Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Category: Book Excerpt

A Wand Is Gentle With Power

September 24, 2023

In early times, humankind observed that the branches of trees brought forth life. From season to season, the trees issued leaves, flowers, and fruits. Trees were held to be Sacred Beings, who gave life and provided food and shelter. These Beings were rooted in the Earth and reached upward into the sky. They were bridges between the Underworld and the Overworld. It is not surprising, then, that the ancients chose to “borrow” some of the tree’s power by incorporating a part of it into a tool. Thus was born the wand (or staff) which became a magickal tool as well as a symbol of power (usually carried by the tribal shaman).

…The wood was taken from the bend in the branch, out to the fork. This represented the human arm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, because the extending branch of a tree resembles a human arm and hand. Over the course of time, a measure was established. Wands were to measure from the inside of the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. Staffs were to measure to the height of the person, plus the measure of his or her wand (so that the staff was taller than the person; i.e., more powerful). Once formed and prepared, the wand became a tool of Nature’s inner magick. The wand is a tool which is used to request rather than demand, and it is gentle with power. This request possesses great influence, for its source is the Divine itself. It is used for calling upon the gods and nature spirits. It is a symbol of the element of air, and is associated with the east. Magickally it is often used for healing, divination, and astral workings.

Italian Witchcraft, pp. 97-98

Banishing Is Essential in Magical Practice

September 23, 2023

[Banishing is the] process of causing a spirit or nonphysical force to depart or withdraw from manifestation. Effective methods of banishing are essential in magical practice. As the story of the sorcerer’s apprentice points out, being able to stop a magical process is just as important as being able to start it in the first place! There are at least two effective ways to banish an entity or energy, one using ceremonial magic, the other relying on natural magic.

The ceremonial method relies on specific banishing rituals such as the Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, which uses geometrical symbols and divine names to persuade reluctant or intrusive spirits to depart. The method of natural magic, by contrast, relies on the use of physical substances that are held to be inimical to the entities to be banished. Thus iron or steel is traditionally used to banish nature-spirits of the faery type, and noxious herbs such as asafoetida are burned to drive away spirits of all kinds. In ancient times, this latter approach was taken to much further extremes, as in this recipe from Egyptian sources for an incense to exorcise evil spirits:

Pound together honey, fresh olives, northern salt, piss of a menstruating woman, ass-shit, tomcat-shit, pig-shit, the plant ewnek…so as to make a compact mass and use for fumigation around the man [who is possessed by spirits] (quoted in Lindsay 1970, p. 234).

As the above suggests, banishing is closely related to exorcism…

The New Encyclopedia of the Occult

In Search of Adventure, Prestige, and Fortune

September 23, 2023

Being a miles did not mean being a vassal, that is, an individual who had been granted lands in exchange for military service. Initially many knights were soldiers in the court of a great lord who provided a livelihood and the accouterments necessary to fight on horseback. Naturally the people selected combined physical vigor and fighting skill with fealty and homage to the lord. The profession of knighthood attracted those who could find the weapons, armor, and horses necessary; as such, it became the refuge of the younger sons of a lord to whom the future may have seemed financially bleak (by custom, only the firstborn son inherited most of the father’s lands). As Duby claims, knighthood was the profession of youth in search of adventure, prestige, and fortune, which they expected to receive from war or sometimes from marriage to a rich woman. Initially it attracted not only the sons of the lower nobility but also better-off peasants who owned the instruments of a heavy cavalryman. This was the case of Guigonnet of Germolles, a rich peasant of the twelfth century. Guigonnet had his living quarters not in a tower or a fortified manor or castle, like the nobility, but in an agricultural center, where the products of the land—wheat, wine, fruits—were gathered. What distinguished him from the other peasants was his higher standard of living. Probably he did not work the land with his own hands anymore; he had subordinates to do that. Moreover, he spent time hunting like the aristocrats and belonged to religious organizations, where he met social superiors. But the most important aspect of his life was that at times he wore the knightly weapons and armor that he owned, rode his strong horse, and joined the other knights.

Guigonnet is obviously the exception, even at the emergence of knighthood….

Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels, p. 173

Crossbowmen Were Considered an Elite Corps

September 17, 2023

…[For] most of the Middle Ages the weapon that best typifies killing from a distance was the crossbow…. Constructed initially of wood, it was made of steel by the fifteenth century [C.E.]. It was essentially a bow mounted crosswise that shot metal bolts that could pierce any cuirass at most distances. It could be effective to 370-500 meters. Crossbowmen had two advantages over bowmen: they did not need extensive and continuous training to become adept, and they could prepare the crossbow ahead of time. Yet the complex mechanism to cock the crossbow meant that it was much slower than the longbow (probably six arrows to one bolt) and left the person firing a visible target for enemy bowmen. This meant that crossbowmen often operated in combination with a footman, called a pavisier, armed with a spear and a very large shield (pavise) behind which the crossbowmen could cock his weapon.

The best crossbowmen were considered to come from Catalonia, Gascony, or Liguria, the Italian region where Genoa is located. They tended to be a large component of most medieval armies, considered an elite corps occupying a central position in the battle line and opening the encounter or attempting to outflank the enemy. Membership in its ranks was so highly valued in Spain that service was considered equivalent to that of a cavalryman.

Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels, p. 135

Gift Exchange Revolves Around Three Obligations

September 11, 2023

Gift exchange is said to revolve around three obligations: the obligation to give, the obligation to receive, and the obligation to repay. If people do not give, no relationship can happen; the refusal to take a gift is the equivalent of refusing the relationship; and once something has been received a form of repayment deemed socially acceptable is absolutely necessary. Moreover, gifts to powerful forces must be an important sacrifice by those giving them; trivial things that will not be missed are not enough. It seems reasonable to conclude that things like metalwork or parts of human bodies deposited in the right places and with due care were gifts to the powers of the world, however these were conceived.

Magic: a History, pp. 223-24

I Give That You Might Give

September 11, 2023

Transactions with the spirits of place through the giving of objects can be understood through the Latin phrase Do ut des—”I give that you might give.” If a spirit, god or power is nourished or honoured appropriately, it is expected that they will return the favour by maintaining the fertility of the land or of people, or by helping to guarantee general well-being.

Magic: a History, p. 223

Unacceptable Magic Is Usually Attributed to Foreigners

September 10, 2023

The wishes of an individual can conflict with the welfare of society as a whole, but examples of ‘anti-social’ magic are quite rare in the Egyptian record before the period of Roman rule. Many cultures have divided magic into acceptable and unacceptable types. When unacceptable magic is mentioned in Egyptian sources it is usually attributed to foreigners.

Magic in Ancient Egypt, p. 14

Through Magic We Can Explore Mutuality

September 10, 2023

Although apparently very different, magic and science have much in common. Both strive to understand how the world works and the manner in which people can benefit from its workings. Science divides the world into matter and energy and seeks the forces that shape them or the chemical and biochemical dynamics that animate all things. Magic sees spirits in the land, considers how people and animals are related, and tries to understand transformations around birth and death. The forces defined by science find echoes in magic’s insistence that spirits animate the world. Beneath our more superficial thoughts and discussions lie deeper intuitions and desires concerning our relationship with the world. Here magic and science diverge. The practices and philosophy of magic come from a sense of kinship with other living things, the landscape and the heavens. Through magic we can explore mutuality: how we are joined to the rest of the universe and the manner in which we can affect things around us through ways of participating, which have as a central element a set of moral concerns. Scientific understanding derives from abstraction, through the quantification of matter, energy and force by means of mathematics, but also through logical reasoning from elementary starting points, such as Newton’s Laws, towards the true profusion of the world. Science separates people from the world, whereas magic immerses us in it, raising also questions of our moral relationship with the universe in a way that science does not.

Magic: a History, pp. 12-13

Emphasis mine.

Evolution of Spiritual Powers

September 10, 2023

The Athena of The Odyssey, patroness of heroes and innovators, of those who live life to its fullest and live life at the edge, is herself at a transition point. She is evolving from the archaic and militant Mycenean deity of citadels, reflected in the raging war goddess of The Iliad, into the goddess of wisdom, of culture, and of civilization. This evolution of an archetype is an important informing motif of The Odyssey and is, I believe, the reason the entire poem is under the dominion of Athena. At a depth level it tells us as much about the growth of a god as about the growth of a hero. It is as much about the evolution of spiritual powers as it is about the growth of human consciousness. Studied from this perspective, The Odyssey becomes a sacred text and a drama of the highest mysteries.

