So I was reading through my last post about Ares and Athene, and I was feeling slightly dissatisfied. It was rather dry and academic, and I feel I should have talked about their related symbolism, added a prayer, or included something people could actually use in worship. With that, I’m writing for a second (but probably not the last) time today.
Ares and Athene share some symbolic attributes and cultic practices; some, like their dominion over war, are obvious, while their joint relation to owls or horses may not be. We’ll get that obvious stuff out of the way first, then move on to the more obscure stuff.
First, both gods are often depicted as armor-clad and ready for battle. Both Athene and Ares are often depicted as melee fighters, as well, using the traditional spear, shield, sword, and armor combination favored by hoplites. According to Homer, it is important to note, Athene doesn’t actually own the instruments of war; She borrows then from Her father, Zeus, when She has need of them, a nod to Her and Ares’ conflicting views toward warfare. Both are also related to the metal bronze, which the aforementioned armor and weapons were made of. Athene’s Spartan temple was even said to be encased in bronze.
Ares and Athene were more than just warriors. The people also worshipped Them as providers of fertility and bounty, as well. At Elis, suffering from depopulation due to war, Athene answered the prayer of the women there, that they may conceive of their husbands at their reunion; for this, Athene was named Meter, or mother. Ares, too, showed compassion for another. Near Mt. Kresios, the people dedicated a sanctuary to Ares Aphneios (the Abundant) for sparing the child His mortal lover Aerope, who died giving birth. Ares caused the deceased mother to produce milk for her child long enough for her child to survive before finding a wet-nurse. These are not typically what come to mind when you hear of Ares or Athene.
Ares and Athene often shared sanctuaries as well. In Athens, the sanctuary of Ares contained a statue of Ares, one of Athena, two of Aphrodite, and one of Enyo. It was here Athenians would sacrifice to Ares in remembrance of the war between Ares’ children the Amazons and Athene’s champion Theseus (this sort of behavior will be a topic for another post!). At the stadium in Olympia, the people of Elis would sacrifice to Ares Hippios and Athene Hippias (of horses) each month, though I found no evidence as to whether the sacrifice was actually a horse, a behavior attributed to Thrakians. The Spartans worshipped Athene as often as Ares, and though Ares’ cult there may be older, as the relics go, Athene was a chief divinity in Spartan life as both a defender and a healer.
Many people come to associate Athene with the owl, and that makes sense, as it is one of Her sacred animals; I’ve seen Her depicted with one in over half the images I’ve ever seen of Her. Most people don’t know however, that certain owls, namely the barn owl and the eagle owl, are sacred to Ares. In orinthomancy, these birds’ appearances, or even just their cries, foretell war, sedition, and discord.
I suppose I’ll close with a short prayer, and let you all meditate on the symbols shared by Ares and Athene and how you might incorporate those into your own practices.
Hear me Ares, God of the Brazen Spear,
Hear me Athene, the Aegis Bearer,
Attend to me and receive my prayer,
I pray, lend my Your strength that I may walk between You,
And keep from my ear the frightful cry of Polyphonte
Lend me the strength to walk with Themis,
And keep me chained to righteousness
Accept my humble sacrifice, Stormers of Cities and Killers of Giants
That I may walk between you, in peace.