Saturday, February 20, 2016

Bullets for the Morrigan


Q: What stone would you suggest for working with the Morrigan?
Me: A lead pellet in .308 caliber

The above exchange on social media is, I believe, the source of the latest disturbance in the Pagan world. It took place in a discussion page dedicated to the Queen, and I didn't get much of a replyn on that thread, but boy did it light up at Pantheacon 2016.

It touches on an old discussion about the appropriateness of what one puts on one's altar, and in my case specifically, some claim I am conjuring death and destruction by doing so.

If we're going to have a mature conversation, I want to set aside the arguments about gun control and whether lawful folks have a right to own firearms. That was settled in the US Supreme Court a few years back (Heller v District of Columbia), and isn't germaine to the discussion. Also, I don't want to entertain whether Pagans have the moral authority to kill animals – if one has ever eaten meat or worn leather, that person has participated in a kill even if it's removed by several steps.

I want to narrow down the focus to two things: first, why I chose to use bullets on my altar, and what it means to me, and secondly what is appropriate on and altar and who decides.

I began using bullets on my altar a few years back after an attempted carjacking. I hold a concealed weapon license from my state, and I have had one for the better part of a decade. I carry my weapon where and when I can legally and practically, and am a responsible and trained owner.

One night I was in out with my wife, and we were in the tourist part of town in a borrowed shiny new imported car. We were approached by a man who obviously wanted the car and made threatening advances. I was able to force him to back off only when he knew I was armed and willing to use it. After that encounter I sat in my car shaking, knowing that I almost had to kill a man over his own stupidity, and also the fact that I knew – I KNEW- I could and would defend myself and those I loved.

I believe that day having a gun saved both of us from death or grave harm. Ever since, I've made it a point to keep bullets that fit my guns on my altar, since I believe the Queen was looking out for me that day, and as a reminder that when push comes to shove I would be up to the challenge. If I didn't have the weapon, and it's bullets, the night would have gone very differently.

The second issue is the appropriateness of the bullet as an offering. Contrary to the left coast crowd, many of the Pagans who live in the South, Midwest and rural parts of America have a cultural background that includes an introduction to firearms at some point, usually in a positive light. For me it was my cousins hunting feral hogs in the Everglades and later by a good friend who was a police officer. For others it might have been target shooting with a parent or family member. Those of us that had a positive direct introduction to firearms know what they are and how they work, and accept them as tools that can be used to keep one safe or fed should need arise.

Another part of this issue is that firearms are used by bad people to hurt others, but blaming the weapon is never going to solve the problem. Years ago, I knew a woman who was murdered by her boyfriend using a hammer. The horror of the murder is senseless, but banning hammers because they could be used to kill in a way they weren't meant to is kind of like banning guns. Senseless.

Blaming the gun for a death is a double mistake. It makes the tool the guilty party and in a way absolves the person who pulls the trigger, and I personally think that's dishonest. Passing that responsibility is attractive, we don't want to blame a person for a mall shooting that kills 10 people, because a single person can only be punished once, but a gun can be banned forever. Also, is gives a sense that we've done something, even when we know it will do nothing to stop violence itself, or gun violence in general.

But this is the desperation people feel, and Pagans doubly so. Many of us believe in magic, and know as we will, so we create. Those who harbor a fear and mistrust of the weapon itself would be offended at the idea of a lone polythiest, who has alien political leanings on the opposite side of the continent, who places bullets on his altar to the Queen of War and Sovereignty. This is dark magic they reason, because he must be invoking war. What he really is doing is invoking thanks and giving Her the thing She asks.

These same Pagans turn archaic weapons into fetishes. They pray with sword and spear, shield and armor, thinking somehow that since these are old, they're somehow “safe” and more noble, that it takes skill to wield and have a martial culture. They will read and be inspired by tales of knights and think this is what true martial spirit are. Or be wooed by the idea of an Asian martial art that praises peace and compassion in the heart of a “warrior” mostly because it does not offend their tastes. To this I say two things: war and battle has never been glorious, and never confuse taste with morality.

All warfare takes skill. Regardless of the weapon. The closest most who gripe about guns have come close to one has been a video game, and don't understand the skill it takes to return fire while being fired upon, to control the reaction of adrenaline and act from training. Any of them wave a sword about as if they were out of a movie, with no concept of economy of motion, speed, precision, and discipline.