The Hero and the Goddess, p. 42

Armies Are Like Prize Fighters

September 9, 2023

Armies are like prize fighters training for a bout: They reach a moment of supreme preparedness—muscles taut, reflexes swift, determination fixed at the highest pitch. But with a lull in activity they start growing flabby. This is what happened to [the Duke of] Parma’s invasion force [in 1587-8 C.E.]. All through that dismal winter, as the snows and freezing rains held the battalions in camp, the war machine began to disintegrate. Provisions were consumed at an alarming rate—Parma had to send the cavalry inland to scavenge—and budgeted funds began to give out. As spring passed, the men went unpaid and unfed, and they began to sicken and to desert. “We are bound to conclude that the delay is for God’s greater glory,” Parma wrote in exasperation to Philip, “but the Enterprise, once so easy and safe, will now be infinitely more difficult, and will incur a much larger expenditure of blood and trouble.”

The Armada, pp. 70

The “Johns Quarter”

August 19, 2023

[Glover] Johns…showed marksmanship for what it ought to be. This full colonel would stroll along the [rifle] range for a while giving encouragement and instruction, then stop by a soldier.

“You got a quarter, son?” he’d ask.

“Yes, sir.”

“Give me your rifle there.” The trooper would hand over his weapon. After taking a good hard look at it, Johns would turn to the kid. “Now you just throw that quarter up in the air. High as you like.”

The trooper would toss up the coin, and before he had a chance to blink, Johns would put a bullet—sometimes two—right through the middle of it. He’d hand back the kid’s rifle as the quarter ricocheted to the ground, and continue down the firing line until he got the urge to display his prowess once again.

The “Johns Quarter,” as it was called, was a sought-after prize. More than that, though, was the pleasure of watching him “produce” one. The troops loved it. Johns was a showman in the truest sense of the word (and he was also the first to admit it)—for him it was a basic principle of leadership.

About Face, Chapter 12

On City Walls

July 5, 2023

A city wall was made of whatever local material best served the purpose. In Sumeria and Babylonia, there is practically no stone or hardwood. In fact, the most abundant natural resource of these lands is mud. Hence, in Mesopotamia, walls were made of clayey mud. At first the mud was simply scooped up and piled in handfuls. Then it was found that a neater, straighter wall, without visible weak spots to invite attack, could be made by molding the clay into bricks and making the wall of these….

Where stone was to be had, city walls were made of stone—preferably the largest stones that could be moved with the techniques of the time. Even before mortar was invented, men could build a good, solid wall of small stones, which would stand up to the weather better than a wall of mud brick. But then, all an enemy had to do was to pry out a few stones with his spear, and down came a whole section of the wall.

Therefore, many early fortifiers made their walls of very large stones. They trimmed the stones to fit roughly together and stopped up the chinks by pounding in small stones. The sheer weight of the large stones kept the foe from pulling them out, especially if the defenders on top of the wall were raining missiles upon him. Such walls are called “cyclopean” because the ancient Greeks, seeing the ruins of rough walls made of huge stones, built several centuries earlier, thought that the large stones must have been put in place by the mythical one-eyed giants called Kyklopes.

To protect a city, any wall had to be at least 30 feet high and 15 feet thick. If the wall were much lower than this, a numerous enemy could overrun it with scaling ladders. And if the wall were too narrow on top, the defenders could not move along it fast enough to gather at threatened points.

A wall meant more safety, and greater safety fostered the growth of population, partly by natural increase and partly by immigration. As populations waxed, the crowding that ensued made it necessary to use the space inside the wall more efficiently. Therefore, in lands where round houses of stone or clay had prevailed, the round house gave way to the rectangular house; for an oblong house could occupy the whole of a small rectangular lot, whereas a circular house left wasted space at the corners….

