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                                    by Swein Runestaff
          There has been much written on warriorship in recent times and i-
          nterest in the subject shows no sign of diminishing. As Pagans we must
          come to understand our warrior ancestry and, more importantly, adapt
          its principles to modern life. If we fail in this task, we face the
          prospect of becoming either meek and herded sheep, or branded outlaws,
          condemned as were our ancestors, for our heresy.

          Although I have read widely on the historical evidence, my own u-
          nderstanding comes mainly from my training in a living Norwegian
          tradition and in the Rune-Gild. There are many academic theories and
          conjectures about the role of the warrior in Pagan society but very
          few academics who understand warriorship. We Pagans do not have the
          luxury of theorising, no matter how clever those theories may seem. If
          they are not of practical benefit to us in daily life, they amount to
          nothing more than intellectual wankery.

          Paganism is about freedom. Freedom from dogma, freedom from our ne-
          gative conditioning, habits, and inhibitions, freedom from our self-
          -limiting beliefs. We must not think that we can improve our situation
          if we break the bonds of the Judeo-Christian chastity belt merely to
          adopt fetters forged from the twisted scrap of a bygone age. Chri-
          stianity became fossilised before it reached the wisdom and tolerance
          of maturity, let us not make the same mistake.

          Paganism has always had its strength in its diversity and fluidity,
          constantly adapting according to time and location. The form is always
          evolving but the essence remains. This fluidity is indeed part of the
          essence, and differentiates us from the anachronists who seek only
          relief from reality. To the Pagan, reality is not the tiresome mud of
          everyday, but colourful clay to be moulded lovingly in our hands.

          Paganism is our way and warriorship is our vehicle. Without warri-
          orship, Paganism becomes quaint anachronism. In my tradition warrior-
          ship is not about aggression, in fact a warrior has gone beyond the
          need for aggression. Warriorship is actually magick, the art of ma-
          nifesting the True Will. An aspect of this is illustrated in our
          understanding of the Berserk.

          The word "berserk"  comes from two words, "bare" and "sark" (a shirt).
          A berserk was originally one who fought without a shirt, bare from the
          waist up. Not only did they scorn body armour, they even went without
          the psychological advantage of a layer of clothing between their skin
          and the enemy's sword.

          In our tradition, the symbolism of removing the armour is of great
          importance, but before it is safe to do so, one must be adept at doing
          battle with the armour on. Whether on the battlefield or in the
          marketplace we all wear some sort of armour against "the slings and a-
          rrows of outrageous fortune", or more to the point, the barbs of our
          fellow humans. In order to operate efficiently we must know our stre-
          ngths and weaknesses, and become aware of the style and construction
          of our armour. 

          As our movements become increasingly efficient, we find that we can
          afford to shed some of our armour. We then find that our movements
          become even more efficient with the resulting freedom. Eventually we
          find ourselves totally open to the world. No longer encumbered with


          layers of protection we are free to be our true selves. Every act
          becomes a spontaneous and joyous act of pure will. We become a vortex
          of pure will force.

          Paradoxically, while a novice stripped of armour would be instantly
          slain, an adept becomes impervious to steel. The berserk ceases to be
          a target by becoming as if devoid of gross substance. The Ynglinga
          Saga describes the Berserks when inspired by Odin, "They cut down the
          enemy, while neither fire nor iron could make an impression on them."
          That which offers no resistance cannot be cut. That which is flexible
          cannot be broken. 

          Anyone who has been in combat situations will realise that uncontr-
          olled anger is rarely a friend in battle. Such emotion may well sti-
          mulate enthusiasm and fearlessness, but at the cost of judgement and
          precision. There is a Samurai saying- "The angry man will defeat
          himself in battle as well as in life." The true berserk rage is
          certainly not blind anger. An angry warrior may be frightening and
          deadly but is unlikely to come out of a battle alive, let alone

          The secret of the berserk's invulnerability is the ability to let the
          True Will flow unimpeded. This requires the warrior to be totally calm
          and centred while at the same time unleashing the destructive forces
          of the Will. This is a form of meditation infinitely more difficult
          than being calm and centred in a quiet room 

          (something most people find almost impossible anyway). The slightest
          distracting thought can be fatal. By not letting thoughts interfere
          with the flow of Will, the berserk is always in the right place at the
          right time. Action flows, there is no rigidity or predictability,
          there is nowhere a blade can strike.

          The berserk acts without hesitation and is always in harmony with any
          situation. Harmony in this case means being true to the self and inte-
          racting with the situation in a way which is honest with the self. Th-
          is can only be done when there is no barrier between the self and the
          situation. One becomes a fluid part of the situation without losing
          one's individuality, an indispensable and autonomous part of the
          whole, every movement being a vital adjustment of one's position in
          the universe.

          It is only through warriorship that we will be able to practise our
          varied traditions without fear of persecution, for this fear betrays a
          lack of confidence in one's own magickal ability and in the power of
          one's tradition. Like the berserk, those who truly practise warriors-
          hip or magick will find themselves beyond the reach of any attack, and
          extremely unlikely to be attacked in the first place.

          Judeo-Christian culture has taught us that we are powerless as indi-
          viduals, that we must follow the mob to be saved. Pagan culture has
          always taught that we should accept responsibility for ourselves. Our
          power or lack of it is our own choice. Freedom is ours, taking res-
          ponsibility for ourselves is the price. Many are not ready to pay it,
          let them join the sheep of a herd religion until they are ready, they
          too have a valid place in the greater whole. This is why Paganism does
          not seek to make converts.

          Ultimately warriorship is a path of compassion. When we no longer fear
          others, we are free to sense their real needs. This is not sympathy or

          just being nice, sometimes a harsh lesson will be far more beneficial
          in the long run. Only fearless openness allows one to see the best way
          to interact. Without fear we can be more tolerant and less defensive,
          less inclined to take things personally, or become offended when
          others do things a little differently, or moralise and interfere with
          others because we feel threatened by their strangeness. Only fear
          prevents us from achieving our potential. Only warriorship will defeat
          the fears which divide us.

          (Swein Runestaff is Steward of the South Pacific Region of the Rune-


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