Honoring our Pagan fallen on Memorial Day

Heather Greene —  May 30, 2016 — 1 Comment

TWH – Today marks Memorial Day in the United States. It is a day to honor the many men and women who have died in military service. According to a news report on ABC, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans together state that at least “1.2 million people have died fighting for America during its wars dating back 241 years.” The VA has a breakdown of the losses per conflict since the American Revolution.

In a recent post, blogger John Beckett wrote, “Let us remember our warrior dead. Let us remember those who answered the call to do what had to be done and who sacrificed all they had. It is right and good to celebrate their courage and valor.”

[Photo Credit: Rodrigo Paredes / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Rodrigo Paredes / Flickr]

Many Pagans, Heathens and polytheists have served and are serving in the U.S. miltiary, and still others are members of military families. Memorial Day has a special significance to them. Veteran and Wiccan Priest, Blake Kirk said,

Memorial Day isn’t about veterans like me, who got to come home and go on with their lives. No, Memorial Day is supposed to be all about the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who came home in caskets or in body bags. Or who never came home at all, like my father-in-law. They paid the highest possible price to defend this nation, and it trivializes their sacrifice not to make their one day a year just about them.

As with those in other religious groups, members of our collective communities have also given their lives in service, and because of the efforts of others, their sacrifices can be recognized and honored within military circles using the religious emblem of their choice, including the pentacle and Thor’s hammer.

[Photo Credit: John C. Hamer / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: John C. Hamer / Flickr]

The year marks the 9th anniversary of the victory of the Pentacle Quest. In 2007, Circle Sanctuary’s Rev. Selena Fox wrote, “Working together, we, at last, have success in this quest – and in the greater quest for equal rights for Wiccans, Witches, and other Pagans in the United States of America and around the world.”

In 2013, when Thor’s hammer was approved by the department of Veterans Affairs, a number of Heathen groups released celebratory statements. The following words came from Hrafnar:

Today, Hrafnar stands with Heathens across the US in pride as the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs has approved the Thor’s Hammer as an emblem to put on the headstones of fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. The greater acceptance of our faith anywhere is a victory for all of us, regardless of whatever other differences we may have.

The group also said, “Today, Hrafnar […] stands with Heathens across the US in sorrow: such recognition can only be made after the death of one who has been sworn to that service. The death of one of us is a loss for us all, regardless of whatever other differences we may have. Hail the fallen! Hail the Heathens!”

The modern military experience can be part of the modern Pagan, Heathen and polytheist experience. Those who are wounded and die in service to our country are not an anonymous “other” removed from our society and daily lives. They are us.

We honor our Pagan, Heathen and polytheist brothers and sisters who have fallen in the line of duty. As said by Hrafnar, “The death of one of us is a loss for us all.”

[Public Domain]

[Public Domain]

In 2011, Solar Cross Temple’s T. Thorn Coyle wrote, “I have inadequate words for those who have died in this endless war humanity is waging upon itself and upon the earth and the other beings of the earth. All I can do is send out compassion in my meditation and my prayers today for those involved on any side…”

The New York Times published an article describing military photographer Andrew Lichtenstein’s journey to capture, or recapture, the meaning behind the Memorial Day holiday, which he felt “has been largely reduced to a day of sales, sleeping in, or go out.”  That article, titled When Every Day is Memorial Day, shares some of his experiences attending military funerals and memorial services.  At the end, Lichtenstein says, “I learned something from the families: The true cost of grief is beyond politics. It was important to realize an individual life had been lost and people were greatly affected. That loss is so much greater than agreeing or disagreeing with [the] war.”

Pagans and Heathens around the country will be observing this day in both private and public spaces. At Arlington National Cemetery, Circle Sanctuary Ministers Jeanet & David Ewing led the 7th Annual Visitation of Pentacle Markers at noon today. And Circle Sanctuary has also created a Facebook page titled Memorial Day Remembrances, inviting people to post remembrances of those loved ones who were killed in US military service.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
– Laurence Binyon, “For the Fallen,” originally published in The Times, 1914

What is remembered, lives!

Heather Greene

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Heather is a freelance writer, film historian, and journalist, living in the Deep South. She has collaborated with Lady Liberty League on religious liberty cases, and formerly served as Public Information Officer for Dogwood Local Council and Covenant of the Goddess. She has a masters degree in Film Theory, Criticism and History from Emory University with a background in the performing and visual arts. Heather's book on witches in American film and television will be published by McFarland in 2018.
  • ChristopherBlackwell

    My view is always controversial on the matter of war. Usually I am the odd man out. War has always been about looting the enemy. Once upon a time most of what a warrior earned in a war was what he was able to carry home from the enemy. The defeated enemy might become slaves, or might be ruled by the victor in any way that they saw fit.

    Needless to say nobles and kings got major share of the loot. War was the main way to enrich a poor kingdom, or make a rich kingdom richer, just as looting a tomb might be the easiest way for a poor young man to start his fortune, assuming he successfully fought the dead as was believed to be necessary at one time, and was not cursed. This is historical war, sheared of the romance of story, be it sagas, or Hollywood, and the myth of school text book history.

    Today the money of war is not made by the warrior, nor directly by the President and the Congress, but instead by the defense industry, and those the government goes in debt to to finance the war, which may be people buying government bonds, other countries, even banks. I believe it is the high profit allowed by war that is still the chief reason we go to war, rarely as a matter of defense or need.

    As the profit only continues as long as the war, this may be the main reason that we never seem to be able to win a war any more, and the wars drag on longer and longer. In my opinion, I believe the Viet Nam War was the testing ground for this new dragged on war style as a more profitable business venture, but profit was in earlier wars as well. General and then President Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower warned as he left office about the growing danger,”we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. http://tinyurl.com/o9fm9m5

    In all wars the veterans have pretty much been dumped and short changed after the war was over. It was true for my Father’s War in World Two , it was true in my war as a Marine in the Viet Nam War. My little tour was fall of 1966 to Fall of 1967 as the North was beginning to slip large numbers of soldiers across the borders in preparation for what became known as the Tet Offensive.

    It is still true in our recent ongoing wars from reports I get from friends that are the new veterans. What is worse is that they suffer far more than us Viet Nam Vets, as they return to the battle fields over and over again far beyond what was common in my war. Also thanks to medical technology, they survive in far worse shape than was possible for Viet nam Vets. Death is not always the highest price, if you come back damaged enough. The new wars include brain
    damage, greater loss of limbs and body parts, disfigurement, and far more emotional damage.

    So from my view, the equal victims of war are the warriors living, damaged and dead, on both sides, and also the dead civilians, in Vietnam 3.5 Million, not counting those wounded and damaged. Now my idea will be hated by civilians and many vets. So be it, but it is from my own experience and my personal study of history of the war, and wars in general. I think the same of even the necessary wars such as World War I and II, and all wars backward. Nor do I blame any one country, as I see war makes all countries do the same barbaric things, despite the high and mighty talk to justify it.

    So I will have plenty of people that disagree and will not doubt say so. That is okay, but I just wanted to put this out for the few that may have come to the same conclusion. I do not see any difference between veterans and civilian casualties, or the families and friends affected by it. That will upset many. But they are all sacred human beings, and they all suffered the same damage, including death.