we want this to escalate. Because as there are members of our community are willing to “lash back” at perceived injustices, and to be honest, untrained, undisciplined “warriors” (as they see themselves) are vigilantes and terrorists, and no society should accept that from it’s members. Take the high road, you can drop rocks on them better from up there :P

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Honor (quick count the spoons)

For this post I would like to deal with a touchy subject.

Honor.

I am reminded of Samuel Johnson's comment on a certain dinner guest: "The more he spoke of honor, the faster I counted my spoons."

That attitude (the speaking of honor) is what makes this a touchy (contentious even) subject!

You cannot talk about honor and be honorable. Honor is actions, not words.

It’s also very misunderstood (VERY).

The dictionary definition of Honor at it’s most simple is:

Honesty, fairness, or integrity in one's beliefs and actions: a man of honor.

Now as per usual the dictionary does not convey the spirit of the idea. But that will do for a start.

Sadly the concept of honor has become convoluted, misunderstood, and reviled on a lot of levels.

During what some people would call the age of Chivalry, it became codified. This formalization led to a lot of the problems. Rules as opposed to a way of life mean there are loopholes. You could CLAIM to be honorable, while still being a dirty rotten scoundrel (sorry Mr. Martin).

The idea of an honor price also got perverted. Where it was SUPPOSED to be a deterrent for members of society from breaking the rules (the more important you were the more expensive it was) and not disposing of those who did the misdeed (because people are important in these cultures, they each play a role). It became an excuse for the rich and important to not follow the rules.

So over time you can see the word honor probably pissed people off. Add to that Duels and well yeah you get the idea.

So in the Warrior societies of the past what exactly did honor mean.

As you may have gathered I am most experienced with the Indo-European cultures, specifically the “Celtic” ones (and more specifically the Gaelic cultures).
In the Gaelic Culture, the traditional word equated with “honor” is oineach (derived via ainech back to old Irish enech) literally means face, and we can derive the terms “saving face” and “loosing face” from this idea. That study in linguistics was probably very enlightening but not explaining why I’ve used it?

ENECH (as will refer to it now) implied that ones “honor” was something that was derived from how one was seen in the community (the face you show the community).

There was a second term that would also be applicable herem, that is CLĂ™. This term roughly translates to fame or reputation and derives from an Indo-European (IE) root word meaning “to hear.”

To the Warrior caste, the saving of face and having a good reputation was paramount. They would go to great lengths to undo a misdeed, to avenge an insult etc. In many ways “honor” was the check society had on the Warriors. Tales are told of Bards being able to depose a king with a simple satire.

So it can be seen in the pre-Christian (and early Christian) cultures of Eire, honor in a form meant a LOT to the Warrior caste.

Other cultures are replete with similar ideas, from the Samurai of Feudal Japan, to the Cheiftains of Pacific Islands.

How can honor be applied today?

Well while many people will point “sagely” at the Wiccan Rede. That is (a) For wiccans and not all pagans are that (b) a Guideline not a law and (c) Some cleaver souls have managed to amend it such that they can justify being none ‘redy”. The “amended” version that is fairly recent (sometime in the late 1980’s at the earliest) reads “Do as tho wilt, an it harm none. If it cause harm do as you must”. That last part basically says “if you see someone doing harm, act however you need to, to stop it.

This version is often quoted by those involved in witch wars (another post for another day), and those who are justifying their stance. Usually it’s quoted by weak leaders who are unsure of their position, and are thus resort to unethical stances. To me (as an outsider (non Wiccan) it is a cop out!

So back to honor.

The concept can be used as a way for a warrior to hold themselves in check. I define an action as honorable if it is “just”.

I ask myself before I take an action, is it earned? This applies to good as well as bad acts, a person who rewards someone who has not earned it is being just as UN just as someone who punishes an innocent!

If it is just, then you have to meter our the level of action.

Next you must ask is it lawful?

How will it reflect on myself (my enech and clu)

On my community (will what I do cause the media to have a circus over pagans?)