They find the idea of real death and war and conflict so distasteful as to label it immoral, while living off the freedoms won by war and the gun. They speak of sovereignty as if it were handed to them from on high, rather than bought with blood and will. And they wish they didn't have to fight for anything, condemning those who have fought for everything because it reminds them of an awful truth: life is hard, nothing is guaranteed and sometimes bad people win.

And all this goes through me as the bullet makes a soft “plink” into the offering dish.

I feel her smile. I think I have to get more range time in, speed up the draw stroke, get sight picture faster and recovery. I need to do more cardio and figure out how I can afford a training class. I want to be a better example and a better fighter, I want to serve Her well.

Plink.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Meeting the Queen

I laid in bed, dejected. Once again, work comes to naught because some fool didn't check facts, and I'm now a public enemy because I uttered the unspeakable. It's a habit for me, but this came on fast. I'm staring out the window at the grey clouds over the mountains on the opposite side of a continent from home.

My beloved climbs on top of me, and gets my attention.

"They don't understand you", she says. "Tell them about your dedication and love for the Queen. They see the anger and strife, but they don't see the love ".

She's right.

It began for me when I was a child. I grew up with a violently abusive parent. Beatings were normal unless my parents were fighting reach other. To try to put sense to this is impossible, and for a child this was a daily fear. Following manic/depressive cycles, would I get beaten or locked out of the house today? Who knew? No sense was applicable in that world.

One day, after an especially bad episode, a ten year old me is locked in a hall closet for what was hours. It's disjointed, time was, and I began to call out for help. First to the God of my parents, Yahweh, Jesus, and no answer. I ran through my head, even asking for help from the devil. Nothing but silence and dark.

I then decided to ask for whoever would answer. And She appeared. And when I say " appear" I don't mean a vague impression, or blob or some outline, She literally stepped out of the dark in front of me. I think I was crying, I don't remember.

She calmed me, said She'd always be with me, and I had nothing to fear. If I could hold on a few more years, she'd set me free. I said yes, I would trust Her. I asked Her name and she said she would tell me later, but I would have to become stronger and She would ask things of me. I promised I'd do them.

About this time I was turned loose and sent outside.

Weeks later I was at the library, and found a book of paintings, including one with the title La Belle Dame Sans Merci, and threat was how I knew her. I spent the next few years learning everything I could about fighting and martial arts, Asian and ancient European, and at 18 I found my way into paganism.

At an eclectic coven I circled with, in my early 20's, I was doing journey work, looking for the "face of the Goddess" I was supposed to work with, when La Belle Dame appeared as I saw her when I was younger. She was and always had been the Morrigan, and the work was to be a warrior, and she'd show me how.

All my dedication today flows from those events. Today, I think She literally saved my life more than once. I moved on from the violence of my childhood, working tirelessly on my own self improvement. And always demanding from those around me that they work on theirs.

But beneath the demands, I feel deep love, reverence and cherish those around me. I was attending a pagan festival locally one year, and had to leave back into the mundane for a few hours. When I got back to the festival it was a bright and warm Beltane, and I saw a father and daughter flying a kite and children running across a field. I felt heavy with armor, with responsibility and I looked at simple happiness. I vowed inside I could stand on that hill and defend those people if needed, so that those kids could grow up pagan and free.

Love itself means nothing without Discipline. Discipline is a art of making choices and persevering in those choices for long term benefits. She has also taught me the value of that, to the point of costing me that which stood in the way of Her work and my self improvement.

One day in 2014, I made a choice to stand up against what saw as injustice and wrong, and since that day I became willing to use my full name to stand as a Pagan man, dedicated to his Queen, and speak my truth.

And that truth is that there is an absolute right and wrong. That every person is given rights by their Gods that no one can deny. That human freedom is the most important thing, not just for me but every person. That no one owes anything to anyone except non aggression. That every life is precious. That honor is a way of life.

That love is possible only between those who value themselves first, and see their values reflected in the other.

That one's reach should always exceed their grasp. Life without purpose and reflection isn't worth much, but life without will and action is worth nothing.

That art should exalt the spirit.

