PBP: B is for Brigands, Bandits, and Other Bad Guys

It seems that every once in a while, someone, somewhere in the Pagan community has to complain that there is an over-abundance of “fluffy bunnies” and “love & lighters” trying to shoot rainbows out their butts and turn the place into a paradise of sunshine and cotton candy clouds. These same people will then preach about the dark side, the benefits of the “left-hand path” and try to get all dark and mysterious. Rarely, however, do we talk about the people who take their dark side a little too seriously.

In the Golden Ass, a group of brigands sacks a town for fun and then sacrifice to Ares for their success. Ares sires many murderous children, many of them with beastly qualities, possibly one of the reasons Pausanias figured Ares’ name Theritas (beastly) was not in fact named for his nurse Thero.

Criminals are no strangers to the pagan community. Many organizations, especially of the neopagan variety like Mother Earth Ministries of Tuscon, AZ, train and send volunteers, write letters, and offer services to inmates who happen to pagan. I think it says how much our numbers have grown (generally speaking) that we need prison ministries (and also how well we may or may not police our own communities).

Then of course there are other interesting folks out there. One notorious name you may remember is that of Jonathon Sharkey. You may remember that this man ran for president a few times (most recently in 2012) under the auspices of the Vampyres, Witches, Pagans Party; he was also investigated for making threats against the president, as well as convincing a 16 year-old girl to run away with him. You can find a variety of folks on this whistle-blower site: Problematic Pagans. Accusations (substantiated or not) run the gamut from plagiarism to registered sex offenders. Have fun with that one.

Remember folks, not everyone is a nice friendly guy like me (cue laughing). But hey, we have a god for that (a few actually, but more on that later). Hail Ares!

Ares Doesn’t Love You

It’s okay though, he doesn’t love me, either. 99% sure on that one. “Well aren’t you just a Negative Nancy?” you may say. Perhaps I am. But why is it so important to us that the gods love us measly little mortals?

People want to be wanted and need to be needed. Cheap Trick were really on to something when they wrote that song. It’s just who we are as social creatures. It only follows that we wish the most powerful being known to us–the Gods– love us. After all, we (well, most of us, you silly atheists) love them. Some of us love them a bit too much, perhaps. But hey, our love of them has spawned some of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring monuments, literature, and even acts on this planet. Granted, it also spawned some lovely, f**ked up stuff, too, but we’ll skip over that for the sake of moving along nicely.

Now, my answer, personally, is that with rare exceptions, the gods couldn’t even be bothered to give a damn. It’s not even that they may harbor any real ill-will towards us (except maybe Ares and Zeus, but more on that later), but running an entire cosmos is busy work, and who really has time to bother with such petty trifles as human love, happiness, or money? But what about their responsibility for human affairs you say? Honestly, after the whole of human history of Athene teaching men to build, or Zeus judging righteousness, that has got to get old.

Remember the flood myth? You know, where Zeus decided everyone was a douche and told humanity to kindly go f**k itself? It’s a really common myth across various cultures. Oh, and remember how Prometheus (who is such a dreadful, self-righteous prat in “Prometheus Bound btw) got punished for helping out humanity in the first place, and then the gods punish man by creating women? If the mythographers and poets are to be even the least bit believed, then it’s pretty clear to me that the gods hold a grudge.

That’s not to say we can’t entertain the gods from time to time. Ares loves war. He is literally called Insatiate of Battle and the Bringer of Tears by Homer and Aeschylus  respectively. And Aeschylus liked Ares!  It really wouldn’t surprise me if Ares sits around Olympus until he gets bored and then goes off to whisper some bloodthirsty nothings in some poor mortal’s ear, who then promptly goes out and kills someone, simply for the amusement of a god. As I’ve said before, and been called as blasphemer for, no less–Ares is a dick sometimes.

