Ares in Chains

One of the things that I think is important to discuss in the onus of the recent sexual abuse allegations within the pagan community is the theological importance we levy to our gods. Sannion touched on this briefly, but I wanted to expound on the myth of Ares’ trial for the retributive murder of Hallirhothios and the story’s theological and instructive value to both the polytheist community and pagans who assert archetypal philosophies.

 

Ares Kills Poseidon's Son

 

The myth is summed up as follows: Hallirhothios, a son of Poseidon, rapes (and this time in the myth, rape definitely means “sexually assaults”) Ares’ daughter Alkippe. Upon learning of the assault, Ares kills Hallirhothios. Poseidon, of course, is pissed, and so brings Ares to trial. Assembled before the rest of the gods, Ares and Poseidon give their cases, and the gods acquit Ares of wrongdoing; the place of the trial is renamed the Areopagus and becomes a place where the Athenians try capital cases.

 

This myth is significant for a variety of reasons. First, it sets up the first case of truly justifiable homicide. If you rape someone, it is justified–and some would say necessary–to kill the rapist. This precedent has trickled down to our modern legal system, where rape is a capital crime in places that have not abolished the death penalty. Even in places that have, many courts consider homicide in defense of self or another during the course of a sexual assault to be justified.

This is of course not to say that we can just go out killing abusers and rapists with impunity; you will go to jail if the homicide occurs after the fact, and of course the accused is still entitled to a trial. False accusations, though very rare, do happen, which is why courts can only justify violence in self defense during the commission of crime against you, and even then, self-defense laws vary from place to place. For more information about self-defense law in the US, follow this link.

 

Secondly, this myth demonstrates why it may be prudent to incorporate Ares’ cult into our community. It would be a slap in the face to victims to say, “Oh, if you only prayed to Ares more, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.” I’m not saying that nor would I attempt to. However, I feel that the sort of culture that Ares’ cult perpetuates, one of responsibility and care for victims, would be beneficial to the entire community.

Ares teaches us that “no” means “no,” and that the consequences for transgressing those boundaries of consent can and should be met with the most severe consequences. He teaches that someone will have the victim’s backs; by not fulfilling Ares’ promise (see below), we insult him and his charges. Ares can also bring courage to victims, and inspires the vulnerable to strengthen themselves when the strength of those charged to protect them fails. He is compassionate towards women and children, and his mythology attests to this. Yes, Ares is a violent, bloody god, but he is only wrathful towards those that transgress the law and make war.

Archetypically, Ares represents the upholder of laws and the protective father. Therefore, rejecting even the archetype of Ares is nonsensical for me. Ares, whose voice is louder than a thousand men, does not encourage silence. His companions are Justice and the Furies, those who send abusers to their doom. Make no mistake, the modern artistic depiction of Justice is dead wrong; Justice sees everything, carries a sword in her right (read [traditionally] dominant) hand, and keeps Ares, Oath, and Furies in tow.

 

Lastly, I feel this myth creates a morally binding promise between society and the innocent victims of abuse to advocate and seek retribution upon those who commit violence against the innocent. It describes a natural law, higher than any statutory authority, wherein victims must be made whole through justice. We can worry about PR and image and community structures AFTER we have begun to care for the hurt.

So please, don’t leave Ares in chains. We as a community cannot afford to break Ares’ promises. So hail Ares, that he may be at our backs and led behind Dike to the betterment of all.

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Breaking Silence

I’ve spent the last month or so abiding by a silence of sorts. Ares told me to be sparing with my words, so very few of you have heard them. I have been working dutifully on my art and improving myself for the duty I believe my god is preparing me for. Honestly, that means walking more with Ares’ consort than the war-god. However, I’m taking some time to write because it is Veteran’s Day.

I both enjoy and despise Veteran’s Day. One the one hand, I get to celebrate the hundreds of people I was fortunate to meet in the course of my service. I was lucky to be assigned first to a joint-service base for training and later to ISAF/NATO and travel to many places. I’ve traveled to 25 states in the US and did missions in over 25 separate countries doing combat overwatch, drug interdiction, counter-terrorism, anti-piracy, border enforcement, and even humanitarian relief work. I worked with operators and soldiers from all the services as well as the English, French, Dutch, Afghan, and Danish militaries. I’ve developed a closer relationship with the Marines as opposed to my other sister services because of my assignments, but I have dear friends in the Navy and Army, too.

On the other hand, it makes me uncomfortable when people thank me for my service, because at the end of the day, most people don’t know what they’re thanking me for. I was in a unit tasked mostly to watch Marines and call targets for them. While we never pulled triggers on the enemy, we nonetheless arranged the fighting according to the machinations of the war strategy and needs of the commanders on the ground. We were as the watchful eyes of gods, but we were not gods, and we lost plenty of good Marines and Brits. So no one can thank me for that. And you can’t really thank me for “doing what needed done,” because by the time I hit my combat unit, few back home believed in the war. The only people who really deserved thanks are the dead, and my family and friends who gave me up to the Machine.