That we should strive to make our Gods proud.

That life is struggle and overcoming, a process of refinement.

And in the end the only legacy you really leave behind is your work.

It really is beautiful when you stop and think about it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

reference material-Warrior mindset

As promised on Warrior Mindset, this video represents the reciprocal promised made between trainer and trained in a warrior culture.

Enjoy

reference material-leadership

As promised, this is the video I reference in the Leadership workshop. It speaks for itself as to the loyalty that true leaders have for their charges. Enjoy.

Monday, April 13, 2015

spring update


For those that think I've dropped off the face of the earth, I'm happy to report I' clinging to it for dear life, and thought I'd update the blog as to where I have been the past few months, current projects and where I hope to be in the future.

Last December I attended a small pagan event in Miami called Turing Tides, which I”ve attended several times in the past. I helped participate in the main ritual, to Hecate, which was glorously non-wiccan in it's design. The main rit is based around threes, three “quarters”, three faces of Her, etc. It was very refreshing to see departure from the “standard model” in a wiccan centric group like that. The event is run by a local council of CoG, so the departure was even more surprising.

February had me flying across country to attend my very first Pantheacon. With all the controversy surrounding furgeson and the “black lives matter” hastag campaign, I was happy to report that I had very little contact with the issue while there. California pagans are an odd lot, at once very socially active and again very naiive about those who don't hold the same left of center values. I had the pleasure of attending Ally Valkyrie and Rhyd Wildermuth's workshoip on radical pagans, and foound myself in a sea of anti-capitalist propganda. Pagans I've argued with over political issues were all there, Starhawk, T Thorn Coyle and others who are the california “new left”, while I remained probably the only libertarian in the room. I kept my mouth shut and was awed by the incredible mistruths being passed around.

One particularly humorous one for me, after doing my undergrad in optical physics, was to hear Starhawk extol the virtues of solar panels made of raspberry juice. I didn't tell her it was actually raspberry juice stained titanium dioxide, and its energy output is way too low to be used as anything other than a novelty. But hey, never let the facts get in the way...

I also was privilaged to be able to teach a workshop alongside Stephanie Woodfield at Pcon. There was a last minute cancellation, and she offered to combine her workshop on ancient warriorship with my Warrior Mindset workshop to give a broad introduction to being a warrior. I am grateful to her for the opportunity.

I also had the chance to meet and have lunch with Morpheus Ravenna and Brennos of the Coru Cathbodua. There have been differences of opinon in the past, and while we aren't necessarily on the same page about everytthing it was good to have a face to go along with the words on the screen.

My March project just wrapped up recently: I was on the organising committee for a new pagan festival in Florida called Equinox in the Oaks. It was a wonderful magically immersive weekend, where we built the theme on service to the land, the Gods and the community. I taught Warrior Mindset again and it was a full house. I believe it was well received from the feedback I got.

From here out, my schedule starts to thin. The last year since the Round Table has had me travelling a lot. I'm planning to pull back on the schedule. I will be attending and teaching at Morrigan's Call 2015 in Connecticut this June, planning on teaching wm again as well as a new workshop on leadership skills.

After MC, there won't be any more until probably December. I'm planning work on an entirely new writing project as well as beginng a side project selling crafts through Etsy. There are many awesome things there, but I have a particular vision for some things I want to do.

This blog will get more attention, as it serves a vehicle for some ideas I want to discuss. I found the more I travel, the pagan community is not this monolithic thing but more fragmented and different. I believe there is a place for warriorship in the pagan community, not just among those who carry guns but among all who are called to being one.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Privilege arguments as sin arguments

Lately, there has been a fervent set of discussions around the recent events in Ferguson MO, and New York regarding police use of force in the deaths of two black men. I'm not rehashing the details of the cases here, there's plenty of blog space and news articles. I'm not even discussing the protests, and what part Paganism has to play in it. That's for other posts. I want to focus down on a very specific point being thrown around in the pagan community and that is the subject of privilege.

The privilege argument, in its most basic form, says that by virtue of one's skin color, ethnicity, wealth, gender or sexual orientation, a person enjoys a different kind of treatment that conveys advantage or preferential treatment. The argument also contends that privilege is invisible to those who enjoy it, but cannot be ignored by those who don't.

