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!

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PBP: B is for Books

The modern Pagan world is small, scattered, and lonely. Sure, some might be lucky enough to find a local group. but if you’re a purist like me, you’re lucky to even get along with people online. However, we as a community are lucky in the sense that many of us are creators, and out of that come a myriad of books.

Books are awesome, because they aid us in conveying and passing down ideas, traditions, and opinion. Some groups, like Hellenes, are particularly fortunate to have a large corpus of ancient books at our disposal which may pass down the thoughts and practices we attempt to emulate and adapt. They also help keep bring others into the fold, and keep worship alive even when there’s no direct passing of information by word of mouth or creation of kin (seriously though, Pagans need to start raising their children Pagan, but that’s another post for another time). If you’ll forgive me, I’m going to be shamelessly promoting some of the groups and individuals who have touched and taught me with their writing. While you’re waiting for my book to come out, buy these and learn something new!

 

1) Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Run by the group Neos Alexandria, Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a label that supports pagan writers of a Hellenic and Kemetic bent. They have about 17 titles published, the majority of which are devotionals to various Greek and Egyptian gods from Zeus to Serapis. They also have devotionals in production for various other gods (I have a photo in the Hephaestus one). The coolest thing about BA is the fact that proceeds of the sales go to charities selected to match the theme of the books in question.

2) Nysa Press

This is Sannion’s personal label, and is devoted to reviving the worship of Dionysos. He’s got six titles available, including one of my favorites, Gods and Mortals: New Stories of Hellenic Polytheism. If you’re a fan of Dionysos or Sannion, you really should be buying these books.

3) Nomos: The Polytheistic Publishing Cooperative

This is a new label, under which my forthcoming book will be published. In addition, currently published authors Lykeia and Allyson Szabo may be re-releasing their old material and adding new titles under the label. In addition, approximately 11 other authors (whom I’m not sure are published or not) are affiliated with the label. Hopefully we will take off and you should see some great titles coming out soon.

 

That’s all I have today. May the Mousai and Ares inspire your hands as well! Hail Ares!

Gun Control, Etc.

So I know I normally try to stay away from politics on my blog, but because of the subject matter in relation to Ares, I felt it was necessary to address. This week, President Obama convened a task force to address the topic of violence and gun control, headed by Vice President Biden. Also on the docket is the issue of mental health in relation to gun violence.

 

I am personally an advocate for common-sense gun control. Surprisingly to some, I don’t own any firearms, despite my prior military service. I know a lot of other service personnel, both current and former, that might think that’s funny. I just don’t see any reason for me to own a firearm, so I don’t. I do hunt, but I use a crossbow. I live in a safe neighborhood, so I don’t really need a home-defense weapon, and even if I did, I still have that crossbow handy. I may get a hunting rifle eventually, because it’s silly to waste the tags, but then I know enough to keep it in a locked safe, separate from the ammunition.

I am a fan of background-check laws. There’s no reason that anyone should be able to just pick up a gun at a store without at least checking for a weapons offense or similar previous criminal activity. At the same time, I live close enough to Detroit to know that, if I wanted a gun today, I could take a couple hundred dollars and find one by the end of the night, skipping background checks, regimentation  and other legal safeguards. I know better than to think any law could stop me if I had true criminal intent.

And that brings me to the heart of my post today. I’m neither for nor against executive action or legislation regarding gun control. The way I see it, anything any legislative or other government body can do will be ultimately ineffective. You can’t control criminal intent due to its nature, you can only respond to it. By attacking the symptom of a problem, we divert attention from its cause, and thus lose solvency. I could write pages on what I believe are the root causes of violence and criminal activity, but that would be ultimately missing the point of this post. Only families, friends, and peer groups can effectively address the sorts of problems that lead to any sort of violence, and it’s up to those groups to recognize warning signs and tackle the underlying cause of the symptoms of violence.

The best gun control advice I can ever give was given thousands of years ago: Know Yourself. If you do want to own or do own a firearm, know why you want/have it. Know how to use it. Know when to use it and when not to. Know how to keep your weapon from falling into the wrong hands, even if its someone you would trust. Know how to care for it so that it doesn’t accidentally harm someone. Remember, even weapons bought simply for recreation were built with one intention: to fire a deadly projectile. Know if you can bear the responsibility of owning a deadly device, and decide if you have the mental and moral fiber required to make a life-or-death decision under stress. If you’re not ready or don’t need a gun, then don’t buy one. Always keep that in mind–Know Yourself. Hail Ares.

PBP: A is for Ares

So I’ve decided to do this whole Pagan Blog Project thingy for 2013 in an attempt to be more personable and community-oriented. So, for those new to reading my blog, I’m going to post about the subject of both my worship and blog: Ares.

