Warriors and Soldiers and Military, oh my!

If you know me, and know me well, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that I consider myself -even as a Hellene, as one who follows a warrior’s path.

It hasn’t always been pretty, not that anyone expects a warrior’s path to be a pretty one. It’s a path I’ve been walking since the beginning, since Ares first came to me as a small child, and it’s one I’ve walked with determination since that day. Ares has taught me much over the years: to fight for what I want, for what I believe in. Never back down. Never surrender. Take no prisoners.

That sounds so simple when said, especially in the eyes of a child and I am not proud to admit that in middle school I became somewhat of a fighter. Physically so. It started in self defense. Much like the Spartan agoge training of young boys who learned to fight by defending themselves, who learn strength of spirit by humiliation at the hands of other, so did I. I became quite good at it too. In the small town we were in, once I beat the hell out of a boy two years my senior, I was left alone until High School.

I rarely cried. I rarely reacted to anything. I was learning the thick skin of the warrior. I didn’t let anyone get too close emotionally for quite a long time. I was a dancer, but that was nothing to shame me. Dance required discipline, focus and athletic training.

Now, I fight for what I believe in. I’m a huge promoter of pagan rights in the city I live in. I founded and am president of the longest running pagan organization in my sector of the state. I’ve gone to bat when the media has called us out. I have spoken openly when the city of Green Bay opened their holiday decorations to all paths. I’ve done damage control and I’ve stood at pulpits and preached our right to freely practice as we choose. I’ve worked in interfaith with a local Christian church. I’ve stood up for those who weren’t able to stand up for themselves.

I’ve done that and so much more.

And yet, by many, I’m not considered a warrior.

There’s this misunderstanding among the greater pagan community, which preaches openness and acceptance, that to walk a warrior path you must be military. Now, I’ve courted the military in the past. I was damn close to signing on for the Marines… figuring that if I was going to do it, I was damn well going to do it right. But dance called to me stronger with its siren song and that’s what I went to college for. But saying you must be military to be a warrior is very limiting and excluding those who perhaps cannot or choose not to be a soldier.

Let me take a moment and explain the difference between a warrior and a soldier. A warrior fights for what they believe in. They will go into any battle, whether told to or not, and fight it. They know discipline. They know restraint. They know when to fight a battle and when to walk away. A soldier takes orders. Fights because they are told to. A soldier doesn’t back down. There is your difference. A warrior may also be a soldier, and vice versa, but they are not one and the same.

So how is it that this gets ignored so often? I’m not, by any means, saying that soldiers should not be honored. Especially military soldiers. They fight for our rights, for our freedoms, but they do so on orders. Not necessarily because they believe in the cause.

I had someone recently, who I used to consider friend, tell me I was a warrior wannabe because I didn’t know military discipline. If there is a word to describe what I felt beyond rage, that is it. Dance, specifically ballet -where my expertise lay, is an extremely disciplined form of dance. You have to be willing to not show that you’re physically exhausted. You dance when you are sick, when you are starving, when you are hurt… and you do it all with a smile on your face. I danced 8 hours a day in college on top of taking my general education courses, living on grapefruit and capri suns, from Monday through Friday. On the weekends I was in the commons or the studio practicing on my own. That dedication and discipline cannot be taught. It is ingrained from birth. I’ve danced pointe with a sprained ankle and even though on the tape you can see where I do it, I kept going with a smile.

I wanted it so bad I was willing to damn near kill myself for it.

That, my friends, is dedication and discipline. I challenge anyone who questions that to take that position for just one day and not give up.

I could go on and on about how military training is parallel to so many other things in this world, but I won’t. I just have issue with using the misnomer of “warrior” when what is really meant is “soldier” or “military veteran.” I have extreme issue with the “Warrior Spirit Center” at Pagan Spirit Gathering which is not, as it boats, for warriors… but for military. Even their warrior reveille in the mornings, supposedly for those who worship or work with warrior deities, is geared toward military only.

Don’t think that I’m not accustomed to people scoffing at me being a follower of Ares, I am. But it disgusts me that pagans who preach acceptance can be so narrow-minded to not see beyond that high level overview of something and dig into the nitty gritty. Perhaps that comes from the desire to only see the good in things that most pagans have. Or the fact that so few are research driven… or want to delve deeper into topics beyond face value and the 101 level. I don’t know, but it’s definitely a peeve of mine.

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2 Comments to “Warriors and Soldiers and Military, oh my!”

  1. I agree there is a difference but I think a lot of the confusion comes from a lack of really thinking through the dynamics of the ancient world. In a world where there are no standing armies (Greek culture, not Roman but religiously a lot of people don’t look at the difference here), a warrior often is a military officer. However these militaries work very different from the modern military system which has greater incentives than older military systems: after all, Roman soldiers weren’t signing up to do four years in the military to get college tuition. In reality, many of my peers enlisted when I graduated from high school in 2004 because they didn’t want huge student loan debts.

    Anyway, as a former ballerina as well I have to say that requires possibly more discipline than the military. I greatly respect the military but I agree there’s a difference in how and why you do things: and the difference is huge when it comes to spirituality.

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