“Wherever you know of harm
regard that harm as your own;
give your enemies no peace.”
– Havamal 127
DISCLAIMER: The ideas on this blog do not represent all Paganism, just my own opinions.
First of all when I discuss paganism, I have to make clear that I am talking about the modern practice of Pre-Christian religions. This includes a wide-gamut of practices: Neopaganism, Wicca, Druidry, Asatru, etc. Everyone within these groups has different ideas on what makes a pagan, and some of these people don’t even like being called pagans.
But with that aside, I am going to attempt to tackle an important questions about warfare, pacifism, flower power and so on in the practice of modern day paganism.
Much of the interest in neopaganism got activated in the West a little before the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Wicca was introduced to the public by Gerald Garner in 1954. Other similar traditions started to also go public at that time. And as these traditions grew, they — like any other belief system — came to include many of the popular notions of the era.
Since the cultural revolution of the 1960s took place after the tail end of a massive era of war and violence in the twentieth century (after WWI and WWII), people were understandably sick of violence and embraced ideas of peace. And if peace can be achieved over war, it goes without saying that peace is a good solution.
But is pacifism always the answer? Does it represent some eternal truth? If one thinks of paganism as the ideals inspired by the Vikings, the Celts, the Greeks, the Romans, the Hindus — none of these civilizations were pacifistic by any means. The Bhagavad gita was told in the middle of a battlefield. (Not saying all pagans are inspired by Hinduism, but its concepts of Dharma and Karma are certainly key concepts for most). But I’ve heard Westerners try to rationalize this away by saying, “Oh but it was a metaphorical battlefield!” only for Indian Hindus to tell me…”Uh yeah, our Gods fought wars because sometimes war is necessary to defeat evil.”
If anything, some of the ideas of pacifism incorporated into the writings and teachings on modern day paganism may even be influenced by Christianity. And it’s impossible for anyone in a Western culture not to be influenced by Christianity, since that has been the predominant cultural lens for the past thousand or so years. (Not that the broad practice of Christianity has been pacifistic in any means in the West considering the history of genocide, witch hunts, colonialism, inquisition, and so on, but that there are many pacifistic teachings from Jesus in the Bible).
So this article is my response to certain voices in the pagan community who say that the pre-christian world was predominantly peaceful. Or that the ancient Gods value peace above all. Or the Californication of both pre-christian and Eastern religions. There is an attempt to make these views and practices non-threatening, so people will buy into them (literally and figuratively).
First of all, the pre-christian world was not predominantly peaceful. As stated above, the Celts, the Norse, the Romans, these were cultures that had wars, celebrated warriors, told tales of brave warriors, and even had entire gods and goddesses dedicate to war. Part of the reason why the Roman Empire collapsed is because they were having too many damn wars.
In Lawrence Keeley’s War Before Civilization, a book written by a man who lived with modern tribal people, and studied ancient tribes, he discusses how ancient times may have actually been even more violent than today, stating that with tribal people, a greater percentage of their populations participated and died from violence than people do today. Certainly with what the news may show about terrorism and school shootings people may think, “Oh what violent times we live in.” But at least in Europe and the United States, less than 5% of male deaths are caused by warfare. Compare that number to the Jivaro tribe where the percentage is something like 60%.
Human sacrifice was also practiced in ancient times, as I detail in my article about that topic. There is plenty of proof for this. Written accounts. Human skeletons found with the bones of animal sacrifices. Tales of human sacrifice in ancient myths. Historical accounts. Sure, human sacrifice may have been used as a tool of the Christians to smear non-christian people. But the idea that this NEVER happened and is some evil lie propagated by the haters is laughable.
I have read in multiple neopagan sources that paganism is a peaceful religion, based on peaceful cultures in the ancient world where everyone apparently celebrated flower power. But this is a sweeping generalization that oversimplifies a group of people, deletes a large chunk of their history and ritualistic practice, and more than that — is a glaring misunderstanding of basic human nature.
Humans at our core are aggressive and territorial beings. Tell me you’re not territorial when you get a bug infestation in your house and decide to kill hundreds of living creatures for the mere crime of being in your space (even when they’re doing nothing harmful to you).
As a species, we also bare a strong genetic resemblance to chimpanzees, which are one of the most aggressive primates.
The idea that humans weren’t aggressive or territorial until Christianity came along is fallacious.
Like any truth, it is important to understand that aggression is a normal part of human behavior, and should be accepted as such.
