5 & 6 Metageitnion

So I missed yesterday’s libation in the frenzy of cleaning that hit my home for today’s city inspection, therefore I preformed both Ares’ and Artemis’ today. However, it did give me the opportunity to move some things around, clean out some miasma, and hang a few pictures above my shrine. Aphrodite even got her own offering dish. I need to glaze/paint a few more I have waiting in the ceramics lab over the next couple days, but I should be doing okay.

Finally over my cold for the most part. I have to blow my nose once or twice, and I get a tickle in my throat here or there, but it’s all good. In fact, I think they’re more symptoms of the cold outside than the lingering effects of the one inside me. Seriously though, it’s August, when MI is supposed to be in the 90s, and here we are at low 70s with the possibility of dipping into the 40s over night. At the very least there’s no drought this year; we’re already 5″ above average for the year, and fall isn’t even technically here, let alone winter and her snows.

Now, it’s only been a week of doing these libations, and I tell you what, I haven’t had a week this good in a while. There’s been flirting, an offer for a free suit (and expensive one, too, and boy do I love suits), an invitation to join Phi Theta Kappa, and I even found a dollar under my bed yesterday. Tell you what kids, forget pot, forget swag and YOLO and all that crap-get religion, That’s the stuff right there. There’s a reason science routinely tells us that religious people are happier. The secularists can argue any community affiliation can help raise happiness levels, but none do so consistently as religion, especially the really, really involved folks like the Amish or Mormons. This is also important in a country where there is a lot of hostility towards and among religions, both from the government and society at large. You can even see it in our community, especially against monotheism. I digress, this supposed to be a happy post.

Any way you want to look at it, giving to the gods is good. To paraphrase Pascal, reciprocity pays serious dividends. Go invest something, and hail Ares!

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PBP – A is for Amazons

Time for the second installment of Pete’s Pagan Blog Project. We’re still on A, so I thought I’d cover the Amazons.

The Amazons are the warrior daughters/lovers (myths sometimes conflict on this matter) of Ares. Among the most famous mythic races in history, the Amazons represent what was a unique motif in Greek history, and they continue to capture the imagination of the West.

The Amazons were some of the most war-like people in ancient history (assuming they are actually a historical race). They were said to live near the south end of the Caucasus and would only see men once or twice a year, and only then to fight or… procreate (almost went into alliteration, but this is a family blog 😉 ). Aeschylus places them on the borders of Scythia and Sarmatia, near Thrace, but says they later emigrated to the Pontic region of Asia Minor. Their chief gods were Ares and Artemis, and they founded many famous cults and temples, according to their myths. The Amazons were said to have founded the cult of Artemis at Ephesos, which was watched over by a sacred guard called the Areistai, or Aresian Guard. Another famous, though currently undiscovered, altar was erected to Ares on the island of Lesbos, purportedly of what may be a meteorite.

One of the coolest myths of the Amazons concerns their campaign against Theseus and the Athenians. The Amazons had invaded the city of Athena, and so vicious was their assault that the whole of the city left alive had barricaded itself within the citadel on the Akropolis. Settling in for a siege, the Amazons, according to Aeschylus, created a new citadel dedicated to Ares and sacrificed to him there. The nature of this sacrifice is unknown, but with their origins near Thrace and due to the popularity in the region, it may have been a human sacrifice, methinks. Athens wasn’t the only place or people to feel the mighty sting of the Amazons. The Amazons with their father supported Priam against the Greeks in the Trojan war, and they campaigned against the Phrygians, Lycians, and others in northen Greece and Anatolia. Some report they even went so far as to attack Egypt and even conquer Libya.

Among their most famous Queens were Hippolyta (which means something akin to ‘unbridled mare’) and her sister  Penthesileia. Hippolyta was the most famous of the pair and was said to be Ares daughter by Otrera. She was given a golden belt by her father, a symbol of her strength and prowess for battle. This belt was stolen by Heracles as one of his Labors. Another gift Ares bestowed upon his daughter was a flock of birds which bore iron feathers that could be shot by arrows, and these presented hazard to Jason and the Argonauts when they traveled to Ares’ grove to recover the golden fleece.  Penthesileia accidentally killed her sister Hippolyta, and came to Troy as a suppliant. Priam helped her perform the rites, and sealed the relationship between the Trojans and Amazons. She would later lead a contingent of women in the war, and was slain by Achilles himself. When Achilles beheld her beauty, he stopped fighting to let her body be recovered. However, Ares turned the place into a slaughterhouse, and the Myrmidons, sons of Zeus, were almost wiped out if Zeus himself had not intervened. It was at this point in the Iliad where Achilles actually begins to feel remorse, and knows his doom really will be coming; from this point on he seems more sullen and brooding.

The Amazons meant something special to the Greeks. In a time when women were little more than baby-makers, the Amazons represented breaking all the rules. They lived on their own, dressed and worked as men, and even supposedly cut of their own breasts in order to be better fighters. Wholly dedicated to war, they exemplified some of the best and most terrible qualities of both Ares and Artemis. Their legacy lives today in popular culture, euphemism, and the feminist movement. So hail to the daughters of Ares, the powerful and beautiful Amazons!

