I come from a big military family. I am one of the only men who never served. My grandfather, uncles, cousins, have all served in wars. My grandfather fought in World War II, my uncles in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and my cousins in Desert Storm. Each went into battle, not with the intention of killing for the sake of killing, but with freedom and justice balancing delicately on their shoulders.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. Most think of it as an excuse for a three day weekend, others think of it as a reason to barbecue. These are wonderful ways to celebrate this holiday, but for me, it takes on much more meaning. I remember an uncle who spent time in a concentration camp in Germany for being a sympathizer. He made it out alive, miraculously, but lived his life constantly scarred by the memories. I remember, as a child, always making trips to the military bases because one of my relatives was being deployed overseas. I have tremendous respect for our military.
I admire my uncles and cousins who have served and they never made me feel any less important for not serving. My uncle once said to me, “It is not always about fighting in a foreign land. Freedom also has to be won right here at home…in our day to day life. As long as you live a life of integrity and have strength of character and showing kindness to those who need it, you are demonstrating justice and freedom. It is your destiny to keep honor and hope alive every day of your life.” I remember the words he spoke to me every time he hugs me before getting on that plane for another assignment. This last time it was Afghanistan. He and my aunt Skype every morning before he starts work and you can hear the strength in his voice…he is there for me, and her, and every other person here in the United States of America.
Friz and I took our time walking to the woods this morning. It was already feeling heavy and humid. The coolness of the woods was what I needed. We rounded the sidewalk at the back part of the complex and moved toward a quiet leaf covered sanctuary. I laid everything out….the skulls, candles, crystals…all the way I normally do and then I sprawled out in the middle of the leaves. The coolness of the ground beneath me almost made me feel as though I could doze off.
The Morrigan has been on my mind all week long. Maybe it’s because the dark of the moon is approaching….maybe it is because everywhere I have turned this week, I have seen crows, crows, and more crows. Maybe it is because I have had to call on that warrior spirit many, many times over the past weeks. I understand that we are to look for the love and light around us, but sometimes life is honestly just a battle. It is in the midst of those challenges that I have had to listen closely to the words my uncle spoke to me.
Life is not always about having the sword or spear at the ready…the path we walk should not be paved with blood and annihilation. We don’t do damage just for damage’s sake. The warrior’s spirit must always be tempered with wisdom. There is a quote from the movie, “The Hobbit” that I think describes it perfectly:
True courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one.
Believe me….I am not one of those witches whose life revolves around fairy dust and nothing but love and light. There is a place for folks like that and I have no disagreement with them, but when I was reborn into this life, the body that I inhabit was given a good dose of fight and temper and a sword for a tongue. Over the years, I have had to learn when to use all of those qualities along with something my grandma imparted to me…a respect for all beings and their life forces.
My first inclination has always been to wield the sword first and then look to see who I may have hit. As I have matured, I have learned to ‘bring the proper tool for the fight.’ Don’t bring a battle axe when a slingshot will do the job.
I remembered sitting down with the grandmothers and grandfathers during the summer I worked on the Lakota reservation in South Dakota. They would tell me stories that their grandmothers and grandfathers had told to them. I remember hearing of ‘counting coup.’
Counting coup was the act of striking or touching the enemy in battle with a bow, spear, or coup stick. It was an act that was meant more for humiliation than and act of bloodshed. After counting coup several times on an enemy, to kill them would have been dishonorable and seen as a waste of ammunition.
We are too busy now a days counting coup….it is way too easy to try to humiliate others and make them ashamed of the way they think, act, practice than to be honorable. All for the sake of what? Making us look better? When that actually works, you let me know. War, whether in the days of the Lakota or in the days of our Celtic ancestors, was never fought for the trivial. It was about home, food, survival, and freedom.
Life has become harder. Life is a constant battle. The heart of the warrior always stands strong and honorable with the good of more than himself/herself directly in front of his/her eyes. There are times when things have to be cut down and cut away. We must have the wisdom to recognize when that is needed and we must make a clean cut with a sharp blade.
I will be in the woods again tomorrow. I will be giving honor to the warrior spirit that runs rampant through the veins of my family. I will be giving thanks for that same blood that runs through my veins. Even though I have never served a moment in the military, I stand with my head held high because I have done what my uncle asked of me. I have always tried to live my life with integrity and strength of character. I have tried to sow honor and hope wherever I go….I hold that warrior spirit.
**I must apologize. I have since removed a piece of work attached to this article called “Tatanka” by Maureen Farrelly. I should not have used it. It came up in a Google search.