An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 2 Warrior Cults and Charm Schools

As I noted in An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 1 Deities and Icons I had been planning before the blogosphere explosion to write a bit about how the Sarah Connor Charm School and  Hooded Crow relate for me. About why I am doing both, where they meet and where they don’t. To do so was actually probably sparked when I was told that someone had proclaimed the Charm School as a Gaelic Heathen warrior group. As it was at a time I was trying to get more attention out about my Hooded Crow project, I think it was especially annoying. Of course, it would come as a big surprise to all those Christian women I work with in the Charm School, and probably Pagans of other cultural involvements.

So having reiterated that the SCCS is not a Pagan group, I shall now admit that it actually started out as a Pagan joke. And now may be responsible for this Pagan project. In fact, I’m starting to reconsider what I said that They never used Sarah Connor’s image, because I think They did quite a bit to kick me in the ass….even if none have ever copied her appearance. Because right when I needed it, there it was.

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Termintor 2
It was probably this one

Never having seen The Terminator, I didn’t pay much attention when a friend, a mentor on the warrior path, and his roommate were talking about the second movie about to come out. I seem to remember them focused on Arnie and machines. *yawn* Later that day, I was a bit surprised when I visited other friends (at the time) who were not, AFAIK, Arnie fans anymore than I was, to find that they were all excited about Terminator 2 as well. Then they showed me her photo in a magazine (remember those things? ah, yes, tell me the machines aren’t taking over, after all). Linda Hamilton, dressed in black and with all that muscle.

You know how you don’t know you were looking for something until you find it? Yeah, one of those moments. Or rather it built, I sought out the first movie, got to the new one the first chance I got. The first moment when Sarah is on the screen doing chin ups was probably when it really hit. This was something I was looking for, I just hadn’t known it.

There are people who probably do great without story and imagery to motivate and drive them. I’m not one of those people. I am very driven by story and image, I need to put things in my head to work towards.  While I had found enough to get me into martial arts and physical training to be on this path I found myself on, much was rather anachronistic and much was unformed in many ways. Especially as a woman on the path, with a male mentor who had a world of images and stories through the ages he could go on but which tended to make those like me feel marginalized.

Yes, there were other strong women fictional roles before then, including Ripley of the Alien franchise. But Sarah was different, because there was a multitude of layers about here which were meaningful for me. Okay, maybe I wasn’t that paranoid about machines and I never had a kid, the latter being a strong connect for some of my friends, but pretty much everything else. Despite a fantastical story line, she was very real, very everyday. Just one of us.

The key thing was her character arch, which might be one of the best ever created in movies. Yeah, I might be bias. She was just like most of us have been at some point, directionless, working a dead end job we hated and felt inept at, not exactly winning at love. She wasn’t a warrior, she didn’t start out with knowledge of how to fight, she wasn’t granted super powers. In the first movie she is totally a Final Girl, with two notable exceptions. One is that she survived having sex, but then she does have to have this kid as it’s sort of the point. But the main one is that when the monster is finally dead, rather than sighing with relief and trying to return to a “normal life” despite the trauma, she heads south of the border pregnant, with a gun and a dog and looking for training. When she appears again she’s crazy, trained, physically strong. To the point that she, herself, may be more machine, but you can see her arch continue as her relationship with her son begins to heal in T2.

The combination of physical strength, fight training and preparedness were things I realized where intricate to making a civilian warrior. A bit of craziness might not hurt either. Because this was where I felt directionless at the time this movie came out. Obviously, I wasn’t going to be transported back to the Iron Age. I also had health issues which made being a professional warrior of any type, law enforcement, military or firefighter (which  had at one time wished to do), impossible. Um, okay, I also have an issue with authority which might have gotten in the way. It helped to see the survivalist presented. And a woman at that.

Of course, there was the muscle. I was struggling with fitness, in part due to health issues (some of which got worse in the year or so before the movie came out) as well as being a scrawny hard-gainer. I was studying a martial art, which included some fitness (although probably shouldn’t…I have several issues with that now), was lifting, running. I was having problems with figuring out what to do and how to do it. I had long ditched the standard fitness advice to women, for it was (and is) about diminishing, getting smaller and weaker, not about strength. Therefore I was reading bodybuilding magazines and books, but that often left me frustrated, because of being a hard-gainer (but I did learn the term “hard-gainer”).  Sarah offered  more realistic physique than the bodybuilders did. Oh, still very different than I could and Linda Hamilton was not a hard-gainer, having obtained that look in a very short time. But still more real. At some point along the line I did decide to figure it out by become a personal trainer…which is it’s own twisted tale.

This was the practical side, which I don’t feel I was at all grounded in before. And which is vital to the warrior path. Which also needs to be grounded in the present day, even if the reasons we do it are in the future (and, no, probably not Skynet or Revenants, so it’s best to be ready for anything).

So I was pretty obsessed, using this story and imagery to motivate me as I continued with my growing physical training and with continuing research on Gaelic culture and religion. And now, back to how the Charm School started as a Pagan joke.

The same people who first showed me Linda/Sarah’s photo were working on a parody Pagan newsletter not long after the movie came out (or maybe even had started before, time slides). It was going to satirize various excesses of the Pagan community. I was at first trying to come up with something mocking some other folks I knew, but, well, sometimes it’s more fun to joke about yourself. And so, “Sarah Connor Charm School” and an “ad campaign” for this “warrior training program” bloomed. The parody ‘zine never happened, but the Sarah Connor Charm School remained a running joke.  Which spread among many of my other friends from various circles.

As I got online, I kept referencing the joke with real life friends who already were in on it and it grew to those I “met” online. Indeed, many women had been inspired by the character in similar ways.  We made up a batch of T-shirts, we discussed fitness, martial arts and self-defense, a bit of prepping..I started a LiveJournal page for it.

Meanwhile, I kept worshiping the War Goddesses, yet felt forbidden to speak Their names or talk or write much about Them, which often became uncomfortable (especially as others were not so forbidden and, well, some of the information spread was…well….). I worked within or Outside a variety of groups, started a warrior group within an organization which has fortunately written me out their history from what I understand and so will remain nameless here, tried to start up some other things which got too distracting and off my path…..  I returned to the wilderness, with the internet my primary way of keeping involved in things Celtic Reconstructionist. I kept trying to build what that was, continuing my own studies and training.

In the mid-aughts, there was a big strive to get CR well defined and a group of people I was friendly with got together on that. Including the two people who first showed me “Sarah’s” photo. It was over all a stressful time in my life, my Mum died during it being at the center of my own chaos and hell. Within this group of people, there was a lot of ego clashing and underhanded ploys for control which I unfortunately got too caught up in. It was just a real clusterfuck. Then something happened among these people that was sort of “off-topic” but a major ethical and spiritual deal breaker for me, regarding oaths I had taken….and then was abused and mocked for taking a stand on. I was already sick of the ego plays, power grabs and fighting. I said “fuck it” and walked away.

Oh, some CR-types stuck with me as friends and were as disgusted as I was, of course, but I wasn’t all that active in “the movement” any longer. I even stopped at all using the term CR, although I, of course, continued to use that methodology. I kept doing my own thing, “labeled” for the syncretic tendencies of being Scottish focused and married to a Heathen, kept working with Badb, Macha and the Morrígan……but for online connections and networking I threw myself more into The Sarah Connor Charm School. It was, after all, a hell of a lot more fun than what I’d been dealing with. At a time when my life was continuing to be less fun. My Dad and several dogs and horses all died during this time period, too (all for natural causes related to age).

I started a website which I eventually got a domain for, started a Facebook page, met more and more people, especially women, who were inspired by her. Many who were not Pagan, who I probably wouldn’t have worked with on such things if I had done something Pagan focused…but also Pagans who are dedicated to other Gods or are not dedicated to particular Gods or are more ….well, there’s a lot of variety.  And we talked more about fitness and training and prepping…and we developed the Honorary Degree thing where we celebrate real strong women and girls (and now boys with the John Connor Award and heroic
A kiss form Linda Hamilton after I present her with "award" for the inspiration she givesanimals with Max’s First Line of Defense Heroes). I even took my ideas developed for a Pagan warrior group and removed the religious and cultural material, replacing it with basic charm school type liberal arts and with Sarah related languages (as she had trained in Central and/or South America) for the curriculum. The physical, prepping and even arts stuff was already in there. (and for all those mighty, mostly male, Pagan “warriors” who complained my ideas were too tough…we now have someone systematically using it, thank you very much!).

