Confessions and Concessions

I’m not sure how to begin writing this. Back in the day, I was a ladykiller. I was a huge flirt, but I had a pretty steady girlfriend and was always faithful, even if my friends sometimes suspected she wasn’t. She never gave me any indication, and I still talk to her every so often. We broke up when I entered the military; she was still in high school and it really wouldn’t have been fair to ask her to do the long distance thing. Anyway, I left and probably broke her heart a bit, even if we weren’t exactly the happiest couple before I left.

I had a few flings in the military. They were alright; I’ll never say anything worse than we were not compatible in the long run. Then in a whirlwind, I was almost married. Everything fell apart then. My ex said I should be marrying her (even if she would deny it today), and so did my best friend. She called me drunk, but drunk words are deep thoughts. Needless to say, I couldn’t be with anyone. Any way I’d turn, I’d be a bad guy to someone. I couldn’t do it. So I retreated into myself–no more dating for a while.

It was around this time I felt the tug of Ares and reluctantly became his devotee. I was still firmly in the angry stage of loss. Angry that I couldn’t figure out how to make everyone happy. No serenity prayer for me; I’m a genius with a slight god complex (yay ego), so I don’t do failure well.

By the time I hit my active unit, the only non-professional interaction I had with a woman was spending a drunken night of leave with my ex. I felt terrible, because I broke my “everyone is always sober” rule. We never spoke of it again and remain friends. I did get into a long-distance stint for about a month or two, but then I started doing combat ops and became even more emotionally distanced than I was from my previous misadventures. That put too great a strain on the relationship and we broke up. We only talk infrequently.

It was probably three years before I dated again, the nice Catholic girl mentioned in my very early posts. She was sweet, but in the end, we drifted too far apart. I’d say it was mostly her, but I can’t rule out pushing her away unknowingly, so I don’t want to say anything ill of her. I did when we split up, but I feel kind of crummy about that now. After all, being in a good relationship is half finding the right person, and half being the right person. I digress though.

I found her through an online dating site. I’m not a bar guy, and most of my friends are beyond school and don’t know any single ladies to set me up with. When I asked the girl out, it was only because I was pushed to. It was one of the most tangible divine nudges I’ve ever felt.

When it ended, I was pretty bitter. I put on a pretty good face, but I was a little annoyed at being pushed by who I assumed was Aphrodite into something she shod have known wouldn’t work. That’s not to say I ever trusted her much after the whole love triangle thing, but I jumped when told. Ever since we’ve had a tenuous relationship at best. I unfortunately live up to my nature as a Scorpio and have held a grudge against the goddess, even though it’s not in my best interest to be mean to a deity. Especially because certain oracles and more theophonic folks say she has nothing but the best intentions for me. So yeah, I’m a jerk. That’s why y’all have to suffer through my lame story.

I was a hopeless romantic at one time. I stopped acting like it though. I simply stopped showing my true face. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a blood-lusting, morbid guy. But at the behest of both my god and at the advice of friends, I’m conceding to the golden-haired one. I just can’t/don’t want to fight her anymore. I have given her offerings, but a god can’t care for your heart if you never give any of it up.

I want to apologize to you, Aphrodite. I’m sorry I retreat from your face, and I’m sorry I abused you. I’m sorry I’ve misused your grace. I’m sorry I’ve stung others in love without asking forgiveness. I’m sorry for my scorn of you. I’m sorry I covet your beauty and your gifts without offering to you in the funds of my heart. I’m sorry I haven’t trusted you. You have offered your comfort and I turned your hand away for violence and war. I have scorned your beauty and created only ugliness in its place. I turn myself over to you, goddess, to move me whichever way you will.

Ares 101: To Shrine or Not to Shrine?

In the previous installment of the Ares 101 series, I discussed the types of offerings one might give to the god. Once you get to know Ares and have made a few offerings you might begin to wonder whether or not you should build a shrine to him. There are a few things to consider when contemplating setting up a new shrine. Please note this is not the “how to” section; that comes next. These are just things to consider if you do think about setting up a shine for Ares.

 

Are you going to use it?

This seems like a silly question, but it’s something you should seriously consider. If Ares isn’t a focal point of your worship, does he really need his own shrine? I have one shrine for all the gods I worship infrequently, with gifts or images of them in a centralized place. I have two images of Zeus, one of Hera, and one of Hestia. I also have dedicatory offerings for Dionysos, Apollon, and Athene on the shrine. This shrine sees use for other gods, too, but because I don’t do much ritual for them, they don’t have their own shrines.  If your plan is to keep things casual with Ares, a shrine may not be needed.

Do you have the space?

Shrines, over time, tend to take up a lot of space. They may start out as simple as a bowl to contain offerings and maybe a small statue or framed picture, but may eventually hold multiple offerings, require their own storage space, or more. With sprawl come dirt, and with dirt comes miasma, which in turn means more work.

Is it necessary?

You can worship piously even without expensive statuary, fancy incense burners, and other fancy trinkets. Wine can be poured out onto the ground and incense strewn into a bbq grill. You may only want a small shrine for the occasional ritual, and that’s fine too. Also, even if you do feel it is necessary to build a shrine, does it need to be separate from others? Ares’ temples were often shared with Aphrodite’s, so there’s no reason to say that you couldn’t do the same for a shrine.

 

Some really good reasons you’d want to create a separate shine to Ares:

Ares tells you to. The most obvious answer is this of course. It’s never very wise to upset a god.

You want to. The second most obvious answer to such a question. The purpose of this post is not to discourage you from creating a shrine, only to cause you to examine your motives for doing do. You’re (most likely) an adult, so you can do whatever you please.

