Normally I would spend days and sometimes weeks working on a post so that I can cite all the material needed to convey my point. Today, I am going to write off the cuff and with few references on a topic that I believe should be obvious. Our warriors are coming home stained with the horrors and pain they have witnessed, with little in the way of transitioning from war to peace. This is not how it should be, this is not how it was with our ancestors, and we need to bring back those rituals and social constructs that allow for warriors to truly come home.
The idea that our returning warriors need some sort of ‘home coming’ to help them deal with they have seen is not new, yet our society has totally neglected this aspect of the warriors life. In the article “The Hidden Imbolc” PSV Lupus posits that Imbolc may have been a time when warriors were ritually cleansed and returned to society. Kim McCone presents a theory that the Gundestrop Cauldron depicts such a ritual using Gallic and Thracian imagery in his article “The Celtic and Indo-European origins of the fian” found in The Gaelic Finn Tradition which I summarize in “Synopsis of Kim McCone’s and J. de Vries’ Theory on the Gundestrup Cauldron“. Edward Tick, a leading expert on post conflict treatment of soldiers, has researched and published a book citing instances of how ancient societies may have dealt with issues faced by warriors returning to normal society in the book Warrior’s Return: Restoring the Soul After War.
A conversation online produced the idea that being involved in war stains ones soul, and that we need to go through some sort of process to remove the stain. In the hagiographies of Saint Brigid she used milk to remove the “diabolical signs” from the díberga (outlaw warriors) cleansing them and allowing them to return to normal society. So while the mental health community needs to take the lead on the various mental health issues, our religious communities should consider the spiritual harm done by being involved in or even witnessing the horrors of war.
But we can’t limit ourselves to only those who have seen combat. Despite the negative opinions some folks in the ‘warrior’ community have towards military personnel, the reality is everyone who has undergone indoctrination into the life of the professional soldier, has taken on the burden of the outlaw and has some degree of the ‘stain’ upon them. This calls for us to reconstruct the rituals of re-introducing our warriors to normal society and cleansing them of the ‘stain’. We need to do this at the community level, not as individuals. It takes a community to accept the warrior back and provide the support needed to return to society.
I have written articles, and lead presentations on this topic but now I am putting out a challenge. I challenge every community, every faith, every church, to develop some sort of “Warrior Return” ritual, cleansing, class, whatever you want to call it. Something that will aid the warrior spiritually in coming home and aiding them in removing whatever spiritual stains they may have acquired serving in the defense of our communities. It is the least we can do for them.