Over the last three years, our son has gone from an urban homeschooler to fulfilling his dream as a Soldier. It's been a wild ride, and there is so much more awaiting him. As a mom, I keep tabs on what's going on in the world, what he may be going through, what he may endure and how it may affect the rest of us civilians. And as a Pagan, I also like to learn from others who are or have served to understand their perspectives, victories and struggles. From what I learn, I share with others and have been faithfully doing so every week.
Memorial Day for our Pagan Brethren
For my inaugural article here at PaganSquare for the newly minted military section, I had a lot of ideas on which direction to take, but I couldn't quite decide where I wanted to set my focus. Some of you may be familiar with my writings on the Pagan Newswire Collective's Warriors and Kin in which I have been faithfully posting there each week for a little over three years. Sometimes, I ramble a bit (who am I kidding, I ramble a lot!), and sometimes I readily admit it's hard to come up with that hard-hitting journalism that seems to come naturally to so many other writers over at PNC and within the Pagan community as a whole. I call myself a hack, but I write from the heart, and I hope you enjoy what I offer.
So where did my mind wander for this article? Well, the last Monday in May is a national holiday – Memorial Day, which I found to quite apt. It is a holiday many Americans equate with the unofficial beginning of summer thanks to the rediscovered warm weather, complete with backyard barbecues. But it means something a whole lot more – an honoring, solemn day of remembrance for all those who have served and have passed.
For our Heathen brethren, this Memorial Day will mean something a little bit more, as the Veteran's Administration now officially acknowledges them by offering the Thor's Hammer emblem. Yes, this is another victory for Pagans as a whole, but just like how many people forget the meaning behind the holiday while they're enjoying charred burgers off the patio, many folks either forget or are unaware the way an emblem joins the list. You see, someone who has served has had to die and the next of kin makes the request. And that request, as many of us recall, can take several years, a lot of hand-wringing and plenty of petitions and calls to action.
What's also interesting is how little fanfare the latest edition has generated. When the pentacle was added in 2007, the Mainstream Media (MSM) took notice, as did many evangelistic Christians. Some of you who know me know I love playing devil's advocate and also watching what the other guys are up to, and that includes watching programs like The 700 Club and Hannity. I joke and say I watch and listen so other people don't have to, but to be honest, I feel it's important to keep abreast of what information is put out to the masses in order to better understand why they feel and think the way they do. So, when the pentacle was added, I first learned of the information not from Circle Sanctuary – the folks who sued the VA – but from Pat Robertson's program during the news segment. No commentary was provided, which I readily admit I was disappointed for my dark sense of humor's sake. All I can assume is his jaw hit the ground so hard he had absolutely nothing to say. As our collectively beloved cat Tard (aka "Grumpy Cat") would say, "Good!"
So this time around, with so little mention at all, I call this a double victory. There shouldn't be a big to do about this; it should be just a routine thing. When "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) was repealed, I joked about how long it would take for the following scenario to take place:
New Recruit: Drill Sergeant, I am a black Wiccan lesbian.
Drill Sergeant: Good for you! Now get back into formation!
New Recruit: Thank you, Drill Sergeant! That's all I ever wanted to hear.
And that's how I feel it should be – a big ole Good for you! That's your thing, I respect that, and now we move on to the task at hand.
Speaking to the departed, you were Wiccan, or Heathen, or Christian, or Muslim, or Atheist, and you died sometime after serving our country. I don't care what your religion was, but I do acknowledge it was important to you and your family to have your tombstone marked as such. Your headstone may appear to look identical to the thousands of others in Arlington National Cemetery at a distance, just as you looked identical to the troops you stood in formation with while wearing your uniform. But on your headstone, just like on your dog tags, there was an indication you were indeed an individual, and that individuality is important to be recognized. It was part of what made you great, and it was a part of why you were selected among so many others who wanted to serve but was denied for whatever reason. And for your service and sacrifice, and for the loss and grief your family must still harbor in some way, I honor you and thank you.
Some feel it's macabre to celebrate death, and phrased like that, I can understand. But we as Pagans do not celebrate death the way most folks celebrate birthdays. We celebrate the life the person lived. So in that way, I do not feel it's in any way disrespectful to hang out at the beach on Memorial Day or to get your grill on, as long as at some point during the feasting and festivities for the unofficial kickoff to summer, you acknowledge why we have the holiday.
Even saying something simple, like commenting how Uncle Bob sure did like a rare steak, is a nice, friendly and upbeat icebreaker to honor him. Hoist a beer in his name even, especially if it was his preferred brand. Retell the story about how he and Aunt Jenny got snowed in for three days with nothing but each other to pass the time, teasing your cousin Tim who was born exactly nine months later as Aunt Jenny blushes into her mojito. It's at moments like these we feel the presence of our departed the strongest, because love and happiness are the strongest forms of magick any of us can conjure.
Take care, and many blessings to you and yours.
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