An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links
to Mythologies, Fairy Tales & Folklore,
Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.


Monday, Memorial Day, 31 May 2010

Author's Note:
As many Myth*ing Links readers already know, I have been guiding people through pastlives since the early 1970's (recent polls show that 25% of Americans believe in reincarnation, so the topic is no longer as arcane as when I first started).  Some months ago, I regressed a client to what turned out to be three earlier lifetimes connected to wars.  Since in his current life he is a deeply committed pacificist, exploring wartime incarnations was certainly not his intent that day.  Nevertheless, they are what spontaneously emerged -- and they are deeply relevant to Memorial Day issues.

The first lifetime to emerge took place during the Civil War.  He did not fight on either side but saw his tranquil, lovely house burned to the ground by Confederate soldiers, an event that altered the rest of his life.

Next, he was a young soldier in WWII setting a charge to blow up a bridge in a rural area of France.  His mission was successful but he was shot and killed by Germans before he could escape.

Finally, he was in medieval times where, following his own (and his father's) wishes, he was being trained as a squire to a knight who mentored him well and earned the boy's devotion.  Then he was trained as a knight himself, surviving into his thirties -- a rare accomplishment for knights in those days.  During those years, he mentored his own squires as ably as he had been mentored, thereby helping to pass on the tradition.  That lifetime ended when he was severely wounded in battle.  The scene was quite gory and his squire, with the help of several others, had to pull him off the field, then wash and tend his wounds.   He was in horrific pain.  A priest came to confess him -- and suddenly, completely unexpectedly, the pain stopped.  It took a few moments for him to realize that he had died.  His last thought was, simply, the surprise of no more pain.

Except for a few brief love affairs with women, that knight had lived in a relentlessly male, competitive, military world.  The life had offered honor, dedication, and excitement, but such qualities had worn thin by the end.  Only pain remained.  The knight's relief when it was over was immense.

My client's WWII and Civil War lives seemed to have left no emotional baggage behind but the knight was different.  It seemed such a limited, constrained life.  It was all the knight had ever wanted and yet it was so pointless at the end.  My client, a strong pacifist for many decades, then found himself addressing the knight, thanking him for opening up the war-experience in such a way that it would eventually ripen into that pacificism.  He reassured the knight, showing him how that medieval life was deeply significant, a crucial ingredient in their mutual karmic alchemy, their pathway to peace.  The knight, as well as my client, were both profoundly moved to discover how that brutal life had been transformed into the depth and commitment of the man he is today.

Today, Memorial Day, is a time for honoring our war dead.  All week I have been thinking about that pastlife session in this larger context -- and I have been asking myself a handful of silent questions.  Why do we not honor those who survive and try to make things better? Why do we not honor the masses of innocent civilians killed in all those wars -- and their grieving families, forgotten, abandoned to carry on alone?  And why don't we just stop with all this damn honoring and instead work for peace and make the world situation better!

I heard some statistics on TV a few days ago that reveal how much more hawkish Americans have gotten ever since the draft was ended -- the numbers are up by about 20%.   In WWII, something like 9% of our population served in the military.  Now it's less than 1%.  Clearly, most Americans have lost a sense of connectedness to the nation's wars.  Yet if we take that pacifist's pastlife session as an example, the implications are huge -- for then we are all actually carrying the "war dead" within our own psyches. The vast majority of course have forgotten this (except in nightmares or stray fragments of hastily dismissed recall), but perhaps we should really try to remember our own earlier warrior-lives in some man's army, somewhere, sometime, somehow.  Then we could go within and offer healing to the dead warriors we have all been, each of us.  Maybe only then will we get past these endless, pointless wars.

[Note: WWII is usually singled out as the only contemporary example of a "just war."  What this stance ignores, however, are the humiliating reparations demanded of Germany after WWI.  By taking such devastating revenge on a conquered enemy, the West actually helped create the ugly incubator in which Hitler came to power.]
For this past week leading up to Memorial Day, I have watched a number of TV programs on its history.  I suppose these are aired annually -- I just never noticed them before.  In watching them, however, I discovered that, like my recently launched page on Mothers' Day, Memorial Day's roots lie in the American Civil War, a very different war from all the outward-directed, foreign wars in which we have engaged since then.  Glossing over those still-painful Civil War differences and instead focusing on WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, TV commentators repeatedly tell us that our war dead have sacrificed their lives to protect our freedom.  This claim seems to have taken on the qualities of a litany, something sacred and not to be disputed. Thus, we are free today, so the litany goes, because our soldiers had the courage to fight and die for us -- our freedoms, our way of life, our values.  A minister, for example, at the outdoor Memorial Day service I attended this morning, finished his opening sermon with these words:
...Their sacrifices are what have made us what we are today -- free, strong, a nation worth dying for.
A nation worth dying for?  What about worth living for?

