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.

30 Days of Devotion I: Introducing Ares

Sorry if I’m jumping the gun on this, but I saw this over at Ibrium’s  blog, who in turn got it from Sannion and Ruadhán, and thought I’d give it a go. Honestly, breaking my silence and moving away from the epistolary side of things (and I’m still waiting on letters from some folks, hint hint) makes me a bit uncomfortable, but until anyone indicates their contrary opinion, I’m okay with doing this. I consider today, Veterans/Remembrance Day, as particularly auspicious considering it marks the foolish attempt of man to end a war to end all wars. Of course, we all know how well both aims went.

So anyway, I’m obviously doing my series on Ares, which of course ties in very well with my previous Ares 101 series, and will hopefully keep me from getting absolutely burnt out writing for a single outlet (btw, I’m a newspaper editor now).  The basic structure of the exercise is given below, and today’s is about introducing Ares.

I think I’ve covered the bare basics about Ares rather extensively, but to recap, Ares is the Olympian god of war, bloodshed, rebellion, divine retribution, and (traditional) masculinity. So much of what I could write will be covered in proceeding articles, but for now I’ll say Ares is a god, not dead (though not really alive so much as simply being I’d venture[silly atheists]), and is worshiped by fewer today than should be, though this is slowly changing.

I. A basic introduction of the deity
II. How did you become first aware of this deity?
III. Symbols and icons of this deity
IV. A favorite myth or myths of this deity
V. Members of the family – genealogical connections
VI. Other related deities and entities associated with this deity
VII. Names and epithets
VIII. Variations on this deity (aspects, regional forms, etc.)
IX. Common mistakes about this deity
X. Offerings – historical and UPG
XI. Festivals, days, and times sacred to this deity
XII. Places associated with this deity and their worship
XIII. What modern cultural issues are closest to this deity’s heart?
XIV. Has worship of this deity changed in modern times?
XV. Any mundane practices that are associated with this deity?
XVI. How do you think this deity represents the values of their pantheon and cultural origins?
XVII. How does this deity relate to other gods and other pantheons?
XVIII. How does this deity stand in terms of gender and sexuality? (historical and/or UPG)
XIX. What quality or qualities of this god do you most admire? What quality or qualities of them do you find the most troubling?
XX. Art that reminds you of this deity
XXI. Music that makes you think of this deity
XXII. A quote, a poem, or piece of writing that you think this deity resonates strongly with
XXIII. Your own composition – a piece of writing about or for this deity
XXIV. A time when this deity has helped you
XXV. A time when this deity has refused to help
XXVI. How has your relationship with this deity changed over time?
XXVII. Worst misconception about this deity that you have encountered
XXVIII. Something you wish you knew about this deity but don’t currently
XXIX. Any interesting or unusual UPG to share?
XXX. Any suggestions for others just starting to learn about this deity?

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.

At the Gates

Meet me at the gates, Lord,
And we shall meet them.
I shall bear your spear, Oxos,
And together we shall pierce them.
No strength shall avail them to us,
And they shall be laid low,
An offering to smoke at your feet,
Their gore to adorn your shield.
We shall meet them at the gates, oh Ares,
And a great cry shall go out,
And the earth herself will tremble,
For no blade on the plain shall be left unslaked
The earth shall be made quick with their blood,
And their fear at our countenance shall forever stain the field,
And we shall spill from the gates, Andreiphontes,
And each soul shall be an offering.
Let no man be still,
Let him be filled with your fury, oh Theritas.
Let them rush as a wave for the boatman’s care, and let hades host them in the twilight.
Meet me at the gates, you lion-hearted god,
And men shall sing our hymn forever more!

Ares 101: The Many Faces of Ares

Previously throughout the series, I have discussed Ares in the general sense, simply as a war-god as opposed to a god with a multitude of titles and divine functions. In order to move on to the next topic, constructing prayers and hymns, we need to look at some of the names, titles, and duties of Ares. Some have already been mentioned, but many bear repeating.

Ancient Cult Titles:

Theritas: this cult title comes from Sparta. This was supposedly derived from the name of Ares’ nurse Thero, though when questioned by Pausanias, the locals knew of no Thero. The writer instead concluded the proper title was “beastly”, a throwback to Ares’ brutal nature and monstrous offspring.

Hippios: this cult originated in Olympia, where Ares was worshiped alongside Athene Hippias in the hippodrome. Horsemen and charioteers often invoked Ares Hippios before races and possibly before battle.

Aphneios: this title, meaning “abundant”, was given to Ares at a temple in Tegea. After one of Ares’ mortal lovers died in childbirth, but Ares caused her to nourish the baby nonetheless. This is some of the most significant pieces of evidence of Ares’ cthonic aspects, which are further compounded by another cult title from Anatolia.

Kiddeudas: though I have not found an exact translation for this title (it does not appear on theoi.com), it was found inscribed on an altar to the god in central Asia Minor. Interestingly, this altar pointed to an agricultural cult as, among the standard weapon and armor motifs, the altar was carved with a cornucopia. It is most likely that this particular cult was devoted to ensuring and protecting the chora, or the countryside which was essential to the survival of the population centers.

Epekoos: this title from central Asia Minor meaning “he who hears”, which refers to the Ares that answers oracles.\

Polypalmeros: This is another Anatolian incarnation of the god meaning “many-handed” or “he of many devices”. He is invoked as a generally beneficent god who helps those in need.

