I wanted to take some time today to comment on Ares’ relationship with Themis and his role as an arbiter of justice as well as both an instigator and bastion against civil strife.
Many of you may have followed coverage of the Occupy protest movement, as I have. With much of the heavy protesting over (for now), it is interesting to meditate and speculate on the role the gods may play in our civil affairs. Regardless of which side of the issue you find yourself upon, it is reasonable to believe that Ares certainly had his hand in the matter, and very possibly played both sides of the field.
In Homer’s hymn to Ares, he says,
“O defender of Olympos, father of warlike Nike (Victory), ally of Themis, stern governor of the rebellious… hear me, helper of men, … that I may be able to drive away bitter cowardice from my head and crush down the deceitful impulses of my soul. Restrain also the keen fury of my heart which provokes me to tread the ways of blood-curdling strife.”
It is interesting for Homer to write like this for Ares, considering the mostly unfavorable manner in which he is depicted in the Iliad. However, it does shed light on what the common man, not just the soldier, may sacrifice and pray to Ares for.
First, Ares is a defender of the heavens, and an ally of the divine order, Themis. This is extremely important given that though War is detestable and horrific, it stands as a partner to the highest Divine schema, thus encouraging us not to shun Ares for our own hang-ups.
Next I want to look at “stern governor of the rebellious.” This may seem antithetical to the chaotic portrayal of Ares in most of his mythology. However, it behooves us to note both the stories of Ares’ conduct following the rape of his daughter,Alkippe, and the punishment of the mortal Sisyphos. In the first, he executes the rapist of his daughter, a son of Poseidon, and is sent to trial in Athens upon what became known as the Areopagus. In the latter, Ares rescues the kidnapped Thanatos from the criminal Sisyphos, sending his soul to Tartaros. It is interesting to observe that in Plato’s “Laws”, agents of Ares act as a police force in Athens, rather than what may intuitively be the realm of Athena.
Following this, there is a plea for aid, to banish cowardice and vice from one’s soul. Warren Buffet, an extremely wealthy business mogul, spoke up on behalf of Occupy supporters when he revealed he had paid a smaller percentage of taxes than his secretary, a move thought by many to be refreshingly straight-forward and honest for a businessman. In a world where corporatism is increasingly demonized as amoral at best, and downright evil at worst, such honesty from the “1%” as they are called is nothing short of miraculous, and I feel this sort of reflection and self-evaluation is exactly what Homer is asking of Ares.
The last bit, in my opinion, was one of the most important points missed by either side of the issue, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m included in that. Both the “99%” and the “1%”, the left and the right, the people and the Man villified each other, which got us absolutely nowhere. People protesting were understandably upset with the system, but did little to change anything and simply railed against the Machine, whereas many in the establishment ranged between open contempt and being downright provocative. In the end, not many reined in their fury, and Eris and Ares had a field day. In the end, everyone was to blame.
As I wrap this up, I want to encourage all of you to take a moment to reflect upon Ares’ role as an arbiter of justice in the cosmic order, a companion of Dike and Themis. Reflect on your place in the scheme of the world, where you stand in terms of your own values, and whether or not you’ve been courageous enough to live those values in a manner befitting yourself and the gods. If you’re one of us who falters on occasion, pray to Ares for that courage. I’ll close with a little prayer you’re free to use anytime you find yourself slipping.
Hear me, O Brazen Ares!
You who walk with lovely Themis and righteous Dike,
who lends men strength in their time of need,
who destroys cowards and criminals,
I pray, banish from me the cowardice in my heart,
teach me to walk in Justice along the Divine Order,
destroy in me that which keeps me from the path of Virtue.