Does that mean that it’s okay for people to go around and pick fights and kill each other for no reason? No. Of course, peace and diplomacy should always be the first course of action, with violence being the very last.
But in order to control aggression, the first step is to accept that we have it. In order to control our violence, we must accept that we are violent beings.
And any real spiritual practice that is worth its salt must encompass all aspects of humanity. Peace. Warfare. The Feminine. The Masculine. Earth. Air. Fire. Water. And so on and so forth.
Many ancient traditions had a cult of the warrior, religious practices for warriors, rites of manhood that emphasized learning how to fight, protecting oneself and enduring suffering (as well as rites for women too). Ignoring that violence exists doesn’t protect one from it. It just makes one weak when the time comes to defend oneself. Modern day practices like self-defense and martial arts actually give people discipline, and make them less violent overall because they learn to control themselves and their own aggression.
And some even say that metal-heads are actually less violent and more well-adjusted because they listen to music that explores themes of violence, aggression and warfare.
So I’ll try to post some articles and sources here that can better understand traditions of warriors in the ancient world.
“We don’t expect the world to change their ways after listening to our album…we just expect the metalheads that come to a Sceptre gig or for that matter any gig they attend, to understand this message and start treating women with a certain amount of respect. For ages, women have been portrayed as mere objects of lust especially in ‘metal’. That needs to change.”
Today it is my great honor to interview one of India’s longest lasting metal bands – Sceptre! They are a heavy hitting thrash metal band from Mumbai that has been going strong for 15 years and they have been pioneers of extreme metal in the country.
One key thing that peaked my interest in the band was their recent album, “Age of Calamity.” In this album they take a stand on the issue of violence against women that is happening both in India and around the globe. According to the latest statistics, as many as 35% – 70% of women in the world have experienced some form of sexual violence (UN Women). In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, intimate partner violence accounts for 40% – 70% of all female murder victims (UN Women).
In India, there have recently been many protests against the lack of police and government action in dealing with the crimes of gang rape and sexual violence. Unfortunately the problems of gang rape, sexual violence, spousal abuse, child marriage and sexual trafficking are ubiquitous around the globe.
Therefore, it is great to see an extreme metal band creating an album about female empowerment – particularly in a genre of music that can be quite the sausage fest. So without further adieu – I will begin my interview with Sceptre.
MG: First of all, I would like to ask, which member of the band am I currently speaking with?
You’re speaking to Aniket S Waghmode ( drummer and founder member)
MG: What is your band’s secret to lasting as long as you guys have? It’s not every day that I get to talk to a metal band that is 15 years old and still going strong.
It’s the sheer love of playing metal and nothing else! We cannot imagine playing any other form of music.
MG: One thing I’m really excited in talking to you guys about today is your newest album, “Age of Calamity” and its theme of the empowerment of women. What motivated you to cover this theme?
We’ve always tried to showcase the problems we, as a nation are facing, through our albums…be it lyrically or visually. Our earlier album ‘Now or Never’ had a song called ‘Charred’ which talks about the evils of smoking. And none of the guys in the band smoke or dope by the way. With ‘Age of Calamity’, we were unanimous in deciding to bring the issue of women empowerment to the fore. Since a while now, India has seen the most heinous and ghastly atrocities committed against women in various forms like rapes, acid attacks, groping and molestation in public places. And the rate of such crimes is increasing at an alarming rate. The indolence of the Government is stupifying to these cases. We don’t expect the world to change their ways after listening to our album…we just expect the metalheads that come to a Sceptre gig or for that matter any gig they attend, to understand this message and start treating women with a certain amount of respect. For ages, women have been portrayed as mere objects of lust especially in ‘metal’. That needs to change.
MG: Do you believe that violence against women is worse in India than other parts of the world? If so, why is this?
We are not sure about the situation outside India, but we’ve come to know after our album release from various people all over the world, that it is a global problem. The problem with India is the law. It’s ancient and inefficient to deal with the current state of affairs. To add to this, its the people who think one can rape and get away scott-free by bribing the police. Its a vicious circle.
MG: What do you think are some things that India – as well as other countries – could do to reduce the atrocities committed against women? What are some things that various countries around the world could do to empower women?
I think the law needs to be made more stricter and most importantly, implemented wherever necessary. The punishment for these crimes should act as deterrent to others. These small steps will help empowering women all over the world.
MG: What is your favorite set of lyrics, in the album (Age of Calamity), that discusses the theme of violence against women?
