The Miasma of War


One of the big issues I’ve had to face in my life thus far is participating in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. I was an analyst, and though I was never directly involved in physical combat, my decisions nonetheless directly caused loss of life. I’m grateful to have never been in harm’s way, and am deeply sorrowful for the over 1000 coalition deaths that occurred during my tour. Every death hangs heavy on the hearts of the warriors left alive; during 2010, the intelligence field bore the brunt of a rash of suicides, with the highest rate in the Air Force. As the coalition’s go-to agency for near-real-time information, the Air Force intel apparatus bears much of the responsibility and pressure for keeping the coalition alive. I’m thankful I had the strength not to succumb to the alcoholism and depression that has ravaged many of my peers, including some members of my family that have served. The pollution of war has a way of seeping into everything, and is especially poisonous to the spirit.

That being said, one of my personal goals has been to develop purification rites for Hellenic veterans (all vets, really) so that they might shed that  miasma. To my understanding, not many Hellenes pay much bother to miasma except in a general sense. The pollution of war is different, however, and at least in my personal experience, is something I wish could be addressed by the community. Now, I know some people do discuss it; I received an email just today about the matter in fact. Now, the Hellenic community isn’t very large, and even the greater pagan community (including the eclectic variety) doesn’t exactly have the most robust veteran/military population. It is my goal to address this issue however, and luckily, I have been informed of a few resources.

The best resource I’ve discovered so far was introduced to me by Leslie M. of Greece. She pointed me to Robert Parker’s ‘Miasma’. As the title implies, it’s pretty much the definitive work on miasma. I know of no other that even rivals the information contained within this book. A word of warning- it is rather expensive. I spent just over $80 for my copy, but I consider that a small investment for the potential return.

Other resources I plan to use include your normal philosophical pieces, especially Plato and Aristotle. De Anima will be of particular usefulness I believe. Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War should also prove enlightening, as Thucydides wrote much of it as a soldier, and the errata contained within should provide some insight.

Ideally, I want to have this project done by October, when the campaign season would be over and such purification rites would take place. Distribution ideas include actually publishing a short book/pamphlet and distributing it freely to vets and their families, or if that proves too costly, creating a .pdf version for electronic distribution.

Of course, any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. The biggest help anyone could give right now would be suggesting more resources for study. The more resources I can use means a clearer picture of what can be done, and a hopefully a more useful and fulfilling result. I thank anyone and everyone in advance for your effort, support, and guidance in this important endeavor.

Hail Ares!

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6 comments on “The Miasma of War

  1. Apollodorosh says:

    The book is already on my wish list 🙂

    • pthelms says:

      It’s pretty awesome. I guess the reason it’s so expensive is that it is considered a textbook. Amazon emailed me at the end of the semester and asked me if I wanted to sell it back. I thought that was hilarious.

      • Apollodorosh says:

        Well, I guess a lot of people would sell it back 😛 But if I invest the € 62,83 for the book, I’m definitely NOT going to re-sell it 🙂

  2. WynnDark says:

    I know this post is a good way back and I don’t know that anyone will actually see this response, but, I think it’s still worth making. I own a book called Hoplites: The Classical Greek Battle Experience and I Think it may have some purification rituals in it, or at least mention of them, I haven’t yet read the book but I’d be willing to page through and hunt down any references I can find within. I’m less than two months away from putting my feet on those yellow footprints on Paris Island to start my service in the Marine Corps (I’ll be in the infantry) so such a rite would be vastly appreciated. Keep up the good work and may the Gods show you favor.

    • pthelms says:

      Oh, I see everything, don’t you worry. I will definitely take a look at that book, so thanks for the heads up. Good luck at Paris Island!

  3. […] what’s that miasma, J. Agathokles’ take on miasma, Pete Helms’ exploration of the miasma of war and Sarduriur’s suggestions on how to maintain ritual purity which ends with this link to a […]

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