Saturday, March 26, 2011

A "Warriors path" and not being on one...

Let me begin by saying that I have nothing but respect, even admiration for those who have dedicated themselves to the betterment of self, and the protection of others, through the use of combat and martial means. For those who serve their communities by being the thin line between those communities and those who would seek their ruin, for those who serve their country by traveling to distant lands thousands of miles from home, I salute you with as much gusto as I can muster. I realize these sort of intro's will often transition into a critique or diatribe about some aspect of the police or military, but that isn't where I am going with this.

I am a fighter, I always have been. I know how to fight, how to defend myself and those I care about, and have done my best to help those who can't; but I am not, nor have I ever considered myself, a warrior. I suppose it comes down to how I understand the concept, and my feelings are divided. On the one hand, I understand the historicity of the word, the issue of caste/class and profession and the philosophy behind many different cultural understandings of the term. On the other, from my own religious perspective, there are deities who are overtly associated with war and combat. Further we have (to some greater or lesser degree) a conception of "paths" or perhaps even "modes". The two most common "paths", at least from my own experience in CR, tends towards either the Warrior (laoch/ gaiscíoch) or the Poet (filid). I should mention at this point that another, fairly common "path" is also out there, though with less fanfare or flourish, that of the Homesteader/Hearth focused (baile/ tinteán) which is where I find myself. Of course, many choose not to carve up their practices or delineate so cleanly. However, many will have specific patrons to whom they are pledged or clientele of, and often (but not always) their patronage is predicated upon their profession. It can often be a chicken/egg dilemma when it comes to deciding what came first. Was this particular deity always pulling you towards them, or were you pulled because of some predisposed affinity? I suppose these are the sorts of mysteries we must contend with.

I have mentioned it before, but I have become certain that I have a calling, and that it is inextricably linked with my profession. As such, I have a patron god to whom I am pledged, who I believe has had some influence over my path, as it were. There is some evidence to support the notion that among the "Celts" ones patron deities were, when not household or familial, based upon profession or craft. Most of the Irish texts dealing with the Tuatha de Danann, suggest that most of them were associated with some skill, craft, art or profession; and it seems likely that if they are in some regards reflective of pre-Christian beliefs, the probability of different professions making sacrifices to specific deities is reasonably high. If profession is too specific, perhaps function is a better way of approaching these relationship; especially when one seeks (to some extent) map professions which simply did not exist to deities which may have associations with specific aspects of life.

I've wandered a bit, but it provides some necessary perspective on my part. I have no qualms, or regrets about my chosen career, and frankly I can not remember when I was ever so excited to get out of the classroom and into the workplace. There remains a lingering sense of something, which I am not able to put my finger on. I read the tales, and anyone familiar with them will be aware of how the great majority of the narratives focus on warriors and their deeds, and feel a connection with those individuals and my own aspirations and values. I understand that many of the "Celtic" values which are discussed, have their basis in what was a warrior-elite culture (or tradition of literature), and yet not being a warrior myself, can still see their value and worth as values and virtues to embody. I read fiction, watch films or listen to songs which will stir emotions in me, get my blood up and have me aching for a chance to scrap. This is one of the reasons I consider myself a fighter, as opposed to a warrior. Not that a warrior would have a different visceral response, but that how one responds to something is not (necessarily) what makes one a warrior.

I mentioned profession and its relation to function, and I think that if one calls themselves a warrior, they ought to be involved in some aspect of warring (or at the very least, fulfilling a function in which they employ martial means). The two most obvious being police and military (or inactive/ex members thereof), but there are others; security guards, full time martial artists/instructors, bouncers, etc., are all in some way making a living via their proclivity to function in a martial manner. I will admit that my definition is a bit different than others I have come across, a bit grittier than some of the more romantic ideas. I do balk a little at some of the more modern approaches where someone who practices martial arts in their spare time, and has read the hagakure or Book of Five Rings, considers themselves a warrior. I think one needs be engaged in combat or martial employment to be considered a warrior. As I am not in such a profession, I am not nor do I consider myself a warrior. I have an idea of what I would consider as being a warrior, and thus on a warriors path, but far be it from me to tell someone what they can and can't be. This is simply how I understand it.

I would love some feedback, especially from anyone who considers themselves a warrior or on a warrior path.



  1. It seems that while my comment was not longer than 4,096 characters, in fact, almost 1,000 short, Blogger insists that it is. I hate to break it up so...