It’ got to be the opening lines from the title track ‘Age of Calamity’… ” more and more lives at stake, bureaucratic apathy to blame, damned if you will..damned if you don’t, you gotta give in to their game..”
MG: Aside from the theme of female empowerment in your most recent album, what are some other important themes and messages in your music?
Our first album had a song called ‘Charred’ which talked about the evils of smoking, then we had a song from the same album called ‘Nuclear’ which was against Nuclear warfare. The recent album; ‘Age…’ has a song called ‘Prophesy Deceit’ which is against these godmen who swindle people in the name of religion, one more song from the same album called ‘ Parasites(of the state) ‘ is about people in authority, from a policeman to a politician, who fail to do their duty….yea…stuff like that!
MG: What band’s influenced Sceptre the most?
Oh..we are mostly influenced by the old school thrash era. Bands like Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Iron Maiden…to the new ones like White Chapel, Suicide Silence, Divine Heresy etc
MG: What are Sceptre’s plans for the rest of 2014?
Get a video done and play as many gigs as possible, in India as well as abroad!
MG: Does Sceptre plan on doing a tour in the United States in the near future?
Oh yeah…just waiting for that call!! Haha..
MG: What are some other powerful Indian metal bands I should check out?
Bands like Zygnema, The Down Troddence, Bhayanak Maut, Plague Throat, Gutslit etc are some bands who can kick some serious ass. Do check them out!
MG: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview! For the rest of you Metal Heads, check out their song “Age of Calamity” below.
Yesterday, the Randy Blythe murder case in the Czech Republic was laid to rest. Randy Blythe (Lamb of God Vocalist) rose like steam from the ashes of the wake. He was declared innocent. He was facing 10 years in a Czech prison for the manslaughter of Daniel Nosek, a fan who died from injuries sustained at the band’s May 10th concert in Prague.
Daniel had made three attempts to climb onto the stage during the show – not one, not two, but three times! During one of these attempts Daniel allegdly got a push from Randy and a security guard. During the third attempt, a security guard pulled him back onto the ground. Daniel ended up dying in the hospital from his head injuries. When Randy sang “Now you’ve got something to die for,” I don’t think he meant stage diving.
VIDEO OF ALLEGED MANSLAUGHTER INCIDENT
Randy was completely unaware of Daniel’s death until the authorities took him into custody when he returned to the Czech Republic in 2012 to play another show. He was placed in jail for a month and his bail was set at 400,000. Eventually he was released to finish the Lamb of God tour, but he had to return to the Czech Republic after the tour for a trial. This last year for Randy has been a walk through hell. He was like a ghost walking…ever notice how a lot of LOB songs have to do with walking?
Anyways, March 5th was the “11th hour” of the whole ordeal so to speak and Randy was declared innocent. The following is his testimony:
“I still believe that I have acted reasonably to protect” myself, the band, and the audience, Blythe said. “If I am guilty, I will take it like a man. If I am released, [Lamb of God] will take such precautions” to ensure similar events never happen at concerts.
Metal shows are a violent business. At one of my first death metal shows, I was punched in the face as a free fist flew from the mosh pit. I’m a 95 pound female who has been slammed into by 200 pound guys. When I stand near the front of the stage or by the Mosh Pit, I know that I’m like a dwarf star about to be sucked into a black hole of fists, sweaty dudes and headbanging. If I want to avoid said violence, I can stand in the back or at the sidelines – and I certainly wouldn’t jump on stage in the middle of it all if I wanted to be safe (let alone a third time after being pushed off the second time).
Of course my sympathies go out to Daniel and his family. No one expects to die or lose a loved one to a metal show. Yet I will remark that a metal show related death is an incredibly rare event – which is amazing given the violent nature of the shows and the rowdiness of the crowd. More people die from eating cheeseburgers.
Most of the time when I witness someone fall in the mosh pit, there are other metal fans who step in the breach to pick up their fallen comrade. When I’ve been slammed into by heavy dudes for standing by the front of the stage, complete strangers have stood in the way to protect me even if I tell them it’s unnecessary. The metal community typically protect their own.
Security measures are always a good thing. But I wouldn’t take away the moshing or stage diving at metal shows for anything in the world. Do I want to stand around at a Slayer concert and give a polite clap as if I’m playing a game of cricket with the queen of England? Fuck no! This is metal bitches! As fans we understand that there are risks. I would sooner dilute a blue label scotch than water down the world’s best genre of music. People will come and go. But the Metal lives forever.