Towards Ares – Baby Steps

Ares. He is a god, and an intimidating one at that. He is said to blanket his bed using the skins of men he has slain. Doesn’t sound like the nicest god on the block, you know? Ares just seems a little- unapproachable.

People are often unsure of how to approach Ares, both ritually and as a supplicant or devotee. Ares is harsh and demanding. He is not a monster, however. He is as fierce a lover and father as he is a fighter. A cursory glance at his page on actually shows more specific incidents of Ares’ favor, rather than his wrath. Ares offers strength to those who are strong enough to take it.

As far as approaching Ares, my belief is that is best and most easily done in a formal, ritual setting, in prayer. The Orphic hymn to Ares suggests frankincense as an offering, which is easily available in stick, cone, and resin forms. You don’t even have to write your own prayer, if you’re unsure; use the Orphic or Homeric hymns.

If you’re feeling slightly more adventurous, seek out Ares’ domain- war. Now, I’m not saying you should just pack up your things an join the Army; that’d be a little extreme, albeit a very in-depth exploration. Find a veteran, from any war. If you don’t know any in your own life, many metropolitan areas have a Veterans Administration hospital which would gladly take a volunteer to keep lonely vets company. Talk to them about their service, but avoid the topic of combat unless they bring it up, at least at first. Combat, even indirectly, changes a person profoundly; some would rather not open old wounds.

Another thing you could try is engaging in a combat sport. I’m not talking about contact sports like football or hockey, though they are certainly violent in thief own right. No, try mixed martial arts, paintball or airsoft, fencing. A sport where, under other circumstances, would be considered lethal violence. It’s an interesting feeling, being shot at or having a rapier or fist coming at your face. In this age of institutionalized cowardice and femininity (no offense, ladies), even cartoon violence like in the Loony Toons is frowned upon. Experiencing a simulated life-threatening experience can bring you closer to the heart of Ares’ realm.

If that sounds entirely to active for you, just delving into Ares’ mythology can be enlightening. Did you notice that Ares is actually rather compassionate, despite his outward savagry? To my knowledge, Ares is never said to have raped a single man or woman, as is common in the mythologies of many of his family members. Ares, as chaotic and wild as he is, submits himself honorably to authority, such as in the Iliad and his trial upon the Areopagus. When transfiguring mortals into birds as a punishment, Ares shows mercy upon a woman who pleads with him not to turn her into a vile symbol; rather, she becomes a wood pecker instead of a buzzard or vicious eagle, whose presence is considered a good omen.

Approaching Ares doesn’t have to be hard. The most difficult thing you may have to do is get over your own hang ups, and Ares can certainly help you do that. Have courage, and be honest with yourself and Ares alike. You are only a mortal, and I personally doubt Ares will begrudge you anything but outright hubris. Open your heart and embrace Him.

10 comments on “Towards Ares – Baby Steps

  1. Kullervo says:

    Now, I’m not saying you should just pack up your things an join the Army; that’d be a little extreme, albeit a very in-depth exploration.

    This is a pet peeve of mine, and I have generated a fair amount of controversy around the web by voicing it in the past, but it bothers me that military service is so often–almost universally–summarily dismissed when pagans talk about war. I think that every pagan, or at least every pagan man, should at least seriously consider enlisting in the military reserves or their state’s National Guard (or their country’s equivalent) unless they have an absolutely compelling reason not to.

    We reflexively treat not-enlisting as the default, and I think that is backwards. Why not enlist? Why not join your state’s militia? Why not stand ready to go to war for your country when you are called upon?

    Yeah, military service is inconvenient, and the motivation behind a given war may be problematic. But that’s nothing unique to us–thats the way war has always been. The siege of Troy was ten years long, and really it was a personal grudge of the sons of Atreus coupled with a power play for economic domination of the region. It was not convenient for the soldiers who went to fight, and they weren’t exactly defending their homes and families.

    At least with the National Guard, you have a dual state and federal mission, and your state mission is defense of your homes. You get called up for disaster relief and security crises in addition to getting called up to fight overseas.

    And I’m talking about the reserves, for Ares’s sake. It’s not a little deal, but it doesn’t mean abandoning your civilian career or moving to live on a military post somewhere.

    I think a whole lot more pagans are more than capable of enlisting in the reserves or the National Guard than do, or even than give it serious consideration, and I think there’s something really wrong with that.

  2. pthelms says:

    Well, that’d be all well and good, except I have two qualms about that, Kullervo.

    One, our current military doctrine and leadership is pretty sub-par. They are politicians, not strategoi. Right now we’re in a period where the biggest concerns of most generals are on reflective belts and social issues, not warfighting. This is extremely detrimental to today’s soldier. When the leadership isn’t really concentrating on winning, it creates a complacency for violence, which is contrary to the aims of war. This foolishly and needlessly endangers both our current soldiers and future ones.

    Second, more pagans, especially of the eclectic neopagan variety, will only cause to further distract generals from the fight. Modern pagans like to drag around a lot of social and political baggage, and are usually quite content to share it. Oh no, the chaplain said Jesus, I have to file an EEO complaint! I’ve seen it happen, and it detracts from unit cohesion and thus mission effectiveness. I was against the repeal of DADT for the same reason- you have a job to do, you don’t need to be talking about who you’re screwing, whether you’re gay, straight, or whatever else you like doing with your genitals. It simply has no place at work, end of story.

    For those reasons, I’m not for telling everyone to just up and enlist. While I’d like to see greater volunteerism or even compulsory military service (especially to create a more stratified military, socio-economically speaking), I do not think it’s a good idea for the enterprise as it exists today. Couple that with the current fiscal situation, it just wouldn’t work. But that’s a different blog for a different day.

  3. Kullervo says:

    Fair enough. However, the point I am trying to make is not that I think the demographics of the military should include more pagans, but that I think that more pagans should be inclined to enlist in the military. The reflexive dismissal of actual enlistment in at least a reserve component that you find almost universally in pagan talk about the military–as if you’re not even allowed to talk about the value of the military without the obligatory “not everyone should enlist” preface–is absolutely baffling to me. Why is not-enlisting the overwhelming presumptive default? From a pagan point of view, that makes no sense at all.

  4. Apollodorosh says:

    Khaire Arēs, Khruseopēlēx Anax!
    Hail Arēs, Bronze-armoured Leader!

  5. pthelms says:

    I’ll tell you why Kullervo, it’s because paganism is all about being a vegetarian/vegan, setting up matriarchies, going to peace rallies and orgies, as well as majyking (I’ve seen magic spelled that way once) the crap outta everything in sight, so long as it conflicts with absolutely nothing, unless you feel like it. That’s why 😉

  6. […] Towards Ares- Baby Steps (* […]

  7. […] Towards Ares- Baby Steps (* […]

  8. Syna says:

    This is fascinating and much-needed check of many Hellenic attitudes. As a devotee of Athena, much of my internal impression of him was forged by their encounter in the Iliad. But while Athena does seem to have contempt for Ares at his worst, she does recognize the importance of gods who are sometimes antithetical to the principles she stands for in the place of the divine order, and I see I’ve probably been biased on her behalf.

    I do think violence is condemned, too — though, as with sex, it, and hypermachismo, are also glorified. But the glorification is not the true-to-life grittiness of Ares’ battle lust; it’s mindless caricature, simultaneously sold and condemned, creating this cycle of guilt and indulgence. To see something truer, both more visceral and more multifaceted, would give us a healthier relationship with it, I think.

    Also, did you have to make the “feminized” comment? :/ Come on; that’s a problematic assertion — at very best.

  9. […] Towards Ares- Baby Steps (* […]

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