Religious Goals for 2013

Along with the Year of Epic Crafting, which will have some religious undertones (notably the xiphos), I do have some even more religiously important goals for 2013.

My first two most ambitious goals are woven together intimately. The first part is finishing my book. The launch of the book, I have decided, will also launch my formal creation of a local Aresian cult. Now that I finally have what I feel is an acceptable cult image (my finished statue), I think I feel comfortable becoming a more formal dedicant, possibly even a (gasp) priest. Of course, almost 99% of the cultic material will be printed in my book, so no worries there, you can join me (cue “one of us” chanting).

I also plan on expanding my art projects. I may even begin selling some, especially of Ares, because if y’all are anything like me, those on the market just aren’t good enough (seriously, Ares is a war-god, put some armor on him!). I also want to expand my offerings to other gods. I think the most important ones, to me, would be Aphrodite (because I so neglect her, and it shows), Hephaestos (all the metal projects). and possibly Artemis (with the hunting and all). The other gods are important, and I give a nod to them every once in a while, but for now, I’m going to start out small and slow until things become more routine.

Speaking of routines, I really want to get into the rhythm of being more devotional. Pouring more wine, lighting more incense, and most importantly for you all, writing more. I’m a pretty spontaneous guy, so routines have never been my strong point, but I want to cultivate a little more discipline, especially religiously. It’s not that I don’t have the time; I just don’t have the mindfulness.

My final goal, at least for now, is to hunker down and finish reading the rest of the Greek classics, and make more progress actually learning  Ancient Greek. The last part will be toughest, especially because I would rather learn manly Greek (Dorian) as opposed to wuss Greek (Attic) [just teasing, for those of you who couldn’t catch that], and most of the sources are in Attic. I can already read the letters and words, and have a pretty good handle on some religious and war-related vocabulary. I’ve also got a basic understanding of how to make plurals and identify masculine, feminine, and neuter words. I really need to work on verbs and sentence structure. I think focusing on the Maxims should help me begin to grasp the grammar, as that’s part of their purpose.

Well, that’s all I have for now. I’ll let you know if I come with anything else (I know I will). Until then, Hail Ares!

On the Hunt

This past weekend was the first in the archery season for deer. So, my buddy and I grabbed some arrows and headed out to grab us some animals. This was my first time hunting non-humans. Let me tell you- damn deer are crafty. I actually managed to find one and stalk it for a bit (I don’t believe in using a blind), but the Department of Natural Resources was out widening the trails with chainsaws, so needless to say, every animal within a mile bolted. That’s the danger of hunting on State land, I guess. The mid-season also opened for goose and duck, which was also not fun. Some very un-conscientious goose hunters were firing all willy-nilly, and we got shot at twice, once even having bird-shot raining down from above in our tree.

Now that the weekend is over, I remember why I got out of the military; no, not the getting shot at part, but damn are my joints sore. Of course, this marked the first time I ever poured a libation to Artemis. While that may come across as odd, I’ve never felt the need or compulsion to offer to her individually; every time I simply cover her worship under the onus of “the Gods”. I’m not sure how to feel about that though. While it follows that folks only regularly paid homage to the gods that held the most sway over their lives, part of me feels like she should get more honor from me out of principle. It also highlights the pitfalls of being closely tied to one god.

Research, Research, Research

Well folks, I have to say that so far, getting this book written is coming together better than I thought. With the unfortunate exception of my partner having to drop out, things are sailing along quite smoothly. With the addition of a Lesser Aresia, I’ve found at least two more festivals to reconstruct for my book: The Areia, an Athenian festival near the end of Metageitnion/beginning of Boedromion (about mid August) celebrates Ares and Athene Areia, possibly as founder gods and supporters of the Ephebes, and probably involves choral contests, among others; the second is the Enyalia, a celebration re-enacting the victory of the Athenians over Salamis, and involves a running procession to a promontory. I haven’t quite tracked down a date for this, but a review of the history books should suffice. But hey, awesomeness, right?

On another note, I’ve also been reading up on ancient battlefield religion, and how closely tied Ares, Apollon, and Artemis are in those respects. You can expect a few simple rites and prayers to come out honoring those three and others, too. More and more, this book is becoming liturgical more than philosophical, which appeases my inner “priestly” side greatly. It’s one thing to understand Ares through droll discussion and supposition, but it’s greater to follow behind him in practice, prayer, and ritual in my not-so-unbiased opinion.

Thank you all who have helped, are helping, and will help in this endeavor. I received an oracle from Sannion and Dionysos that the effort is well appreciated, which is very motivating. While I may not be blogging as frequently right now, I am thinking about you all! Hail Ares!

Ares the … Momma’s Boy?

