The Pentagon and The Pentacle

As more pagans join the military, the goddess begins to make war not love

| September 16, 2004

If asked to consider the political leanings of a modern pagan, I imagine you'd think of a flaming liberal wielding a fiery torch that is made of passion and not used as weaponry. But not according to Congressman Bob Barr from Georgia, who in 1999 proposed legislation against the practice of witchcraft in the Defense Department Facilities, evidence of his dismay at the discovery of a successful Pagan organization in Fort Hood, Texas.

Surprised? Yes, sometimes the goddess makes war, not love. Many of these Pagans identify as warriors, blending earth-centered spirituality with the ethics and ideals of the martial arts. It is the idealism of the warrior archetype that is so attractive to the Pagans that embrace it. One such Pagan warrior is Kerr Cuhulain, a Vancouver policeman and former Air Force officer, whose books, The Wiccan Warrior and Full Contact Magic, celebrate the connection between primal spirituality and the path of the warrior.

Warrior spirituality recognizes that it is a limitation to see the goddess as some sort of romantic hippie-inspired peacenik. Mythical goddesses like the Hindu Kali Ma, the Irish Morrigu, or the Greek Athena are ferocious, take-no-prisoner warrior queens. 'They are far more concerned with security and self-defense than with playing nice in the multicultural sandbox,' wrote author Carl McColm. But clearly, they live in the multicultural sandbox no less, for what other religion besides Paganism would worship all of them?

Gods and heroes from ancient myth often embody the heroic ideals of bravery, valor, strength and skill, all woven into a fierce determination to defend their people and protect the land. Every religion tries to infuse its followers with the tools to handle tough situations, and the warrior ethic is one such tool. In these times, it may be an increasingly effective one, at least for the thousands of Pagans in the military.

'We live in very dangerous times,' said Hawk, a Pagan woman who describes being a warrior as central to her path -- and who feels frustrated at the attitudes held by some non-military Pagans. 'Pagan warriors are working very hard to keep our people safe and our borders protected. Many times, in fact, most of the time, not only is it a thankless duty, but it's also frowned upon by many in our own magickal community.'

JoAnn Lyman, whose husband has served in the army for 15 years, embraces the warrior concept as a metaphor for personal responsibility. 'Everyone is a warrior in their own sense. I may not wield a rifle, sword, ax, or any other recognized weapon; but I know that I am responsible for my actions... A warrior will weigh what has to be done and what people want done, then do what they know is the right thing for that time.'
-- Elizabeth Dwoskin