Great Cities of the Ancient World, Chapter 1

The Earliest Cities Were Independent States

June 18, 2023

The earliest cities were probably independent political units of the kind the Greeks called a polis, which we awkwardly translate as “city-state.” Although this kind of polity nourished for thousands of years and gave the world many of its most creative minds, it has now almost wholly vanished.

The polis ruled enough land around it to feed its folk and, whether republic or monarchy, ran its affairs as an independent nation. Every native dweller regarded himself as a citizen of Larsa, or Tyre, or Athens, or Rome as the case might be and looked upon everyone else as a foreigner. He would fight like a fiend to defend his city but would seldom join forces with the people of another polis for defense against a common foe. Since groups of city-states were always divided among themselves by murderous hatreds, a strong outsider was likely to conquer them sooner or later, one by one.

The first cities were organized along the same lines as the peasant societies whence they had sprung. People were grouped into families, clans, and tribes, and each tribe had its own section of the city. Usually the city had a king, who might be a high priest who left the fighting to someone else or who might be a general who left religion to someone else. Or he might combine the military and religious functions.

Power shifted back and forth among the leading groups: the king and his supporters; the senate, a gathering of the heads of the richest families; the priesthood; and the assembly, a gathering of all the armed men. Poor men, women, and slaves, having neither wealth, supernatural powers, nor armed might, did not count for much. Sometimes the senate got rid of the king, or at least reduced him to purely ritual functions, and ran the resulting “republic” to suit itself.

Government was rather loose and informal. No ruler could afford to be very tyrannical, because it was too easy for his subjects to flee to a neighboring polis. The earliest kings dressed and lived much like their subjects. A visitor to a small polis was not surprised to find His Majesty thatching or painting his own palace, while the queen wove him a royal robe on her own loom and screamed at the royal children when they got out of hand.

When a polis grew large and powerful, its government usually became more autocratic and centralized. Then the king might set out to conquer his neighbors. In Iraq, for nearly 2,000 years, one ambitious king after another founded a short-lived empire. Such conquerors had an advantage peculiar to Iraq, which is mostly semi-desert and needs irrigation to flourish.

In early Sumerian times, irrigation was on a small scale; each polis dug its own canals regardless of what its neighbor was doing. When kings conquered large empires, however, they put all the canals under one management, because this was more efficient and enabled the land to support more people. This larger taxable population furnished the king with additional wealth and power and made it easier for him to extend his conquests still further. Since circumstances favored large-scale organization, as fast as one of these watershed empires fell, another arose in its place.

Great Cities of the Ancient World, Chapter 1

To Conquer By Yielding

May 29, 2023

Jiujutsu is the old samurai art of fighting without weapons. To the uninitiated it looks like wrestling. Should you happen to enter the Zuihokwan while jiujutsu is being practiced, you would see a crowd of students watching ten or twelve lithe young comrades, barefooted and barelimbed, throwing each other about on the matting. The dead silence might seem to you very strange. No word is spoken, so sign of approbation or of amusement is given, no face even smiles. Absolute impassiveness is rigidly exacted by the rules of the school of jiujutsu. But probably only this impassibility of all, this hush of numbers, would impress you as remarkable.

A professional wrestler would observe more. He would see that those young men are very cautious about putting forth their strength, and that the grips, holds, and flings are both peculiar and risky. In spite of the care exercised, he would judge the whole performance to be dangerous play, and would be tempted, perhaps, to advise the adoption of Western “scientific” rules.

The real thing, however—not the play—is much more dangerous than a Western wrestler could guess at sight. The teacher there, slender and light as he seems, could probably disable an ordinary wrestler in two minutes. Jiujutsu is not an art of display at all. It is not a training for that sort of skill exhibited to public audiences: it is an art of self-defense in the most exact sense of the term; it is an art of war. The master of that art is able, in one moment, to put an untrained antagonist completely hors de combat. By some terrible legerdemain he suddenly dislocates a shoulder, unhinges a joint, bursts a tendon, or snaps a bone—without any apparent effort. He is much more than an athlete: he is an anatomist. And he knows also touches that kill—as by lightning. But this fatal knowledge he is under oath never to communicate except under such conditions as would render its abuse almost impossible. Tradition exacts that it be given only to men of perfect self-command and of unimpeachable moral character.