Finally would I proud if my family (or coven or whaever) saw me do this.’

Once you have done this, then you can act.

Of course this is still a contentious subject, because Pagans are one of the most, if not THEM most non conformist religions out there, thus they dislike rules being put down. This is only my thought I wish to share and I am not the honor polic, or the Pagan Police.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A warriors myth

Many ages ago, perhaps only a few short years after the world had been made, a young lad by the name of Setanta set out on a journey. He decided that the farm, where he lived with his mother and his cousins, was too small, and there must be more in the world to see and know. His father, who was always away on travels of his own, belonged to a special group, recruited only from the most skilled and honorable of warriors. Setanta decided it was time to take up his birthright, follow in his father’s footsteps, and join the Boy’s Troop of these Red Branch Knights. For someone walking alone, at that time in the age of the world, roads and spaces between settlements were always wild and dark places. The distance between Dundalk and Emain Macha was long and dangerous. Setanta had to be wary of wild animals, brigands, and the elements. He played with his hurly and lither to occupy his mind during the long days of tedious walking. At night he slept rough, on a bed of leaves and mosses, a stone for a pillow, and his cloak for a blanket. All along the road, the shadow of a crow followed him, far enough away to be unobtrusive, but close enough to be a constant presence. On the third morning, he emerged from his sleeping hole, at the side of the road to find a woman standing over him. She seemed to be taller than any adult he had ever seen before, and darker. But perhaps that was just an effect of the light, for the sun was rising behind her? Her wild red hair and dark green cloak with black feathers seemed to be stirring in a light breeze that he could not feel. A golden Torc the sign of a sovereign, was around her neck. In one hand she carried a bright long spear, with a tip as long as a sword, and in the other a stout wooden shield, with metallic reinforcements designed into intricate knot work. Her face was hard to see, with the sun behind her head, but there was strange warmth glowing from it. She was beautiful, but she had the kind of beauty one finds in thunderstorms, and the wild seas. “Do not be afraid,” she said to him. “I am a great queen of this Island, and I have been watching you for a long time. I am here to tell you your destiny.” She sat down on the ground, closer to the boy’s level and spoke further. “If you want it, you can have a long and happy life, with a good home, a wife and children who shall love you, and when you die, you will be very old, and healthy, well loved and happy” The boy thought about this future prospect, intrigued but also bemused. “BUT there is another life for you,” continued the magical woman “You could become a great hero, and live a life of adventure, passion, and danger. If you choose this life, you will create a great name for yourself, and the poets and storytellers will be telling your tale in this land forever, but you will die very young. The women then stood again, and thrust the rim of her shield into the ground, just within reach of the boys right hand, and then thrust the blunt end of the spear into the ground just to his left. “I offer you this choice today” she said to him “the choice you make shall transform your future irreversibly. Which life do you choose to live?” And with out hesitation Setanta made his choice… This is known as the “Choice of the Morrigan”. Setanta of course is better known as Cu Cuhulain, the greatest warrior in Irish Legend.

I have borrowed this excelent telling of the myth from "Mysteries of Druidry (Paperback) by Brendan Cathbad Myers". I can not recomend his writtings more highly!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Ethics and all that

So I’ve spoken about Honor, now lets talk about ethics (and all that).

I’ve alluded to the fact that I think a lot of Wiccan’s use an amendment to Rede as a back door to being unethical; similarly I’ve suggested I think the modern Pagan community is a little self absorbed and individualistic.

For the warrior acting ethically is unquestionable. For a community to accept you, you have to show you can be trusted to serve. You cannot decide when and where you will behave in the manner that the community wants. Now this behavior includes acting WITHIN the laws of society.

Imagine (if you will) a pagan “warrior” getting caught acting in an unlawful unethical manner. The media would have a field day. We would be branded a dangerous to society (well ok more so than we already are by the religious Reich). The idea of pagan warriors would be warped to an “anti government militia” or worse “terrorists.”

