Ares in Chains

One of the things that I think is important to discuss in the onus of the recent sexual abuse allegations within the pagan community is the theological importance we levy to our gods. Sannion touched on this briefly, but I wanted to expound on the myth of Ares’ trial for the retributive murder of Hallirhothios and the story’s theological and instructive value to both the polytheist community and pagans who assert archetypal philosophies.

 

Ares Kills Poseidon's Son

 

The myth is summed up as follows: Hallirhothios, a son of Poseidon, rapes (and this time in the myth, rape definitely means “sexually assaults”) Ares’ daughter Alkippe. Upon learning of the assault, Ares kills Hallirhothios. Poseidon, of course, is pissed, and so brings Ares to trial. Assembled before the rest of the gods, Ares and Poseidon give their cases, and the gods acquit Ares of wrongdoing; the place of the trial is renamed the Areopagus and becomes a place where the Athenians try capital cases.

 

This myth is significant for a variety of reasons. First, it sets up the first case of truly justifiable homicide. If you rape someone, it is justified–and some would say necessary–to kill the rapist. This precedent has trickled down to our modern legal system, where rape is a capital crime in places that have not abolished the death penalty. Even in places that have, many courts consider homicide in defense of self or another during the course of a sexual assault to be justified.

This is of course not to say that we can just go out killing abusers and rapists with impunity; you will go to jail if the homicide occurs after the fact, and of course the accused is still entitled to a trial. False accusations, though very rare, do happen, which is why courts can only justify violence in self defense during the commission of crime against you, and even then, self-defense laws vary from place to place. For more information about self-defense law in the US, follow this link.

 

Secondly, this myth demonstrates why it may be prudent to incorporate Ares’ cult into our community. It would be a slap in the face to victims to say, “Oh, if you only prayed to Ares more, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.” I’m not saying that nor would I attempt to. However, I feel that the sort of culture that Ares’ cult perpetuates, one of responsibility and care for victims, would be beneficial to the entire community.

Ares teaches us that “no” means “no,” and that the consequences for transgressing those boundaries of consent can and should be met with the most severe consequences. He teaches that someone will have the victim’s backs; by not fulfilling Ares’ promise (see below), we insult him and his charges. Ares can also bring courage to victims, and inspires the vulnerable to strengthen themselves when the strength of those charged to protect them fails. He is compassionate towards women and children, and his mythology attests to this. Yes, Ares is a violent, bloody god, but he is only wrathful towards those that transgress the law and make war.

Archetypically, Ares represents the upholder of laws and the protective father. Therefore, rejecting even the archetype of Ares is nonsensical for me. Ares, whose voice is louder than a thousand men, does not encourage silence. His companions are Justice and the Furies, those who send abusers to their doom. Make no mistake, the modern artistic depiction of Justice is dead wrong; Justice sees everything, carries a sword in her right (read [traditionally] dominant) hand, and keeps Ares, Oath, and Furies in tow.

 

Lastly, I feel this myth creates a morally binding promise between society and the innocent victims of abuse to advocate and seek retribution upon those who commit violence against the innocent. It describes a natural law, higher than any statutory authority, wherein victims must be made whole through justice. We can worry about PR and image and community structures AFTER we have begun to care for the hurt.

So please, don’t leave Ares in chains. We as a community cannot afford to break Ares’ promises. So hail Ares, that he may be at our backs and led behind Dike to the betterment of all.

For Yana

 Hear me swift Hermes, fleet-footed messenger,

Pray you fetch stern Dike to the fore,

And release for us cruel Ares, slayer of men.

Call before us the bloodthirsty father of tears and breaker of cities,

That we may beseech him, mighty bane of mortals.

Hear our prayer, o Succoror of Themis,

You who art gold broker of corpses.

Visit yourself upon the brother of Yana, together with your mighty host.

Feast upon his blood as is your wont, and visit upon him your terrible sons,

Fierce Phobos and terrible Deimos.

And let his flesh be rent and his soul torn,

His keeping left to the Erinyes, foul seekers of the wretched.

Give ear to your father, Zeus, who may judge him,

And let his place be Tartaros, foul place of the damned.

Deliver justice upon him, mighty Ares,

And let us feel solace in his torment.

