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.


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.