And, of course, I got to go meet Linda Hamilton and give a token of all of our appreciation.

I also cracked down on some training I hadn’t gotten to yet, having a job where I could afford it and perhaps more time and energy due to less drama. You can, of course, read about some of that here, here and here. And wrote stuff *wavesingeneraldirectionatblog*  I had already included research in pop culture female action heroes, physical feminism and related topics in my studies long ago, but I got a deep focus on that during this time.

And then it happened. Writing I had put on a back burner, or really the freezer, and didn’t know what to do with I took out, heated up and started working on. Making several changes, including writing about the War Goddesses. Suddenly, it was vital that I write and talk about Them. A lot. I then put that on the back burner, but only that far, because I felt the need to work on an extensive but shorter piece. Which, when finished I suddenly found a place to submit it to. Then more possible places and more things are out in editors’ hands. And all to one degree or another related to the War Goddesses. And then I realized I needed to make the “online shrine” and change the name of this blog to match.  And, of course, a FaceBook page for it the training program up, but if someone is already doing the cultural-religious stuff, then that’s already posted.

And in doing so, I have become more involved in doing things within the Pagan/Polytheist communities, but choosing where I hang out and who I do them with. Sometimes, now that I’ve been away from certain prejudices, with some association with folks I wouldn’t once have. Finding common ground where They want me to.

I think that stepping way from the drama and focusing on the Sarah Connor Charm School stuff helped clear away a lot of bullshit. It also led me to meet and learn from some really wonderful women who I might not have had the time and energy to get to know. It’s helped me move along my own path more than the work I had been doing trying to build a general CR focused “movement” which did often leave me with little energy for the warrior stuff.

So, this is exactly how these two things tie together for me. Of course, they are, I’m not big on separating parts of my life all that much.  I figure Hooded Crow will always be smaller than the Charm School, given that the focus on CR methodology and one group of Goddesses combines for a less interest. Even though it’s less gender specific (SCCS has a lot of male supporters, but the “school” itself is for women…it should be realized, as I have said before, men have a lot more stories than we do already).  Right now it’s mostly just my thing, anyway, while the Charm School has become a lot of women’s thing.

And if you missed it please see  An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 1 Deities and Icons part 3 is on it’s way (EDIT is now up Our Gods and Heroes in Pop Culture), I’ll be less focused on Sarah Connor (although Linda Hamilton will get a mention) and instead discuss Gaelic Gods and Heroes in pop culture, especially the Morrígan (although in general that should be “sort of”).  (EDIT: also now have An Morrígan and SC: Pt. 4: Training)

copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

Rebuilding Her (Their) Cult(s)

Recently Morpheus Ravenna, of Coru Cathubodua,* wrote that she is Not Rebuilding Her Cult in response to others who called for reviving ancient Deity cults and one mentioning that she was doing so for an Morrígan. I’m carrying on the blog cycle, for my first reaction to the title was “Well, I am!”

But that’s not really accurate, either.  I have no desire to build a cult and lead it, if that’s what that sounds like. It’s more I feel She or They are trying to rebuild it, that They are seeking people out to follow Them in a manner that is related to the old cult I believed existed. I wouldn’t mind helping to incite Her cult back into existence, however,and  to offer evidence of it and ways it might happen today. Although, of course, I may not always like what others do with the information I share, I have learned it’s better to live with that than be control freak (although I might have rants on it, of course). And I’m finding certain pressures to reveal my work despite any concerns that I might have.

The difference in my thinking might be explained in her second paragraph and my own take on the issues she brings up there. One being a different take on what the fact that there was no continuation and no documentation from practitioners of what such a cult was like means for rebuilding. We don’t even know if there ever was a cult to the War Goddesses. But that’s an overall problem with Pagan Gaelic traditions, we have to work with what we got, which is a combination of archaeology, Christian literature and law and some Classical observations (which were fewer for Gaelic cultures), as well as some cross-Indo-European speculations. Which is, of course, where Reconstructionist methodology comes in, we wouldn’t need to reconstruct if this problem wasn’t substantial.

Coming from this methodology also leads to a different take on what such a rebuilt, or reconstructed, cult might look like, today. Despite some “definitions” I’ve seen given that often makes it sound like we intend to practice exactly as our ancestors did (something which is impossible if we can never actually know and need to reconstruct to begin with, as well as living under different laws), “Reconstruction” means that we are using research of the past to reconstruct what such things might look like today, in a culturally related fashion. Neither recreating out of cultural context nor trying to live in a past that is gone. This means that even when we have evidence, not all things will be revived. Just as modern Druids, even Reconstructionist ones, manage to practice without human sacrifice,except symbolically, I believe we can reconstruct the war band cults without actually taking heads. At least until the Revenant Cataclysm finally comes.

Panel from Gundestrup Cauldron, likely showing a warrior initiation
Panel from Gundestrup cauldron

likely showing a warrior initiation

I do believe that such a cult or cults very likely existed, and I am focused on the war bands as evidence of them. I follow Epstein’s speculation that Cú Chulainn** is a representation of what the Christian scribes interpreted it might have been like.(Epstein, Ch 3). Following her thoughts that there would be similarities to the berserkr (“bear coats”) and ulfheðnar (“wolf coats”) practices of the likely very cultic Germanic warbands, I also extrapolate that we find hints in the stories of the Fíanna, despite actual Goddess connection lacking (although perhaps some hints to it with the female teachers, one named Bodbmall who Epstein notes may connect to the name Badb and she and Nagy have related to Buannan (Nagy, Wisdom of the Outlaw, pg. 102, Epstein, Ch. 2). From there, of course, to the díberga and their relationship to fáelad (wolfing). I find them interesting in their “unsavory” Paganism and withhold bias against them for the general brigand traits the clerics also attributed to them.(see Sharpe for díberga/Fíanna and McCone and West for that and the wolf speculations) I have also been doing a good bit of writing in regards to the canine aspects and how Cú Chulainn actually fits as more of an Outlaw than a tribal warrior, but these are not yet published. (I will, of course, be letting you know in this blog when they are available somewhere)

Although I want to point out that I’m not trying to create conflict between Ravenna’s vision and my own, only to note how we might be viewing particular’s differently as well as may have different focuses on thie history. Regarding the points Morpheus makes in her post. With location I am, as long time readers have likely figured out, focused on the War Goddesses in Gaelic culture only.  I do however look for relevant similarities found not only in the other Celtic cultures, but, also Germanic ones as there do seem to be many correlations between the war band cults of these cultures, although the Germanic are often to male Deities.  I do agree that the title an Morrígan may well have been held by many regional Goddesses, although I follow Stokes, Epstein and others regarding the title “Morrígan” as more common and older than “Mórrígan” and therefore means “Phantom Queen” rather than “Great (or Big) Queen” which is a later folk etymology  (Stokes, pg. 128, Epstein Ch. 1 “etymologies,” I also go into this a good bit in some upcoming work) and may not bear relation to the “Great Queens” of Brythonic cultures which. Therefore my focus is with working within a Gaelic framework, although I would hope to network with those who might revive war band cults from other cultures. It does, however, lead to a certain flexibility and understanding that more than one actual cult is likely, should any start up again or not.