Does this lack of love for humanity mean we shouldn’t pay the gods their due honors? Hell no. They are gods, and should receive their due whether they like us or not. I can dislike  my president or governor  (I actually love my governor, he’s awesome) or whatever, but I still pay taxes, because that’s how it works. They are in charge, and that is the pecking order. The gods are at the very top of the cosmic pecking order. Don’t sweat it if you don’t feel Olympic glory raining down on you and filling your butt with sunshine. It’s probably nothing personal. And hey, you’re alive right? That should at least mean none of the gods dislikes you 😉

The City of Ares

I like my hometown, Livonia, MI. It’s quiet, safe, and has plenty to do if you aren’t an idiot kid. Unfortunately, it is located mere miles from Detroit, a place dominated by fear, murder, and sorrow. It is a city of Ares Andrephontes, the slayer of men. It’s really quite sad how low the city has sunk, considering its great past.

Detroit, I’m told, used to be a beautiful place. The Western center of automotive manufacturing, Detroit was a busy, prosperous city only 40 years ago. Of course, under that gilded exterior, the foundations of the city began to rot under corrupt politicians, unions in bed with the mafia, and the ever-increasing strain of race relations. Now, we have a burnt-out shell of a city and a whopping 298 homicides just this year, many of them children. This is home of Ares the Man-slayer. This is not new, however; Detroit has always been a refuge for the Bringer of Weeping.

 

Detroit was founded as a military fort and missionary outpost in 1701 by the French. It was responsible for guarding the Detroit River and surrounding areas from native raids and bandits. The French ruled Detroit for only 59 years before surrendering it to the British in 1760 during the bloody French and Indian War. Only three years later, Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa would lay siege to the fort during Pontiac’s Rebellion.

Later, Detroit would become a major staging area for the War of 1812 between the young United States and the British Empire. The battle over and for the Detroit River would continue in spats, and the British would eventually take Detroit with only two wounded, even though they were outnumbered by approximately 50%. & Americans lost their lives to British Cannon, making the siege one of the least bloody in history.

During the period of the American Civil War, Detroit served as a major stop on the underground railroad, where slaves would jump ship to nearby Windsor. Before being promoted to general, Ulysses Grant would be stationed at Detroit, and another famous officer, George Custer, lead the Michigan Brigade from Detroit. Detroit would also produce the 24th MI Infantry Regiment, which suffered over 80% casualties at Gettysburg . It was also during this time, in 1863, that Detroit would experience its first race riot, which left at least two dead and 35 buildings completely destroyed.

The World War II era would bring more war and violence to Detroit. In response to Hitler and Emperor Hirohito, Detroit would shift its great manufacturing capability to wartime use, earning it the nickname “The Arsenal of Democracy”. The Ford Motor Company would convert the Willow Run plant into a bomber factory, churning out a whopping one B-24 Liberator an hour, with pilots taking off to deliver the aircraft straight from the assembly line. In 1943, Detroit would hold yet another race riot, leaving 34 people dead; the Army was deployed to end the riot.

In 1967, Detroit would see its worst race riots yet. With 43 death, almost 500 injured, and over 2000 buildings destroyed, it stands as the third-worst riot in US history. You can still travel down the streets of the city and see the shells of the buildings left untouched even 40 years after the riots. It is after this point that Detroit became polarized, and self-segregation has led to Detroit becoming one of the most racially-tense cities in the US to this day.

 

It is this long, 300-year history that has led to me declaring Detroit a city of Ares. Violence has plagued the city since its founding, and there is no end in sight. Now, with very few, under-equipped police officers, dwindling city budgets and revenue, and the unwillingness of the residents to accept outside help, it looks like this grand city may soon die. Gone will be the city one hailed as the Western Paris. Gone will be the second-oldest Roman Catholic parish in the US. I love Ares, but it seems his influence will choke the life from the city I was born in. What a sad time to live in…

Ares and the Theological Imagination

In the age of iPhones, Internet, and inclusiveness, most folks seem to look at the concept of theology with a mix of vague amusement and contempt, much as if theology is some quaint relic of ages passed. Others may see it the activity of great minds in ivory towers, locked away from the rest of “mundane” society. However, if you’re like me, you see theology for what it really is: a conversation about gods.

So let’s talk about gods. Let’s talk about Ares. As a “secular” society, we’ve grown up with the notion that you shouldn’t talk about religion. Why not? Why should we avoid talking about some of the most important, intimate relationships we create, those between gods and worshippers, and those between worshippers. Ah but wait, those relationships are all nuanced and different. Difference creates conflict. Conflict is what Ares is all about.

