A Gun for the Morrígan: Offerings and Devotion

 When I first saw this topic, when I saw a link to Asa West’s Giving Bullets to the Morrigan, I thought, “Cool! Someone else doing it!”  “It” being a long held plan, which hasn’t happened yet for, uh, reasons, to create a “sacred shooting range.”  As soon as the guy and I decide on a location and get fill to the spot and create a berm we are going to have a shooting range on our property and there will be a shrine to the Morrígan over looking it.   I already dedicate my training to her, but this would be a formal spot to do so, much like my gym is a temple for that part of the training (and sometimes for trigger control practice with a laser “bullet” when I can’t get out for live fire….which I could more if I had a place on the property).

I’m sure there are other pics of me at this training,
I need to try to access them sometime.

But that’s not what it’s about but rather about giving bullets as offerings. So my first thought on that was, “huh, that would be a rather pathetic offering.”  You know, just a random bullet.  There’s not a lot that stands out between two bullets of the same make. Sure, I can see if I were to use my gun in defense of myself or another without firing a shot that the bullet in my chamber at the time might be a worthy offering.  But I wouldn’t give just any old bullet.

Of course, what this actually became about, the reason it was brought up, was whether it was okay for other people to do this. And it brought with it a lot of the standard anti- vs. pro-gun arguments, with some Pagan twists. The sort of things that make most leftist gun-owners, like myself, look at both sides and double face-palm as you watch each side feed the other.  This time with the added oddity of some claim that guns are just made for killing people but swords are not….except that that really is all swords were ever made for.  They do things like this and also this. But it is not uncommon to romanticize the violence of the past while vilifying the violence of the present, I am sure that as the Bronze Age gave way to the Iron Age there were those who spoke of the nobility of the bronze blade over the evils of the steel.  Even the guns of the past get this romantic treatment, as people wax nostalgic for the six-shooter of the Old West while expressing horror at a semi-automatic pistol.

 I could get into the whole primary focus on why anti-gun Pagans seem to be upset over bullets as offerings, which is a pet peeve of mine. That is “the Morrígan should not be reduced to a War Goddess, She is more than that” claim which always translates to “I want the Morrígan to not be a War Goddess at all, because I want Her to be what I want Her to be.”  Here’s the thing, to say that it reduces Her to be called, as she was in the text, a Goddess of Battle (bandee in catæ..in the Tochmarc Emire), is a bias based on you not understanding all that there was to such a Goddess in the context of early Irish culture. This is also true if you insist that her link with “battle” is about “internal conflict” or “fighting inner demons,” which may be your UPG (Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis), and that’s fine, but does not define Her as She was known in the early Irish culture (or for many of us who certainly do not share that UPG). In fact, my own findings and UPG is far more about waking up those “inner demons” and letting them take over and shift you (this is exactly what my work is all about…see especially Wolf-shapes and Chase). ( Or to claim that Her link to sovereignty, which West brings up, is about the modern concept of individual autonomy, rather than actual about kingship (open only to one who had proven themselves a warrior) of a territory (likely won and kept by war). Again, it may well be valid UPG, but don’t claim it’s anything else. But I already wrote a whole article detailing how all those “other things” come back to Her being a War Goddess, because they all relate to warfare as the culture knew it.

Okay, back to bullets as offerings. It never, ever occurred to me to give bullets in the way that apparently is being discussed here.  In part is the sheer, well, regularity and number of them with which to choose if you were just doing a random “bullet offering.” Certainly they are not cheap these days, however there’s a volume of them one might go through which creates the expense. One, individual bullet is simply not that individual. Again, I could see offering one that stands out….the one in the chamber you didn’t have to fire to save yourself or another, perhaps one left over from a big win if you’re a competitive shooter or one left over because your first shot was the clean kill you had hoped for when hunting for food. There may be many reasons a particular bullet does warrant it for the person involved. Maybe once we start reloading, I’ll start thinking of them as more individual than I do now and it will be something I feel drawn to do.  But, of course, ymmv and I’m not going to say it’s wrong if someone else does feel that a random bullet from a brick is a worthy offering.  I would be more likely to offer a really nicely clustered paper target. ~;p  (I need to invest in some paper targets when I finally have a range….)