The feet, however, to which I want to call attention is that the master of jiujutsu never relies upon his own strength. He scarcely uses his own strength in the greatest emergency. Then what does he use? Simply the strength of his antagonist. The force of the enemy is the only means by which that enemy is overcome. The art of jiujutsu teaches you to rely for victory solely upon the strength of your opponent; and the greater his strength, the worse for him and the better for you. I remember that I was not a little astonished when one of the greatest teachers of jiujutsu told me that he found it extremely difficult to teach a certain very strong pupil, whom I had innocently imagined to be the best in the class. On asking why, I was answered: “Because he relies upon his enormous muscular strength, and uses it.” The very name “jiujutsu” means to conquer by yielding.

The Overlook Martial Arts Reader, pp. 56-57


May 27, 2023

That morning as they rode past a town, a grey-striped cat made his way through the stream of people coming to market. There were animals enough on that road in that hour: horses and mules of course, and donkeys, and dogs, and pigs and cattle and sheep being driven to market, and here and there a quick-witted cat. But this one came direct to King Malcolm’s riding, lofted weightlessly to Edith’s saddlebow, and yawned in her face.

The puca seemed quite as much at ease in this world as in the other. What he was doing here, she did not know, but from the way he curled on the pommel of her saddle, he was not about to leave.

Some of Alain’s Bretons slid eyes at him. So did a few of Malcolm’s Gaels. They knew what they were looking at.

The puca met their glances. They looked away in haste. It was never wise to question the whims of the Old Things.

Edith took comfort in this one’s presence. There were folk of air enough, some of whom had followed her from the abbey, but a puca was a stronger power by far. A power for mischief, yes—but also a faithful ally who had sworn to her his service.

King’s Blood, Chapter 24

Emphasis mine.

Service Promised Was Service Given

May 22, 2023

There was a person in front of her. He was neither as tall as the fair ones who crossed the land in their ridings nor as small as the fey and lesser folk who populated both this world and the other. He looked quite human actually, if one disregarded the sharply pointed tips of his ears and the sharply pointed teeth, or the eyes as green and slit-pupiled as a cat’s. His hair was as brown as oak-bark, and he was dressed in green and brown.

“Puca,” she acknowledged him by name and kind.

He grinned and bowed. “At your service, lady,” he said.

She was very careful not to twitch. No word spoken in this world was heedless, and service promised was service given. “Indeed?” she asked. “Have I earned it?”

“Your destiny has,” said the puca, “and your magic. You’re blossoming into it, lady.”

“Like a nettle,” she said.

He laughed. He was not mocking her, she did not think. But then he sobered. “We’re not at ease with all of magic, either. Some of what’s been breeding and growing in Britain is frightening. Even the great ones walk wary of it.”

“The black places?” Edith asked. Even out of the body, the thought made her cold. “The places where it’s all rotted and dead?”

The puca nodded. “It scares us. It’s all wrong—and what ever it touches, it twists. It’s caught the Hunt; they’re ever turning on their own, and feeding on magic.”

“Won’t the rites of Beltane and Midsummer help?” said Edith. “Aren’t they supposed to feed the magic?”

“They do,” said the puca.

“You want me to do something,” Edith said.

The puca grinned. “Everyone said you had clear sight. Yes, we want something. We’re not sure what, yet. Just… something. Because you have so much magic, and your blood is what it is.”

“You want my blood,” Edith said. She was very calm. “Do you think it will help?”

“Maybe not that kind of blood,” said the puca. “We don’t know. Fate swirls around you—time comes to a center in you. But we can’t see how. Not yet.”

Well, Edith thought. She was born to matter: king’s daughter and descendant of kings. That she mattered to England came as no surprise.

“Britain,” said the puca. “You matter to Britain.”

“But England is—”

England is a shadow. Britain was there before it and will be there long after it is gone.

“I was born to England,” Edith said a little stiffly.

“Your mother was born to England. You are half a Gael, and all the magic is in you.”

Edith set her lips together. She did not know that she was angry. He was saying things she had thought for herself. But part of her was still her mother’s child, however little she loved the life her mother had meant for her. She had to defend it somehow.

“I won’t destroy England,” she said. “I’ll never agree to that.”