I was having a conversation the other night with a friend about Ares. We have pretty different views about the god. I was a soldier fighting in a war. She is a housewife and mother. Needless to say, we both have very different perspectives on life, and yet, Ares is more than big enough to fulfil both our needs as worshippers. It’s easy to say this, of course. It is very different to actually act on it.

Because the polytheist community is so small, it’s very easy for our differences to chafe others. It’s not like we can easily transition between multiple established groups. If a Christian disagrees with the message of their church, they can just find a new one. We’re lucky if we can find one group to practice with at all! That’s why it is so very important we discuss these differences and make attempts to move past them.

It is especially important to how we move forward as a faith group. A major challenge we face is the integration of new converts and seekers into the fold. Young people exploring their spirituality are coming to Hellenismos by various roads, from a love of mythology to the popular Percy Jackson book (and now movie) franchise. Can we provide specific enough instruction without requiring a college degree to understand everything? Can we provide newbies with the resources they need while maintaining a friendly but firm atmosphere? More importantly, can we provide a united enough front to avoid confusing and scaring away the serious seeker?

I think it would be nice if we as a faith group took a lesson from modern militaries. We all bleed red, so quit bitching about your differences and work together. Ancient Greece was varied and nuanced, and so are we. Some Hellenes practice magic, others don’t. Some are more liberal in their outlook, others more conservative. Some of us are city dwellers and have no real connection to the pastoral cycles of the country, while others struggle to see value in the humdrum of the urban Hellene. The rites I need to perform as one who sheds others’ blood are different from the rites new mothers perform to bring their children into the world.  Yet, despite these differences, we have common ground. We have the gods, and we need to talk about them. Not just how our ancestors viewed and needed them, but how we need them today. If we can’t embrace theology and the conflict it brings, we’ll never reach harmony. Without at least talking about it, we may as well give up now.

Adorations of Ares

Now, I for one am a guy who really, really hates jumping on any sort of wagon, let alone the bandwagon. However, after seeing quite a few blog posts listing adoration and praises for various gods (Dionysos, PersephoneHephaistos, Apollon and Hekate so far), I can’t NOT do a set for Ares. As it is, I think all these posts would make a fantastic liturgical resource if compiled (hint hint BA members). Hell, I know there would be disappointment from quite a few if I didn’t write a set.

To my knowledge, there isn’t really a sacred numerology associated with Ares. A few prominent numbers crop up in relation to His astronomical associations with the planet Mars (the “third” or “fifth” planet, depending on the source) as well as Scorpio (even though the myth of Scorpio is tied to Artemis), the eighth sign in the zodiac. To that end, I’ll just go until I can go no more. Ares pushes, and so I shall be pushed, not to constrain myself to any set number. As Ares is the Abundant One, so shall be the enumerated adorations offered at His feet.