Of course, there is my personal semantics around offerings. For me an offering is only something broken or totally destroyed and hidden from this world, so that it is taken into the Otherworld. At least in the end. Some offerings sit on my shrine for a period of time, but in the end they are destroyed in some way in this world. Usually by fire….please, tell me I do not need to explain not to do this with live rounds.

An item that sits on my shrine (or altar if you prefer) is not an offering, unless it is to be so destroyed eventually. Instead I would call them dedicated or devotional objects. A slight difference between the two although in a way both are things that you might say I share possession of with the Being the shrine is for.

Devotional objects are those which are, indeed, only to stay on the shrine as symbolic of devotion, such as statues and, well, I actually have a lot of things that I felt drawn to maintain on the shrines.  Some are used in ritual at times, such as candle holders or a stone “well” which might hold water. Some targets might end up being both, now that I am thinking of it…some sent and destroyed, some hung by a shrine (and one or two maybe by the door way).  Images and symbols are among these things, which includes a Sarah Connor figure…holding a gun with the other slung across her back….to represent the modern female warrior or, even, a modern image of the War Goddess). These things are mostly Theirs, but I do get to look at them unlike full offerings.

Dedicated objects are items which I might use personally, even “mundanely” but which I associate with my worship and which are blessed.  I keep some of my jewelry on my personal shrine to the Morrígan when I am not wearing it, but I wear it anytime I might go out. These things are more mine.

I could see, should the Revenant Cataclysm hit, putting bricks of bullets on the shrines to ask for blessings on a regular basis…whether they are for killing revenants or hunting for food or both.  So, on the shrine, but not an offering exactly (heads, meat, depending would be more appropriate).

Some things, including weapons may be seen as somewhat in between these items. I may not use my swords on a regular basis (practice, when I do it, is with single-sticks…I fear this has been a neglected art of late).  My guns, however, do not reside on my shrines, although they are formally blessed and if I have my gun when I go into the gym and remove it (usually when stretching after a run it sits between the figure of the Morrígan and the Sarah Connor figure, because it is dedicated to them (and it’s a safe location while I’m there).  Even my weights and and other fitness equipment, as all my training is a dedicated act and I see my gym as a temple of worship.might be seen as dedicated devotional objects, although not formally blessed (hmmmm).

Which brings me back to my first thought on this subject.  If training is a dedicated act, then that does include my firearms training so, I suppose it can be seen as giving bullets to Her. This is true where ever I might practice, however, I do want a range here on our property and a shrine overlooking it. Where it will go is still being negotiated and we need to budget in the fill for the berm which we need no matter where, due the layout of our land, which also requires it being somewhere we can get a truck to.  Perhaps this summer it will happen.

Training is always the basis of my offering, for to be the best I can be is my service to Her. It is also a gift, for being able to train is often a struggle for me due to health issues.  So reciprocation, She helps me to be able to train, I train to thank Her for that. Whether this is staying fit or being able to hit a target and respond properly to danger.

I may never really feel drawn to giving a bullet. It just doesn’t sit right unless something does happen to make a particular one that important to me. But since this has been brought up, it has occurred to me that I do need to make a weapons offering in the way done since the Bronze Age.

Someday, I shall properly offer a gun to the Morrígan. It will be a fine gun, expensive, far more than would even be possible for me to acquire now. It will be utterly “killed” in this world to send it to the Otherworld and sunk deeply in a marsh. This here is my promise to Her for this, in hopes that She also might help me be able to be in a position to do so…for if I am, it will be right that I reciprocate.