PBP: B is for Brigands, Bandits, and Other Bad Guys

It seems that every once in a while, someone, somewhere in the Pagan community has to complain that there is an over-abundance of “fluffy bunnies” and “love & lighters” trying to shoot rainbows out their butts and turn the place into a paradise of sunshine and cotton candy clouds. These same people will then preach about the dark side, the benefits of the “left-hand path” and try to get all dark and mysterious. Rarely, however, do we talk about the people who take their dark side a little too seriously.

In the Golden Ass, a group of brigands sacks a town for fun and then sacrifice to Ares for their success. Ares sires many murderous children, many of them with beastly qualities, possibly one of the reasons Pausanias figured Ares’ name Theritas (beastly) was not in fact named for his nurse Thero.

Criminals are no strangers to the pagan community. Many organizations, especially of the neopagan variety like Mother Earth Ministries of Tuscon, AZ, train and send volunteers, write letters, and offer services to inmates who happen to pagan. I think it says how much our numbers have grown (generally speaking) that we need prison ministries (and also how well we may or may not police our own communities).

Then of course there are other interesting folks out there. One notorious name you may remember is that of Jonathon Sharkey. You may remember that this man ran for president a few times (most recently in 2012) under the auspices of the Vampyres, Witches, Pagans Party; he was also investigated for making threats against the president, as well as convincing a 16 year-old girl to run away with him. You can find a variety of folks on this whistle-blower site: Problematic Pagans. Accusations (substantiated or not) run the gamut from plagiarism to registered sex offenders. Have fun with that one.

Remember folks, not everyone is a nice friendly guy like me (cue laughing). But hey, we have a god for that (a few actually, but more on that later). Hail Ares!

Into the Light

Apparently, veiling is bad. Or at least, that’s what many of the comments on Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom‘s coverage of the 1st annual Covered in Light Day let on. It also seemed to me a minor negation of this post about Pagan “fundamentalism”. This is what I get for actually spending time over at Patheos, I guess.

Back to veiling, though.

As an Arabic linguist and analyst who extensively covered Mid-East politics, culture, and religion, as well as living a mere 6 miles from Dearborn, MI (the largest concentration of Arabs outside the Middle East, where the show All American Muslim is filmed), I’ve encountered veiling. A lot. I have to say, I’m really quite attracted to a woman in a veil, but then those that veil, in my experience are generally the nice, quiet religious types I usually go for (my girlfriend is a practicing Catholic). Never have I met a woman who veils because she was forced to. Yes, I have seen news reports about the rare incident of this happening, but those reports generally accompany news of honor killings and family dysfunction.

It is interesting that a simple, non-intrusive personal practice can get people so riled up, but I guess when you touch that one little nerve, some folks just go off. Maybe it’s a liberal versus conservative fight, though that just seems too simple, like a cop-out answer. Maybe it’s a traditionalist versus progressive fight, but even then, that boils down to essentially the same thing as the previous argument.

Either way, I feel that veiling has a valuable place in our pagan culture. In my mind at least, it conjures up a romanticized notion that the veiled woman is taken, if not in marriage than by her god or goddess. Is it submission? Maybe. I also view it as armor. It is an aspis against the world, a safe-haven for one’s peace of mind. There’s also a certain class to the veil. Something that says, “I don’t need to show off my body”. In this world where sex sells everything, it’s kind of nice to see someone who consciously avoids flaunting it.

And you know what, covering up isn’t just for women. For a very long time, gentlemen wouldn’t be caught dead outside without some form of hat. This tradition is maintained in the military, where one never removes their cover (headgear)outside, except for where doing so might be dangerous, such as on a flight line. I myself prefer to at least wear a hat when I wear a suit, whether it be my fedora (a real one, such as those worn in the 50’s) or, for very special occasions, my top hat. Truth be told, I own more hats than shoes, and not a single one is a baseball cap.

The whole hubub reminds me of one of my favorite scenes in the Seven Against Thebes. On the shield (an aspis/hoplon) of Polyneices, a veiled Dike leads Ares, clad in gold armor. This leads Eteocles to realize his father’s curse is finally upon him– he must now kill his brother, as Justice brings the curse of War to his gate. Doesn’t sound like oppression to me (at least for Dike).

Anyway, to make this long rambling short, Aspis of Ares supports Covered in Light day, and this warrior will be glad to relieve the role of Dike, and stand before the van in defense of those women, Pagan or otherwise, who choose to don the veil.