“We won’t ask it,” said the puca. Still smiling at her, he shrank and dwindled and shifted, until a sleek striped cat stood where he had been. His eyes were still the same, and his teeth not so different. He was purring loudly; his whole body shook with it.

Edith blinked. She had not expected that, even knowing he was a puca and therefore a shapeshifter. He crouched; she was prepared, somewhat, when he sprang to her shoulder.

His claws dug in, but gently. His purr was raucous. She caught herself smiling and stroking his fur. He was seducing her; but she did not mind.

King’s Blood, Chapter 16

Emphasis mine.

Reaching Through the Matrix

May 14, 2023

[Vasque] stepped to the [battle] suit and ran his fingers over first the plastron, then the sheared metal along the cut…. Hansen couldn’t judge the status of the smith and his apprentices. Vasque wore a gorgeously-embroidered tunic—though there was a cracked leather apron over it. Even the youths were dressed rather better than many of the warriors.

“Not much of a suit,” Vasque said. “Dilmun’s work, I wouldn’t be surprised, and he was never much.”

“Dilmun’s good enough to dress the Lord of Thrasey,” said Malcolm. “And as for this suit, there were three arcs on it together before it failed.”

“On a good day, I suppose Dilmun might be all right,” Vasque admitted grudgingly. He took the severed arm from the slave and worked the elbow joint with his hands as he peered at the cut. “Well, we’ll see.”

The sleeping youth groaned loudly and threw out an arm. After a moment, his eyes opened. The other apprentice helped him sit up on the couch.

Vasque handed the arm back. “Go on, boy, go on,” he said to the apprentice, making shooing motions with his hands. “There’s king’s work to be done.”

He turned to the slaves. “Lay it down by the couch, you. I’ll take care of it now.”

As the slaves laid the damaged suit full-length on the floor, the two youths positioned the [severed] arm by it so that the cut ends joined. Vasque himself stepped outside. He came back with his leather apron laden with bits of ore.

“Might need more than this,” the old man muttered, “but I think not, I think not….” He arranged his chips and pebbles around the severed arm with as much care as a florist creating a wedding bouquet…. [Then] Vasque lay down on the couch…. One of the youths took a polished locket on a thong from around his neck.

“Keep back, boy…,” the smith murmured.

His eyes, focused on dustmotes dancing in the light, glazed and closed. The apprentices watched with critical interest, while the slaves gaped with amazement as great as that which Hansen tried to conceal….

Vasque was shuddering in his sleep. Hansen gestured toward him. “Is he any good?” he asked Malcolm in an undertone.

“You won’t wake him,” said Malcolm in a normal voice, as though that were the only reason someone would want to discuss the matter in a whisper. “And yeah, he’s very good.”

The veteran smiled impishly. “Almost as good as Dilmun, I’d say. You’ll have a suit to be proud of.”

…The ore shifted around Hansen’s suit. The chunks on top of the pile slid as dust puffed away. As Hansen watched, a fist-sized lump he thought was magnetite crumbled as though in a hammermill. Bits of it drifted down through the interstices of the pebbles beneath it.

One of the apprentices bobbed his head in approval. “Look, he must be four centimeters away from the join,” he said. “Great extension!”

Malcolm sniffed. “The important part,” he said, ostensibly to Hansen, “isn’t how far a smith can reach through the Matrix for material but how well he stitches the result together. That’s the craftsmanship that keeps you and me alive, Lord Hansen.”

“That and skill,” Hansen remarked coolly….

Half the gravel piled on the shoulder of the battlesuit powdered and slipped to a flatter angle of repose.

Vasque shuddered like a swimmer coming out of cold water. His apprentices stepped toward him, one of them with a skin of wine or mead, but the older man waved them away. “There!” he gasped. “There, Lord Malcolm. Tell me about Dilmun now.”

“Although,” he added as he got to his feet and only then accepted the container of drink, “I checked the whole suit while I was in the Matrix, and it’s not so very bad after all….”

“How do we test it?” Hansen asked. Malcolm smiled.

“I get my suit,” he said, “we go out to the practice ground … and I see just how good you are, laddie.”

It wasn’t an especially nice smile; but then, neither was the grin that bared Hansen’s teeth.