1. Hail, Ares,  God of war.

2. Hail, Ares, God of battle.

3. Hail, Ares, God of violence.

4. Hail, Ares, God of strife.

5. Hail, Ares, God of victories.

6. Hail, Ares, son of kingly Zeus.

7. Hail, Ares, son of queenly Hera

8. Hail, Ares, lover of golden Aphrodite.

9. Hail, Ares, father of Phobos.

10. Hail, Ares, father of Deimos.

11. Hail, Ares, father of Harmonia.

12. Hail, Ares, father of Eros.

13. Hail, Ares, father of Anteros.

14. Hail, Ares, father of Sparta.

15. Hail, Ares, father of Thebes.

16. Hail, Ares, father of Thrake.

17. Hail, Ares, father of Rome.

18. Hail, Ares, father of drakons.

19. Hail, Ares, companion of Enyo.

20. Hail, Ares, companion of Eris.

21. Hail Ares, companion of Nike.

22. Hail, Ares, companion of Thanatos.

23. Hail, Ares, who slaughters men.

24. Hail, Ares, who inspires fear.

25. Hail, Ares, who inspires courage.

26. Hail, Ares, who inspires victory.

27. Hail, Ares, who inspires justice.

28. Hail, Ares, who inspires order.

29. Hail, Ares, who inspires awe.

30. Hail, Ares, who guides soldiers.

31. Hail, Ares, who guides warriors.

32. Hail, Ares, who guides poets.

33. Hail, Ares, who guides police officers.

34. Hail, Ares, who guides oracles.

35. Hail, Ares, master of the hoplite’s spear.

36. Hail, Ares, master of the hoplite’s shield.

37. Hail, Ares, master of the hoplite’s sword.

38. Hail, Ares, master of the hoplite’s armor.

39. Hail, Ares, master of the chariot.

40. Hail, Ares, master of the phalanx.

41. Hail, Ares, master of the infantry.

42. Hail, Ares, master of the cavalry.

43. Hail, Ares, master of the siege.

44. Hail, Ares, killer of Adonis.

45. Hail, Ares, killer of Halirrhothios.

46. Hail, Ares, killer of the unworthy.

47. Hail, Ares, killer of criminals.

48. Hail, Ares, killer of the unrighteous.

49. Hail, Ares, ally of the Amazones.

50. Hail, Ares, ally of the Brygoi.

51. Hail, Ares, ally of the Illyrians.

52. Hail, Ares, ally of the Phlegyes.

53. Hail, Ares, ally of the Pylians.

54. Hail, Ares, ally of the Trojans.

55. Hail, Ares, keeper of the barn owl.

56. Hail, Ares, keeper of the eagle owl.

57. Hail, Ares, keeper of the vulture.

58. Hail, Ares, keeper of the woodpecker.

59. Hail, Ares, keeper of the serpent.

60. Hail, Ares, who fought the Titans.

61. Hail, Ares, who fought the Greeks.

62. Hail, Ares, who fought the Persians.

63. Hail, Ares, who fought Athene.

64. Hail, Ares, who fought Apollon.

65. Hail, Ares, who fought the Gigantes.

66. Hail, Ares, who fought Herakles.

67. Hail, Ares, who accepts the sacrificial dog.

68. Hail, Ares, who accepts the sacrificial kid.

69. Hail, Ares, who accepts the sacrificial boar.

70. Hail, Ares, who accepts the sacrificial man.

71. Hail, Ares, the Beastly.

72. Hail, Ares, of the horses.

73. Hail, Ares, the Abundant.

74. Hail, Ares, feasted by women.

75. Hail, Ares, the Murderous One.

76. Hail, Ares, the Destroyer of men.

77. Hail, Ares, the Bloodstained.

78. Hail, Ares, who rallies fighting men.

79. Hail, Ares, the Stormer of cities.

80. Hail, Ares, who is insatiable for war.

81. Hail, Ares, the Brazen one.

82. Hail, Ares, armed with bronze.

83. Hail, Ares, the Spear-Wielder.

84. Hail, Ares, the Shield-Piercer.

85. Hail, Ares, the Sharp.

86. Hail, Ares, who fights under shield’s guard.

87. Hail, Ares, the Fleet.

88. Hail, Ares, the Furious.

89. Hail, Ares, the Mighty.

90. Hail, Ares, the Terrible.

91. Hail, Ares, the Lord of War.

92. Hail, Ares, of the golden helm.

93. Hail, Ares, averter of peace.

94. Hail, Ares, averter of rebellion.

95. Hail, Ares, averter of crime.

96. Hail, Ares, averter of evil.

97. Hail, Ares, bringer of peace.

98. Hail, Ares, bringer of life.

99. Hail, Ares, bringer of resolve.

100. Hail, Ares, bringer of hope.

101. Hail, Ares, bringer of redemption.

102. Hail, Ares, bringer of mercy.

103. Hail, Ares, the manly.

104. Hail, Ares, the passionate.

105. Hail, Ares, the fettered.

106. Hail, Ares, my God, my Guide, and my Exemplar.

(Please note that some of these adorations are allusions to myth, others are UPG. Some come directly from Ares’ epithets, while others are extrapolated from myth or historical texts. I used Ares’ page at the Theoi Greek Mythology Project website, and all sourcing comes from that site.)

Permission is given to copy/print/cross-post this page at your leisure, so long as I retain credit as the original author. Spread the good words! Hail Ares!

Animosity and Other Things

You know, it’s really, really hard for me to read Patheos’ pagan blogroll sometimes. Generally, it’s good for a short read now and again, but sometimes it makes me squirm. Like throw-my-computer-across-the-room-angrily squirm. Generally, the Christmas holiday makes me hate most pagan-type folk. You may have noticed my complete lack of cyber interaction lately- no Facebook, no Yahoo groups, no Aspis of Ares. There’s a reason I hate the holiday season, and I want to discuss that right now.

