In the previous Ares 101 post, I wrote about answering Ares’ call and making first contact with the god. Now that you’ve met Ares, it’s time to start leaving some offerings to begin building kharis. I will describe some of the traditional offerings given in the ancient and modern cult, as well as some ideas to try out if you are so inclined based on the level of involvement and/or scarcity of the objects.
Level One: The Basics
Like most gods of the ancient world, Greek or otherwise, incense, wine, and blood are common sacrifices or offerings to Ares. The Orphic hymn to Ares suggest using frankincense, which was a very common scent in the ancient world. Depending on your situation, you can use pure resin, which is burnt on charcoal, or you can use sticks, cones, or oils. I generally use the resinous form when I do larger, more important rituals as it is easier to time and produces a stronger and more voluminous scent. Otherwise, I use stick inscense as it travels well and is rather versatile. Whatever you choose to use, I suggest buying the nicest quality product you can afford; it is a gift for a god, after all, and lower quality incenses can have terrible scents or contain too many impurities, which may harm health (especially to pets). As far as other scents, I have also had luck with sandalwood, but I would avoid dragon’s blood.
Wine is another common offering. For Ares, I generally choose strong, dark reds imported from Greece. A favorite is the brand Kouros, which hails from Nemea and is known colloquially as the “blood of Heracles”. As a matter of taste, I don’t mix wine for the gods, especially Ares. If you are too young to buy or consume wine, I would substitute water, as that is the lifeblood of the military. It’s one of those commodities essential to fighting; you can continue fighting without food and ammunition, but even a day without water in combat and you’re going to be hurting, badly.
Blood sacrifices are great offerings. However, because most people can’t afford a whole animal to sacrifice, or have the proper skills, legal environment, and other resources required to make it work, this sort of offering seems to be off the table for most. It doesn’t necessarily have to be, however. I have performed mock blood sacrifices to good effect. Select a cut of meat that retains both fat and bone, and save any blood left in the packaging. The best cuts will be kosher/halal, as the methods used to raise and slaughter the animal are very similar to how the ancients slaughtered animals for sacrifice. Trim away the best fat off the muscle and remove the bone–I find lamb shanks to be the best offering for this type. Keeping the purpose of offering in your mind, roast the meat over an open flame, and wrap the bone in the fat, offering this portion to the god (as this is their allotment by decree of Zeus). I usually sprinkle the blood about the fire first as an opening to the ritual. It’s not the lifeblood, but serves the same purpose.
Level Two: Votive and Dedicatory Offerings
Votive and dedicatory offerings are generally objects, often some kind of art object, that are given to the god. The object then becomes the property of the god, and should not be used for any other purpose without permission. The main difference between votive and dedicatory offerings is the impetus for giving the gift. Votive offerings are given upon giving a vow to the god, or upon completing the stipulations of a vow. Dedicatory offerings are those gifts given just because, much like giving flowers to your sweetheart.
Both types of offerings can be either bought or built, but making your own will obviously have more meaning. In my experience, the object needn’t necessarily be of museum quality, as long as the object was your actual best effort. You can dress up the offering with as much ritual as you please, but with Ares, I generally just place the object on the shrine with a curt nod (the standard guy greeting) and go about my business. These offerings can be as complex or as simple as you wish.
Level Three: Event Offerings
Event offerings, though they can be as simple as a libation, are on a level all their own because they generally arise under specific, often infrequent circumstances, be they required* for a holy day, specific act, or in response to an oracle/UPG. For instance, in Sparta, it was customary to sacrifice a puppy to Ares before ritual combat, and the enemy was consecrated in true battle by priests wielding torches so as to avoid the miasma of bloodshed. Obviously, these are not everyday circumstances. Obviously, if you are a college student, a stay-at-home mom, or a farmer, these offerings will have little to no meaning for you. They require people to be aware of their own circumstances and their surroundings. They also generally call for more study and dedication than basic worship. For now, unless you are called to or find yourself in such circumstance, you needn’t worry about such offerings just yet. Rest assured, however, that I will cover these at a later date.
* I use the word required because as a general rule, when you reach the point of these offerings, Ares considers thing less optional, at least in my experience.
Leaving an offering to any god, Ares included, doesn’t need to be a reason for stress. Ares may be the foreboding type, but he is also acutely aware of the limitations of mortals, and as a gracious father, will most likely make allowance for early stumbles. Sincerity and honesty are key to piety, and if you plan to go beyond simple lip service (if you don’t, still no harm done), then be ready to be scrutinized far more thoroughly than anything our cheery friends at the NSA can muster (hi guys!).
Hopefully this should be enough information to keep you going. If you want to go deeper into Ares’ cult, I suggest staying tuned in. In the next few posts, I will be covering shrine-making tips, symbols for representing Ares, holy days and more. If you have any topics you wish to see covered, or have any suggestions or comments regarding offering you’ve given to Ares, let everyone know in the comments. Until then, hail Ares!