Edwards Air Force Base Holds First Wiccan Service for Fallen Airmen

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 11, 2013 — 11 Comments

The First Pantheistic Center of the Antelope Valley features an article from Lisa Morgenstern about a new first for modern Pagans in the military: Edwards Air Force Base in California hosted a Wiccan service for the 20 Airmen fallen in 2013.

Altar from the Edwards Air Force Base Wiccan service.

Altar from the Edwards Air Force Base Wiccan service.

“The circle keened the names of the fallen in Celtic tradition, calling their names loudly. Amy, a member of Dragon’s Weyr Circle, a Covenant of the Goddess Member coven, stated, “Thursday night as I started to set up the sacred space the wind started to whirl around. The sky looked as if there was a storm brewing, The Celts would say that it was the Sidhe showing their knowledge of the events …..when the circle was done so was the whirling and swirling winds.” The altar held patches of all the squadrons of the men and women lost.

The circle members called in Badb, and the Horned God, and invited the fallen Airmen to join them and be honored. Then they raised healing energy “to send back through their threads of life/energy to help those which are a part of their tapestries of life.” Several traditional poems were read, and as Captain Victoria Ann Pinckney, the local Palmdale High School Graduate and pilot, was a WASP and a tanker pilot, the poem Vectors to the Tanker, along with a WASP memorial poem for female pilots. The Heathens in attendance spoke of the honor accorded to fallen warriors and that those slain in battle are collected by Freyja and Odin and brought to their halls, Sessrumir and Valhalla. They shared mead and lemon cookies on an altar with red roses. The lemon and red roses are military traditions when honoring those lost.”

Edwards Air Force Base has been hosting regular Wiccan services since April, when Elder Priestess Amy Watson, a Covenant of the Goddess member, and wife of an Air Force Captain, first approached the Wing Chaplain.

“When I approached the Wing Chaplain to have services scheduled, he insisted that we schedule weekly services,” said Watson, “just like all the other denominations have.”

With all the talk lately about proselytizing in the military, and the influence of conservative Christianity, I think it’s important to note when important and largely unheralded forward steps are taken. This first, along with other Pagan services on military bases, and the recent approval of the Thor’s Hammer for veteran headstones and grave markers, points to a slow but building new reality within military culture. A pluralistic and multi-religious “post-Christian” future in which a balance must be struck so that all may find within America’s armed forces. I send out my congratulations to Priestess Amy Watson, and to the Pagans and Wiccans at Edwards Air Force Base. I have no doubt the gods heard you in your honoring of the fallen Airmen.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    I agree w/ the point that change is happening. A few years ago, a candidate for local office knocked on my door to ask for my vote and we chatted for a few minutes about development issues, etc. One of this young man’s selling points was that he was a former military officer. I asked him what he thought about a nearby community’s issues regarding religious displays for the Winter holiday season, especially Wiccan attempts to have a display. He had no reason to think that I was anything other than an old suburban lady. You could kind of watch him struggle, guess he was about to lose a vote, and then straighten up and say to me, “I was in Afghanistan with a Wiccan. He was a good soldier. I had to make sure that he could have some time for his religious holidays. If anyone gets a display, Wiccans should, too.” He’d never have had that reaction if he hadn’t served with a Wiccan service member.

    • Ursyl

      Nice!
      I hope you let him know how you felt about that answer, given that he was clearly expecting the opposite of approval and agreement.

  • Ursyl

    I like all of this, but why the apparent requirement for weekly services?
    I get that most denominations do celebrate weekly, but Wicca does not necessarily. Is it equality to be required to follow the model of the other religions on base instead of having the freedom to do as fits the beliefs of Wicca?

    Or am I misreading the Chaplain’s insistance?

    • Bonnyfire

      From what I understand from Mrs. Watson (I’m local), the chaplain’s insistence was due to making sure they have that time every week, no matter what and are not “accidentally” bumped off the list. There are weeks they need to cancel, but the slot is always theirs to use. This has come in handy since that awesome chaplain left not longer after and this made sure it was already cemented in the schedule for them.

      • Ursyl

        That makes sense! And good thinking on that chaplain’s part!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=562316634 Lisa Cowley Morgenstern

      There are covens that meet weekly, mine does.

  • Guest

    I’m sure this was not the first. Pagan groups are commonplace on military installations and they hold regular ‘services’ to include those for their fellow fallen servicemembers. I think she/they just got lucky with some print space. (Not meaning to downplay the significance of the event though!)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=562316634 Lisa Cowley Morgenstern

      First on THAT base.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ClownOfMomus Franklin Evans

    Good evidence that some form of outreach, whether the full-blown coming out or just the personal interaction, paves the way for all of us. I also look to our veterans as the best ones with which to do it, because they have an ethic of service to go with the notion that their comrades in arms are people first, and a label some distance down the list.

  • Artor

    The Edwards base seems to be run by uncommonly decent people. I got caught in a hellacious blizzard driving past once, and I picked up some cadets who had gotten stranded. They guided me through zero visibility driving snow and got me a room in the barracks for the night. Many other people weren’t so lucky, and a few spent weeks lost and buried in snowdrifts in that incident. I’m glad to hear they don’t have the rampant bigotry that dominates places like the AF Academy.

  • http://nuannaarpoq.wordpress.com/ thalassa

    The change has been happening for quite some time too…my last duty station, in a single workplace of about 45 people had 6 Pagans. At that same command, I personally knew of a dozen or so folks. On my first ship (about 10 years ago), there were about 20 of us, and we had minimal difficulties getting a group together (the Catholic chaplain had no problem sponsoring it, and even came to the local drum circle upon occasion)–the biggest quibble was over what to call it and which folks wanted to go/would be allowed to go to lay leader training (since it meant time off the ship in a heavy work period).

    Honestly, I never had a problem being publically Pagan in the Navy. I’ve gotten more grief from some Pagans for being in the military than I ever got from anyone in the military for being Pagan. I know that this is not the experience for everyone, but I’ve never had a chain of command that wasn’t willing to make reasonable accommodation for my religious beliefs.