Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pagans in the Military

Pagans in the Military
Patricia Deneen

For many people, especially those outside of Paganism, there is a lingering belief that all Pagans are tree-hugging, pacifist and sometimes militantly anti-military. While this stereotype may fit some, the contrary is also true. There are Pagans who not only support the armed forces but are active members as well as veterans. And believe it or not, some of them are tree huggers too.

The Pentacle Quest

One Wiccan soldier from the US who gave his life in service to his country was Sgt. Patrick Stewart. His wife requested that the pentacle, a symbol commonly used by Wiccans, be placed on his government-provided headstone just as other soldiers are able to have a symbol of their faith on theirs. Her request was denied, but she persisted. With the help of lawyers and organizations such as Lady Liberty League and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the pentacle was approved as a symbol of choice by the Veterans Administration in 2007.

The Hammer Project

Another such effort is underway for heathen soldiers, many of whom follow the Asatru faith. Thor's hammer, also known as Mjollnir, is a symbol associated with this religion. Thor is a warrior god, and Asatru places great value on positive warrior qualities. The Hammer Project is collecting signatures for a petition to be presented to the VA to allow Thor's Hammer to be officially listed as one of the emblems of belief that soldiers can choose for their grave markers.While a petition isn't the official paperwork needed, it certainly is a good start to increase awareness amongst the Pagan community as well as the military that there are Pagan soldiers past and present who love their country every bit as much as those of other faiths.Pagans in the military deserve every right their mainstream counterparts have, not just rights afforded to them after they have died. Wicca is now recognized in the Military Chaplain's Handbook, but there is still a lot of headway to be made. Pagan soldiers who want to practice their religion may experience anything from ignorance to outright discrimination.

More Resources

One resource for these soldiers and their families is the advocacy group Military Pagan Network. Their website gives information on documents of interest for each branch of the military. There are also military Pagan resources at the Witches' Voice website, one of the largest Pagan networking sites in the world.It's hard to completely erase prejudice, but Pagans can work within the law to have their rights recognized. Every small victory for military Pagans becomes part of the larger victory to help assure freedoms these soldiers are fighting for.

For more information:
The Hammer Project
Military Pagan Network
Witches' Voice Military Pagans Page

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