Last time in the Ares 101 series, I covered the reasons one might consider when deciding whether or not to build a shrine to Ares. So let’s say that’s something you are now contemplating doing. Where do we want to start? Let’s look at the bare essentials and move out from there. Keep in mind, the “essentials” aren’t so essential as in mandatory, but essential as in “this is generally what one has on a shrine regardless of who/what it’s for”. For ease of explanation, I am including photos of my current shrine to serve as inspiration, as well as some other from around the internet.
A cult image–cult images often serve as the focal point of any shrine. Many folks use a framed picture or a statue as their cult images. Sometimes, there is more than one cult image; my own shrine currently contains four. They can be simple drawings or complex paintings, simple effigies or elaborately made affairs cast from metal. Don’t think you need expensive stone or metal statuary to serve as your cult image; some of the most beautiful, like this one at Hellenion’s Temenos site, are a simple yet elegant homemade painting. In fact, I will always suggest a handmade, personal cult image over a run-of-the-mill one you can buy in a store. They’re much more meaningful, and make great gifts to the god.
Not all cult images depicted the god, however. The Thakians used an old iron sword, and weapons of all types have been used to represent the god, the spear in particular. The Corinthian helm is another iconic symbol of the ancient warrior and can be used to represent Ares among others. I have two statues that serve as cult images, one I’ve made and one bought online. I also have two other drawn images I use as cult images.
A Libation dish–libation dishes serve to hold liquids from libations. It is important you use a vessel that is not porous or can tarnish; wine is acidic and will eventually work its way through metal. Glazed clay or wax-sealed metal vessels are your best bet. Many craft stores sell both pre-fired vessels and a variety of clays for making your own dishes, and most can be sealed simply by paining them with food-safe acrylic paints or melted beeswax. If you have access to a pottery, you can buy or throw a small vessel and glaze your own. This is what I have done myself. I used an underglaze to include armor and weapon motifs and Ares’ name before adding a clear coat to seal the clay and make it watertight. As a matter of courtesy to the god as well as good hygiene, it is important to regularly clean your vessel so it does not develop mold.
Incense burner–the final item I would consider essential would be an incense burner. Depending on the type of incense you use, this could be a stick burner, a stone platform for cones, or even a metal urn for holding coals for use with resin incenses. I actually use both stick and resin incenses, so I have a wooden stick burner and a black metal urn filled with sand. I generally use the stick incense, but I will use the resin for special occasions. The benefit to sticks is that you can technically reuse the stick by putting it out and relighting it until it is gone, though I don’t know too many who do this. Resin incense is great because it creates a lot of fragrant smoke and is always dung free, unlike some cheaper sticks and cones.
Some other items you may encounter include a tablecloth to protect the surface of your shrine, a container for incense (I use soapstone jars for resin incenses), candles, and various devotional or votive offerings. Items common to Ares’ historical shrines included the weapons and armor of dead heroes and enemies as well. I welded together a wire frame Corinthian helmet to signify this,
Hopefully, This gives you enough information to start your own shrine for the war-god. If you want to go deeper into Ares’ cult, I suggest staying tuned in. In the next few posts, I will be covering 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 your decisions about whether or not to build a shrine, let everyone know in the comments. Until then, hail Ares!