Thor’s Hammer Approved For Veteran Headstones and Markers

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 10, 2013 — 32 Comments

In 2007, after a decade-long struggle, Pagan and Wiccan organizations succeeded in getting the Pentacle approved for military veteran headstones and markers. After that victory, in July of 2007, a rally was held to start the push for two more symbols: the Druid Awen and the Heathen Thor’s Hammer. Two Heathen organizations, The Troth and the Asatru Folk Assembly, were represented at that rally, and from it a wider movement to get the Thor’s Hammer approved emerged. Now, after a six-year journey which included some inter-organizational tensions within the Heathen community and a U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs rule change, it appears the symbol has finally been approved.

Thor's Hammer Emblem.

Thor’s Hammer Emblem.

The updated emblems list is the only place where this addition is noted. There’s no media release, news story, or even blog post that I’ve been able to find about this development. So I have no way of knowing when, exactly, the official approval went through. I have sent a note to The Troth for an official statement on this victory.

The 2007 4th of July Pagan Religious Rights Rally in Washington DC featuring Wiccan, Druid, and Asatru leaders.

The 2007 4th of July Pagan Religious Rights Rally in Washington DC featuring Wiccan, Druid, and Asatru leaders. Photo: Witchvox

Until we find out more, here’s a relevant quote from Diana Paxson, an Elder in The Troth, written in the wake of the Pentacle Quest and the 2007 July 4th rally.

“America has always been noted for creativity, in religion as in all else. Each new faith, whether immigrant or homegrown, enriches our culture. Today, when Buddhist temples and Islamic mosques may be found in many parts of the U.S., one might wonder why the VA denied a Wiccan veteran the right to have a pentacle on his headstone for ten years, and the Army has still not hired a Pagan chaplain. Paganism does not seek to replace other religions, but Pagan perspectives can revitalize the ways in which we relate to our history, our ancestors, and especially, in this time of climate crisis, to the environment. Rather than resisting, America should welcome the Pagan contribution to our cultural diversity.”

For now, congratulations to all Heathens and Asatruar on this amazing victory! Forward to the Awen! If you or a loved one are a Heathen veteran and want the Thor’s Hammer for a headstone or marker, you can find ordering information at the VA website.

ADDENDUM: The Troth has released the following statement.

“To our knowledge, current procedure to add an emblem of faith to a military headstone requires that the next of kin for a deceased Veteran request it. Josh Heath, of the Open Halls Project, has requested information in writing from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, but at this time we do not know who the Heathen service member was. In Heathen tradition, we greatly honor our slain warriors and offer Blóts and Fainings to them as the Einherjar, those warriors collected by Odin and Freya to take to their halls in Asgard. We are ever grateful to this fallen service member, both for their sacrifice to our country and for requesting Mjöllnir, or the Thor’s Hammer, for their headstone. We solemnly anticipate the time we can honor this newest of the Einherjar by name.”

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Wonderful news and I’m thinking the fact that it was done with no fanfare, just as routine business, is a good thing, as well. It shouldn’t be controversial to get Pagan symbols on headstones.

    • kenofken

      That was part of the terms of the original settlement with the pentacle, if I remember correctly. It’s supposed to be a standard procedure and not a huge decade long legal battle each time a new group needs a symbol. It’s a big deal that it’s not a big deal…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dave-Emerson/1595792197 Dave Emerson

    Bear in mind that, in accordance with a regulation change in 2009, any symbol (within good taste and respect) may be
    approved for display in a servicemember’s headstone, so long as the deceased’s next of kin makes an official request.

    In layman’s terms, the hammer has been approved because a heathen servicemember or veteran has died. A positive step forward, but a solemn one.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jillmedicineheart Jill Medicine Heart Combs

      I was just going to mention that Dave. It’s horrible that someone had to DIE in order to get this done. However, it’s a done deal and that goal was reached. Onward we march for the Druid symbol– but not too quickly– someone shouldn’t have to die to get it but it’s a fact of life. –sigh–

      • Charles Cosimano

        It is rather hard to have a headstone unless someone dies.

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

      Thank you. Too infrequently I’ve seen this mentioned. TBH, I don’t think most people realize it…though, I think they should before they get all excited. Yes, its good news overall, but possibly tragic for the family, depending on the circumstances.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.machate John M. E. Machate

    Sadly, the rules require that groups only apply for an emblem when a Veteran who has died requested it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=728865973 Crystal Groves

    Every step forward is a step forward :)

  • http://thebucci.com/ Anna Michelle Bucci

    Someone died for this to happen. Hail the honored dead.

    • Wandering_Bard

      Hail.

      May he feast long in the Halls of his Fathers.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Be interesting to see what other symbols appear over the years. (Not all Heathens are represented by Mjölnir, for example.)

    • Wandering_Bard

      I concur.

      I wonder if the Valknut would meet resistance, due to its (unfortunate) adoption by some white supremacy groups.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Honestly, I am of the opinion that I will use whatever symbols I want. So long as I know what they mean for me, that is what matters.