As for seasons, there is a preponderance of focus on Samain† in the tales an Morrígan is strongly featured in. However, this does seem to have been a time relating to Otherworldly and special events. While wars in the tales often start at this time, we also have later Fenian tales that note that warfare ceased from Samain to Beltene,. Other accounts, and archaeology, does seem to point that warfare and raiding did seem to quiet, if not cease, at Samain, but raiding started up around Imbolc.(Patterson pg. 123, 132-133) Given the link with the warbands and wolves, as well as this return to raiding, I also link Imbolc, or the period between Imbolc and Beltene, with specific work on Awakening the Wolf. Lugnasad, a time of festivals involving horse racing, has been linked specifically to the sister War Goddess Macha. Therefore there is no specific season for me in regard, there may just be difference in focus, devotions of a modern cult might turn inwards more during the winter months, and outward during the summer, in keeping with the tales or might alter depending on seasonal changes in location. Modernizing this doesn’t seem to be a large issue for me.

Incidental or temporal worship already seems carried over by many us anyway, again, within the bounds of legality. Taking omens, making offerings (even if subtly) for specific reasons in specific places is not a large issue. It would, undoubtedly, be an issue for those professional warriors upon battlefields, but this is where we adapt to the situations we are in. And, after all, incidental worship is about adapting.

It is devotional practice is what gets to the meat of it. That which was done, that which we can do now based on the evidence. It might also be where difference in seeing a rebuilding or a new tradition might come in. I already noted, that if in general CRs have had to forgo human sacrifice or adopt symbolic practices (many of which are later folk practices such as the Bealtuinn “sacrifice”) I think we can manage to refrain from piling actual heads. A few modern Gaels I know are quite into the symbolism all the same. Of course, “war spoils” and other related votive offerings can be easily retranslated to modern context of what we find symbolic.

But as I noted, I relate the cult to the Outlaw war bands, what may well have been a Pagan subculture of the early Christian culture. (see McCone, Sharpe, West) Therefore my focus is on the practices which we can interpret about these bands, even in the face of the rather negative reputations the díberga might have, especially in some saint tales. Devotion to me may not be that far off from the non-battle things these warriors offered. Their bodies, their effort into training and preparing. Whether one becomes a full, literally blooded, warrior or not, the training part is there for all of us who do walk the warrior path.

But, again, as I noted above, I also see this as ecstatic practice “shape-shifting” …for me it’s canine, for others I’ve talked to there may be corvid. This may be about out-of-body travel or about an embodied fugue state, strengthening the trained body. (I will eventually have an announcement on something on this). While I am often focused, especially in this blog, on the practical, I feel it’s important to have the ecstatic aspect as well, at least for those so inclined. (No one said every member of a cult would necessarily do the exact same things)

So for me rebuilding Her/Their Cult/s is about the devotional practices, often very embodied ones. And in a modern context. These things would vary by whether one is a professional soldier or a, well, amateur walking the warrior path, of course, as well as on ability and talents. But it would involved fitness, practical martial arts training (which may not always be traditionally Gaelic and could include firearms training), culturally traditional Gaelic martial arts training (which may not always be practical), ecstatic shape-shifting, Seership, poetry and other arts. Not all in the cult might be warriors, we have in the Fenian material druids who helped train Finn in the Sight, after all. But it would be the key focus. I also see an importance on preparedness for a variety of situations, as well….after all, many of us amateur path walkers seem to be preppers. For some of us, hunting, foraging and deep wilderness exploration might connect  us to the Outlaw role as well. Again, we must adapt for hunting seasons are almost the opposite now as they were in early Irish law. (Patterson)

There is, of course, what a cult provides, both members and community, as I believe that service is a key role. The war bands may not have been in the society, but they did serve it.  This is not necessarily focused on our “religious” or cultural communities, but should probably include or physical neighbors of all cultural and religious backgrounds. The professional, soldier, LEO or related, serves a broad community in obvious ways. Others might volunteer for CERT (Community Emergency Response Team),  help organize the local community to deal with disaster and long-term preparedness, teach martial arts and/or self-defense, become victims’ advocates, do volunteer escort in dangerous areas (working with a proper community organization and within their guidelines). And, of course, providing appropriate rituals for those who do worship our Gods when they have need of the War Goddesses.

Needs for members would vary for the professional warrior who has seen combat and is returning to her family, but also for the rape survivor who is moving from victim to hero in her own story. Rituals can be developed for such transitions based on literary references. Makings sure cult members are served by the cult, creating a support system for each other, is a part of the reason to have such a cult, after all. Because it is true, this is not an easy worship, not even for those of us just on the path who might never be blooded as full warriors. For those who are blooded, it is often traumatic so support within a cult would be vital. Ritual, counseling, intervention, just having the right people to connect with and help each other connect to the Goddess we serve. ETA: Perhaps even a good hurling team can be a part of that healing. How long a cult member might be in the cult may vary individually and by need as well. A soldier may find her/himself drawn to service of a War Goddess, but wish cleansing and to move away from the cult when returning to civilian life while others may be, as Nagy put it, “chronic Outlaws.”

I feel that cults based on what we know of the culture, kept in cultural perspective but adapted for the laws we live under, is fully possible using Reconstructionist methodology. I also believe it’s something They want and I hope to see more cultic development in my lifetime. In fact, I’m smelling things on the wind which I think might become very interesting.

*ETA: I now need to note that I in no way associated with this group. I had only ever read the blog and for awhile some  members where in my FB War Goddess group. As I am a devotee to Macha who has vowed to fight for Her horses and to end horse slaughter,  I no longer have even that amount of contact due to the group eating horse meat in a misguided and loathsome attempt to somehow honor Her. Doing this is as close to sacrilege as I could even imagine. Therefore do not read this mention of the post, done before I knew about this, to be any sort of recommendation. Please see another blog I write for Heathens and Pagans for the Horses

**This relationship seems problematic as most see conflict and rejection between Cú Chulainn and the Morrígan. However, looked at from from the warrior path apparent antagonism begins to make sense that She challenges and goads him, he comes back with the arrogance She expects and he rejects the easy victory as he is also expected to do. No one said serving a War Goddess was simple, straightforward or painless.

†I am using the older spellings here, rather than the Scottish Gaelic ones which are my preference as this is relating literature and history.

Angelique Gulermovich Epstein, “War Goddess: the Morrígan and her Germano-Celtic Counterparts” dissertation for UCLA, 1998

Kim McCone, “Varia II” Ériu 36, 1985

Kim McCone “Werewolves, Cyclopes, Díberga and Fíanna: Juvenile Delinquency in Early Ireland” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, issue 12, 1986

Joseph Falaky Nagy. The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985

Nerys Patterson. Cattle Lords & Clansmen: The Social Structure of Early Ireland, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 1994

Richard Sharpe, “Laicus, Irish Láech and the Devil’s Men,” Ériu 30, 1979

Whitley Stokes, trans. “The Second Battle of Moytura” Revue Celtique 12

Máire West, “Aspects of díberg in the tale TogailBruidne Da Derga,”Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie (ZcP) , Volume 49-50, 1997

copyright © 2013 Saigh Kym Lambert

Ramblings about Serving the War Goddesses or…

….what the hells AM I doing here?

I’m working on some writing, the end of that article I’ve mentioned and a far larger bit in Teh Project, on serving An Morrígna. My only experience is in service on the warrior path and a bit as a seer. There may be other valid ways, serving as a king would have likely been one at one time but not so much today, but I certainly do not buy the whole “She/They are not really (a) War Goddess(es)” crap that is so popular today. And the “She/They aren’t JUST (a) War Goddess(es)” falls into the whole denigration of warrior into some dumb killing machine. Fertility, cattle and sovereignty are in no way the opposite of warfare as practiced in Gaelic culture. But…yeah, the article is almost done…no really,…although what exactly “almost” means is another matter.

At the time I first started working on this section, to then find some material that drew me to work on something else, there seemed to be a spate of blog posts by those not on the path, people not soldiers or cops, either, claiming that only soldiers, and maybe cops, were warriors. One person seemed reasonable and worth chatting up so I did, I like the guy, I felt he listened to my take. We might not totally agree, probably not on anything, but do I need to point out that this is sort of par for course with me? I like his blog in general, now that I found it and I may or may not have found it if he hadn’t written on the topic and I was looking at the time.