The Greater Aresia

Okay folks, here it is. I’m satisfied at this point with the Festival reconstruction I’ve been working on for the past month. After great consideration, I named the festival the Greater Aresia, following a pattern I noticed in naming conventions for festivals. This is of course, not the ancient name of the festival, as it was not given; this is purely UPG. You may also note that this is the “greater” festival — I am planning on making a ritual for untying Ares, to be called the Lesser Aresia

This festival is set in fall; I write about reasons for this below. I realize that means we have to wait a whole season and a half for this festival to occur, but you’ll get an idea why this is so further on. On the whole I think this is a good thing; it gives those who want to celebrate this festival time to review and become familiar with its themes and structures before it is thrust upon them in the calendar.

My heartfelt thanks go out to Lykeia and Lesley Madytinou for their help in reviewing this ritual and offering advice on style, structure, and timing. Without further ado, here we go.

***

Greater Aresia

Draft V 2.2

Pete Helms

Purpose:

Many have asked about why one may choose to  reconstruct  the worship of Ares, even within modern Hellenismos.You too may even have similar concerns about reviving his worship. Ares was, and still is,  seen as a negative force in the world by some, however, in His modern cult as well as  the ancient, people  have  called on the god for protection, prosperity, and hope. The context in which I write this ritual is similar to that found in the region this festival originated in, Syedra in what is now  southern Turkey.  Like  Syedra, many of us in the West face physical threats from foreign lands and economic insecurity due to  predatory financial systems and the pressures of conflict. The ancient Syedrians, as we, searched for a solution to these issues and were proscribed a festival  meant to ensure the favor of Ares, who might otherwise turn against them.

Today we face even greater challenges, such as international terrorism, riotous populations and political instability, and economic woes bordering on  financial depression. In reconstructing this festival, we may hope to re-establish the reciprocal relationship with Ares that was shared in  centuries past, and perhaps even share in the peace and prosperity the god promises to ensure.  For those who may have qualms about worshipping Ares, this festival serves as a tangible reminder that the poets of great fame , such as Homer, and the often misunderstood nature of the myths are not the end all be all of Hellenic Religion. Rather, Ares’ role in the pantheon, in our daily lives, is about more than violence and calamity. In addition, I hope this ritual fills the needs of the scattered peoples who still do pour libations and offer sacrifices to Ares and helps fill the wide gap in available liturgical material within Ares’ modern cult.

Historical Background and Synopsis:

One feature of Ares’ cult in ancient Greece, and Asia Minor in particular, was an annual festival  of binding Ares in chains; even where no festival is held, depictions of Ares in chains were common throughout the Greek world. The strongest evidence we have of this cult festival is an inscription of an oracular statement, attributed by Lewis Robert to the oracle of Apollon at Klaros, though Matthew Gonzales, author of  “Cults and Sanctuaries of Ares and Enyalios,” believes it more appropriately came from the oracle of Ares at Termessos. Syedra, the city which the oracle addresses, was at the time under constant threat of pirates and brigands. Here is the text as translated by Robert#:

Pamphylians of Syedra, who inhabit a rich land of mixed men in

shared fields, plant a statue of bloody, man-slaying Ares in the

middle of the city and beside (him) perform sacrifices as you

bind him with the iron bonds of Hermes, and on the other side

let Justice administer the law and judge him; let him resemble a

suppliant. Thus will he become a peaceful deity for you, once he

has driven the enemy horde far from your country, and he will

give rise to prosperity much prayed for. And you, at the same

time, take great pain, either chasing them or placing them in unbreakable

bonds, and do not, out of fear of the pirates, pay their

terrible penalty. For thus will you escape from all degradation.

Theological and Mythological Notes and Ritual Themes:

I want to explain, briefly, the theological ideas at play within the ritual, the  roles of Ares, Dike, and Hermes in the process, and mythological  allusions and how it relates here.

Some may view the chaining of a god as blasphemous or impious. While the imagery is certainly provocative, binding cult images was common in ancient Greece, and cannot necessarily be said to be hubris. Remember, the statues are only images, not the gods themselves.

