I would like to thank all of you, my readers, who chose November to shop at my etsy store. 100% of my proceeds have been donated to Paralyzed Veterans of America. Last year, we made, iirc, $611 and change, which was also donated to PVA. This year, thanks to you, that amount doubled and I was able to donate $1300. Hail the military dead and let us honor those veterans living.
November is a very special month for me. It’s a time where Odin looms particularly large in my world and I start a ritual process that culminates in an intensive series of Yule rituals wherein Odin is the focus. It’s not that He’s absent at other times of the year — He in no way is – but November is special. A large part of the reason for this isn’t just the seasonal shift, something to which I’m particularly sensitive in general (probably thanks to my old and achy bones!), but also that Veteran’s Day /Remembrance Day is in November. As someone who has an extensive practice in honoring the military dead, this is a powerful time.
That may be what is so unique for me at this time with Odin: He doesn’t usually come to me in my devotions primarily as Lord of Hosts. I know He is a battle God. I resonate very strongly with that, but it’s not how He usually chooses to engage. As November rolls around, that changes and suddenly when I reach out to Odin, it’s as the Battle God, wise in weapons, Lord of the Einherjar, Sigtyr, the Victory God that He comes. The charge of that presence really calls me to step up my honoring of the military dead at this time.
This year as always, a significant part of my focus vis-à-vis the military dead is WWI dead. Partly that’s because I have a cousin [Wesley Heffner] who went over with Pershing’s Forces and never returned. He died on a field in France. He is in my thoughts a lot at this time of year. Then, moving away from WWI, my father’s birthday was November 1 and he was a veteran of WWII and Korea, so that also colors my practice. I feel sometimes like they take my hands and lead me into deeper understanding of what this practice of veneration entails. Usually I post something honoring the military dead every day in November. I’m not doing that this year, but I am going to be donating all November proceeds from my etsy store to Paralyzed Veterans of America. I think they do good work. (There are a couple of other organizations that I tend to gravitate to as well, including the British Royal Legion — I like that they provide retraining programs for vets. I’d welcome suggestions of other charities too from my readers).
Some years the military dead are more present than others and this year they seem particularly present. I wish we could learn from them, to cherish that which we are given, to value their lives, our lives, and the lives of our children, to understand that the consequences of any war, no matter how large or small it may be, reach far, far beyond the generation involved. They have powerful lessons to teach and I’m grateful to Odin for pointing me on the path of veneration.
During WWI, poet Wilfred Owen, quoting a line from Horace, wrote a poem called Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori. The title translates as “sweet and proper it is to die for one’s country” and it was published in 1920 after his death – Owen died in the trenches and is generally considered to be the greatest of the WWI poets. Whereas the original Horatian Ode may be read as a rather sweetly sentimental exhortation to the valor so essential to proper Romanitas, Owen flips the equation on its head, summoning the brutal bleakness of the trenches, the stench and horror of war, and with bitter hollowness damning that sentiment as an ‘old lie.’ I think both are correct. Civilization is built on the backs of its warriors, on the viscera of those willing to lay down their lives in its defense and we are defined by those sacrifices. Yet, we waste lives so blithely, often so pointlessly for leaders’ egos and greed. It is a corruption with a terrible cost. We owe those who fought and most of all we owe them the gift of learning from their mistakes.
As November begins, moving me inexorably into the deepest, most intense time of year for my practice, may I remember them well.
November for me is a month of remembrance, specifically remembrance of our military dead. It’s Odin’s month, and it’s also the month in which we celebrate armistice/veterans day (Nov. 11). This year, we’re in the hundredth anniversary of WWI, and I have been feeling the WWI dead very, very strongly. This year as in years past, I intend to post something in honor of the military dead every day throughout November, sometimes simply a memorial poppy photo, sometimes more. May those who fought and those who died be remembered.
Today I”ll begin with a very well known WWI poem, by Laurence Binyon. This poem is famous and has been used by the British Royal Legion as an exhortation to remembrance. It’s a good place to begin.