Most, however, wrote in such a manner to show that such an attempt was going to be a waste of time and energy, possibly even sanity. I realized in thinking why I didn’t feel like bothering that these folk didn’t live in the same world I did. They live in a world where violence is never going to happen to them and if it did the nice cops will come and rescue them and the courts would fix things. The soldiers will keep all enemies at bay in other countries and nothing like 911 will ever happen on our soil again. Katrina might have been bad and maybe there was chaos and bloodshed after, but it’s all fixed now, right? And it’s not going to happen again. Or here, anyway. And when it does these folk will be sure to vacate in time. And with the latter, they probably do have the resources.

We don’t create our own realities, not really. I’m a firm believer in that. BUT sometimes we do, as long as nothing bad happens. And for many people, especially white, middle class types, it might not. Although, well, most aren’t working or so middle class these days; a lot of folks who probably still consider themselves middle class, really, aren’t in that income bracket. But I digress. Sort of.

At the other end, of course, are those bloggers who claim that being a Pagan warrior is all about the “inner battles” and has nothing to do with fighting at all. Martial arts might be an enjoyable way of recreating, but it’s not what being a warrior is about. Certainly NO GUNS! Soldiers are not warriors, or might be, but not because they fight but only if they do proper ritual inner battles too. If they’re doing it right they won’t want to soldiers. And being a warrior means you’re all noble and heroic and shit like that. But your only battles are within.

Um, yeah. And, again, different world where everything outside ones own head is apparently quite safe.

So, I’m in the middle again as it were. Or just feeling outside this whole thing all together. In a different world.

Now, mind you, things can be perfectly safe. I don’t expect an armed intruder to burst through my door any moment. But, you know, …I don’t know that one won’t so there are loaded weapons in the house that we can access. And I know how to use almost everything in this house as a weapon if that didn’t work out. Something always COULD happen.

Here’s my definitions: a “person on the warrior path” is someone who trains for possible deadly encounters. Whether a professional or not. For whom it is a focus (some might train but not put the priority in it or want to claim to be on the path and that’s their prerogative).

A “warrior” is someone who is on the path but is also, as Ambrose Hollingworth Redmoon put it, is initiated by an other warrior, that is in a life or death fight. (in “No Peaceful Warriors!,” Gnosis #21, Fall 1991, republished in Rick Fields, ed. The Awakened Warrior: Living with Courage, Compassion & Discipline, New York: Putnam Book 1994 and personal correspondence)

So, soldiers and cops are indeed more likely to be initiated. Not all of the rest of us will be. In some areas cops don’t have all that much opportunity, either, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to be prepared. There have been times when soldiers don’t get as much chance for initiation either, but the past ten years have offered multiple chances to many. Again, but the job is to stay on the path, prepared.

A soldier may be a warrior, but not all warriors are soldiers. There are other aspects to being in the military that make it impossible for all who might feel called to be prepared. Likewise to be a law enforcement officer. A certain trust in systems, at least in yourself within such systems, that some of us don’t have. That some of us don’t have to a degree that might inspire us to some extent.

I admit that I use “a warrior” an awful lot when I mean “someone on the warrior path” simply because it really gets annoying to write the “someone on the warrior path” repeatedly. It might be lazy, but it’s also less for you to read. I’m about to commit this wrongdoing many times in the rest of this post..any time I say “a warrior” I can mean someone who is initiated or not, unless the actual meaning is obvious.

A warrior does not have to be honorable, noble or heroic to be a warrior. These are great things for a warrior to be, I highly recommend them. But, honestly, I don’t believe that it’s part of the definition of “warrior” or “warrior path.” There are some real scum out there who train hard, can fight well and have been initiated. They give those of us who do fancy ourselves more noble a cause. ~;)

A warrior does not need to be spiritual. And if s/he is, it can be any spirituality. It may or may not involve “fighting inner battles.” Obviously, a Pagan warrior must be Pagan. Chances are s/he also serves a War Deity, but some might focus on others and many are Polytheistic to the point where they may serve no specific Ones. One of the statements I saw among the “only soldiers are warriors” postings was something along the line of there being a difference between being a warrior and worshiping a Warrior Deity. Well, yeah, there can be, as I said at the top here. There are probably other roles….but this is where I’m going with this, really, there’s sort of a direction to this rant.

I’ve written about this before, of course, in the article this blog is titled after (at the time the blog was called “Championing Ourselves” ..the article is no longer online) as well as references in this blog. When I was called by An Morrígan, I had been quite a pacifist, my world seemed safer even though I had been a victim once AND it was a far more dangerous time as far as crime rates than today. My world changed and I had to. Because whether others Me target shooting with a Sig in a Defensive Firearms classcould serve Her/Them in other ways, I was expected to train. To walk the path if not ever be initiated. That’s what She says and, guess what, She trumps some random blogger’s opinion. Just the way it is.

This is the way the world became to me, dangerous. Yes, crime is down in the nearly 25 years since this happened, but there are factors in there which actually make the odds no different for me, living here. It doesn’t change the fact that it still takes a considerable time, even longer than it does in an urban area (which is still always, always too long) for the police to arrive to a call. It doesn’t change that I can’t “date” protection which looking back I realized I often did. Or that doing that constantly puts women in danger from that “protection.” Things might indeed be better statistically, but it doesn’t mean any of us is exactly safe or can depend on the help of others.

And, here’s where I remind you I’m a crazy survivalist, things are getting worse. Hey, there’s seership here too, right? But one doesn’t need that skill, really. The very Earth is telling us so, very loudly; while truly crazy people who could have the power to make positive changes are denying it. The economy is crashing and there’s little real work being done to fix things in a sustainable way. Do you really wonder why many of us have turned to finding ways to do this ourselves, whether the “bunker” types or the homesteaders?

Truth is, of course, I have only met a few folks who feel called this way by Her/Them. Very few and most have ended up with some obvious reason for such a stance. So, I think I was Linkstruck recently by this post about feelings stirring after a ritual to An Morrígan, that appear to have been quite unexpected by the person writing. What exactly is it we’re all feeling and why are we feeling this need to DO SOMETHING? (Check out the rest of the blog, as the statue project is interesting and I’m feeling pulled to do something like that too….but different, probably a more “primitive” style..problem is, I don’t have much talent in those things…but I’m thinking looking over the shooting range)

Many of us joke with it, code it, as The Zombie Apocalypse or The War with the Machines but our training is not a joke. Even if we are sometimes unclear what we’re training for. There’s something. There’s a feeling. I suppose the “sane” would say it’s a paranoia.

And I’m not talking about “rising up against” anyone or forming militias, as much as, well, just being ready for what ever. What ever comes down the road. And if nothing comes, if things get better rather than worse, then that’s all good. Better to be prepared for something that doesn’t happen than not prepared for something that does.

——————————————————

An Morrígan/Badb’s prophecy:

I shall not see a world that will be dear to me.
Summer without flowers,
Kine will be without milk,
Women without modesty,
Men without valour,
Captures without a king.

[gap: extent: approx. 6 words]

Woods without mast,
Sea without produce,

[gap: extent: approx. 40 words]

Wrong judgments of old men,
False precedents of brehons,
Every man a betrayer,
Every boy a reaver.
Son will enter his father’s bed,
Father will enter his son’s bed,
Everyone will be his brother’s brother-in-law.

[gap: extent: 8 words]

An evil time!
Son will deceive his father,
Daughter will deceive her mother.
Cath Maige Tuired /The Second Battle of Moytura
Whitley Stokes translation

Copyright © 2011 Kym Lambert

Weighing things out

It’s been a long time since I blogged here, and I hate starting a post with what is essentially an apology for not blogging. So consider it just an acknowledgement. It’s not that I’ve not been bloggin. I’ve got a series of fitness posts going up at The Sarah Connor Charm School Blog, some horse related political stuff at Our Stories are Written in the Language of Equus and a painful lament for our goat Randvér as well as the Old Clucker and some local political stuff at the homesteading blog Dùn Sgàthan Notes.