Northworld, Chapter 10

Composite War Bow Was Revolutionary

April 2, 2023

…The simple wooden bow was a very old weapon which showed some important affinities with “civilian” devices used for kindling fire and for boring holes as well as with certain musical instruments. Its emergence as a specialized tool took place at some unknown time and place, and for millennia it was employed for hunting as well as for war. It so happened, however, that the rise of the chariot was soon followed by—if indeed it did not coincide with—the invention of the composite reflex bow, a very different weapon. Made of wood, sinew, and horn glued together, with each material carefully coordinated with all the others so as to yield the optimum combination of strength and flexibility, the composite bow represented as great an advance over its simple predecessor as did the breech-loading rifle over the muzzle-loading flintlock musket. Capable of firing arrows rapidly to an effective range of 200-300 yards, its power and effectiveness remained unsurpassed for several thousand years.

Technology and War, Chapter 1

Emphasis mine.

What Really Destroys Armies

March 25, 2023

Combat does not destroy armed forces; it merely hastens the process. The real killer is day-to-day wear and tear. Armies die by inches, not yards. Attrition is people and their equipment wearing out. Even in peacetime, up to 2 percent of combat aircraft can be lost to accidents and deterioration each year. In wartime, up to 50 percent of aircraft will be lost each year to noncombat wear and tear. Rarely more than 90 percent of armored vehicles will be in running condition at any one time. Those vehicles that are running will likely break down after going less than 500 kilometers. More important, people wear out, too. Without enough people to tend them, the machines wear out even faster….

Annually, disease and noncombat injuries often cause far more loss than the dangers of combat. Most major wars go on for years. Battles are relatively infrequent. As long as the troops are living in primitive field conditions, they are more prone to disease and injury. The annual loss rates in the wars of [the 20th] century, expressed in terms of average daily losses per 100,000 men, bear this out. Battle losses, killed and wounded but not prisoners, varied from a low of six per day in World War II theaters such as North Africa to over 200 Germans a day on the Soviet front. Soviet casualties were sometimes double the German rate. World War I had battles where the rate exceeded several thousand per day….

The World War I casualty rates, and the numerous mutinies they eventually caused, were not forgotten. The butchery of World War I made an impression, and the casualty rates were consistently lower in World War II. Since World War II, still more efforts have been made to protect the troops. Armored vehicles and protective gear have become more commonplace. Daily loss rates of 40 per 100,000, similar to the Western allies of World War II, can be expected in the future in a war between equally matched armies….

Non-battle casualties, primarily from disease and especially in tropical and winter conditions, regularly reach 200-500 men per day per 100,000 strength. Malaria alone can cause nearly 200 casualties a day. Another constant menace in populated areas is venereal disease, which can render ineffective as many as 40 men per day. Injuries often exceed battle losses. The troops tend to get careless in the combat zone. Vehicle and weapons accidents were so common in the past that they often reached 20 men per day per 100,000 troops….

It’s not unusual for armies to waste away to nothing without ever having come in contact with the enemy. Historically, natural causes have killed or disabled far more soldiers than combat. Many wars are won by the side best able to maintain the health of their troops. Perceptive military commanders have long recognized the substantial assistance of General Winter, Colonel Mud, and the carnage wrought by pestilence, poor climate, thirst, and starvation. An armed force may be an impressive sight. Yet people have to live. They must eat, sleep, and escape the elements. Disease and injury are ever present. Adequate medical care prevents minor afflictions from becoming major ones. More important is public sanitation. Many diseases thrive in careless accumulations of human waste. Public sanitation, even within an army on the move, eliminates the cause of most disease….

How To Make War, pp. 517-20

Vowed Himself to the Infernal Gods

March 12, 2023

[Publius] Decius Mus [was an early] Roman [Republic consul] who, when faced with an impossible battle, vowed himself (according to an old ritual of human sacrifice) to the infernal gods, along with whoever he killed and who killed him. He then charged the enemy line singlehanded and opened a hole the Roman Army under the other consul (Rome in those days sometimes took the field with both presidents) then used to defeat the enemy.

Legions of Hell, General Glossary

Now that is patriotism.