Now, there’s always some baseline animosity one group has for another, especially in the religious sphere. It’s pretty a common strain that exist between polytheists and monotheists, at the very least on the Internet. Unfortunately, it’s my number one complaint that the vast majority of polytheists comes across as extremely bigoted when discussing monotheism, Christianity in particular. I left one of the the Facebook groups I was on because I just felt very uncomfortable with some of the members’ comments which I felt crossed the line from understandably critical to downright hateful. I’ve been asked a few times why it bothers me so much, and I’ve been accused of being a closet Christian or Catholic spy more than once, in more than one group.

To bring things into a more focused direction for example’s sake, I want you all to take a look at a post written by Sannion over at The House of Vines. He’s discussing the Pagan reaction to an event in North Carolina where Bibles are being offered to students at their public school. The comments can get pretty interesting. One can foresee a possible devolution happening quite quickly, as Eris pokes her head in to join the fray. I agree with Sannion as to the nature of the Bible- it’s noted as part of the Western Intellectual canon for a reason. Additionally, to say that the works of Llewellyn authors are on par with the Bible  is also absurd. Unfortunately, very few people are Biblically literate, or even religiously literate in general (see Professor Steven Prothero’s books Religious Literacy and God is not One for more details). I would consider myself passably literate (religion is my major), but to me, even a PhD in religious studies wouldn’t be enough.

I understand one of the many reasons people come to polytheistic religions is due to a lack of satisfaction with their previous religion, which in the Western world, usually means Christianity. I was the same way. For some reason I don’t seem to hold the same animosity many of my coreligionists seem to almost evangelize. This may seem odd at first; as a devotee of Ares, I generally relish conflict and the opportunity to knock heads, so to speak. Religious conversions all include an apostasy phase, wherein a member newly divorced of another group will continually demonize his former community. This is an immature phase, and with time will mature into a reconciliation phase, where things are live and let live. I understand that there is legitimate persecution in this world. Some people are not nice; I’m generally one of the folks in the not-nice camp. However, there are just too many people who can’t move past their own wounded egos and recognize that acceptance isn’t something you are given by right, and that Christianity, no matter how you paint it, is not wholly evil and every Christian an enemy.

Now, to me, this taint within the Hellenic community is even more tenuous to me. I understand things in Greece are bad with the Orthodox Church. Rhetoric is nasty on both sides. What I don’t get is the nasty behavior on the part of Hellenes. I know not every practitioner of ancient Greek religion, recon or not, ascribes to the same set of principles, but in my limited experience, the Delphic maxims are as close to panhellenic as one can get. There are quite a few maxims I would interpret as particularly relevant to the situation between the polytheist and monotheist communities, but they seem to be conveniently ignored by many. Here, let’s take a look:

Find fault with no one (Ψεγε μηδενα): Granted, we’re only speaking ill of over a billion people on earth, as well as their ancestors…

Do not make fun of the dead (Επι νεκρω μη γελα): Oops!

Despise a slanderer (Διαβολην μισει): We could all use a little help here.

Flee enmity (Απεχθειαν φευγε): I have a hard time with this one, but so does everyone else.

Those are just a few I chose to highlight. Granted, you may not interpret the situation as I do. My spiritually and intellectually formative years were spent in the military, which despite some folk’s opinions, is a rather tolerant and diverse environment. Perhaps it’s just my personality to accept religion for what it is and not make a big stink if it isn’t mine. I know, love, and respect many Christians, many of whom have relied on me for spiritual support in the past.

Ares challenges us every day with conflict. The greatest conflicts we engage in are conflicts of the self- and we all know the most famous of maxims is to know yourself. In Islam, the struggle against oneself is called the greatest jihad. I think, and this is just my opinion, we are failing at this simple charge in the eyes of the Gods. Can we be called good men if we do despicable deeds? Can we wish our religion to spread and replace one set of bigots for another? I pray that Ares can guide us to the heart of the matter and show us the bitter, unrelenting truth of our own souls, or that He does us a favor and strikes us from this earth.