Overreacting am I? Look at how Islam is being branded. Not only are the extremists (rightfully) being labeled as dangerous (any religious extremist is dangerous) but your average Muslim is also being considered suspect.

Now this is very unfair, as the number of dangerous Christian groups out there is on the rise, but it happens.

Thus being ethical is paramount.

Slan

Noinden

Thursday, January 3, 2008

What is a Neopagan Warrior?

When Gerald Gardner (dear old Uncle Gerry) lit the “fire in the mind” of the first generation of Neopagans, he was hoping that the English people (and if we are honest this was his intended audience, not the rest of the world, that was just a nice bonus) every man and woman who joined, would became his or her own priest and priestess. He saw a deficiency in letting some dry old theologian preach at the masses and tell them how to think. It certainly seems to have lit a fire in the mind of a lot of people. However I doubt very much he would recognize much of what he started in today’s Neopagans.

Mr. Gardener was a white, conservative, middle class, British male. Most of his coven members (and those who followed) were similarly conservative, middle class, Brits, as a whole they were very well educated, and not pacifists. After all they had just survived the Second World War. But as Neopaganism spread, the demographic changed. Gardnerian Witchcraft (those who spawned from Gardner’s first Covens) had to compete with imitators, and schisms, Druidry crawled out from stone circles and poor history to begin to show an interest in reconstructing what actually went on (with in reason) with the various Celtic Tribes, Asatruar begun to feel it was safe to be openly Germanic and Heathen (they prefer this to pagan) and not be labeled a national Socialist. But over all, those who follow the leafy path have become very liberal.

Liberalism is a great thing, it allows for rapid growth, and a positive environment for the exchange of ideas. The Goddess movement became very prominent, and with them the Pacifists. No longer were Neopagans a bunch of middle-aged men and women in robes (or nothing at all) following a formula. Now they were the Hippies, young academics, and so much more.

However in this environment there was an aspect of our ancestors that was ignored (or dismissed) and a portion of our community that was marginalized: The warrior archetype! When the Warrior was acknowledged, it was often the “way of the peaceful (read pacifist) warrior”. But we had pagan Soldiers, Police, and martial artists, what about them?

Some time near the end of the 20th century, Neopagans allowed that the idea that perhaps the Warrior was important, to flourish again. Soldiers who were Neopagans began to get support from their community, Police did not have to worry that every member was seeing them as a sell out, and martial artists did not have to pretend it was purely an art form they practiced, but rather it had applications in the defense of the self and others. It was a start.


Defining the Warrior.

As we grew up we all had an idea of what a warrior was. Through stories, books, and other forms of media, I think all of us had an image. Be it a Knight on a horse, to a Samurai standing on the battlefield, or a soldier fighting the “foe”. We all I think compartmentalized the image. For many of us we really respected it, even yearned to be one, perhaps as we grew older, it no longer had the draw, or perhaps that draw was stronger? But lets take a moment and think: What is a warrior?

If you rely solely on a dictionary a warrior is “One who is engaged in or experienced in battle.” That seems a little too generic and bland though. What about a Knights honor? Or a Samurai’s adherence to the code of Bushido, stories of valor from our Grandfathers perhaps, might even our sports heroes to be warriors? So lets toss that dictionary away (or prop a table up on it) and go for the soul of the matter.

If you look at various cultures over time, a warrior fulfilled an important role in society.

Samurai were leaders and the glue that held Feudal Japanese culture together. Admittedly that culture was a harsh one, and one we’d not like to live in today, that was however their function. Knights were variously holy crusaders, servants of a monarch, and eventually fraternal orders (e.g. the Knights of Malta) or members of the peerage (the title conveyed by the modern British public honors system includes several “Knights”, this is often mirrored through out the British Commonwealth, a great example (is Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest, and comeback down alive, along with his friend Tenzing Norgay).

Both the Knights and the Samurai had honor codes, but also other non-martial skills to learn, roles to play. Today our soldiers may or may not be warriors, but we have the Police, and Fire service, who most would agree certainly fill the role. When I was growing up the Police officer was some one you could (no SHOULD) trust.