        It isn’t like Buddhists stopped using the swastika, is it?

        • John B. McCarthy

          And the VA apparently has approved a swastika as part of emblem 23 SEICHO-NO-IE. Also several groups have more than one approved emblem (there are for example two available versions of the Celtic cross).

        • Wandering_Bard

          I totally agree that people should be free to display whatever holy symbol they follow – from Christianity to Hinduism, Tao, Wicca or even Satanism (if that’s their thing).

          I was merely pointing out how unfortunate it is that many symbols of pagan faiths have been adopted by various douchebags throughout the years.

          I’m a member of a Germanic-themed medieval reenactment group, and we catch flak from people because we have ancient Norse symbols on our flags and jewelry, which some people associate with groups like the Aryan Brotherhood, or Nazism.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            My advice would be to not give up. Educate people, don’t bow down to their ignorance.

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

      There are pretty specific rules to get one–several Druid groups have come together to have everything together for the eventuality of a Druid service member or vet passing on…and I though at one point in time that the Nova Roma had as well. Either way, the VA isn’t likely to approve anything that is controversial…and I can’t see them approving “competing” symbols without some evidence of a sizable base that would request it.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        According to what Dave Emerson previously said, the getting of a symbol is not too hard, since 2009.

        As for what is controversial… That is extremely relative, isn’t it? Any symbol has the potential to be offensive to someone.

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

          This is the list of what you need to apply for a new symbol: http://www.keltria.org/projects/DruidVeterans.htm
          Once you have that in place, its a matter of waiting.

          As for the controversial part, sure its relative, and the VA is in charge of that relative decision…

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            So, the right people get into the key positions and anything that isn’t a cross is deemed as unacceptable? Pleasant.

  • Open Halls Project

    Hail to the fallen, and hail to the fallen’s family who have had to make this request. Hail to all those who have worked hard to take care of the needs of our fallen. We are searching out information now in the hope of uncovering who they were so we can properly honor them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/LadySpringWolf Spring Wolf

    My research and contacts have relayed the following: The approval to add the hammer occurred in April and the list was officially updated on May 2nd 2013.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brad-Axsom/1628694358 Brad Axsom

    Massive steps forward from just a short time ago. When I first enlisted in 93, if you did not identify with one of the “established” religions they just put the word OTHER on your dog tags.

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

      Ah, when I enlisted in ’03, I could get WICCAN on them…but, not being WICCAN, they ended up with NORELPREF (no religious preference) by my choice–it was the least inaccurate choice I could make. When I had to get new tags a few years later, they said PAGAN, since I knew the girl making them…

  • Joseph Bloch

    Wow… the Troth gets a link but not the AFA?

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      AFA?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AFA

      (Part of me is quietly hoping you mean the Action Figure Authority, but I get the feeling it will be the Asatru Folk Assembly.)

    • Folcwald

      That’s curious, isn’t it? I see no evidence that the Troth had anything to do with this. Indeed, given that none of the national organizations are saying anything about this, I assume none of them had anything directly to do with it, and that instead some bereaved family did it on their own and had better things to do than to make a big issue of publicizing it.

      • Kennari

        Folcwald, you are partially correct. ALL the national orgs were doing their own part….The Troth, The AFA, the AA, the OR…all of them. On the end, NONE of their efforts mattered in the end. I work with the Open Halls Project, but I speak for myself and NO ONE else….all we know at this point is that the Fallen serviceman was a Marine, a Brother of the OR. From what I understand, the Troth was asked for a statement from the Wild Hunt; I think that is speaks well of them that the statement does not focus on ANYTHING the Troth did, but on our fallen brother, and their wishes to support efforts to honor his name. The Open Halls Project exists to work across the board to help and assist ALL Heathen servicemen, regardless of what ‘org’ they belong to.

        This is an issue that transcends any lines any of us tend to draw between ourselves. I personally add my wishes and prayers to the hopes that we ALL can give our Fallen their just and rightful due…a noble reputation and name that lives on in the hails and songs of those who follow after us.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Carron/100001353268347 David Carron

        There was a lot of work that did occur and here is the Troth’s statement on the issue:

        http://thetroth.blogspot.com/2013/05/thors-hammer-approved-for-military.html

  • staṡa

    I heard about this on the 10th through the Lady Liberty League. I have no idea if they were involved directly or not; their announcement said simply that this is now available.

  • http://www.facebook.com/religion.celtibera Religión Wicca Celtíbera

    Great news for Odinism and religious freedom of all Pagan cults. From Spain a warm and fraternal hug and our warmest congratulations. Bless you all.

    Fernando Gonzalez
    Celtiberian Wicca

  • http://pissedofftreerat.com/ The Pissed Off Tree Rat

    I look at it as honoring the wishes the fallen. The choice is to the individual and his/her family out of respect for their personal sacrifice of the nation. I raise a glass to them all. Semper in Hostes!