Things have been busy and a bit heavy, not just the loss of animals at the Dùn, but I’ve also recently got my AFAA Personal Fitness Trainer certification reinstated. This is a good step which does not come without some tribulations. There is a reason I left the fitness business several years ago and a reason why when I first went to get reinstated I lost interest.

I’ve always had a certain issue with the industry. My focus in fitness was about strength and health. A scrawny weak kid, I always wanted to be bigger and stronger. I sort of was aware that there was a stronger focus, for women, in the industry on thinness than I had, but it wasn’t until I got the lovely mixed messages within the industry that how horrible it is really hit home. After all, I got training when I was first certified to recognize eating disorders with the message we were to try to counter them. But the reality when you start working in the industry is that the message is Weight Loss, Weight Loss, Weight Loss.

This not only doesn’t interest me, it offends me. This is not what fitness is, it’s an illusion of health and fitness put in place of real health and fitness. When you find that many training programs for women are designed to diminish the body, make it smaller. Not only in weight loss, but, especially with leg work, by over training muscle. All those multitudes of reps, that does not strengthen. It might build endurance, up until you start getting injuries, but only for those pointless moves not for, you know, running or walking. The message that “women can’t get bulky, but you better do lots and lots of reps to make sure you don’t” just is, well, aggravating.

The “weight loss” message might be a great selling point for some. I am finding difficult come up with language for my fitness website that informs that I don’t want to focus on weight loss with clients that doesn’t also drive people to those who promise weight loss. I know some will seek those promises out. I also know that some people feel abused by the constant focus on weight loss, as I wrote about in my first real post here. I have found a great community, Health At Every Size which is focused on this concept. In a better economy and a heavier populated area, I think such a focus can work out well…as it is, no matter what I promise, I’m probably not going to make a great living up here.

But my real purpose for getting certified again was for writing. There is a chapter in Teh Project about fitness training and I figured it would be good to have that certification again. Oh, and then as I mentioned, this now makes me “fitness director” or some shit at The Sarah Connor Charm School. ~;p However, there are more changes. So, while I might not have a lucrative business here, I might be in a position to soon take a few clients. Hence having started a website.

Yes, there are changes coming. Perhaps. We’ll see. I’m waiting.

Meanwhile, I write off- and on-line. If not so much here at this blog lately. As I had been working to expand this blog, as much of it is about sort of practicing or thinking “out loud” on issues around Teh Project, I had been working on a post about some of my mystical practices. No, really, it all relates for me even if it seems a divergence to others; and that’s sort of my point. I realized that with A Place Where Things Come Together it might seem that my spiritual practice is all about praying while working out or something, but while it all ties together, there is this whole mystical practice that includes, well, shapeshifting. Or at least consciousness shifting which manifests in a very physical way, although not in the true “turning into a wolf or something” sort of way. “Ríastrad” (warp spasm) or fáelad” (wolfing); which for me are about focus and transformation, of a sort. Yeah, even my ecstatic stuff is physical. What can I say. (There are other transformative practices in a Gaelic context, I recommend A Wolf-Man, Not A Wolf In Man’s Clothing who does good research and is able to discuss various lycanthrophy practices in a Celtic and related cultures, for those wishing to explore these sorts of things more.)

While the attempt to write something for this blog has been tossed at this point, the exercise worked as far as breaking the block I had for Teh Project and That Article. Hopefully, rather soon, the latter will be shown to the first readers and then published online. It still won’t have a lot of details, that will take longer. But it’ll be a start in me sharing something that is very difficult for me to share.

It’s not that I don’t believe these things should be SOOPER SEKRET, really, I think they should be shared. In fact, in light of the issue that many think that warp spasm is just, well, losing ones temper, freaking out, going out of control while on the other hand being seen as a substitution for physical training, I think it’s important to discuss this more. Because the practice is anything but these things. My problem is that it’s something that I just have trouble putting into words, especially written words. But words are happening. They’re just going to take a lot of work getting into an order that is sharable.

Now, of course, while I still plug at that, the fitness chapter is also a focal point. Because, you know, I got this shiny new certification. And if things work out, I might be getting a whole other one because, well, there are reason I might wish to affiliate with another organization as well as if not instead of. But that will require workshops which would require travel and until I’m out of the night watch gig, that’s not really possible.

I admit that I hate night watch now with a passion. I liked it a lot at first. I liked how working a job like this at a camp for troubled boys correlated in a way to the whole Fianna thing. Trying to do all else I need to do on a nocturnal schedule, however, is not so good. Time to move to another stage.

And then I’ll have more training stuff to write about here. More time to hit the range (or build one here…that isn’t happening like I had hoped, but I guess I’ll have to do that myself). Perhaps a chance to return to MA training which is out of the question on this schedule as the nearest place is too far away. That is, of course, if there is money to do so. It’s all being weighed out. And it may weigh out on the side of me staying as night watch, that remains to be seen.

So, mostly this is me writing on why I’m not writing here. Again. But maybe I will be more.

Copyright © 2011 Kym Lambert

A place where things come together

My gym, with photo shopped wolf picture someone never did make me for itAs I wasn’t writing much about Gaelic spirituality at the time I started this blog, having started at a time of conflict, flux and burn out in the community and taking things more private for awhile, I have realized it might seem a sudden switch to some of my readers. While the intent of this was always to be about various aspects of the warrior path in my life and how they came together, the focus had been on fitness, self-defense and popular culture. That itself might seem quite a mix to some. But it really is in my interest in the warrior ways of ancient Ireland and Scotland that all those things come together, the physical training and the importance of story.

I’m not good at compartmentalizing. Somethings need to be, however, and therefore when I wanted a space to blog about homesteading and to share with my husband, I made another blog Dùn Sgàthan Notes, I also joined a blog for horse advocacy although between three of us we seem a bit too overwhelmed by it all to post much. Then, in order to share space for writing about things related to The Sarah Connor Charm School, I created a blog for the group. This last is the most likely to have cross-posting. (What am I saying? The only thing I’ve posted there so far has been reposts of things from here. I hope this doesn’t annoy those who might read both.)

But this blog is for all things related to women on the warrior path, however diverse that may be for me. It’s a place where things come together for me in my practice. Now I also have a real space location that brings things together, as well.

For years now I’ve had limited space for exercise equipment. Usually a small room, which usually means that things overflowed into the rest of the house.It lead to some bad habits, like making a stop by the computer in between sets, removing my focus.

When I was planning to build my own house, it was actually pretty much centered around the idea of having a gym. A gym/temple, really. But I never built my house. A decade ago we moved into the “in-law apartment” of my parents’ home. Since their deaths, we now own the house…and we still live in the apartment. I wasn’t ready to use the rest, the apartment is smaller and easier to care for and heat and it just doesn’t “flow” into the rest easily. But we decided to find ways to expand into the rest. And, it of course, started with a gym.

Moving the living room Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor doing chin-ups in Terminator 2furniture out of the way (come spring most of it will be moved completely out), we put down padded flooring, moved in the weights, benches, heavy bag. We added a pull-up and dip tower, as I have given up, for now, on finding the perfect bed frame to turn on it’s side. When things are moved out more we’ll have more open space, especially to work the bag, and probably get more equipment over time.

And in the far corner is a shrine. I may be the only Polytheist, especially the only HARD Polytheist, out there who has a shrine in her gym with a statue of An Morrígan and a figure of Sarah Connor. I hope these are joined by a figure or picture of Scáthach or other literary Irish warrior woman, or many, but I’m not finding the right one(s). I’m looking for well done and muscular, tattooed would be nice but muscle is more important. I have some great ideas in my head but a lifetime frustration of never being able to get such images out onto paper (my sister got that talent). I do have a list, a sort of prayer, instead:

I serve the War Goddesses
Badb and Macha and An Morrigan, whose name is Anand
Fea and Nemain, Bé Néit
I follow in the footsteps of the banfénnidi
Macha Mongruadh
Ness ingen Echach Sálbuidi
Medb ingen Echach Feidlig
Creidne
Scáthaig Buanand ingen Ardgeimme
Aifi ingen Ardgeimme
Bodbmall
Líath Lúachra
Luas Lurgann
Étsine
Bréfne
Símha ingen Chorrluirgnig
Bec ingen Conchoraig
Lithben ingen Aitreabhthaigh
Truth in our Hearts, Strength in our Arms, Fulfillment in our Tongues

(ETA April 2012: I have changed this over this time period, please read this post on why and how it reads now)

There are photos all around of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Some, now collected in a frame, are worn, faded, damaged, having gone from apartment to apartment with me for years, the first for 20 years this year, taped to the walls of various “workout rooms.” Likewise, there are similar pictures of Kathy Long. Later these were joined by Demi Moore doing one-armed push-ups as Lt. Jordan O’Neal in G.I. Jane (this also includes the statement “Failure Is Not An Option” at top and D.H. Lawrence’s poem “Self-Pity” at the bottom) and Sigourney Weaver as Ripley 8. But now I have more pristine photos of Linda, with autographs, including one of us together. I’ll be printing more from ComicCon to go up, too.

