Defining Warrior Societies Part 2: A Druid/Activist Perspective
(Disclaimer – I am writing here about what things mean to me personally, I am not speaking for all druids)
Following on from the article Defining Warrior Societies, I’ve taken this search a little further, and looked at the Brythonic words for “warrior” and what insight their translation brings us. I’ve tried to look at the Brythonic as this is the language spoken in Britain before Roman invasion, so it can give insight as to what our native british culture was before we were colonised and influenced directly by others.
I am not looking to re-create or re-enact some role from the past, in a similar way that this episode has stemmed from not wanting to recreate or re-enact a concept from the 1960’s, I want a broader understanding of the language and concepts around the position we find ourselves in today.
The modern welsh word is ‘rhyfelwr’ ie some one who does battle. It’s derived from rhyfel = war and gwr = man. Therefore a man who wars. Together with my more knowledgeable friends, we have struggled to find anything that isn’t etymologically linked to the root words for war or to kill. Every word associated with warrior is related to killing or the old French word guerre which means to war or be at war. Even middle Welsh shared the same trend. We can find nothing in old Welsh that’s different.
Is our british “warrior” heritage only connected to that of killing people and taking? Seems so. At least linguistically. Even in old Welsh verging on brythonic, the poems are rife with the word Ryuel which means conflict, war, battle….
So, coming back to the modern idea of someone who acts to protect and maintain peace – in modern Welsh Heddlu means ‘those who maintain peace’. This is now the word for the welsh police force.
As a pagan who is involved in the anti fracking movement, I cannot truthfully align myself as “someone who maintains the peace –heddlu” This cultural stream still exists into the modern day, but has been filled by the police force, who have time and time again proved themselves to be working in a different stream to us.
This image is taken from Upton Community Protection Camp in Chester, on the day it was evicted so that the drilling company Igas would be able to get onto the site. Heddlu is clearly not the same stream as peaceful warrior protecting the land and water.
As we explored that word we found another old word…….“Heddwch” (pronounced something like heth-oock) is a “state of peace”… and is very very old…
Everything else reflects a fragmented tribal mentality of war and warmongering. Hedd and Heddwch are certainly appropriate though, and terribly old.
So I asked, what would the word for someone who carries out heddwch, ensures that heddwch exists…. heddgarwr which means “un syn caru heddwch” .. “one who loves and maintains peace”.
(pronounced something like Heth-gar-ur)
So we have, in a sense, some culture of “Those who have the burden of carrying Peace” but it does not seem to be the path of a warrior.
Our modern notion of ‘peaceful’ warrior, it seems, comes from the hippy era of the 60s when many ideas were appropriated from Native American culture – white people claiming aspects of another culture as theirs, when the actual holders of that culture were denied access to it. This personally to me feels dishonest and akin to theft. I am now sitting with the word Heddgarwr as the british equivalent of this, but it is not a warrior path. We have a long history of warriorship that I feel we should understand and put into a modern context, and own, it is not only a case of dishonesty to claim another’s culture as our own, it does our own culture and history a great disservice to ignore and deny it, and it disempowers us by severing our own stream of that history.
We have this stream, this history flowing back for thousands of years. Lets step into it. We should be defining our own warrior society. This will be explored further in separate articles
Many thanks to Kristoffer Hughes of the Anglesey Druid Order for his help with this blog piece.