Women Warriors and Excitement over Non-Evidence

I actually posted the following on the Facebook page, which this will then be posted to via Networkblogs, so sorry for those who have been hit multiple times. ~:p  But it was long and I figured I’d repost here where it will also stick better. I’ve also done a bit of editing on it. I’m also avoiding working on a post on contemporary issues, I’m having a lot of trouble with the post and am not sure it will ever see the light of day. So…

 

Kristanna Loken as Brunhilde
Kristanna Loken as Brunhilde in
Dark Kingdom:The Dragon King/
Ring of the Nibelungs/Die Nibelungen/
Curse of the Ring/Sword of Xanten 

because she was so much better than the movie.
In fact, she was totally awesome, as she always is.
Also because everyone is using Katheryn Winnick
as Lagertha from Vikings who I do think is pretty awesome
too but I’ve never met and, of course, the more photos
and mentions of celebs I have here the more hits I get.

You may have noticed I didn’t get into the excitement over the whole “half of Viking warriors were women” headline that has been running around Facebook so cheerily. When the study was announced awhile back in a somewhat more realistic, although only slightly, spin, I did read the actual study…which is why I largely ignored the posts…because I didn’t want to go through doing this here, Tracy V. Wilson does a better job than I could have, anyway, so now that she has I will elaborate a little on my issues with such hyperbole.

It doesn’t help in our quest to find evidence for female warriors to take findings out of context. Putting them in context is so very, very hard to begin with. This study did demonstrate well how our expectations regarding migration are often wrong, as well as show that we cannot determine sex or gender based on grave goods.

Sexing graves using bones doesn’t always us the full story either, however. There may be a number of reasons, either cultural or personal, why a sword might be in a woman’s grave other than her having been a warrior. No matter how much we might wish that was the reason. Even evidence that someone died by violence or had been wounded and healed from an earlier battle does not mean they were a warrior, civilians are killed in war every day and sometimes those who are not trained choose to fight when it comes down to the enemy being in your home. To know if someone was a warrior also requires a careful study of the bones which would determine long term physical changes which might come from training. Depending on the condition of the remains, this is not particularly easy to determine. If the person died young, as many warriors did and do, it might not have  been evident yet.

Of course, there is also the matter of gender as opposed to biological sex. Transgender is not new, what is new is that we now have hormones which can make some changes to the body which if started young enough might actually give future anthropologists some clue. So an apparently female body does not actually mean someone who lived as a woman….nor does an apparently male body mean someone who lived as a man. While cultural clues may give us some indication if it’s likely, much of our cultural information comes from biased sources so it’s, again, impossible to fully determine. It’s also difficult to determine from bones if someone was intersexed which might also cloud what gender that person identified as or was identified as in their society.

Truly, I wish the evidence could be so clear. My heart did give a little flutter at the headline even at the same time my brain said “nah, you know what this is about.” I know women fought, that we have always fought. The evidence is there. But it’s open to speculation. We cannot prove it. All we can really prove is what we can do now and in the future which, itself, is evidence that we’ve always done this.

Warrior path training and more website updates

Many…..MANY…years ago I put together ideas for a training program for a warrior group within a larger organization which shall remain unnamed. I knew a lot of my ideas wouldn’t work out, discussions of them didn’t go well.  I later took the ideas, put things back in I hadn’t bothered with for a group I helped start after leaving the large organization.   Nothing really came of it, no one there really wanted to bother with it either..other than me (this was stuff I was doing or wanted to do, after all).  I later took the ideas and replaced some of the cultural stuff with general liberal arts stuff and used to to develop a theoretical Sarah Connor Charm School program. At least it was theoretical until someone actually decided to do it and is going strong with it.

Bolstered by her enthusiasm, I pulled the outline out again and reworked it back for what I wanted to do for a Gaelic Pagan warrior path and added things that have come up since then and so forth. And I have now  put it up on a warrior training page on the website. It will likely be tweaked on occasion as I realize I left Outlaw warriors on the older page.

things out, should have left things out, want to word things differently, add links and what not.  I did take some of the material from the bottom of the warrior path page to the beginning of the new page and also reworked some of the historical material on the

Meanwhile, I’ve done some poking at Teh Project along with some other writing. The second issue of Air nAithesc is scheduled for next month with my article “Muimme naFiann: Foster-mother of the heroes” among other yummy stuff from others.  And I am continuing to get my own ass in gear training wise and need to get ready to head out for a run, in fact.