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.
Today is also the anniversary of my late father’s birthday. He was a career soldier, serving in WWII and Korea, and later working in ordinance at Aberdeen Proving Ground. He was born Nov. 1, 1917 and died in 2005. He lived a good and honorable life. May he be remembered by those who knew him and celebrated by his ancestors. Hail John Paul Dabravalskas, son of Ursula Blasis and Karolys Dabravalskas. Happy Birthday!
Every November I dedicate myself to honoring the military dead. I do rituals and offerings on an almost nightly basis and I try to post something every day throughout the month here on my blog in some way, shape, or form related to the military dead. I chose November for this for two reasons: it’s a very Odinic month, specifically Odin as God of the Hunt, and Lord of Hosts** and in the US Veterans Day falls the second week of the month. For those and many other reasons, this month has always resonated with me very strongly as a time to remember our military veterans and our military dead. I’m going to start this month of remembrance off by honoring my own father, John P. Dabravalskas (1917-2005), a veteran of WWII, Korea, and career military until his retirement.
Firstly, today is the anniversary of his birth. Happy birthday, dad. I don’t remember us ever making a big deal about his birthday when I was a child and I think that’s a shame. He worked hard all his life to provide for his family, really worked like a dog when I was small. It would have been nice to see him celebrated with a bit of levity.
A little bit about my father: his parents emigrated from Lithuania in the early 20th century and he was born a couple of years thereafter in Albany, NY. He joined the army in 1942, specializing in ordinance. He served in two wars, WWII and Korea, neither of which he ever spoke about either with me or with my brother. After his war years, he worked in ordinance at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland until retirement. Thank the Gods he was too old for active duty by the time Vietnam came around. He would have willingly gone, seeing it as his duty to fight for his country.
His work in ordinance rendered him deaf as he got older, something that perpetually frustrated him. Before he died, he had dementia and flashbacks to his battlefield experiences, and I’ll just let that stand with the comment that there are some experiences that scar the psyche so deeply that one never, ever escapes them. I don’t recall any of that coming out when I was growing up, but as he approached his death and the filters and controls on his mind were slowly peeled away, every once in awhile it would burble up giving a glimpse of the terror he must have felt as a young man in the midst of a gruesome war.
He and I always had a vexed relationship. We were both stubborn and probably too damned much alike to get along. He also was a child of his generation and I think it was hard for him to have a daughter who didn’t easily conform to expected gender roles. We used to fight like cats and dogs. He taught me to play chess, encouraged my interest in languages, sometimes mitigated the discord with my biological mother, and worked hard to make sure that his children had a chance at good educations. He also gave me a fierce work ethic and deep pride in my ancestry. I changed my last name when I was eighteen (legally) mostly for professional reasons, as I was a professional ballet dancer at the time, and I think that hurt him deeply. His nearly dying words to me expressed concern that I was safe and secure and doing well in my life. He wanted to be sure I was happy.
It took awhile after he died before I could properly honor him on my ancestor shrine and as part of my ancestral court. We had things to work out. It helped that I assisted in prepping his body for cremation (and perhaps his dying gift to me was a sudden, stark awareness of the miasma contact with the dead can bring) and was able to do rituals to aid his passage. (To this day I’m not sure why the funeral home allowed me in there). Certainly there is a grace in handling the dead.
So today I honor John Paul Dabravalskas, a good man, a steady father, a veteran, and part of the “best” generation, those men and women who in the forties went to war against Hitler. May my father be hailed. May he be remembered; and may he find joy and homecoming with his ancestors always.
** It occurred to me that while this actually is one of Odin’s heiti, it’s also an epithet commonly applied to the Christian god, and when Catholics use this to refer to their God, it occurred to me also that it’s quite a clever pun: lord of hosts….lord of a hoard of battle hungry warriors or lord of communion wafers….and this is why I’m probably going to hell. LOL