The Indo-European (IE) peoples lived in a caste-based system. Three major castes existed, Producers (farmers, crafters, i.e. the common people), Intellectuals (priests, judges, bards, etc) and the Warriors (the Nobles). Members of the Warrior caste did have certain perks (like being able to carry weapons, and “ruling”) but they also had huge responsibilities. The safety and well being of the lands the people inhabited, making sure every one was well fed and safe. There are may legends of the land itself falling ill, either because an unjust ruler (like Bres) or when the King was himself ill (like Arthur during the grail Quest). There seems to be a mystical link to the well being of a land (the people!) and the Warriors. Similarly the warriors in these various IE cultures generally had a code of ethics they had to follow (in Celtic and Germanic/Scandinavian cultures the idea of an honor price was held, that is the more important a person was, the more expensive for them to break the law it became, for they had to pay the honor place based on their position and reputation within the community).

So it’s simple to see that in the past a warrior has been seen as more than a trained killer. What about today, in our Neopagan community? What role can or should we play as warriors?

Well one very well know Neopagan author (Starhawk) who is also a pacifist and an activist has this to say:

"Earth is the element of nurturing, grounding, of the practicalities that assure our sustenance. Dragons keep the group grounded, in touch with the practical, the realistic. Dragons also live on the boundaries of the wild, guarding hordes of treasure with their claws and fiery breath. The Dragon in the group guards its resources and its boundaries and articulates its limitations. ...

Dragons establish boundaries that give the group a sense of safety, and limits that keep the group's service sustainable. They may be perceived as throwing a wet blanket on the fires of fresh enthusiasm, but they may win great appreciate from those in the group who are feeling overwhelmed and can't buck the driving force of the Crows and Graces."(Truth or Dare, Starhawk, p. 281-82)

This is put another way by the Reclaiming Witchcraft movement (a mystical tradition based around Starhawk’s teachings):

"Dragons" guard the perimeters of circles in public outdoor spaces such as beaches so that participants can work undistracted by curious passersby; they do not directly participate in the work of a ritual because they are providing a buffer between the public and the inner circle. In this role, Dragons are similar to what are called in other traditions the Summoner or the Man in Black.”

This is one very common role that people take on in ritual, and it has spread beyond the Reclaiming Witchcraft Tradition.

During public ritual, Neopagans have quickly realized that they are opening themselves up to public scrutiny, and that will not always be positive or friendly. There have been incidences of evangelical Christian groups “invading” public rituals and Festivals, to proselytize. Understandably the Neopagans involved are unappreciative of this, and often have wondered how to handle this.

The ADF Warriors Guild states their mission as follow:

”The Warriors Guild of A.D.F. is dedicated to serving the A.D.F. community with members who are trained in spiritual, mental and physical defense, designing & performing liturgy for Warrior spirituality, and emergency response. All this is done through study of warrior magic, history, strategy, and physical training.”

Another group is The Royal Order of the Knights of Herne, and they state:

“The Royal Order of the Knights of Herne is a fraternal spirituality and service group for men of Earth-centered faiths, organized along the lines of ancient orders of chivalry such as the Knights Templar. Though primarily dedicated to the exploration of men's spirituality through Pagan, Heathen, and other types of earth-centered rituals, we also have a strong commitment of service to the community.”


Another role the warriors groups that are around have taken is one of organization for these rituals and festivals. Often there is a shortage of people willing to actually pitch in and help, setup, run, and clean up events. The warriors often are these people, generally in good physical shape, and generally service oriented.

So beyond ritual/festival security (or whatever candy coating you want to give it) and organization, what else makes the warrior?

Well personally I break this down into Three sets of three areas to focus upon.

Physical, mental, and spiritual.

Service, Integrity, and Balance.

And

Personal, community, and global.

Physical: This is self explanatory. Physicality is one of the trade marks of the Warrior, action, and results are part of this. But it is also about understanding the physical nature of yourself and others, how the body works and responds. Nutrition, first aid, and even appearance all are part of the Physical world of the warrior.