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

The Warrior who Knew No Art of Wounding

In a previous post I noted the idea of finding inspiration in the stories of ancient Gaelic ban-fhénnid and indeed you can find many tales online and in books retelling and extrapolating these stories to be more positive than they may have been. One issue, of course, is that not all of these retellings are labeled as such, this is especially true, it seems, within the NeoPagan community but a second source tends to be tourist literature. There are many out there who think they know more about Scáthach or Medb than is really in the texts, which if given the label Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis is fine, but at least in the non-Pagan sources UPG certainly isn’t a factor. There is, btw, quite a great deal on Medb in the text that is not so widely shared, while Scáthach actually has far less material on her. (Diana Veronica Dominguez, Historical Residues in the Old Irish Legends of Queen Medb: An Expanded Interpretation of the Ulster Cycle, Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2010 is an excellent study of Medb using tales often not bothered with, making her far more human and far less a joke than what is usually focused on)

I believe one of the keys to using these stories wisely, is to be very clear about the fact we are making changes to them. Again looking at Medb, especially as examined by Dominquez, we can retell her story through what we as women can imagine are her eyes, rather than of the male eye which may use the tale to mock a woman making war. We can also emphasize things that some scholars choose to ignore in retelling her story. In order to point out that her quest for the bull in the Táin Bó Cúalnge is the folly of a haughty woman, it’s often left out that she, in fact, also had a reasonable quest for revenge against her former husband Conchobar, who had raped her and killed her son . Medb’s story really has a lot to offer in retelling without actually changing much or adding anything. Yet in retelling it we must be clear that it’s a different perspective from the way the Ulster Tales came down to us, possibly a different perspective than it was viewed by anyone before.

Scáthach, and most of the other warrior women in the texts, we really don’t have much on. It’s in this that we see that while there may be many female warrior names banted about, their stories are very much peripheral to the stories of male warriors, saints or they died horribly in place-name tales. If we tell more of her story than what is in the texts, we likewise need to be clear. For many of us these tellings might be UPG,even SPG (Shared Personal Gnosis), but to those who don’t believe, or simply don’t believe your UPG, stories from such sources are merely modern fictions. I believe it’s okay to have them, we just must be clear that these are not from the source.

Even Macha Mong Ruadh, whose story as a warrior queen is short but quite detailed and positive for her, I believe (although, you know, everyone dies at some point in every tale), offer’s caution. When we tell the tale we might be clear that when she lures the brothers one-by-one into the forest she overtakes them by her own hand. But it’s not actually told what happens in those woods. Someone who does not see women as capable of overpowering men, oh what sheltered lives they must lead, might be thinking she used magic, the only power many think women can ever have, especially those who don’t believe in magic, or had warriors waiting even if this version notes that she bound them.

So, yes, we can retell, we can extrapolate, but we must be clear that’s what we’re doing. And I think we also must take care not to go too far. After all, if a story is of a woman who is clearly not a fighter, why make her so when there are those who are? If we’re going to totally create a new character, should we give her a name of one that is the opposite of what she is. And while we might do this in fiction, non-fiction commentary on literature and history should be way out.

The most stunning example of completely changing the story of a woman in the texts, and not revealing that it is a modern fiction and not what is in the texts, is not actualy from either NeoPagan or a tourism agency, it’s from academic and novelist Peter Berresford Ellis.

I think he was even stretching it to describe Erni (aka Erne for whom Aerial view of Lough Erne Lough Erne was named) as Medb’s warrior his “Peter Tremayne” novel Badger’s Moon (Sister Fidelma #13, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2005), however, he lists her as such also in Celtic Women: Women in Celtic Society and Literature (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996 pg. 73). This is now happily repeated by countless NeoPagan websites and by Jessica Amanda Salmonson in The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era (University of Michigan, Pagagon Press, 1991). Admittedly, her work is full of poorly substantiated entries, with fiction and historical women noted as equally valid, but in this case she might be forgiven, for scholar Ellis says Erni is a mighty warrior, so we should admire her great deeds. Mighty is Erni!

