Sunday, May 18, 2014


Memorial Day is a US federal holiday wherein the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces are remembered.  The holiday, which is celebrated every year on the final Monday of May, was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War.  By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.
Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.

It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.  Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service.  Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.

On Memorial Day, the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon.  It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.

The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country.  At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.


In 2007, after a decade-long struggle, Pagan and Wiccan organizations succeeded in getting the Pentacle approved for military veteran headstones and markers.  After that victory, in July of 2007, a rally was held to start the push for two more symbols: the Druid Awen and the Heathen Thor’s Hammer.  After a six-year journey which included some inter-organizational tensions within the Heathen community and a U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs rule change, the symbol has finally been approved.
Circle Sanctuary (in Wisconsin USA) provides a variety of services free of charge to Wiccan and other Pagan veterans and those presently serving in the United States Military. 


In Norse mythology, the einherjar (Old Norse 'lone or once fighters') are those that have died in battle and are brought to Valhalla by valkyries.  In Valhalla, the einherjar eat their fill of the nightly-resurrecting beast Saehrimnir and are brought their fill of mead. 

It should perhaps be noted at this point that the lore does mention that not everyone who dies in battle automatically goes to join Odin in Valhalla.  Freya is also described as getting half of those slain in battle.  However, the image of the slain warriors feasting in Valhalla is a vivid and enduring one, and there is no corresponding detailed description of the warriors in Freya's hall, so there has definitely been a tendency to concentrate on Valhalla when speaking about the war-dead.

Freya had the privilege of taking the first half of the souls of those warriors who had been slain in battle, while the remaining souls of the dead warriors belonged to Odin.  As leader of the Valkyries, she had considerable power.  Actually going onto the battlefield, Freya would gather them up and take them back with her to spend the after-life in her home (Folkvang, “Field of the Folk”) in perpetual rest and recreation.  As a sweet and generous woman, she always invited their wives or lovers to come and live with them.

Odin would gather heroes and warriors who were slain in battle and bring them to Valhalla so they would fight alongside the Gods, in an attempt to strengthen and save the Gods in the final battle at the time of Ragnarok.  The einherjar prepare daily for the events of Ragnarok.  During the day they train and fight, until they cut each other to pieces.  At night they feast at Odin's side and their wounds are miraculously healed.
The Einherjar could be best described as some sort of 'elite' troops, and that going to Valhalla was not necessarily the fate of the common soldier.  Odin was traditionally followed by members of the ruling classes, not by ordinary folk.  Adding to this the idea of the Einherjar fighting day after day, and enjoying it immensely does seem more in line with an elite unit; it seems likely that an ordinary draftee might get a little tired of day after day of fighting.

Where you ended up after your death seemed reliant on which Gods you followed in life, and what sort of person you were.  In modern-day practice, Einherjar blot has tended to become a day to honor all of those who die in wars, and to a lesser extent, veterans in general.  It has also been speculated recently by some that those in various professions that involve voluntarily going into danger (police, firefighting) and who die while performing their duty perhaps join the ranks of the Einherjar. 


Hail to the fallen dead!
Hail to the brave ones
Who fought to the end,
Whether the enemy was disease
Or failure of the body
Or weariness of soul
Or the hate of another.
Hail to those who fell
Guarding the helpless and weak!
Hail to those who fell
Defending the land of their ancestors!
Hail to those who fell
Righting great wrongs!
Hail to those who fell
Succumbing to the powers
Of the creeping deaths
And their dark cousins.
Show us the truth, legions of Valhalla!
The only straw death,
The only dishonorable death,
Is one where Death is met
Not as an honorable opponent
Or a welcome bridegroom
But as a fearsome master
To be groveled before.
Give us your courage, legions of Valhalla!

To my 8th Great Grandfather of the Carignan-Salieres Regiment, my 5th Great Grandfather killed in the American Revolutionary War, my 3rd Great Grandfather Civil War Private on Union Side, my Great Grandfather Private in World War I, my Grandfather Private in World War II, my Father Seabee in Vietnam War, my Sister War in Afghanistan and all those who died in service - Thank You!

Hail the Einherjar! May they feast and make merry in Valhalla for they deserve it! Hail the brave dead! Hail!

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