The relationship between Ares, Dike, and Hermes is well attested in ancient myth and literature. When Ares is captured by the Aloadae Giants, He is freed by Hermes. When Ares is to come before the gods on the Areopagus, it is most likely Hermes who led  Him there. When bringing the mythical criminal Sisyphos to justice (Dike) for capturing Thanatos (Death), Hermes and Ares work in tandem. In the plays of Aeschylus, Ares is the agent of Dike, bringing retribution upon murderers and the breakers of oaths. He is even depicted on a shield within  the Seven Against Thebes, where he is led by Dike; it is there that the characters learn what fate befalls them.

 The themes of this festival and its rites concern protection, prosperity, and justice. By propitiating Ares, we hope to invoke His favor and protection on our community. Hermes is not only worshipped here as a liberator from oppression and unjust violence, but He helps us approach Ares in a diplomatic and respectful manner. Dike is approached not only in Her own right as a hater of injustice and falsehood, but the agent by which Ares is led to be peaceful and ensures prosperity.

Please note that this ritual is being written for at least three participants, in the hope that as our numbers grow, we can worship together as we were always meant to. With that in mind, I will leave enough flexibility to adapt the rites for solitary use. Always feel free to do what you feel is most appropriate; this script is a guideline, not a dictate of divine law.

A Note on Timing:

Within the period of researching this festival, no date was given for holding the festival day. After consulting with more knowledgeable and experienced polytheists, I have made the decision to place this festival on  5 Pyanepsion. I came to this decision based on the following criteria:

    • Being late in the Gregorian month of September to early  October, the military campaign season is ending.  Now that the time for war is over, and Ares has “driven the enemy hoard far from your country”, Ares can  return from battle to the polis.
    • Due to the intention of providing for the prosperity of the polis, I wanted to place this festival before the agricultural rituals that follow in the days after, so as to strengthen that connection between Ares and abundance, prosperity, and communal self-assurance.

Supplies:

I suggest a number of supplies for use in this ritual. Some objects are tied in general to the cults of Ares, while others are more generic. Feel free to modify the list as you see fit to conform to your style, budget, and resources.

  1. Images of Ares, Dike, and Hermes. I suggest using three separate images, because the ritual is written with the assumption that they will be separate and later bound together. I also prefer to use statues, as they are not only more suited to being bound with chain, they also conform to the mandate of the oracle. If statues are not in your budget, feel free to improvise. You may use paintings, clay figures, or even human actors, if there are enough participants.
  2. A small chain.  I suggest a small chain such as those used for jewelry. You may choose to use a plain necklace, or you can buy prefabricated links at many craft stores and make your own chain. Ensure that the length is sufficient to bind the images together, and that it flexible enough to easily wrap around whatever image you use. I have found a chain approximately 20 inches is sufficient.
  3. Khernips and Barley. Both of these substances are used for purification purposes at the start of the ritual. Considering the gravity of the festival, ritual purity from miasma is important and will be emphasized within the actual rites.
  4. Offerings. While wine and incense are standard, you may wish to dedicate other offerings as well. My favorite wine is a Greek variety from Nemea called Kouros, though you can of course use any variety (or none) you wish. For incense, I suggest following the Orphic standard for Ares, frankincense. One alternative is sweet myrrh, but any incense should do. I do think one should avoid dragon’s blood, to avoid invoking the wrath of the god, but this is my own UPG and should not be taken as law.
  5. Miscellaneous Supplies. Make sure you have a safe container for incense, any candles or lamps, or any other heat source. If using candles, as I do, red is a striking color and is associated with Ares. You may also wish to have pitchers and glasses for wine and other liquid offerings, and baskets to hold other offerings.

Preparation:

The setup of this ritual is rather simple. Construct an altar as you see fit, but put aside the image of Ares and the chain for now; these will be part of the procession. Coins from the area the festival was celebrated depict Hermes on the right of Ares and Dike on the left, and so I arrange my altar this way. For this ritual, I chose to leave Ares off the altar initially, to be led “resembling a suppliant” as part of the procession as an echo of kthartic practices from the Odyssey and Argonautica. Purify and dedicate the altar as you see fit, and lite any candles, lamps, or charcoal for incense then prepare for the procession. One item you may wish to include on your altar is a miniature flag representing your group, region, or country, as this is essentially a protective rite meant to ward the entire polis.