Mental: Mentality. This encompasses learning, strategy, Psychology. Knowing how things happened in the past, and not making the same mistakes, understanding your mind, and a little of others.

Spirit: Spirituality, it is hard to be a Neopagan with out this aspect, indeed I would say impossible! So for a warrior spirituality is what guides us. The idea of ethics, morals, virtues, and perhaps even the example of our deities and heroes. A warrior worships in their own way, it can simple or elaborate, but they feel it!

Service: A warrior should only function within the community if they are asked to do so. To assume you are wanted there is either an issue with an overblown ego, or not being in touch with the community. To force a service on a community will only ensure they are resistant to what you have to offer.

Integrity: Integrity is acting according to ones conscience. We as adults (generally) intrinsically know right or wrong action, assuming we are functioning human beings. A warrior needs to have Integrity, as a community will not trust someone who has been shown to be untrustworthy. This will include ideas such as courage, honor, loyalty, etc, but may in general be called integrity.

Balance: Balance is trying to ensure that actions you take are just, that things you do are not extreme. Balance means not neglecting an aspect of yourself ie building muscles over cultivating a mind, or understanding your soul. An unbalanced warrior is a danger to themselves as well as their community.

Personal: By personal I mean focusing on yourself, you do this first before trying to help others. It’s the first rule of getting the job done. Make sure you have the skills (physical), understand your mind (mental), are solid in your faith (spiritual) because if you are not focusing on one of them, or worse ignoring it, you will not be balanced!

Community: Given we have talked of service, who exactly are we going to serve. Only you (and that community) can decide this. It could be a Coven, or Grove (or insert an appropriate name for a small group) or as large as your nation (and then you should be in the military if you already are not), and anything in-between. Once you decide upon your community, you should then approach them as a whole and offer your services, they may rebuff you, or test you, or accept you with out question, it is just important to decide who that community is, and remember that that is the limit to your influence. For the warrior the community is central to existence. Sure some of you might be thinking of stories of Ronin out of Japanese folk law, but to be honest, they are simply no more than stories.

Global: Don’t look just at yourself and your chosen community, look at the world as a whole, look for paterns and trends, always be scanning. You will see problems earlier, you may be able to make alliances faster etc.


Ok so what types of Neopagan warrior are there out there?

The Activist: They fight for an ideal. Often they will not themselves act violently but they are willing to place themselves in the way of violence and conflict. They may or may not see themselves as warriors, and will probably not recognize many of the other aspects of a warrior as valid.

The Martial Artist: They study the forms and applications of violence, but perhaps never ever place it into action.

The Peaceful warrior: These warriors, will not use physical violence under any circumstance, but will stand in the way of danger, will try to resolve conflict through words, and example. They are every bit as much a warrior as the others, they just act in a different manner. They will often not agree with any application of force.

The Professional: A soldier, Police Officer, Fire service member and even Emergency Response personal. Their job IS the job of the warrior. While being in one of these jobs is not a guarantee of following the warrior’s path, many of them still do. Usually they see those who play at being a warrior as a menace and bad for their image.

The non-professional: I probably fall into this category. I train hard, study hard, and try to practice, however my job is not to be a warrior, my passion is. I try to serve my community in the role. Those on this path have “day jobs” but when needed step up. I am not talking about a “pagan militia movement here” as that would be scary (to me at least), rather perhaps like a Guardian Angles movement that is only active during large public affairs. This group however has to be self-regulated to avoid becoming a menace (like a militia or vigilante movement), they require strong leadership, and vetting of members to avoid this.

The Mradu: In several forms of the Vampiric subculture, there is a caste system that includes the Mradu, or warrior caste. I separate them here as they are in a much more structured environment than your average Neopagan.

Beyond the types of warrior there are also organizations that specialize in the path, they can be local, national, and in one case international!

