In Flanders Fields – by John McRae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie, In Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.
So, I’m gallery sitting today (the show ends tomorrow) and right next to the gallery is a book store/antique store. This is my happy place and when I take lunch, I usually go over there for a half hour and browse. Today, I think my military dead were with me because I scored most unexpectedly.
I’d been in the store last week and this item was not there. Tucked into a corner in the back room was a sword. I like weapons. I have quite a collection of weapons. I studied sword work (Japanese and western fencing though very little of the latter). I had to check this out. No one was there so I unsheathed and studied it. It turned out to be a WWI Italian Cavalry sword. I deal quite a bit veneratively (is that a word? I’m using it anyway regardless) with WWI dead, partly because I have a cousin who went over with Pershing’s forces and didn’t come home. In the part of my shrine given to the military dead, there’s a ton of WWI tokens (I have, for instance, an extensive collection of WWI knives. I’m very tactile and stuff like this really helps me to connected with the dead in question, plus in this case, I like blades).
Now this is one more addition to the shrine. It’s in excellent condition, has great balance, and feels really nice in the hand. I’ll hang it in that section of the ancestor shrine and call it a day but what a lucky find. Hail to our military dead, to those who suffered and laid down their lives, or suffered and soldiered on so that their children wouldn’t have to (we’re not so good at living up to that sacrifice are we?).
Here’s a pic of my find.
Today we remember those who fought and those who died on the beaches of Normandy. This is the anniversary of D-Day, when Allied troops launched the invasion (of the largest invasion force ever assembled) that would eventually liberate Europe from actual Nazis. Read about it here and here. May these brave soldiers be remembered. Always.
I had nearly forgotten about this in the rush of finals — the days all blur together in a mass of work! Thankfully, it came up in my morning class. As someone who honors the military dead as part of my ancestor practice and who also had a father who was a WWII veteran, I try to note key WWI and WWII remembrance days. It’s a good day to make offerings to your dead who may have served.
I’m writing this with a very bad headache, so I will probably be keeping it shorter than usual. I just want to bring two ritual days to people’s attention in case some of you, my readers, may want to celebrate too.
Tomorrow, my household observes Veterans’ Day. Originally, this was called Armistice Day and commemorated the end of WWI, the armistice of which was declared November 11, 11am (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month). It’s still called Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in some places. We have just passed the one hundredth anniversary of WWI and when I honor the military dead, it’s the dead of this war specifically that come forward more than any others. I don’t know why, perhaps because I lost relatives in this war (my cousin Wesley Heffner went over with Pershing’s forces and died on a field in France).
Anyway, we’ll be doing a rite to honor the military dead tomorrow evening, and this will also involve extensive libations for Odin, since in my household, tomorrow is His feastday as Herjafodr (Father of Hosts), Herteit (Glad of War), Valfoðr (Father of the Slain), and Valkjosandi (Chooser of the Slain).
For the Fallen by R.L. Binyon With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, England mourns for her dead across the sea. Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, Fallen in the cause of the free. Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres. There is music in the midst of desolation And a glory that shines upon our tears. They went with songs to the battle, they were young, Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted, They fell with their faces to the foe. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them. They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; They sit no more at familiar tables of home; They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; They sleep beyond England’s foam. But where our desires are and our hopes profound, Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, To the innermost heart of their own land they are known As the stars are known to the Night; As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain, As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end, they remain.
I’ve written on my other blog about my cousin Wesley Heffner. That piece, part of a larger section on an ancestral pilgrimage I did, may be found here.
Sunwait, a celebration of the six weeks before Yule which is held by some Heathens today begins this week. This will be my household’s first year celebrating this and we plan to keep it on Fridays. I’ll write more about that after Veteran’s day. Be well, all my readers. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Remember your dead.