    The thing is, we do not live in the same society, so I feel that the only professional LEO/military/whatever=warriors doesn't really work. the original láech that likely meant specifically any adult male (in other words, landowning and married) of the proper class, who would be expected to act as a warrior when need be. But obviously had other duties to home, king and family as well. (Proinsias MacCana "On the word láech ‘warrior’." in Celtica 11 and Richard Sharpe "Hiberno-Latin laicus, Irish láech and the devil's men" in Ériu 30) It's probably not surprising that the only folk I know of who use the term "laoch" are the ones who want to form their own túath society.

    This is probably why so many of us who identify as on the warrior path today identify as "fénnid" or, in my case, "banfénnid." We're sort of as far outside from early Irish society as we can get now, anyway. ~;)

    So, there was more, but I may be running out of room again. I'm not going to tell anyone how to define themselves. I don't get why you care enough, if you say you don't feel you can tell anyone how to define themselves, to make this post.

    But I do find it interesting, I was hoping to find other Gaelic Polytheistic warrior path blogs but this is what I found. I really do not think that this is as common a path as some think, it seems only those not on it feel that it is.

    I think I'll see about doing a post on the subject soon, come on by if you want what I couldn't post here. ~;)

  2. Well I appreciate the feedback.

    I suppose the best answer I have as to why I included the proviso about "not telling anyone what to call themselves" v. why I cared enough to write about it, is that I'll start with a topic, and just write where my thoughts lead me. Has a lot more to do with the implications such definitions have for me as opposed to other individuals.

    I suppose if you wanted to boil down my view, it is that one ought to be "warring" (or in lieu of actual combat, training for it) if they want to be on a "warrior path"?

    Or do you consider something else as being central to the path you are on? Do you think it has more to do with attitude or character than with function?

    I'll keep an eye out for your post.


  3. Actually, I just poked around your site, and had a gander at some of your essays, particularly "Warriors path v. 3.1", and your definition of warrior and warrior path do make a great deal of sense; especially the "no peaceful warrior" bits.

    I feel I may simply be too hung up on the functional aspect, as opposed to elements of character/spirit.

    I realize the essay was published some time ago, does it still reflect your views or have they changed to a great degree?

  4. That essay does need updating, but mostly because of conversations like this as well as work on a project I'm doing which make me aware of things I'd like to address differently now. But the over all view has not changed, I just think I could do better at conveying it. I don't seem to update the site much since I started blogging, though.

    I totally agree that training is essential, and I do train even if I may never see combat in any way. I also hang out with some people, on occasion, who are totally convinced we will, as I am a prepper and, well, those who use the term survivalist more than I'm comfortable with are an interesting bunch. My blog Championing Ourselves occasionally includes reports of our training. I'm very public about the physical stuff in there as one of the purposes of that blog is to get more women training in various ways. But it also includes discussion of pop culture inspirations and, increasingly, Gaelic inspirations.

    There is a spirituality aspect as well and it's due to that that I started on this path. The Goddess I serve does expect this of me. But I never got the "spiritual warrior" thing that is so popular, the "it's all the inner work/fighting inner demons" thing. If you're not training physically as well as spiritually, then you're not on the warrior path, to me it's that simple. The path, really, is the training. The spiritual part may or may not be a factor for not all warriors are religious, but as a Polytheist serving a War Goddess for me it is. But it's not the only part.

    And it's not a part I'm yet good about discussing, but I'm working on that. She seems to expect that too.

  5. Hi, I wandered back to let you know I did update the Warrior's Path bit on our website to version 4. ~;) I realized that half of the blog post I was doing was a rewrite of it and not anything particularly new, so I really just cleared up bits that I felt were not as clear as I'd like. I will probably fix it up to a version 5 at some point, when I go through to try to clean up the whole website.

  6. Well, since I was directed this way I will put my two cents worth in -

    1) Nicely written article whether regardless of whether I agree with everything in it so kudos to you.

    2) I don't believe all those on the warrior path have to work in "warring" occupations to still be (at least) on the path though those who identify as such tend to have a proclivity toward them by nature.

    3) I believe "being on the warrior path" is not necessarily "being a warrior." This is something I'm still debating with and something Saigh & I have discussed before. If one spends their life in preparation for physical confrontation in defense of self AND others, then I believe they are (at the very least) on the warrior path.

    There is always gray area. For example -

    There are troops that have never seen war. My father spent 24 years in and my hubby's father spent 20 - neither seeing a day of action. My grandfather only served his required time of 4 years and stormed the beach at Normandy. There are also those who have seen plenty of "war" in their life and never worked any paying job that could be deemed "warring."

    Being on the warrior path does not have to mean one is a "warrior." Figuring out what dictates the actual title (one event, an occupation with experience "warring", a lifetime of preparation or something else) is something I don't know if I'll completely reconcile. Perhaps that is part of the path, itself? :)