Pomp:

This procession is intended, unlike at some other festivals, to be somber and silent, again reflective of Ares being led as a suppliant. The first person in the procession should carry the image of Ares, and place it upon the altar when arriving at the ritual space. The second person in the procession is the chain-bearer, who will do the actual binding of Ares. It is important that this person be deemed the purest of the group. While each group may use its own criteria to qualify the chain-bearer, some potential criteria may include a short period of sexual abstinence or fasting prior to the festival, in addition to normal purification rites. The third, and any subsequent members of the procession, shall act as basket-bearers, water-bearers, etc. who carry offerings and other materials to the ritual space. If you are working alone, or with only a second person, place any offerings at the edge of the ritual space before the procession. However, the separation and reintegration of Ares to the altar remains integral to the mood of the ritual, so I still suggest conducting the procession by leading Ares to the altar.

Purification and First Offering:

While participants should be expected to have performed purification rites appropriate for the festival prior to arriving, a short rite of purification using khernips is appropriate and will abolish any incidental miasma. Sprinkle the altar with the khernips and say a blessing as appropriate; some groups like to say, “Let all profane ones depart!” which is acceptable as it is short and simple. Each member of the rite should then wash their hands and face to cleanse themselves. Participants may then give the initial offering of barley to the gods.

Hymnodia:     You may begin the ritual with hymns to Ares, Hermes, and Dike as you feel appropriate. I enjoy the Homeric hymns over the Orphic, but that is a matter of personal preference. Below are prayers tailored to the ritual, and you may choose to use these as well. Begin by offering libations and thanks to Dike and Hermes for their assistance in the matter at hand, using these words or others. They can be spoken as a group, or different individuals can each address a different god.

To Hermes:

Dear Hermes, cunning lord of boundaries

Hear our prayer and be with us this day

To you, Pyschopompos, who leads the blessed and liberates

The righteous from bondage, Come, we pray

Lead before you the Man Slayer, the Companion of Dike

Bring Him before the altar in our time of need

Accept this offering, Swift son of Thundering Zeus

*pour libation or give other offering*

Dike, sweet Dike, Righteous daughter of Most High Zeus

Hear our prayer and be present

Most Just supporter of Cities, Enemy of Falsehoods

Attend to us, sweet Justice, and call forth the Brazen One

Call him to stand before us and defend the Righteous

Accept this offering that we may be judged worthy

*pour a libation or give another offering*

Now, the group addresses Ares. This address is designed to be a little more flexible, as I mean for it to address the ills current to the group or individual. This first hymn will be a bit vague, but I encourage you to make it more specific to add to the gravity of the festival.

Obrimos, Avenging Protector, hear our plea

Take heed of Kind Hermes and Just Dike, follow Their call

Come to this place and avenge us our suffering, succoror of Themis

Ares, son of Merciful Zeus and Hera the Queen

Accept our offerings and withhold from us Strife and Injustice

Binding and Sacrifices:

After the initial hymns and invocations have been recited, the person acting as chief priest shall instruct the chain-bearer to come forward. At the appropriate cues during the rite (marked by asterisks [*]) the chain-bearer will first bind Ares in the chain, then leads one end to Hermes and another to Dike, for a total of three actions. I find that wrapping the chain first around Ares’ shoulders, then His arms works best, using the center of the chain. From each arm, lead an end to be lightly fastened to the arm of Dike or Hermes at the appropriate part of the rite, again by winding the chain along the statue or other image. Use these or similar words:

We come before you, mighty Gods, as suppliants

In our hour of need for your aid

We are as a mixed people with enemies at our gates

Eris waits at our door, and Hunger, Fear, and Death are near

Ares, Lord of War and Abundant Father,

Would you not be bound to protect your people?

Pray we that you may be yoked to us*

Ensure the prosperity of our land and protect us from peril, Strong Ares

Be committed in bonds to Hermes, the Giver of Joy*

Let him lead you in justice as he has led you to us

Walk behind stern Dike, your sister and companion

Let her lead you to the house of Themis and be just*

Accept from us these offerings, dear Ares

Allow us to dance with Harmony as you have danced

Allow us recompense from our enemies and from thieves

At this point, each person who has prepared an offering should leave it at the altar. Some ideas for offerings may be tokens symbolic of one’s commitment or accomplishments serving the community, art or hymns depicting Ares as a protector of the people, or votive offerings in recompense for previous pledges now fulfilled. One activity you may choose to do, if worshipping in a group, is to acknowledge each other’s accomplishments and raise a toast to members who have gone above and beyond in serving others.

