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The Warrior Ethos as a Celtic Triad

What is a Warrior Ethos? Look through the eyes of one of the ancient forms of learning to discover and define your own warrior code.


What makes a Warrior?

Warriorship has been defined countless ways across innumerable cultures. Its stories and examples stretch from mythology through history to the modern age. The truth is warriorship is timeless. Conflict is a part of the world. People form loyalties and allegiances, and human beings are naturally predisposed to sacrifice for those they love. What then is the truth of warriorship? Is there a definition for this defiantly powerful expression of the human spirit?

I'm not certain that just one will ever suffice, for the necessities that bid a warrior to act are only constant in that in some form or another, they will always be there. And just as conflict and obstacles should rise against us, from within us, and weigh upon those we care for, the world will always need warriors who espouse an ethos befitting the name.

None of us need to be told that love requires sacrifice, that strength requires courage, or that success requires conviction. What we could all benefit from however, especially warriors, is a reminder that this venerable path - even as it teaches us how to embrace conflict - is ultimately a pursuit of a worthy and just peace both within ourselves, and for our loved ones.

This is the value of the warrior ethos; in whatever form it is transmitted. It is our ethos, internalized and bound to our intrinsic values, which allows us to maintain our principles even in the milieu and everyday grind of whatever struggles we may face.

Celtic Standing stones; celtic warriorship and warrior ethos

The Warrior ethos as a Celtic Triad

One ancient form of learning, popular amongst Celtic peoples, is the triad. A Celtic triad takes a concept and breaks it down into three essential principles. The virtue of a principal is that if the principle is sound, it remains true even when the circumstances around it change. Like many cultures, the Celts see three as a sacred number.

Here is an example of a triad, which I believe encompasses three of the most vital principles of warriorship. Please feel free to examine it, adapt it, or change it in accordance with your own warrior path.

‘There are three things which make a warrior:

The wisdom to know what is right,

the courage to do what is right,

and the commitment to see it through to the end.’


A warrior without wisdom is like a ship without a rudder. We know what we feel, we may even know what we think victory and success look like, but without wisdom we are walking blindly to our objective without any surety that the path we have taken is true. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If that's true, then the road to heaven is surely paved with wisdom - because it is wisdom which turns good intentions into good results. Wisdom is neither experience nor knowledge, rather it is distilled from the two. We are always seeking knowledge, and we are always gaining more experience, but it is our understanding that will ultimately light the way forward - not just for us, but for those who may depend on us. The wisdom to know what is right, perhaps, is the first step on the path of honor.


Courage is famously said not to be the absence of fear, but the willingness to do what is right in spite of that fear. But what does that truly mean? To be afraid is to be human, because none of us ever have true certainty about much of anything. We are almost always feeling, facing, or even denying some fear within us. It's really a fantastic alarm system. Fear tells us that we perceive a danger, it gives us necessary intelligence as we move toward our objective. The trouble with fear is that it is only a reaction; it is not wise, it does not love, it has no sense of duty; it cannot tell us what we should do or when we should do it. In short, fear is absolutely clueless. So, heed the alarm, but do not let fear ever be the cause of any choice you make.

As creatures endowed with love, it is only natural that many of us take upon ourselves some sense of duty. Duty is born from loyalty, and loyalty is born from love. This is the only place from which courage may be drawn up and summoned at any time. Courage born from anger will expire like a fire, dwindling as it consumes its source. Courage from ego will dissipate the moment something you value more than your ego is at risk. But courage from love will never fail you. Put what you love in the center of your being, and from there draw your strength.


Perhaps commitment should rather be called ‘pre-commitment’, in that it’s a decision which you must make before you even begin your endeavor. After all, there is no sense in doing anything if on some level you are prepared to quit. I truly believe that the will is one of the most formidable and capable forces in this world. We never know what we're going to face when we wake up in the morning. We never know what obstacles lay before us, in our personal or professional lives, nor do we know how extensive and rigorous the trials we must endure and overcome will be. When we decide on any objective, the only decision available at that moment is ‘will I win?’.

Trust in the power of your own will, and remember that whatever your goal, whatever the obstacles you may face, the key to success is pre-committing to victory before you even begin the fight.

Principle based learning is an incredibly edifying process, particularly in philosophy. Breaking down your own warrior ethos into principles, or even creating Celtic triads, can help you develop and cultivate your own warrior’s code.


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