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Fighting Naked

Lessons from the ancient Celts on Warrior Spirituality, and the power of authenticity.

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You’ve likely heard the dramatic and near romanticized stories of ancient Celts, painted in swirling blue wode, charging the Roman legions as nude as the day they were born. In truth, this was neither constant nor all celts, however the phenomenon did occur and was considered a testimony to the courage of Celtic warriors. As Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian (1st century, BCE) writes,

“…Some of them have iron cuirasses, chain-wrought, but others are satisfied with the armour which Nature has given them and go into battle naked.” – Library of History, V-30


One of the most famed warrior bands amongst the Celts to fight naked were the indominable Gaesatae, who not only displayed their courage by fighting “in the armour which Nature has given them”, but by stalwartly refusing to retreat. In fact, it’s said that were a Gaesatae to attempt to flee the fray, their junior members would be there waiting with spears to kill them for their betrayal and cowardice.

An example of an ancient Celtic War Horn
Celtic War Horn

Photo by Flash Dantz on Unsplash


Consider the daring commitment it took to step onto the battlefield in such a way, completely exposed, vulnerable, your entire being firmly rooted to the tip of your spear. It might bring to mind the ‘skyclad’ rites which some religions adhere to in Britain and much of Europe today, in which one strips themselves of all worldly possessions and stands before their God/s as honest and exposed as they came into this world – expressing not the affectations of society or worldly life, but the honest and naked soul - the body an instrument for one's own inner purpose.

This is a practice which is not only born of Gardnerian Wicca and their more recent religious descendants, as some might suppose, but has been historically employed in certain other living traditions across the continent. Such practices are so ancient in fact, that we simply cannot put a date on their origin.


And from these two practices, we can extract a deep and profoundly applicable principle of warrior spirituality.

Now, I don’t mean to say that you should strip off your clothes and take to the streets to prove your courage. Depending on where you live that would probably result in hyperthermia or arrest, maybe even both. No, no – like many things in spirituality, the lesson is transmitted in the symbolism. Namely, the courage to be vulnerable. What is vulnerability, after all, but exposure? It’s neither a small nor easy thing to lay the inner soul bare, embracing and expressing our truest and most sincere self.


Our clothes in many ways, symbolize the way we want to be seen, and the way the world sees us. How we dress for work, for comfort, for romance, and for a Saturday night out on the town all offer up an image of perception. Many spend hours laboriously cultivating the perfect outfit to highlight their best physical features, and to express their personality. So too do clothes resemble social status; their make, cut and materials denoting some subjectively perceived sense of wealth and class. Yet we are much more than the clothes we wear, the job we do, or the neighborhood we live in. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with taking pride in one’s appearance, and indeed there is a great deal of merit in cultivating an outfit which expresses ourselves. Yet it’s equally far too easy to forget who we are beneath the affectations and perceptions we carry with us from place to place. It gives us somewhere to shelter, hiding from the incredibly natural insecurities that every human being faces. From the outer appearance to the inner personality, we all too easily offer up the power of acceptance up to others. Ironically, it’s often ourselves who are our own staunchest and most judgmental critics.


But how much can one do in the world when we hide ourselves away? How much of life do we miss when we only express a portion of who we really are? Are we truly the resolute champions of our own meaning, which every warrior aspires to, if we continuously sabotage and denounce our own sincere truth?


This is what makes the courage to accept, and then to express, our sincere inner truth such an essential part of warrior spirituality – because there is strength in vulnerability, and there is courage in baring the soul into the light, so all may see the strength of her illumination. Warriors such as those found amongst the Gaesatae remind us of the power of sincerity – to accept all that we are, to resolutely live at the tip of our own spear and cast our truest and most sincere self upon the world. Whichever God/s you pray to, and whatever name you use in that sacred and destined meeting at the end of this life, they will surely know you for your soul – just as you know yourself by what is inside, and not by what is perceived from without.

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