I Give You My Word

“I give you my word”, was something we would say to confirm a legal contract."

Once upon a time, life was simpler. Now, we pay lawyers thousands of dollars to accomplish the same thing.

Government officials promise to uphold the laws of the land with their word. Through news events, the populace finds out that not all government officials keep their promises.

On any given day, two people promise to uphold the vows given in marriage. Several years down the road, those same two people find themselves in divorce court.

What has happened? Why is our word – our promises and our vows – such a temporary thing? Have we forgotten the understanding of the word ‘integrity’?

In today’s article, I talk about giving an oath. What is an oath?

An Oath

“Are these people telling us that we can go on adventures?”

According to Merriam-Webster (2021), an oath is a “solemn usually formal calling upon God or a god to witness to the truth of what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says”. I will add this from Dictionary.com (2021): “a solemn appeal to a deity, or to some revered person or thing, to witness one’s determination to speak the truth, to keep a promise, etc.”. Please consider the implications.

I do not know how far we can trace the history of giving an oath, but both Britannica and the Christian Bible push this back extremely far (how is that for accuracy). Regardless of its origin, the penalty for making a false oath or breaking a solid oath was severe. Severe enough to bring down vengeance from a deity! Again, imagine the implications! If only we considered the same repercussions before breaking our word in normal conversations with our friends and family today.

Image by Yuri_B from Pixabay
Image by Devanath from Pixabay

The Paladin's Oath

“Why am I pressing the issue?”

In fantasy role-playing games, and even in our religious and cultural mythologies, we can find the story of the Paladin. The Paladin is the holy warrior archetype. The Paladin differs from the (good) Cleric character class mentioned in a previous article. I likened the Cleric to the Knights Templar. The Knights served to uphold the laws of the Catholic Church. The Paladin serves a much higher purpose. The Paladin promises to conquer evil! Definitely – a much higher calling.

The definition of ‘evil’ is a debate for religious and philosophical scholars and will not be added to here. For this article, ‘evil’ is the generalized notion that people do bad things such as kill, steal, and destroy with intent. I do not include ‘natural’ evil – the destruction of life or property by natural catastrophes such as hurricanes, tornados, and floods. I do not consider these events to fall under the definition of ‘evil’ because I do not think nature is intentionally trying to cause harm to the people of the earth. Nonetheless, I could be wrong.

The Paladin’s oath to fight the war against evil is a sincere devotion to the cause. This oath will take a distinct form, depending on the deity served and the character’s backstory. I provide these oaths below with the purpose of thinking about how we – in our modern world – would take on an oath and serve a cause, even unto death. I give you my word.

Many Oaths

“Oath of Conquest”

The Oath of Conquest calls to paladins who seek glory in battle and the subjugation of their enemies. It isn’t enough for these paladins to establish order. They must crush the forces of chaos. Sometimes called knight tyrants or iron mongers, those who swear this oath gather into grim orders that serve gods or philosophies of war and well-ordered might.

“Oath of Devotion”

The Oath of Devotion binds a Paladin to the loftiest Ideals of justice, virtue, and order. Sometimes called cavaliers, white knights, or holy warriors, these paladins meet the ideal of the Knight in shining armor, acting with honor in pursuit of justice and the greater good. They hold themselves to the highest standards of conduct, and some, for better or worse, hold the rest of the world to the same standards.

Image by ArtCoreStudios from Pixabay

“Oath of Glory”

Paladins who take the Oath of Glory believe they and their companions are destined to achieve glory through deeds of heroism. They train diligently and encourage their companions so they're all ready when destiny calls.

“Oath of Redemption”

The Oath of Redemption sets a paladin on a difficult path, one that requires a holy warrior to use violence only as a last resort. Paladins who dedicate themselves to this oath believe that any person can be redeemed and that the path of benevolence and justice is one that anyone can walk. These paladins face evil creatures in the hope of turning them to the light, and the paladins slay them only when such a deed will clearly save other lives. Paladins who follow this path are known as redeemers.

Image by Mark Frost from Pixabay

And A Few More...

“Oath of the Ancients”

The Oath of the Ancients is as old as the race of elves and the rituals of the druids. Sometimes called fey knights, green knights, or horned knights, paladins who swear this oath cast their lot with the side of the light in the cosmic struggle against darkness because they love the beautiful and life-giving things of the world, not necessarily because they believe in principles of honor, courage, and justice. They adorn their armor and clothing with images of growing things-leaves, antlers, or flowers-to reflect their commitment to preserving life and light in the world.

“Oath of the Crown”

The Oath of the Crown is sworn to the ideals of civilization, be it the spirit of a nation, fealty to a sovereign, or service to a deity of law and rulership. The paladins who swear this oath dedicate themselves to serving society and, in particular, the just laws that hold society together. These paladins are the watchful guardians on the walls, standing against the chaotic tides of barbarism that threaten to tear down all that civilization has built, and are commonly known as guardians, exemplars, or sentinels. Often, paladins who swear this oath are members of an order of knighthood in service to a nation or a sovereign, and undergo their oath as part of their admission to the order’s ranks.

“Oath of the Watchers”

The Oath of the Watchers binds paladins to protect mortal realms from the predations of extraplanar creatures, many of which can lay waste to mortal soldiers. Thus, the Watchers hone their minds, spirits, and bodies to be the ultimate weapons against such threats. Paladins who follow the Watchers' oath are ever vigilant in spotting the influence of extraplanar forces, often establishing a network of spies and informants to gather information on suspected cults. To a Watcher, keeping a healthy suspicion and awareness about one's surroundings is as natural as wearing armor in battle.

“Oath of the Vengeance”

The Oath of Vengeance is a solemn commitment to punish those who have committed a grievous sin. When evil forces slaughter helpless villagers, when an entire people turns against the will of the gods, when a thieves' guild grows too violent and powerful, when a dragon rampages through the countryside – at times like these, paladins arise and swear an Oath of Vengeance to set right that which has gone wrong. To these paladins – sometimes called avengers or dark knights – their own purity is not as important as delivering justice.

“U.S. Military Oath”

I served in the United States Marine Corps. As with all branches, those who enlist swear an oath. This oath states:

I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God." (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).

I give you my word, and my word is true.

References

Dictionary.com. (2021). Oath. Retrieved from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/oath

Merriam-Webster. Oath. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oath

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