But while An Morrígan and Sarah Connor grace my shrine, it is not to say that the two images are the same. One is a representation of my Goddess, the other is a representation of a role model. As a hard Polytheist I do not believe that the Goddesses and Gods are archetypes. They are real and They are many. Even a Goddess I worship of the same name as a Goddess you worship might not even be the same Goddess. We are limited, They are not so much, we do not always know who They are, only Who They tell us and They may tell us to meet our always limited understanding.

And while I might be limited, I’m not completely simple either. I have no problem with both worshiping Goddesses I believe are very real and alive and being inspired by stories both ancient and modern. For me Sarah Connor and other modern role models are as potent as the ancient ones of Ness and Scáthach and other literary figures who I also do not believe are degraded* Goddesses but humans in the tales.

So this space, this very sacred space to me, is filled with images that represent the warrior path for me. It allows me to stay far more focused and mindful, more reverent than I have been for some time when working out with weights. I meditate, usually sitting on the balance ball, before the shrine between sets. I focus on what I am doing, what I am offering. Because working out is worship for me, a practice that deteriorated by bad habits, which now I am breaking.

There are no offering plates on this shrine as there are on my others. The offering is my blood, sweat and tears. If something else is demanded there, it will be given, but the focus here is on the work of the body. And where that meets the spirit.

 

*Yes, I know even some Celtic scholars these days use “euhermerized” but this word actually means the opposite; it actually means that the historical becomes mythological, that humans become Deities, not the other way around.

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Text and top photo copyright ©2011 Kym Lambert, wolf picture is currently photoshopped but a similar one will go there Drawing copyright © 2002 Aaron Miller
Photo of Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2 copyright © 1991 Carolco, currently owned by Pacificor LLC

Year of the Gun: Third Step, Self-Protection with Handguns (SPwH)

It seems to take me at least a month to write these up, which probably seems a long delay. This time is even longer and I have the excuse of not having much online access, but that wasn’t so in the first two. The real problem is that I just feel overwhelmed to find the words to do these classes justice. It just seems impossible to convey either the fun, especially of a shooting focused class like this and Basic Handgun, or the sense of empowerment they and Responsible Use of Lethal Force, give…albeit a very grave empowerment. Given the reality that is the focus of that second class, it also gives me a bit of trepidation into even trying to express how much damn fun the Instructor Lyn Bates with student shooting classes are. It seems odd that preparing for something you hope never to use should be such a rush. But they are. It’s fun to learn, it’s empowering to take on the knowledge to protect ones own life and that of others, it’s beyond intense to consider the responsibility of it.

Of course, all these things are true of non-firearms self-defense training and martial arts as well. But with the guns you have, excuse the pun, the bang!

In early June, we returned to the Harvard Sportsman’s Club to do the next step with AWARE (Arming Women Against Rape and Endangerment) Self-Protection with Handguns. AWARE VP Lyn Bates again led this class, assisted by Barbara Clorite, Jim Roberts and Roger Lanny, with Lanny joining the class later in the day when Roberts had to leave early. There were six students, giving us an excellent 1 to 2 student to instructor ratio, allowing for a great deal of input and answers to questions through the whole class.

The class started in the club house, with introductions. This time my mate was the token only male student, the other students ranging from the MA coordinator of Second Amendment Sisters, Inc. who has been shooting for awhile to a woman who grew up with guns but wanted formal training knock off some rust to those of us who were new to shooting including one woman who was still unsure if carrying for self-defense was really an option she wanted to take. We then had an overview of basic safety and issues, before heading down to one of the outdoor ranges.Instructors demonstrating why you need a solid stance

This is when the real fun began?

After all but two of us, who had their own weapons, found our loaner guns, we started with a demonstration of the basic Isosceles stance, with both arms out in a triangle, which Lyn demonstrated with Jim helping her show the importance of putting weight forward to maintain balance, something some of us *ahem* could have done better at. After all, as Jim noted in an aside discussion at one point, this is the basic stance in nearly any self-defense or combat Martial Art system. I plead nerves as a beginner shooter for still standing too far back, according to the photos (which you will never see) and am glad I have those photos to remind me. We began our shooting in this stance.

Lyn then went over tInstructors working with students on stancehe Chapman or Modified Weaver stance, where the shooting arm stays out “like a rifle stock” while the other bends down to secure the hold. The class was fairly evenly divided in which each of us found most comfortable or felt was a better stance for us. I found that while the Chapman was a bit less “natural” to me, it seemed a more secure hold and will likely be the one I practice most to make it more “natural” in the long run. This is despite the fact, that after shooting mostly left-handed in the Basic Class, I exclusively shot right-handed this time making me cross-dominant. This does give some disadvantage, it seems in sighting. We’ll see how things go with practice.Student shooting around "cover"

We moved onto how to move, both to remove ourselves from another’s line of sight and to evaluate the over all situation. This exercise was probably a bit easier for those who know right from left, which I have a huge problem with as I’ll note in a moment. However, the couple of bumps that we took, with us all at a safely lined up, also gave us who had them a sense of the importance of keeping our fingers off the triggers when not shooting…and a reminder that if we manage that, the gun won’t just go off by itself because of a slight bump.Another student shooting around "cover"

We then shot from concealment, relating to the cover exercise that was part of RULF. Figuring out a bit, with guns away, did and didn’t work to hide us from our targets. We then shot from behind targets, from both the right and left sides, which gave some of us some clues that one might be less advantageous for us than the other was…something to keep working on.

To add another level of reality, the time factor, we got to shoot metal targets, so we could hear when the shots hit, with a timer. Then that was upped by having two of us compete. This gave each of us some sense of how pressure and adrenaline might affect our speed and aim, with some doing better and some worse. Again, information for future training. And a good example of why defensive shooting competition can be an important element of preparedness. One student also learned that soStudents practicing including Aaronme makes of electronic ear protection seem to decide to block the buzzer too.

We also were reintroduced to the phone and lock-box scenario, now getting to act it out with a live gun. We were giving options on how to go about the exercise, based on our knowledge of local response systems and with the knowledge we’d received. Mostly it came down to get gun out, make call, pick up gun, but anyone who could juggle it all would probably have an advantage. I felt rather proud of myself for I was “on the line with 911” with the gun in my other hand when informed the intruder was breaking through, I just started shooting, one-handed, while dropping the phone and bringing my other hand up. Lyn noted that I got at least two good chest shots while still one-handed. I admit, I paid for it a bit with a bruise under my thumbnail where got hit by the moving slide but I didn’t feel it until the next morning and certainly better than what might happen in such a scenario if I hesitated.

The last shooting was “the decision” with photo targets, each of us turned away while they put them up, and then we were to turn around and figure out if firing was appropriate. Many were absolutely clear, and no one shot grandma, but a couple were just a tad ambiguous without more information making those of us who got them, I was one, hesitate for a moment. I still contemplate if it was too long, but I also consider that in the case of my bad guys, it was probably prudent to be sure and they did not have an advantage on speed in the situation. But, I still mull it over.