Keeping up the cultus. This is my favorite reason, and the reason this blog, and especially this series, exist.

 

Hopefully this helps you decide whether or not you want to build a shrine to Ares, which is incidentally the topic of the next post. 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 your decisions about whether or not to build a shrine, let everyone know in the comments. Until then, hail Ares!

The Old Ways are the Best Ways

If ur n0t @ rec0n, ur wr0nG!!!!

Wait, no, that’s not today’s message. Today’s post is about sculpting! Mostly.

Today was the first day I’ve put a chisel to stone. I’ve tried power tools before (because who doesn’t love power tools?), but I tell you what, nothing has been more effective than that hammer and chisel. It has me really excited for next week when I start my next sculpture class. Now, I haven’t used a proper chisel; I improvised with a sharp piece of tungsten used for TIG welding that I no longer use, but it worked pretty well. Better than my diamond grinding bit for my rotary tool, anyway. It really makes me excited to buy some real chisels and get into working.  It really goes to show that even with all the tech in the world, sometimes the old ways are best.

I think I’ll be much happier when my VA book money comes; I have quite the supply list, the priority being some porcelain for casting. My music professor from last semester also wants a lyre, and of course there’s the supplies I’ll need for painting this term as well. Art is expensive >.<

In other news, I’ve made a few offerings to Ares and Aphrodite lately. I know Ares is attentive as given by the woodpecker that visited yesterday, but I think Aphrodite is playing hard to get. She and I have a tenuous relationship at best. I’ve made a vase for her, covered with forget-me-nots and ivy, and I really hope the glaze doesn’t destroy the underpainting. Same thing with the libation dish I threw for Ares :-/. Only time can tell on that one.

4 Metageitnion

So today was the fourth, meaning libations to Aphrodite, Eros, Hermes, and Heracles. I poured directly from the bottle today; Whether by divine intervention or pure accident, Aphrodite and Eros received about as much as I’d normally pour for myself. I hope it goes well.

Speaking of those gods that bring people together, I went onto my stats the other day and realized I have a decently global following. Even if I cut out what are probably spambots, it’s still pretty impressive, from Britain, France, the Netherlands, and other European countries, to those geographically farther afield like Brazil, Australia, and the Philippines. It just goes to show how the gods bring people together. And those silly atheist say religion tears us apart 😛

Brainstorming Festival Ideas

In light of my goal to create a new festival calendar, I’ve been brainstorming ideas for festivals and thought I might share a few. This is by no means a complete list, and some a more personal than others, and some are more historical while others are more UPG/mimicry of could have been.

The Lesser Aresia or Antibiannia (Unbinding)–this festival involving Ares, Hermes, and Dike is the opposite of my previously created Greater Aresia festival, and celebrates the opening of the campaign season and unleashing Ares to war. It will echo the Greater festival in reverse order, and include war blessings and such. While hardly any evidence exists for such a festival in Greece, an annual binding ritual implies an annual unbinding, and the Romans explicitly practiced a festival like this in which the iron gates of Mars’ temple were thrust open as the army marched out to begin the campaign.

The Xenia Festival–this festival would commemorate the accomplishments of community members and would occur on July 1st in remembrance of many of us who came together for Silent July. It would include offerings to Zeus Xenios and Zeus Philios to strengthen and watch over our communal bonds.

The Basilia/Tyrania–this festival reflects my own political aspirations/hopes for my country, and would celebrate Zeus Basilios as supreme king and beseech him to grant kings to the nations of the world. I plan on placing this festival on the Demokratia as my own cheeky way of giving the Ancient Athenians the bird.

The Enyalia–this is an ancient festival from Salamis celebrating Ares for victory during the marine invasion of a Persian encampment while the Athenian navy attacked the Persian fleet.

Untitled Festival–I’m not sure what to call this festival, but in keeping with my Laconophilia, I want to commemorate the victory of the Pelopponessian League over the Delian league and the hero-general Lysander. I was thinking of making this an event marked by ceremonial battle between Ares (to represent Sparta & the PL) and Athene (to represent Athens and the DL), finishing with a victorious but reconcillitory Ares after the manner of Lysander, who chose not to destroy Athens like his Theban and Corinthian allies wanted. I may also turn this into a three-day festival, with the above occurring on one day, a re-enactment of the victory of Athene over Ares in the Iliad and Theuseus’ victory over the Amazones another, and yet another showing their support of each other in the war against the titans. I’m not sure yet.

Areia–kind of the opposite to the last festival, this festival is a partial reconstruction of one held in the Athenian deme of Acharnai, in which the new Ephebes would take their oath at Athene’s altar, have a procession to the altar of Ares and Aglauros, and repeat their oath there. Little is known about this festival, but I think I might place it either near the Athenian new year (as this was probably the historic time) or near/on Veteran’s day. It’s a day meant to celebrate soldiers, and I plan to emphasize it.

Untitled Festival II–I’m not sure where to place this one (maybe Memorial Day), but I think there should be a festival celebrating the gods and heroes who fought the Trojan War and perhaps other mythic wars, like Dionysos’ campaign against India, the conquests of the Amazones, etc.

Some of the less-developed ideas I have include celebrating the relationship of Ares and Aphrodite (including offerings of apology to Hephaestos), the deaths of Julian and Alexander, the deaths or anniversaries of other important figures and battles like Patton and the Battle of Thermopylae, and maybe the service birthdays. That’s all I really have for now. None of them have real set dates, rituals, prayers, etc. written yet, so I’ll keep everyone informed if they’re interested. In the meantime, 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).