Closing:

 With the ritual now complete, you may wish to say a few prayers of thanksgiving for the attention of the gods, and pour further libations. An example of closing hymns may be similar to this:

Rejoice, oh men, that the Gods have come

Strong Ares, Swift Hermes, and Stern Dike

Our gifts are offered as thanks to You

Who nourish us, oh Gods, with mercy  just

Thank you, Brazen God, that we may know the cover of your great Armor

Thank you, Liberator, for freeing us from the tyranny of uncertainty

Thank you, Enemy of Falsehoods, for banishing  the unjust  and ensuring  peace

If part of a group, a feast following the conclusion of the rites can definitely occur. The mood of the festival should swing from somber and muted at the beginning to more jovial and relaxed towards the end. Having (hopefully) ensured Ares’ graces will benefit the community; focus should shift from negative, looming problems to positive, hopeful optimism.

Some activities to follow the ritual and feast can occur to help the group come together further. Perhaps you can have a symposium, discussing the issues facing you immediate community and brainstorming possible solutions. For the athletically minded, you can have a wrestling match. You could also write and act out a short play referencing Ares’ bondage at the hands of the Aloadai, or read from The Seven Against Thebes, which details in drama Ares’ relationship with Dike.

Sources*

Alexander, Timothy Jay. Hellenismos Today. Raleigh, NC: Lulu, 2007. Print. 43-54.

Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985. Print. 99-108.

Campbell, Drew. Biblion Demois: A Manual for the Hellenion Demos. V 1.0.

Hellenion.org, Hellenion. 16 Oct, 2001. Web. 10 Feb, 2012.

Gonzales, Matthew Paul. Cults and Sanctuaries of Ares and Enyalios: A Survey of the Literary, Epigraphic, and Archeological Evidence. Diss. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004. Print. 36-60.

        –The Oracle and Cult of Ares in Asia Minor. Manchester, NH: St Anselm College, 2005. Print.

* Please note that the lack of in-line citations and only single footnote are intentional. I felt in-lince citations and the like would detract from the flow and purpose of the writing, which is religious, not academic. If you require specific selections to be cited for your personal use, please email aspisofares@gmail.com.

The Dogs of War

Whilst researching the cultic connections between Ares and His sister, Athene, I could not help but to be intrigued by the commonalities between Ares and Hekate as well. Ares and Hekate have odd symmetry at times, from cult sacrifices to titles, and even symbolism. I wanted to take time today to speculate on possible links and associations within their myths and cult, and what we might do to incorporate those in our own practices.

As the title of this post may suggest, both Hekate and Ares are associated with dogs. Hekate is often depicted in art as being accompanied by a female dog, a companion she gained when Hekabe threw herself from the walls of Troy. Though Ares, to my knowledge has never been depicted with a dog in art, He is nonetheless associated with dogs through His dominion over war and, more specifically, His cults in Sparta and Thrake.

It should be interesting to note, that of all the various victims in Greek sacrificial practice, dogs were only offered to two divinities: Ares and Hekate. Pausanias describes these sacrifices as both rare amongst Greeks and chthonic, using a black puppy as the victim and the ritual taking place at night, often in seclusion. Spartan ephebes would sacrifice a puppy to Ares Enyalios as an offering before ritual combat, as Pausanias says, “… holding that the most valiant of tame animals is an acceptable victim to the most valiant of the gods”. Pausanias went on to describe that the people of Kolophon, near Ephesus, also sacrifice puppies to Hekate in this way. Speculation on the origin of this practice occurred even in ancient times; I suspect it may have originated in Thrake, as both gods have prominent cults in the region, and have a greater variance of sacrificial victims than on mainland Greece, however it may be a hold-over from more archaic Greek practice. For a more in-depth look at dogs in Greek religion, see Lykeia’s recent post “Of dogs and wolves“.

One oft-overlooked connection between Ares and Hekate is the symbolic use of the torch. Hekate’s association with torches is common knowledge; She is often depicted carrying two torches, and seeing that her cults are mainly chthonic and take place during darkness, it makes sense for Her to carry a light source. Most people miss the connection of Ares to torches, however. In later Hellenic warfare custom, and early Roman, it was tradition that when two armies met, the ground on which they fought must be cleansed and sanctified. This was done possibly to lessen the miasma that occurs when blood is shed. Each army would send forth a torch-bearer to the center of the field, who would then throw their torches in the direction of the opposing army, thus consecrating them and the battlefield. It was actually considered a war crime to harm these men until they had rejoined their lines, because as some historical texts indicate, these men were considered priests of Ares.