Um…..

Before recounting, with citation, Erni’s great deeds, I’m going to be perfectly honest, Ellis obviously has better resources than I do, so maybe there’s some lost tale about Erne (yeah, I keep changing the last letter, “e” seems more common, he uses “i” and we’re discussing his work so, I’m trying to use “i” when referring to his work) that indicates this, that is totally opposite the versions I could find. If so, I shall happily stand corrected and rejoice in the finding of another warrior woman. The problem is, Ellis doesn’t cite his sources (bad academic, no biscuit!).

Here are her deeds, the bold emphasis is mine, the italics are not but rather indicate a mistranslation noted on the website source, see note next to it:

13. The chaste Erne, who knew no art of wounding,
50] the daughter of loud-shouting Borg Bán
(the warrior was an overmatch for a powerful third)
the white-skinned son of Mainchin son of Mochu.

14. The noble Erne, devoid of martial spirit, (footnote here notes correct translation is ‘free from venom’)
was chief among the maidens
in Rath Cruachan, home of lightsome sports:
women not a few obeyed her will.

15. To her belonged, to judge of them,
the trinkets of Medb, famed for combats,
her comb, her casket unsurpassed,
60] with her fillet of red gold.

16. There came to thick-wooded Cruachu Olcai
with grim and dreadful fame,
and he shook his beard at the host,
the sullen and fiery savage.

17. 65] The young women and maidens
scattered throughout Cruach Cera
at the apparition of his grisly shape
and the roughness of his brawling voice.

18. Erne fled, with a troop of women,
70] under Loch Erne, that is never dull,
and over them poured its flood northward and
drowned them all together.
The Metrical Dindshenchas, English: The Irish

That the more accurate translation is “free from venom” is actually interesting, given this would say that she’s not only not a warrior, but also harmless “even for a woman.” Poison being commonly considered a “woman’s weapon” by those who have throughout history seen us incapable of actual confrontational violence.

For comparison, the The Edinburgh Dinnshenchas tells the same tale and includes:

Erne with pride, a pure union,
Daughter of good Borg the Bellowing,
She fled — no deed to boast of —
Under Lough Erne for exceeding fear.
The Edinburgh Dinnshenchas, Whitley Stokes, ed. and trans., Folklore 4 (1893) pg. 476, English The Irish pg. 476

The Dinnshenchas of Dubthar, from the Book of Lecan, offers other versions, again with much fleeing and concern with chastity the “insult to the honour of her noble father.” The Irish manuscript series, Vol. 1, Part 1, pg. 186-189

None of these show much warrior tendency, is there a version that does? If so, I’d love to see it and also know what period it is from. Are these the changes from an earlier warrior tale? Sadly, I’m very doubtful that any such tale exists.

Understand, that I see no shame in a woman who is not a warrior to run from a potential rapist. In fact, in most cases, I recommend running to non-professional warrior women, usually after disabling the guy in some way to increase your odds and make him easier for the authorities to catch. However, such mannerisms do not speak of a mighty warrior, a professional warrior according to Ellis, a warrior to a warrior queen. I do not understand why he’d claim she was. So maybe there’s a tale I can’t find?

I think as we tell ourselves stories from the past in ways that are more empowering to us than may have been intended by the original tellers, that we avoid going this far. And avoid making out that a woman in the story is something quite opposite of what she is. I don’t really understand what motivation Ellis might have had in calling Erne a warrior, I’m sure he’s seen all versions of this (and maybe another). But while we might want to find more warriors in the ancient stories, we need to look harder and not change the tales completely.

Text copyright © 2011 Kym Lambert
Photo of Lough Erne from Department of the Environment (DOE) Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) used under terms of Open Government License.

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

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