Each step of this has left me feeling more prepared, more ready, although I know I still have so far to go. This is not to say this is an incomplete class, it was a totally filled 8 hours, with a lot of knowledge shared as well as practice. Our lunch period included instruction and time before and after shooting involved a great deal of sharing and discussion. This included the showing of various concealment holsters and bags and discussion of their various merits and demerits. But there is always more. Some of which we feel now can be easily extrapolated from what we’ve learned so far…including things like going over the concealment in our own homes and then mimicking things as much as possible at the range.

Of course, there are other AWARE classes, we’re still hoping to get shotgun ones if anyone is interested (the more who ask for them, the greater the chance they can do them) and Lyn also offers personal instruction and can be contacted through the website. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of her in the future. And we’re both considering the possibility, if we can manage out time, of perhaps getting involved in some competition to work on our stress responses. As I said before, this may be the Year of the Gun because the journey is new and we’re giving it a particular focus, but this is a life-time journey we’ve started.

And, just in case anyone does want to see me as well as my classmates:

Me shooting around "cover"I’d like to thank my classmates for agreeing to appear in this blog and all four of our teachers for their wonderful instruction.

Copyright © 2009 Kym Lambert 

Year of the Gun: Second Step, Responsible Use of Lethal Force (RULF)

In the end of March, we continued our firearms training, following NRA Basic Pistol, this time turning to Arming Women Against Rape and Endangerment (AWARE), a teaching group run by women that I’ve heard good things about and have wanted to check out for a long time. In short, the good things I heard were verified by this class, which was not only informative but also very well presented by AWARE founding member and vice-president Lyn Bates, who herself has extensive training since 1983 including with Massad Ayoob (“I wanted to learn from the best” she noted), competes in defensive firearms, is a member of the International Law Enforcement Education and Trainer’s Association, American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers, American Women’s Self Defense Association, is a contributing editor of Women & Guns and has written the book Safety for Stalking Victims: How to Save Your Privacy, Your Sanity and Your Life (she is also mentioned several times in McCaughey’s Real Knockouts and in Quigley’s Not an Easy Target).

The small class was equally men and women, with one man joining us at the last minute, having been a long time shooter and member of the Harvard Sportsman’s Club who saw the information. While started, as Lyn explained, as a “women teaching women” school, they soon began teaching men as well. This, of course, could bring up a common problem seen when women have positions of power in what is considered a “man’s world” where some men feel compelled to “take over” …this was not going to happen with Lyn, that was clear (any more than any of the men who were, in fact, helping with Evelyn Logan’s class we took previously would have had a chance). (This subject will probably end up being a future post here)

This class, is a vital step in preparing to defend oneself with a firearm, although it might not be the funnest step as it’s a non-shooting course and deals with the hard, sobering facts that must be faced. It is, of course, a prerequisite for AWARE’s Self-Protection with Handguns and Defensive Shotgun courses.

This is not to say it’s all lecture and sitting, there were several exercises, such as the Tueller Drill and Using Cover and Concealment, to break up the talk and video tapes. The class starts with Introduction to Self-Defense, going over, among much else, the reasons for it, when it’s required, what deadly force is and when it’s justified and when it’s not, not breaking the basic safety rules and what determines who wins.

The class then goes over what happens before and during a violent attack. This includes what the signs of aggression and imminent attack, what fear and trauma are, how the body and mind react to danger and how to harness that reaction and gives a guideline for interaction with an attacker.

After a lunch that included the video Home Defense, we moved into what happens if you have to shoot. As well as explaining the duty to retreat if possible under most circumstances (especially in states without “Castle Laws” like MA), shooting to stop (as opposed to even thinking “kill or wound”), not being focused on it went over the physical and cognitive after affects and what might happen to you with the law. Yes, you are probably going to be arrested. “The police will treat the person with a gun as a suspect.” Do not have gun in hand when they arrive, give clear, calm information that you are the one attacked and that you want time to calm down before you give a statement. The importance of knowing who to contact if this happens, before it happens, was noted, this includes that those of us who train with AWARE can contact them, or have our lawyer contact them, for help with resources for your defense.

The last segment was on gun storage, including lock boxes and other devices and what to do should your home be invaded, including the cover and concealment exercise and how to determine if someone is in your home. The class finished up with a video of Massad Ayoob discussing Post Shooting Trauma.

During breaks Lyn kept herself approachable for questions and informal discussion, as well as having put out over a hundred handouts related to the subject, from serious articles to cartoons (this is in addition to several books that come with the class, two of Ayoob’s In the Gravest Extreme and The Truth About Self-Protection, Bo Hardy’s Defensive Living and Gila Hayes’ Effective Defense). I found Lyn’s teaching style approachable and open, while she also kept the class moving along and cleanly organized. The information was often grim, but the importance of getting the reality of the consequences was always obvious. This class is an absolute necessity for anyone considering using a gun for self-defense as much as learning the actual techniques, which will be the next step.

So I feel totally vindicated already in having promoted AWARE since hearing what others said, even though it took me awhile to get there. Especially if a non-shooting class was this interesting and strengthening. I can’t say enough about how important I feel this class is, these are things we always have to consider. We will be taking Self-Protection with Handguns next month and I’m hoping they eventually offer a Defensive Shotgun class (interest will likely make it happen *hinthint*). AWARE isn’t limited to firearms training, either, they also offer Pepper Gas and Persuader/Kubotan training, as well as an Assault Prevention class they offer free for groups of ten or more.

I highly recommend AWARE for both women and men for any of these purposes. And, always remember, you cannot take too many classes, even the “same class” because it will never be the same. I note this as I will be doing defensive training at Major Wadron’s at some point too. And, yes, I’m still hoping to train with Ayoob myself one day.

(for the Third Step: Self-Protection with Handguns click this link)
Copyright © 2009 Kym Lambert

Year of the Gun: First Step, Basic Pistol

I have written in the past that one should train with any weapon she intends to use for self-defense. In believing this, the only guns I have ever previously owned for self-defense or otherwise has been shotguns, having had some training, mostly informal, in using them. I have shot rifles, but not since my youth. I had never shot a pistol before last weekend other than an Air Soft. Last year I decided that 2009 would be the year I truly trained in guns, got better with shotguns but also got trained in others. Handguns were first, not only because they were the least familiar but because I want to train at AWARE and this year that is all they are offering.

I chose, however, to take an NRA Basic Pistol class in NH first, rather than AWARE’s Basic Pistol, simply because I wanted to do so with my mate. I do not want to have a gun in the house that he does not know, he may well need it to defend himself for while this blog might focus on women’s self-defense, men are crime-victims, even rape victims too, and he is interested in shooting. I could find no available classes near us, so I looked close to where my sister and his mother live so that we could combine trips with family visits and found courses offered at Major Waldron Sportsmen’s Association and signed us up.

This class was led by Evelyn Logan, a sharp outspoken woman with a strong sense of humor and an even stronger belief in self-defense. Or, as she put it, the right to survive, “If someone attacks me, he’s infringing on my right to survive.” Evelyn was very open about being a rape survivor and an attempted rape survivor, “Anyone want to guess why the second was an attempt?” (there are some factual mistakes, like her husband’s last name and I think she’s younger than this indicates). It turns out that Evelyn has taught at AWARE and she was thrilled to hear that I was going to be training there as well.

As there were many instructors working with her, we also got a taste of various reasons people where enthusiastic about shooting handguns. Along with self-defense and tactical some of the instructors did Bullseye and at least one does Cowboy shooting. We also were able to glean information about why some preferred certain guns over others and how that varied, sometimes picking up things that we might not have expected (for instance, because I am most comfortable shooting left-handed despite being right-handed, probably due both to shooting shotgun and a touch of arthritis developing in my right hand, I noted one instructor mention that being left-handed Glock magazine releases pinched his finger…I might not have noticed this as we only got three shots at the end of class in trying different models, but yes, even with three shots I noted a mark which would likely mean much more discomfort after far more shooting so perhaps no Glock for me).