Gynaikothoinas: this is a title of Ares from Tegea meaning “feasted by women”. It refers to the god’s intervention on behalf of the Tegean women who fought and won against Sparta’s hoplites. A festival was held every year by the women in which men were not allowed to participate.

Poetic and Dramatic Titles

Brotoloigos, Andreiphontês,Miaiphonos: these titles, bestowed upon Ares in the Iliad, are all closely related in theme; they mean “manslaughtering”, “destroyer of men”, and “bloodstained” respectively. Oft repeated by Homer, these titles are often the first known by most investigating Ares and stain their first experiences with the god. Many other titles like these can be found here, as they are too many and too similar to list out in entirety.

Alloprosallos: this Homeric epithet meaning “double-faced” is meant to be derogatory, calling Ares a liar, though I feel it speaks to Ares’ nature of nurture and destruction.

Sunarogos Themistos: from the Homeric Hymn, it calls Ares the “succoror of Themis”, or ally of Law. A vital part of Aresian theology, this title meshes well with Ares’ Orphic role as guardian of the natural laws of life and the Aeschylian avenger of those who transgress the laws of nature.

Polydakros: another of Aeschylus’ titles for Ares that translates to “bringer of much weeping: or (my favorite) “Father of tears”. The dramatist refers to Ares as “plucking the fairest flowers of a host” during battle (another agricultural reference!).

My favorite title, however, is not one I’ve found the Greek for. It comes from Aeschylus (can you tell I like the guy?) and describes Ares as the “Gold-broker of corpses”. Fun stuff, eh?

 

Hopefully perusing through these titles gives you a better of how and what for Ares is worshiped. If you want to go deeper into Ares’ cult, I suggest staying tuned in. In the next few posts, I will be covering constructing prayers and hymns,  holy days, syncretism,  and more. If you have any topics you wish to see covered, or have any suggestions or comments regarding other titles you use, let everyone know in the comments. Until then, hail Ares!

Pete’s Revival Update

Now that I’ve let the lovely folks over at Thessaly Temenosknow, due to popular demand, the support of the Thessalians and friends, and perhaps a little divine prodding, I will indeed be putting on a version of the Greater Aresia. It will need to tweaked for a larger audience, of course, but I think the themes fit the needs of a first-time pan-Hellenic gathering. My great thanks to Sannion and Galina who are allowing me to use their experience in revising the rites. This will be my first group ritual in a Hellenic format, and my first leading such a large rite.

Because there are group events planned, I thought it may be a cool idea to put together a group to compete and represent Ares. It wouldn’t be anything particularly formal, but it would be nice to have a few people under the same banner. It would be nice to have a team for the javelin and foot races among others.

As a former frequent traveler, I do suggest getting as many ducks in a row as soon as possible. Monte and his crew have done a fantastic job organizing so much already. They’ve already contacted area hotels, and I’m sure they’re plugging away at many more logistical details as I write this. Make sure you check out their updates frequently and spread the word.

Ares 101: Symbols and Signs

In the last post in the series, we listened to some of the music  found online dedicated to Ares. This time, we will look at visual art and the symbols often associated with Ares that you can use in your own devotion and artwork.

 

The Panoply: armor and weapons are a mainstay of Ares symbolism. Ares is very rarely depicted without at least a helmet, and even many nudes, like the Ares Ludovisi or Ares Borghese, depict Ares with some implement or accouterments nearby.  My own emblem for the god depicts a spear set through a Corinthian helm with the transverse crest of an officer. The Thracians used an old iron sword as their cult image even.

Snakes/Dragons: Ares is often depicted with a snake, either a real one as in the photo below or on his shield. These potent creatures were probably associated with Ares due to his sneaky nature and often foul temper, and anyone who has ever encountered a rattler would know that even though the snake is probably more scared of you, they can still be nasty and aggressive. 

 

Horses: the epithet of the Ares worshiped at Olympia was “Hippios”, “of horses”. Ares was the progenitor of the man-eating mares of Thracian Diomedes. While they are often associated with Poseidon, Ares was often the patron of horse and chariot races, especially onward into Roman times.

The colors red and purple: the color red is often associated with Ares for two reasons: blood and Sparta. The blood of men is Ares’s food, and his shield was described as always being fresh with gore, so it’s pretty safe to assume Ares was very red and/or brownish red most of the time. His planet, Mars, is the red planet. Now purple may not seem to be very intuitive, but the Thracian warriors and priests wore purple, as did the later Roman emperors, who were always priests of Ares/Mars if not conflated into the same being.

Animals” all sorts of animals are associated with Ares other than snakes and horses, though they are the most prominent. Dogs are associated with Ares because Spartan ephebes would sacrifice them before ritual combat. Ares is also associated with the vulture, eagle owl, barn owl, and woodpecker. whom he created with the help of Hermes. I also personally associate ants with Ares.

 

This should give you plenty to get started with when you go off to create your own devotional projects. If you want to go deeper into Ares’ cult, I suggest staying tuned in. In the next few posts, I will be covering constructing prayers and hymns using Ares’ titles, holy days and more. If you have any topics you wish to see covered, or have any suggestions or comments regarding other symbols you use, let everyone know in the comments. Until then, hail Ares!