That all being said, please wear your red poppies and give a supportive pat on the back to your military friends. Teach those who ask you about its meaning. If you’re feeling particularly generous, maybe you can send a few bucks to my favorite charity, Soldier’s Best Friend. They rescue dogs and train them to care as service dogs and companions for wounded warriors who are having trouble adjusting due to TBI or PTSD. I know my own little dog, while not a SBF dog, has helped me tremendously. And for the love of Ares, don;t you dare thank me for anything, or a pox on your house 😉 Hail Ares!

Contemplating the Mysteries

“A bright light shone forth, a flash from the god’s golden helm. It showed Ares mysteries, shadows of death and whispers of songs half finished. One such shadow moved and was united with a glimmer, and from its edge was born harmony, issuing forth a soft glow and a sigh of contentment. “

Ares has been moving in me lately, moving in strange ways. Sudden flashes of inspiration such as the one above have driven me into a state of inward contemplation, In the past I have lived in Ares’ realm, surveying distant battlefields and moving soldiers as pawns on a chessboard. Ares rolled his dice and so the war played out, every person playing his or her part, each of us trying to gain an upper hand. Now that I have moved on from that life, Ares is showing me new things, and in order to be a better servant to him, I must now walk in another of his mysteries.

And mysteries they are. Combat is a mystery only the initiated know. I’m now moving on to the mystery of achieving and creating Harmony. Perhaps one day there will be others to contemplate. But for now, in order to serve my god, I must observe his command, “Listen and be silent”. Therefore, you will not be hearing much from me. I will still be doing the Ares 101 posts, and I may post a few prayers now and again, but there is work to be done before Ares’ cult can be spread much further, at least as far as my commitment to Ares and the community is concerned. The oracle was right; time is needed. So until then, Hail Ares.

A Mite on Fear

When I first started in paganism when I was little (and even before then in the pseudo-churches my dad went to for a while), I was always told you should never fear the gods. They always want the best for you. They can’t do any evil, they’re gods, and they love you so very much. I even believe this to an extent. There’s even an old story/movie trope that sets love in opposition to fear: is it better to be feared or loved?

I love my mother. I tell you what though, she often scares the pants off me. I also love my gods, and they scare me more than anything, even worse than needles (which I can’t look at without getting the heebie-jeebies). Should we fear that which we love? Can we?

My answer is yes, absolutely. That’s right FDR: you are f**king wrong you godless SOB! (personal vendetta, please excuse me)

Fear is both a process an a symptom. It is a system that alerts you to threats in your environment. It is also a symptom, one of attachment. Without attachment–to one’s environment, one’s being, to others–we could not survive as sapient beings. Think about it: what makes you seek a steady, well-paying job? Fear of hunger, of instability. What makes us seek companionship? The fear of trying to make it alone is strong in mankind. We can say other drives are at play, and I won’t deny they are. Ambition, love, anger–all these surface programs, our emotions, play significant and visible roles. But they are all just bullets without powder; fear is what adds the force to all of these. That’s not a bad thing, either.

Imagine how little you’d feel if you had no fear. Fear makes life precious. You needn’t fear your own death, but everyone has someone they do not want to lose. If there is no fear, there is no loss; without loss there is no risk; without risk, nary there be reward, no anticipation, no value. There’s an important lesson to be learned in observing that Phobos and Deimos are the sons of Ares and Aphrodite. Aphrodite gives us love and her children bring the fear of loss; Ares gives us strength to fight by keeping the fear of death in the form of his two closest sons by his side. She is the mother of smiles and he the father of tears, but we cannot even appreciate or even comprehend either if not for their sons. In the center of it all stands Harmonia, the culmination of all her family, the calm center in a storm of passion.

So please, appreciate your fears. Relish in the trepidation that you may displease the gods, if only to truly enjoy their blessings. Grab on to the fluttering of your heart as you approach that certain someone with an invitation for coffee. Drink in the fear of your own mortality, because you will die; take that fear and make something of it. Hail Ares, the father of your fears and mine!

Moving into the Realms of other Gods

There is a surreal quality in being devoted to certain gods, one that often separates them from other devotees and general worshippers. Apollonians are very artsy while Dionysians are very mystical. Artemesian women are very strong-willed and the devotees of Aphrodite tend to be emotive, warm people. Being a devotee means immersing yourself in the influences of your god, often with such intensity as to make even the voices of other gods seem a little distant.

For the last few years, I have been so immersed in the Aresian lifestyle of conflict, war, and law that one might wonder if I’d ever be anything but harsh and disagreeable. Indeed, even after leaving the military, I set down the road to being a lawyer—a very contrarian and testosterone-fueled career path that while women can and do excel in, is still (at least in the US) a good ole’ boys’ club. I have always loved war and justice and naturalism in society; my Facebook friends often see me sharing military and conflict-related articles.

