Warrior Pagans

Soldier
Many Pagans serve in the Armed Forces around the world. Tim Bieber / Digital Vision /Getty

There tends to be an idea in the Pagan community that we're all a bunch of peaceful, loving, no-harm-ever group of people, but the fact is that there are thousands of Pagans serving in the military. How do warrior Pagans reconcile what they do with their Pagan spirituality? 

Well, one of the things that draws so many people to Pagan paths in the first place is that there is an opportunity for individual spiritual gnosis.

There is no "supposed to be" in modern Paganism, because the sheer number of different belief systems doesn't allow for it. Yes, many people (primarily in Wiccan and NeoWiccan traditions) follow a rule of harming none. Yes, some people are staunch supporters of a peaceful lifestyle. But you can't paint all Pagans with the same brush, because the number of different paths is as vast as those who practice them.

The Code of the Warrior

However–and this is a big however–there are plenty of Pagans out there whose belief system is based upon the archetype of the warrior soul, a code of honor. These are the people who understand that while peace is nice, it may not always be a reality. They are the ones who stand up and fight, even when what they're fighting for may be unpopular. Often, we find them in career fields which by their very nature put them in danger–military personnel, police officers, firefighters, etc.

The notion of Paganism being "peaceful and loving" is a relatively modern one. The ancient societies upon which many modern Pagans base their core beliefs were rarely peaceful ones–a culture that refused to fight was doomed to extinction right from the beginning. Instead, if you look at the historical evidence, early Pagan cultures like the Romans, the Celts, the Nordic societies–all of which are strongly represented in modern Paganism–were all, to some degree, militaristic societies.

Willingness to fight was not precluded by one's religious sensibilities. In fact, most ancient cultures had deities that represented war and battle, and were called upon as needed.

Pagans in Today's Military

Kerr Cuhulain is an Air Force veteran and Vancouver police officer, and his books The Wiccan Warrior and Modern Knighthood embody the path of the Pagan warrior. In Wiccan Warrior, he addresses the idea of balance, and discusses the concept of Right Action. He explains how to reconcile a warrior mindset with Pagan spirituality and says,

"The law of balance states quite simply that if you wish to survive, let alone become powerful, you must keep all aspects of your universe in balance. We aren't going to save the world by randomly sending out energy with only a vague aim of healing. We're going to save it by changing people's perceptions of the world. We'll save it by wining hearts and minds with the idea that we can all be unique and this is all right."

In addition, Pagan organizations like Circle Sanctuary, headquartered in Wisconsin, provide a number of services to both Pagan veterans and those currently serving active duty in the military. Their Circle Military Ministry puts together care packages for overseas military Pagans, and the group was instrumental in getting the pentacle recognized as an authorized symbol in federal military cemeteries for deceased Pagan soldiers.

Although the exact number of Pagans serving in today's military is hard to gauge, it's fairly clear that the demographics are increasing. In April 2017, the Department of Defense added a number of Pagan groups to their list of recognized religions, including Heathenry, Asatru, Seax Wicca, and Druidry. Wicca and the rather broad Earth-Based Spirituality were already considered part of the military's recognized faith groups list.

If you're an active duty Pagan or military spouse, or a Pagan veteran, you may want to check out the Pagan Military Association page on Facebook.

No matter what your feelings about war may be, these are men and women who risk their lives half a world away–often leaving their families behind for months or years at a time–because they believe in what they are fighting for.

Now, that may not be the same thing as you believe, and that's okay, but keep in mind that often warriors are the ones who fight on behalf of those who can't fight for themselves. They also do it for very little pay and without any demand for thanks. All of them have made a sacrifice, and many people would agree that they are worthy of, at the very least, our respect.