Ares is the Olympian god of warfare, murder, masculinity, abundance, horses, and weapons, among other things. According to Hesiod, he is one of the first (and one of few legitimate) sons of Zeus by Hera. Said to be over 700 feet tall in the Iliad, Ares is a hulking, brutally strong figure who is said to blanket his bed in the skins of the men he killed. He is described by Homer as one of the most hated gods in existence, though he has received worship since at least the time of the Minoans and Mycenaeans as attested by offering lists in Linear B script.

Though thought of as rarely worshiped by the ancients, Ares had numerous cult centers spanning Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor, including his own oracle. However, artifacts of Ares are hard to identify accurately because his statues can be mistaken for statues of regular warriors if they do not bear inscription. Many later depictions, especially those of Roman origin (which I do not like) , often depict Ares as beardless and youthful, and these make up the bulk of those that survive. A common theme, especially of more traditionally Greek depictions, show Ares in chains.

 

Projects for 2013

So my friends and I made a pact for 2013. We bought a journal, and declaring 2013 the Year of Epic Crafting, and any idea we come up with is to go into the book. Then if it is voted epic enough, in go the plans, which have to be signed off on by a majority of the guarantors (my friends and I who’ve already signed it). Anyway, I’ve already had a few ideas, inspired in no small part by a book I recently bought: The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading: An Encyclopedia of Independent Living by Nicole Faires. It’s pretty awesome. Most of my plans of course revolve around Ares and the other Olympians.

So far, I have two ideas for projects in addition to finishing my book. The first is to forge an iron xiphos, which was a leaf-blades short sword wielded as a secondary weapon to the dory (spear) by hoplites. Having gotten an anvil for Christmas, my blacksmithing supply list has come pretty close to completion, making that project possible.

The second project is a home-school curriculum. After a lot of thinking, I don’t really want my possible future children to go to either secular public schools or a Christian private school, so I at least need to test the viability of teaching them myself. I think I am going to use Drew Campbell’s  Religious Education Curriculum Outline [. . .] from Ecauldron as a skeleton. I actually plan on accelerating things, and of course adding math, science, etc.

Of course, pictures will most definitely follow year-long. As part of the deal, I’m also supposed to help my friends with their projects. So far, one friend is planning a liquor cabinet/smoke chest, and the other plans on making jewelry and such from metal clay (which is awesome material btw). Hope you enjoy following the project, and feel free to join in, at least in spirit (unless you can come sign the book 😛 ). 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 😉

Ares the Avenger

Once again, we find ourselves at the anniversary of the terrorist attacks that attacked both the United States specifically and the West generally. Over 3,000 people died, and still many suffer from health complications related to burns, smoke inhalation, PTSD, and other injuries. The DoD has updated its official US casualty numbers to 6,750 as of 9/10/12. Countless insurgents have been arrested or killed, as have innocent bystanders, who have been either “collateral damage” or worse, targeted by their own countrymen. It’s easy to see, from this data, why some folks disapprove of violence and violence’s god, Ares. Violence begets violence, and it’s never fun.

I have written before that Ares is a violent god, and that he actually does like violence. One could reasonably argue that the whole mess we find ourselves in today is quite amusing to him in one way or another. Ares, while mythologically speaking may be a god of violence-for-violence’s-sake (as clearly given in the Iliad), was not worshiped as violence-for-violence’s-sake sort of god, with the only possible exception being in Thrake, though the sources are probably biased. No, Ares is most often an avenging, reactive, and protective force bent on punishing or destroying those who transgress various boundaries.

As I’ve described before, outside of Homer, Ares’ mythology is rife with examples of him acting as an agent of retribution and justice, and this is a major theme in the plays of Aeschylus. When Ares’ daughter Alkippe is raped, he kills the rapist in retribution. When Thanatos is captured by Sisyphos, it is Ares who brings the criminal into the hands of Death (he kills that guy, too). Ares rages against Hephaestos when his brother traps their mother on a throne, and he punishes Leto’s adultery by denying her shelter to give birth to his new siblings.

Ares also shows us however that violence and its application aren’t always perfect or just, and that those we entrust with violent authority aren’t perfect, either. In a jealous rage, Ares transformed into a boar and killed Adonis. While known for punishing adultery in others, Ares himself has a famous affair with Aphrodite. Ares is often shown as a coward who whines when he is wounded and flees from battle the moment he is hurt.

And this brings me back to our anniversary. The West went to war shortly after 9/11 against radical Islamists to avenge the transgressions of one people against both us and their own. As Ares, we were not perfect, and committed transgressions of our own. Yet let not this anniversary be dominated with the litany of transgressions, but rather the litany of those whose lives were lost because of this event. In the end, all the silly excuses, from WMDs, oil, to plain old ass-hattery are just that: excuses. Today is about the dead, and avenging those dead by keeping their memories alive so that they never really die. Let it stay that way.