So, Mother’s day was celebrated here in the States a couple of weeks ago, and shortly thereafter, Neos Alexandria  announced its Call for Submissions for a devotional to Ares’ mother Hera. This project is being led by my friend Lykeia, and you can check out the announcement here. With all the to-do about Moms, and especially Hera, I wrote the following about Ares and his heavenly mother.

 

Ares is many things; he is a soldier, a general, a father, and a lover. But did you know Ares is also a momma’s boy? It’s true! Just as his sister Athene can be seen as the quintessential daddy’s girl, Ares acts much the same for his heavenly mother Hera.

So what exactly qualifies Ares as a momma’s boy? We should take a look at the relationship between Ares and Hera . Much of this relationship is defined my Hera’s relationship to Ares’ father, Zeus, and Ares’ role as one of the few “legitimate” children of the couple. In particular, the relationship is one of Ares attempting to restore Hera’s honor in the face of Zeus’ infidelity, and acting as he does best as the agent of righteous fury and retribution on Zeus’ lovers.

Let’s examine the most famous example of this behavior. First there is poor Leto, mother to the divine twins Apollon and Artemis (both of whom are tied in various war-cults and rituals to Ares). Hera, in her fury against Leto and the illegitimate children she carried, dispatched Ares to ensure she had no safe haven in which to bear these children. Besides the issue of family integrity, Callimachus suggests Hera wants no woman, divine or mortal, to bear  to Zeus “a son dearer even than Ares” (an interesting counterpoint to the enmity between Zeus and Ares in the Iliad). After all, if the trend in myth were to continue, Ares would be next in line for the proverbial, or even literal, throne.

In addition, there is the case of Hera’s binding by her son Hephaestos. Now, while Hera probably had this one coming; she threw her own son, begotten of none, from Olympos in disgust. That’s not very nice. However, Ares is always ready to jump in for mom, and this was no exception. Ares waged war on Hephaestos to try to return him to Olympos and free their mother, but was turned away by Hephaestos’ superior weapons. The outcome of all this would eventually lead to Hephaestos marrying Aphrodite, and thus the famous love affair with Ares.

So what can we take from these myths? Superficially, we can obviously say Ares loves his mother and attempts to support her even when she is in the wrong. Also, you can’t stop fate, and Ares can be kind of a dick (I mean, harassing a pregnant lady, really?). If we look a little deeper, however, we see how Ares reinforces his position and role as a defender of law, honor, and righteousness, as well as an agent of divine wrath and punishment. Especially if you consider that, up until this point in the mythological timeline, he is not yet an adulterer. I would postulate that before this point (and maybe even after), you could consider Ares a defender of monogamy and the bindings of marriage. Of course, there was never any literary or cultic evidence of this, and is only my speculation.

The relationship between Hera and Ares, of course, help to reinforce Ares’ relationship with Aphrodite and his children. He is a fiercely devoted husband and father, and answers any threat or slight to either with extreme prejudice. Perhaps Ares can serve as a model of family loyalty and honor in a time when the family is decreasing in importance and stature. After all, blood is thicker than water, and who knows more about blood than Ares the Bloody?

A Weapon Blessing

Ares has always been a god of weapons, and I know of no depiction of him without at least some form of weapon on him or nearby. Though I am no longer a true combatant, I wanted to bless my rife as the weather now permits me to go out and start the airsoft season. Sure, I can’t actually kill someone with it, but I’d like to bless it to shoot true anyway. To that effect, I came up with a simple rite that you may use yourself.

Some supplies you may choose to use:

Depictions of the Gods: Ares for certain, but you can include Athena, Artemis, Apollon, Aphrodite, Dionysos, and Zeus (all gods with war or shooting related cults)

Incense or wine for offerings

Your chosen weapon (this is being written about a rifle, and modern weapons in general. Feel free to modify accordingly)

The Rite:

I would choose to time this rite in Spring, as this is when the campaign season starts, although it’s also perfect before a deployment, a hunting expedition, or like me, for a friendly game of airsoft or paintball. Morning seems most appropriate, as the sun’s far-shooting rays first touch the earth much like Apollon the Far-Shooter fires off his arrows.

Open your rite with whatever actions you deem appropriate, or if you are performing this rite within the context of a larger ritual (such as the forthcoming Lesser Aresia or a pre-deployment ritual) begin where appropriate. Make your offerings of incense or wine, and call forth to the Gods:

Dear Gods on Olympus, hear my cry, as I am to go to battle

Bless this rifle, oh Gods, that I might smite my enemies

Thundering Zeus, let my enemies cower at its thunderous roar

Sharp Ares, let my enemies feel its piercing sting

Brilliant Athene, let my allies find respite behind its fire

Glorious Twins of Leto, may my rounds fire far and true

Mad God, let my weapon sow madness among my foes

Golden Aphrodite, let my enemy feel no love for the fight

Bless me, oh Gods of, so that I may offer you victories at the altar of war

That’s it, just a simple blessing and a simple offering. Fight hard, whatever your battle, and Hail Ares!