Throughout time there have been many warrior cultures. Some of the most renowned historical pieces of literature are about warriors. Ancient carvings, decorations, and other works of art speak of great heroes, all with the warrior spirit. I am sure you have at least heard of the tales of Beowulf, Achilles, Odysseus, and so many other brave warriors as we grew up. The great saga’s speak of their praise, and you do not have to go far to find any of their tales.
For me it was GI Joe and Transformers that captured my attention as a kid. It was a struggle as old as time: good versus evil. We knew even as children who was good and who was evil. We knew there was a code the good guys followed, and the bad guys were bent on conquest and greed. It was not selfless. As we got older, we found out it was not as clear cut, and reading the Iliad we found that even the greatest heroes where rarely morally just. They raped and scored plunder like so many they fought. King David of the Old Testament Bible was a perfect example of a hero who “strayed from the code,” but even by Christian standards, he was still considered a hero. There are rare exceptions of recorded perfection, and yes even the Gods have been accused of straying from the path from time to time.
We still admired many of the heroes who were also men of war, because amidst the chaos, there were still those who adhered to a code. They did not compromise on this and would die before they violated that code. Throughout history people wrote down these codes, refined them from culture to culture. Chivalry and Bushido are famous examples of this. Great works like “The Art of War” further refine these codes and apply them with a practical guide book. You also see the sacrifice inherent in the code by looking no further then Tyr. He offered his word and his hand in order to bind the great devourer.
I am a personal fan of Bushido. I really like stories of the East. They not only show the adherence to these codes, but also hold a certain romance. What I have learned showed the warrior lifestyle as an art form. I would recommend reading “Bushido, the Soul of Japan,” “The Book of the Five Rings,” and, of course, “The Art of War. You should not limit your education to the Havamal, or Voluspa. While there are great lessons to be had, the world offers wisdom in many forms. We will look into the “Havamal” and the nine noble virtues, and while the Nine Noble Virtues and Bushido are both considered modern codes, they comprise and simplify the ancient codes of two cultures half a globe apart.
We will look into them and dissect them, not because they are the gospel as it were, but because they offer an example that we can apply to our daily life. These codes, like chivalry, are merely guidelines to help a warrior stay on a path that honors their culture, their tribe, their family, and themselves. Warriors do stray from the righteous, because war is not righteous. They are here to serve as reminders to us, keep us on the path, and to walk with honor. It is a shared belief for modern heathens that honor is not yours, you borrow it from your children and inherent that burden from your ancestors. It should be your life goal to leave your honor intact and in better shape than you found it, before you move to the life after Midgard.
The seven virtues of Bushido are a great tool for embracing the inner warrior. They not only help you acclimate to the warrior lifestyle, they are also applicable to people in all walks of life. They hold a very similar outlook offered by the nine noble virtues. Bushido means “the way of the warrior.” Though deeply ingrained in Japanese culture, the word Bushido and its singular code was not universal until the nineteenth century. Before this, there were many house and family codes. Many believed the codes were derived from the many great works, including the Hagakure of Yamamoto Tsunetomo. I believe it carried serious influence from the Five Rings, Kojiki, the Shoku Nihongi, Kokin Wakashi, and the Heiki Monogatari Chronicles. So it is bound in the history of another people, on the other side of the planet, yet they carry certain universal views that are apparent when compared to the great works of the North.
The seven virtues of Bushido sum up the code. The three associated virtues make it applicable to all walks of life. Rectitude, Courage, Benevolence, Respect, Honesty, Honor and Loyalty are the primary seven. The associated virtues are Filial Piety or respect for your parents and ancestors, Wisdom, and Care for the Aged. Later on, I will break these down in much deeper detail; however, I recommend that you look deeply into yourself to grasp their meaning without outside influence. With this you will take your first step on a journey of self-reflection. Until then, these virtues are only words until you give them value from taking that first step. I also challenge you to compare them to the Noble Virtues, as well as other codes warriors followed throughout time.
A firm code gives our inner warrior the reason to progress. To fight for no reason makes you a bully or a brigand. Cause separates the warrior from the rest of men, and adherence to the code has defined the heroes of the ages. Now, with purpose, your inner warrior can step out into the world, understanding what it is you wish to accomplish, and how. To me, the most important step is purpose; everything must be done with purpose no matter how humble. Purpose is not something easy to find, nor easy to oath too, in America less than three percent of the population has actually served in the military. Granted that is the easiest way to find those with a warrior spirit, but by no means the only way to find those warriors walking amongst us. I only mention the military service to let you know how unique the warrior mentality is, and how rare it is displayed publicly.
I will discuss in detail some other sources like the Book of the Five Rings because purpose is not enough. With a code you know how to be a warrior, or at least the standard by which you should be held, but how do you achieve that? The Five Rings are that “how.” It guides you on the journey toward being a warrior. The book itself is broken down into five elements. Earth, water, fire, wind, and void. Each will help a warrior hone his greatest weapon, and that is him or herself, and it will help perfect those abilities to be a guardian of your virtues. Let us briefly address each chapter, and see how it can be useful to us. The book of Earth is solid. It lays the foundation, discussing how to establish your house, your ability to lead and prowess in the martial arts. The book of water refines style. The book of fire is doing this under duress or in combat. The book of wind talks about flexibility in all those things. The book of void is about achieving a state of Zen or balance to which no thought is needed to perform these task. If mastered, you will flow as you must to perfect your task. So it has something to offer to a warrior regardless of the Gods he or she finds themselves oathed too.
The Art of War takes this further and brings the spirit of the warrior to government and business. It is a guide like the Book of the Five Rings, and while it is detailed it must be understood if it is to be used. There is no flow chart for the warrior to follow, but a successful warrior needs to be learned, practiced and tested. To find the rhythm of your chosen battle on whatever field you choose, you must first know how to hear the music of life. It could be a war front, or a store front, we all have need from our inner warrior.
My hope is to use these texts, and further research to define a path for you to embrace your own inner warrior. I hope that people can find a way to embrace the modern warrior spirit. It is part of your nature, and by finding it you can help it grow and perhaps find the path to happiness. It was forged in the blood of your heroes, and hides deep in your DNA. It is as much a part of you as it is anyone. Each warrior may be different, but they are all there.
The overall purpose of this book is to break down the thoughts of a warrior, or at least give those warriors out there something to think about. The Saga’s offer us guidance to be a good person, and while they may talk about the glory of war it is not the purpose to turn all from the fields and to the field of battle. Not all of our ancestors heard the call and desired to go a viking, but those that did understood the concepts of being a warrior. Not all of our kin had desires to join the Einherjar, and while they are discussed in the poems of our ancestors, a seat in Valhalla was not the goal of all. So maybe understanding your warrior history, and the cultures of warriors around the globe you can find your place in the tapestry of life.
So open your mind, enjoy this book. It’s okay to be a farmer, as it is okay to be banker. It is okay to be a baker, an accountant, an electrician, or whatever path was laid for each soul on Midgard, as it is just as okay to embrace that inner warrior that maybe calling deep inside you. This is not the path of the masses, but it is the path that people will sing about. Be proud and embrace this calling.