I can accept the fact that privilege does exist. I've seen it happen where I've been the beneficiary of privilege and also the victim of it. Growing up in Miami in the 70's, I attended a catholic school where I was often the only non-Hispanic in the class, and being white and nerdy and outside the language/cultural orbit, I was often excluded by virtue of it. It makes it easy for me to see privilege at work, and I do what I can to champion those who are unprivileged.

What disturbs me deeply, is the label of privilege being used as a label to inspire guilt in people who disagree with the political motivations of far left of center pagans. In the past months I've read numerous statements about how the hashtag #blacklivesmatter is the “correct” statement to combat privilege, and that only bigoted, privileged white pagans would avoid it for #alllivesmatter. As if being “privileged” was equivalent to being a bigot, and what scares me more is something I hit on recently.

Privilege, is the Leftist Pagan word for “sin”.

Part of what attracted me to paganism was being able to walk away from the mind-trap of sin. Sin is the flaw in one's character that taints every action a person does. It destroys the good in any act, it blinds the sinner to the effects of his own sinful nature, and can only be undone through recognizing it exists and begging for Gods forgiveness and grace. Under the grace of God, Christians believe thy can be spared the ravages of their sinful nature, and have any hope of being forgiven.

Now the Leftist Pagans don't believe in sin, they believe in privilege. Privilege is a flaw in one's character which taints any good they do. It blinds the privileged person to the privilege itself, and can only be addressed by confessing privilege publically and begging the forgiveness of the community. Only they can they be embraced as truly penitent of their privilege and be accepted.

Now here's the difference. Privilege is an accusation that can be applied to anyone in any position of power who is any one of the following things: White, male or heterosexual.

It's a special kind of sin, because it is applicable upon the race, gender or sexual orientation of the “victim”. Whitey make you mad? Accuse him of privilege, EVEN IF THE ACCUSER IS WHITE. And the pagan community is overwhelmingly white, one never runs out of accusational ammo.
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The ironic thing is the label of privilage is used in a way that should make the accusers blush. In an attempt to get past labels and colors, it cuts right to the heart of being a racist/sexist or homophiobic-phobic term. It uses the very language of racism to allegedly combat racism.

The core of #blacklivesmatter is this idea that “black lives” exist. They don't. Only human lives exist.

But to the LeftPagans, they adopt the idea that a person's life is defined by the color of one's skin, the plumbing of their genitals or the kind of sex they like. Bogus.

It is patently racist to think the only defining characteristic, the only value a person's life has, rests solely in biology. Melanin, or hormones.

It dismisses the individuality of a person, his/her thoughts, choices, values, and experience. It ignores the individual perspective, laying any accomplishment, perspective or challenge at the feet of an accident of genetics.

That is racism/sexism.

The last point I'd like to address is simple: one cannot use the tools of racism to combat racism. It is logically inconsistent, and suicidal to limit any lives' value to pigmentation. You cannot accept I small part a practice that promotes evil to fight evil.

You cannot use racist terminology to fight racism

This is the simplest way I can explain why I reject the #blacklivesmatter hashtag, for the clearer, non-racist #alllivesamatter. I've toyed with #individuallivesmatter, but that gets too weighty.

I would strongly suggest my Pagan kin rethink both the use of such racist terminology, and using it as a litmus test for the percieved racism of their fellows.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

training scars

I'm going to tell a story that may or may not be true. A story with an important lesson for anyone who practices an art or a warrior system.

As the story goes an MMA fighter was mugged at knifepoint one night. The fighter quickly countered and put the mugger in a chokehold but didn't disarm the mugger. It looked bad for the mugger.

The mugger then does something odd: he "taps out" like an MMA match is finished, by tapping on the fighter's arm. He basically surrendered and in keeping with training, the fighter released the mugger. Immediately the mugger turned and stabbed the fighter seventeen times and fled.

The fighter survived.

The moral here is this: a street for is not a game with rules, and *watch for training scars*. In this case the fighter had trained himself to release at the tap out. The attacker knew this, knew of this reflex and used it to get away.

This idea of ingrained reflex is what mm makes kata work on Asian martial arts, but improper follow through or weaknesses can be as trained in as proper technique.