I came home to find a Memorial Day e-mail from Fred Upton, my area's enormously wealthy Republican congressman (his family founded Whirlpool).  Here are a few excerpts, typical of what I have been hearing all this week:

...Each year we come together as a nation the last Monday of May to reflect and pay tribute to those brave men and women from generations passed [sic] who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom and democracy.

Freedom does not come without a price, and as a community, we are all too familiar with the loss associated with defending liberty.

Sometimes, we may take for granted the many liberties we enjoy, but they have all been earned through the ultimate sacrifice paid by so many members of our armed forces....

...This Memorial Day, we pay our respects to the heroes who sacrificed their tomorrows so that we may enjoy our freedoms today.

Although some of the sentiments aroused by Memorial Day may make for stirring rhetoric, what stands out most glaringly is that the basic premise is flawed.  How can we possibly accept that our lasting freedom is contingent upon the deaths of generations of our young?  No matter how sincerely and proudly we may speak of "freedom," if endless war is required to preserve and protect it, then how can that be freedom?  Once that question is asked, rhetoric tends to fall apart and stand exposed as an example of sleight-of-hand -- a cunning trick designed by unseen power-mongers to control large portions of a populace.

Our young have the innate right to look to us for protection.  Instead, our leaders persist in sending many of them, especially the poor, off to fight in a series of wars around the world, always in the name of freedom and democracy, of course.  Those same leaders have so degraded our educational system that many of us no longer recognize that the deliberate practice of treating our young as expendable has a very dark and sinister history -- it's called "human sacrifice."  Thus, we have become no different or better than countless ancient peoples who ritually and regularly sacrificed the lives of their young for the well-being of a nation, a city, a temple, a fortress, a harvest or, currently, a pipeline.

Genuine, lasting freedom has nothing to do with human sacrifice.  It can be taught -- it can also be found on one's own.  Often it needs to be carefully nurtured.  Sometimes it bursts forth fullgrown, ready to guide a receptive host.  It can closely resemble love -- as here:

Love doesn't sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all of the time, made new.
~Ursula K. LeGuin
Ultimately, perhaps freedom is what creates the sacred space in which we finally mature, wisely and compassionately, protecting the young and vulnerable of all species, and learning to heal all those knights and other "war dead" within us.


June 1, 2010:
2 Comments from my Facebook page:

Posted by me shortly after midnight, 1 June 2010:

I've just spent the past 10 hours writing about Memorial Day. It's more a blog than one of my usual Myth*ing Links pages. Here's the link:
19 hours ago - via Mobile Web

2 Comments - Like - Remove
like2 people like this.

Kathy Robles at 9:24am
This is a fabulous, Kathleen! I loved all of it, but this question really stood out:

How can we possibly accept that our lasting freedom is contingent upon the deaths of generations of our young?
Kathleen Jenks at 7:49pm
Thanks, Kathy. When you really start to "deconstruct" all this, the stark reality explodes around us like phosphorus. Despite our pious vaporings about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we're really just one more crafty city-state ensuring our continued survival by sacrificing our young to the hungry Wargods. We claim to be so noble. Yet we willingly,*proudly!* fund and practice a mediocre, garden-variety form of human sacrifice. It doesn't have to be like this. We could still be "O Beautiful, for Spacious Skies....", but what will it take for people to open their eyes? I don't know. ::sigh::

External Links of Interest:

"Memorial Day," excellent 2010 essay by John Cory:

Military Families Speak Out:
[Comments change annually]

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Page designed, written & launched 31 May 2010, 2:20pm -12:30am 1 June 2010.
1 June 2010: changed a few words, tweeked link-colors, and added today's Facebook comments.
25 May 2012, 12:30pm: changed or added a few words, especially in opening paragraph;
tweaked a few  punctuation errors; updated link to John Cory's essay.