Recently though, I have been given a break in my schedule, one enough to pursue a second associate’s degree (to be fair, I only need 15 new credits). I decided, therefore, to pursue a fine art’s degree. Some of you have already seen the new artwork that’s popped up on my Facebook page, and I plan on posting much of it here as well. It’s amazing what a change in environment can do to modify one’s perspective, especially in a sacred sense.

Now, I’ve never spent much effort on appreciating the arts. Sure, some paintings are nice, and creating statuary and other votives is an important aspect of my worship, but in all, I’ve always viewed art as more of a way to waste time. Besides, most professional artists are the wispy, out-there types that deeply annoy my need for everything to do something, to have a practical use. An aesthetically beautiful shield is nice unless it can’t do what it’s meant to do.

I should note that art and the world of war aren’t incompatible; after all, some of the best ballads, paintings, statues, etc. are all about some good old-fashioned ass kicking between nations. Warrior-poet traditions abound in many cultures, and as mentioned above, armor and armament can be considered works of art in and of themselves. Except in ancient Sparta and Rome, there were no professional soldiers; everyone from the generals to the lowly peltasts (poorer soldiers who were recruited as skirmishers and scouts armed with javelins) was an artisan, baker, doctor, or other common worker first and a soldier only when needed. Even the ephebes of Athens only served a few years before moving on.

And so, being out of my element  of professional conflict (or learning therefore), I’m experiencing a whole new spiritual paradigm, one dominated by Apollon, the Mousai, Aphrodite and her Graces, and all the fun-loving, less serious gods (or should I say less grim and grave?). I’ll admit it’s uncomfortable. Right now I’m taking music, drawing, and ceramics. All three classes are already stretching my patience, both with the respective mediums and with me (perfectionism is a curse). While the professors can say I’m good, I still get frustrated with the process it takes to get to a finished product. Clay is especially difficult because of its pliability; I’m more accustomed to metal, which must be beaten and abused to find its shape, whereas clay must be caressed and goaded into even the crudest forms (and even then, it has the tendency to do whatever it wants anyway).

The worst part, in my opinion, is how draining it is on my personality. Art and creating art are simultaneously intense and incredibly droll. You can’t argue with art—there’s no dynamism in it. When I’m not diving into the process, I find myself incredibly bored and apathetic. It’s very annoying at times. While I don’t find it hard to be stimulated by this new environment, I do find it hard to stay engaged.

I really do find it amazing how the personalities of different gods are exposed in their realms and in their devotees. The passions evoked by the Muses are much different from the Passions Ares or Aphrodite give. Needless to say, this is all going to take some getting used to. For now, Hail Ares (and the other gods).

Divination

So the other day, I was reading though the Hellenic Pagan Facebook group, and one person posted a question about what divination methods folks use. I generally don’t use divination (more on that in a minute), but I did mention that when I do, I use bird signs.

The interpretation of bird signs is a traditional Hellenic method, and that’s about as much I know of the subject formally. Also, its technical name is orinthomancy (that may or may not be spelled correctly; my phone thinks it’s wrong). I certainly don’t use any real method. I simply say a short prayer to whatever god I’m asking at the moment, ask for a sign given by a particular pattern (generally in numbers) and wait a few days.

For example, the other week I asked Ares, particularly Ares Epeekoos, whether He would prefer me write one book or two. After that, I looked for his birds; figuring a number would be an obvious sign, and the species indicating a positive or negative response (woodpeckers being positive as described in myth and his others [buzzards, vultures, and certain owls] being all negative, I would get my answer. I did see my sign soon after: two woodpecker nests drilled into a living tree. I later confirmed this through a separate oracle from Sannion.

However, I don’t even do that sort of thing often. My intuitive record is pretty good–I’m just right most of the time. It’s usually little things: sports matches, what’s in the fridge at the moment, etc. big things usually work out, too, but I trust my gut.

Well, that’s about it. Why not share your experience?

For Yana

 Hear me swift Hermes, fleet-footed messenger,

Pray you fetch stern Dike to the fore,

And release for us cruel Ares, slayer of men.

Call before us the bloodthirsty father of tears and breaker of cities,

That we may beseech him, mighty bane of mortals.

Hear our prayer, o Succoror of Themis,

You who art gold broker of corpses.

Visit yourself upon the brother of Yana, together with your mighty host.

Feast upon his blood as is your wont, and visit upon him your terrible sons,

Fierce Phobos and terrible Deimos.

And let his flesh be rent and his soul torn,

His keeping left to the Erinyes, foul seekers of the wretched.

Give ear to your father, Zeus, who may judge him,

And let his place be Tartaros, foul place of the damned.

Deliver justice upon him, mighty Ares,

And let us feel solace in his torment.