The ADF Warriors Guild: Formed in the late 1990’s, this group like the rest of the ADF emphasizes serious study and testing over every thing else. To progress in the guilds three circle structure, you will be tested (written and physical) on skill. You agree to follow the syllabus, and code of ethics (along with bylaws, and pay yearly dues (not much)).

Craobh Ruadh: This is a small group of “druidic” warriors who are made up EXCLUSIVELY of current and former US military, Intelligence, and Federal law enforcement personnel.

Mradu caste of the House of Dreaming (and others): I’ve mentioned them as a type of warrior, but in reality they are also part of an organized group.

The Military Pagan Network (http://www.milpagan.org/) the name is self-explanatory. However it is one of the groups dedicated to supporting Neopagans in the military.

The Officers of Avalon: Is a group for serving members of the US military, law enforcement, firefighting and emergency medical personnel and their families. It provides support and resources for these fine individuals, that till recently the Neopagan community and government did not deem important.

The Royal Order of the Knights of Herne: based almost solely in North Carolina, this group of individuals encompasses every aspect of what I am writing about. They while regional are open to any Neopagan.

The Warrior Wolves: A Texas based group of Neopagan Bikers who identify with the wolf totem. It is exclusive and membership is by invitation only!

Who might we have to deal with as warriors?

Fellow pagans: This can range from a simple of pointing out the way to the facilities at an event; to actually removing a drunken idiot from an area they can cause mayhem. It is also our job to make sure people follow the law, or at least know it. This last part is contentious in the extreme. There are a lot of “you are not the police” and “fascist bully boys” thrown about, it causes flame wars on lists, and schisms in community. The fact however remains Neopagans whether they like it or not are part of the greater community, and do not get to choose what laws they follow and which they ignore.

The General Public: Curious onlookers, even more curious missionaries, and the odd malicious fool. We have to politely but firmly handle all of these. During ritual as Dragons we stop anyone crashing a ritual, as well as making sure those inside ritual have manners. In the USA Pagans have to realize there is the guarantee of free speech and freedom to practice religion that allows them to be pagans, at the same time, Evangelical Christians are similarly free to proselytize at you.

Police/Fire Service/Emergency response personnel: It is probably the warrior who will get to deal with them first. During ritual, we are often on the outside, and alert, at festivals we are often serving as organization. Whatever the reason, we need to politely help these people do their job, and reduce friction between the community and them.

Slan

Noinden

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Beginings

Who am I

Hello there I am Noinden Tain. I’m a Neopagan Druid on the red branch of the warrior. Well ok I am a Neopagan Gael-centric spiritualist who focus’s on the warrior caste. That tends to elicit rather glazed expressions, so I stick with Neopagan Druid Warrior;)

What does that mean? Well what it means is I study the ways of my genetic ancestors (the Gaels, ie Scotts and Irish, also the welsh and the Scandinavians) and try to adapt these to a culturally acceptable form for today. This means no head hunting, blood eagles, Wicker men, and only the occasion deposit of hordes in lakes.

As a “warrior” I try to serve as a buffer between conflict and my chosen community. To that end I set up a non-denominational Warriors Lodge (the term for a grouping of Warriors who seek to connect spiritually) about 2 years ago. It currently has between 10 and fifteen members (depending on how many graduate the current intake of learners). We are NOT Jedi , or a pagan militia and we run the whole range of Neopagan and Mesopagan faiths. We are not the pagan police (unless asked to act that way) and are not affiliated with any one group.

I practice Military Unarmed Combat of the Fairbairn-Applegate-Sykes-Todd lineage, this is my “marital art” although it’s not your typical competition art, as we don’t hold competitorns or have fancy belts for achievement (there are three levels of achievement and only two are tested, the third is on going learning). I also am active in the ADF (www.adf.org) and their warrior’s guild (http://www.adfwarriors.org) and have been since mid 1999.

So how am I “qualified” to speak on this topic? How is anyone qualified to speak on any topic? I’ve studied, screwed up, and talked with others. I’ve taught and learned. Read and written. This is MY journey and not the definitive journey of the Warrior. Enjoy. Show respect or be net koped ;)