There were moments of sadness for me. Several women actually noted that they were there to “humor” their husband, boyfriend or father. My mate and I joked that if we were not among the first to introduce ourselves he should have said he was there to humor me (although not actually true, and even less so by the end, he really got into it). Some of these same women also began hanging back when we were able to try out different guns and were quick to say they enjoyed shooting the .22s we trained with but the higher calibers were just too much. I am hoping that as they shoot more this might be something they get past. Hearing it made me, tired as I was from switching my hours and many other reasons for having had little sleep that weekend, head back to try out another .45.

I thought the class we well organized and feel I’m well on my way to becoming knowledgeable enough that handguns will be a part of my self-protection arsenal. But, yes, this is a first step and training will be ongoing. I was thrilled to have a teacher such as Evelyn who has such a passion for women’s self-defense and who has actually stopped a rape using a gun. I will undoubtedly train with her more in the future, as I intend to take more classes at MWSA and she has said she’d try to volunteer when I do. Along with the AWARE classes, the first of which I hope will be next month, I intend to do Persona Protection in the Home, Basic Shotgun (because you never can learn too much) and Basic Rifle at MWSA. I hope, too, to eventually be able to get down to some of their monthly Tactical shoots. It’s good to see a range such as this one with such a great focus on defensive shooting, when most I found closer to me seem focused almost exclusively on shooting sports.

If you are in the region and looking for training in guns for self-defense and/or sport, I do recommend MWSA. Hopefully, if you’re looking for self-defense inspiration, you’ll get to meet Evelyn as one of your instructors.

(For the Second Step: Responsible Use of Lethal Force and Third Step: Self-Protection with Handguns clink on these links)

Copyright © 2009 Kym Lambert

Getting back “on program”

After an active rest followed by a deep blow to my life (if you’re reading this in a personal blog, you know about this already…but this is cross-posted), I want to say that as of tonight I am returning to my fitness program. Other training, however, may still have to wait.

For the past few of weeks the only exercise I’ve had has been cleaning stalls, hauling hay (and not much), loading wood stoves and walking patrols at work. Tonight I did some chin ups, push ups and crunches. It’s a start, considering I’m also not sleeping well and am just plain emotionally exhausted.

I’m posting this mostly because by doing so I know I gotta stick with it. And because, perhaps for the first time in my life really, I need motivation.

Time is going to be an issue for the running, but I might have to just add a small horse (with a choice of three, with a fourth one possible if he starts getting healthier….I’m not trying this with my filly right now) to my run rather than longeing them. That should be, um, entertaining? Especially for the dog.

Fight training of any kind, especially regular martial arts classes are just out right now. I had actually hoped that we might be able to swing once a week classes, but those are over an hour away from here and with our extra work load at home there is no way. I do have some firearms classes coming up next year and had planned to refresh my tracking skills a bit…however, the latter I might just send my mate to alone, as one of us does have to be here and, honestly, with a daytime schedule he’ll be up for a multi-day workshop more than I will, and have him help get my skills back up. The shooting stuff I’ll get too…one day classes I can do. I think…uh, not looking forward to the driving AND staying up all day.

I need to be back on track…this is part of my healing, it’s part of dealing with the stress. I must remember Sarah in the psych hospital, still training against all odds.

Then we’ll see about writing again.

cross-posted to my blogs, Sarah Connor Charm School fora, Hooded Crow and Women of Strength LJ communities….sorry not links, that means altering them for various fora and I’m just too damned tired for that.

Thoughts on Weapons

A recent post on one of the SCCS fora about women and guns got me thinking about weapons and self-defense over all. Okay, I usually think about this a lot, but the past few days I’ve been thinking more about alternative energy and preparing for this coming winter instead.

When it comes to self-defense the first weapon is the brain. Train it. It really all comes down to knowing what you need to do and not letting your brain get in the way when the shit hits the fan. You need to be aware of what is happening, what dangers exist, what escapes exist, what methods will work and, very importantly, you have to not let your brain freeze you trying to sort it out. Which means you need to know how to get your brain to do this automatically, so it doesn’t seem like a list of things to follow and instead all happens at once. And, if it comes down to it, your brain does have to get out of the way of the body when it has to do it’s thing.

As it doesn’t always have to “come down to it” remember that talking your way out is a good strategy when ever possible. So you must train your brain to read people not only to recognize threats but to find ways to dissipate threats that are happening. Conversational skills may not get you out of every situation, but they’re not something to be dismissed as old fashion. If nothing else, they can buy you time, they can help you find weaknesses and it doesn’t hurt in court if you say you tried to talk your way out first but were left with no choice but to do physical damage.

I’m not going to say “use your brain to avoid all dangerous situations.” I actually hate that most “self-defense” advice tends to still start with this, even in an age where we have finally acknowledged that one of the most dangerous places for a woman can be her own home. And we do have a right to choose to do things and go places that might not be deemed safe, especially when we consider no place 100% is. Instead, I think it’s important to always realize what dangers you face in any situation, in any location. If you choose to go to a isolated parking garage do it with your brain in gear, know what/who is around you, see everything you can, know where your best bets for safety are and know that you may well have to fight if the wrong person is in that van over there. And know how to.

Your second weapon is your own body. Train it. I think that full-impact self-defense training is vital for everyone, especially women and children. We need to know how it feels to hit full force, both so that we know that we are when we are but also to see what it can do. Martial arts training is great for long term conditioning of both body and mind for fighting, but it often involves NOT hitting other people full-force. I believe the best course is to combine full-impact self-defense, with refresher courses, and combat focused martial arts, but if you choose to only do one do the full-impact self-defense course. And practice it at home…preferably with a bag and not an unprotected friend. Think through the scenarios you are taught, get the body comfortable with the moves, practice them. Practice, practice, practice. And get the brain to stay out of the way!

Like any weapon, you should also keep your brain and your body in the best condition you can if you are going to depend on them. Yes, this means avoiding overindulgence in mind altering, which also affects the body, substances if you feel you may need that brain to protect yourself. It also means staying in shape. Getting and staying strong and fast enough to use what you learn, whether it’s striking or running.

Now we come to other weapons. I’m all for carrying and keeping in the home legal weapons for self-defense. No matter how smart and strong we are, we’re not always dealing with bare-handed assaults and being armed ourselves is a right we must practice and fight for. Whether you choose guns, knives, pepper gas, blunt weapons or a combination, the first rule is know the damn weapon! Like the brain and body, it takes practice and more so because it’s not been a part of you before. Keep it/them in good condition.

Weapons are all around you, I refer to them as weapons-of-expedience, just let your brain find them and your body use them. Anything you can pick up, or even shove, can be used to defend yourself. Anything. I once used shampoo (having years of sensitization to the idea of being attacked in the shower.thanks to watching Psycho at a young age …it turned out to be a prank by someone who was particularly stupid). A regular mental exercise for me is to walk into a room, identify all exits, inventory all people there if any and inventory the weapons-of-expedience all around. What can I throw, what can I hit with, what can I pin someone down it, what can I drive through someone. How fast can I get to each object before others in the room, what would be the best way to weld it, how much strength will it likely take, what might it do to the human body. And, of course, at home and when otherwise able, I practice with various objects so I actually have some idea of the answers to these things imprinted on my body.

If you do have a third weapon, do not forget the first two weapons. You need to be very sure that the brain can handle the weapon you choose. No matter how good a shot you are are, a gun is not going to save your life if you realize you can’t shoot someone when the shit hits the fan. Deal with this possibility, the reality of what it would mean, think it through, BEFORE you get the gun. Just because you feel you can’t, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t change that. If you want to have a gun for self-defense but feel you might hesitate to shoot someone attacking you, find ways to train your brain to over come this issue. Or find a different weapon.

Also remember that you will not have any other weapons but your brain and body with you at all times. Therefore continuing your physical training so that you can use just your body or weapons-of-expedience if your weapon(s) is/are not with you or if you have to fight to get to them. Also be prepared that in tight quarters the advantage of some weapons may be loss unless you are able to fight to maintain control and possession of them.

What ever you choose, it is the brain and the body that will always be with you. Treat them well, keep them sharp.

Copyright © 2008 Kym Lambert