Now, this loose connection can not be said to actually link the two gods in any definitive way; it is simply an association. However, I feel it can be speculated that, in these instances, the symbol of the torch is both purifying and protective. It could also be speculated that the torch is as a badge of office, as in the case of Ares’ torch bearers, as well as Hekate as a guide to the dead. Both gods do deal significantly with death, and both have been called terrible or frightening and destroyers. It may be that they are more closely tied, at least in function, than previously thought, which leads me to the last significant detail.

Hekate’s associations with witchcraft and curses is well-known to many, much to the chagrin of many modern Hellenic Polytheists who feel modern neopagans co-opted Hekate and turned Her into a distortion of Her original form. While I won’t comment on that here, Hekate has been called on in the past to both aid and work against witches, including acting as the bringer and fulfiller of curses. Cursing was a serious act in the ancient world; you could be put to death for practicing magic and cursing people, even in ancient Hellas.

It may surprise you that Ares was also invoked as an agent in retributive curses. In Aeschylus’ plays, Ares leads two brothers, doomed by a curse uttered by their dying father, to die at each other’s hand. The brothers, fighting over their inheritance, find out too late that Ares is the agent of their father’s curse, and Ares, led by Dike and accompanied by the Furies, lays the brothers and their armies low. Two of Ares’ sacred animals, the barn owl and the eagle owl, fly by night, and are portents of sedition and war. Interesting that they may be nocturnal, creatures at home in Hekate’s realm…

So, now armed with this knowledge, how might we incorporate this into our rites and practices? Personally, up to this point, I have barely acknowledged Hekate in my personal devotions. This information, however, does give me ideas.

The very first thing that came to mind was to sacrifice a votive pair of dogs to both Hekate and Ares. My plan is to carve a pair in wood, and to paint them black. Perhaps then I may leave one at a crossroads, for Hekate, and dedicate the other before a airsoft battle, for Ares. I think this would appropriately fulfill the spirit of the ancient sacrifices, while at the same time avoiding having to actually kill a puppy.

Speaking of puppies, I would also encourage you to contact your local animal shelter to see what you can do to help. If you can, adopt a dog, as many who do not become adopted are euthanized. Or, visit a no-kill shelter and volunteer some time to play with the dogs there, as dogs who are socialized are more likely to be adopted. In the United States, there is also a special organization called  Soldier’s Best Friend, who train service and therapy dogs for veterans and service members with PTSD and TBI. SBF often uses rescue dogs, and you can apply for one for vets you know, or donate on their website, linked above.

Another way to represent both Ares and Hekate as part of your home shrine is to keep a small candle or torch. Unless you can do so safely, never leave a lit candle or torch going continuously or unattended. If you have the space, you can even install brackets for torches, and I’m sure I’ve seen modern electric torches if you are so inclined. Certainly, torches are appropriate for outdoor rituals, both private and group affairs. As always, remember to be safe, and avoid using fire in dry areas or in high winds, which may blow hot ash and start a wildfire.

One last tidbit I might suggest is also to honor Ares as part of Hekate’s Diepnon, though you may wish to perform some sort of divination beforehand to avoid offending the goddess.

I hope you enjoyed this little survey of similarities and links between Ares and Hekate, and I hope you learned something, as I did. In the meantime, Hail Ares!

New Devotional Art

As an addendum to my previous post, I’ve begun the preliminary stages to a votive piece for the Binding festival I plan on reconstructing.  Originally created around a group of statues, the festival celebrated the binding of Ares by Hermes and Dike, where the people would chain Ares anew to renew their pact with the gods. My piece will imitate this in relief. Here’s a preliminary sketch on the marble I plan to carve this in.

On the right is Hermes, center is Ares, and on the left Dike. Chains are drawn for now, but when the carving is complete, I’ll add pins and a silver chain to the piece. I’m still trying to figure out what date to set for the festival, as one was made clear, but once it’s ready, it’s going to be hardcore. If it turns out well, I also plan to make a cast of the set and reproduce the whole thing for others.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Hail Ares!