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.

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My Response to “Polytheism without borders”

If you haven’t read “Polytheism without borders” over at the House of Vines yet, I encourage you to do so. If you’re really feeling lazy (and it’s okay, I get like that), the jist of the post is about starting a time bank, wherein people pay each other for different services using a “time dollar”, which is essentially an hour of your time. Neat, eh? Now, it’s not really necessary to quantify things into time dollars or how much one service is worth over another; the point is to create those reciprocal bond between people that we already try to create with the gods. Sannion ends his post with two questions: “What do you need and what can you give?” There were some great responses. A lot of people have writing experience, another has convention organization skills, etc. A Lot of people were simply looking for people to be there. I figure it would be most appropriate to create a post instead of a comment on the post, mostly because I hate super large comments, and because it would give me an opportunity to explain in detail what I can offer.

 

What I need: Honestly, there isn’t much I need except for someone (or multiple someones) to keep me on track with projects, keep me inspired, keep me moving forward, etc. Basically, I need a wife minus the romantic/sexual overtones (a real wife is nice, but I’m not a very romantic/sexual person, so yeah). I’ve tried doing commissions and things in the past, or sitting down to write, and then I flounder, mostly because I get lazy and/or bored. I’d be happy with people who call or text every once in a while to make sure I’m working, giving me ideas for projects, or just keeping me company while I work. Part of what I hate about doing art is that I don’t have people to do it with. Just having someone talk at me whilst carving or sketching is extremely beneficial.

Another thing I would like would be some rural knowledge. I would totally do the whole farm thing if I were able. Homesteading is something I’m very interested in, and I’ve talked to quite a few folks via snail mail about the subject lately.

 

What I can offer: There’s a lot I can offer, really. I guess this would be best displayed as a list.

1: Organizational skills

Being in the military and being used at all three levels of warfare (strategic, operational, and tactical) has given me a pretty good understanding of what makes a good organization, what makes one bad, etc. I’ve been a squad leader, a quality controller, a funeral detail member, a combat readiness instructor, as well as the vice president, public relations officer, point-of-contact for pagan students, and sergeant-at-arms for the largest student chapel program in the Air Force. I’ve been a leader and a follower. I’ve got extensive experience in public speaking both from my time in the Air Force and my current job as a tutor, where I give lectures about research and writing. Having worked at both the federal and state level, I’m a whiz with forms and paperwork.

2: Research skills

As an analyst and now a student, I have a knack for finding things out. I have a damn good memory for things and can usually find an answer to just about anything. Being a student at my college comes with lifetime access to their subscription of databases and journals, which is awesome. It doesn’t cover every journal (alas, no Pomegranate for me), but I can look a lot of things up. It was through my school library that I was able to find my most valuable Ares resource. As a former analyst, I’m very good at finding what is important in a given dataset, and how to organize said data into graphs, charts, etc.

3: Writing & Language skills

I’m a former Arabic linguist and English tutor; I literally get paid to be a grammar nazi. I am good at breaking down sentences and other constructs. I also can teach. Most of the focus of my tutoring is directed towards ESL students. I’m good at recognizing whether a mistake is a result of ignorance to the rule or a superposition of differing grammars (as English has a few of its own, even native speakers do this).

4: Sculpting, etc

While I currently don’t do commissions like Lykeia, I do have experience in the art and am willing to guide others in making their own creations. Small-scale metal casting in pewter is relatively inexpensive (you can get started at around $100 and make a few pieces) and can be done on a stove-top (I suggest outside on a camp stove  for safety).

5: Pugnaciousness

I’m good at being a jerk. This might not seem like a skill, or if it is, it’s one that many people thing is overabundant. I’d say the difference is that my dickishness is cold. It can make me seem cruel, but sometimes you need someone to slap you when you get all hysterical–I’m that guy. Other times, you just need someone to make a cold-hearted decision, like those thought experiments about choosing one group of people to die over another; I’ve had to make those kinds of calls before. I’m good at being a bad guy, I guess, even if it’s just part of posturing. I guess that’s why Ares is my god of choice.

 

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 Little Musing (and foul language, just an FYI)

So I just broke out the good whiskey (Crown XR for those who care about such things). Why? Well I have a few reasons. For one, this is my third post for the day, and for me, that’s a lot. Secondly, because Sannion is driving me to drink. In a good way. This is toasting whiskey, so a toast to him.

He wrote a great post about writers in the community, and how basically everyone is full of crap. It definitely left me with a kill-the-phonies vibe ala Catcher in the Rye. There are days when I can’t tell when Sannion is being a jerk or when he’s being serious. Maybe like me he’s serious about being a jerk? It doesn’t really matter, because all I’m doing is gabbing. And he f**king called it.

So anyway, he was wondering where all the other folks in Hellenism are at. You know, people who aren’t writers. The sad thing is, while it may be his fingers doing the typing, there’s a part of me that’s damn sure he’s not the one speaking. Sannion is the tool of a god. You don’t have to believe it. I’m not even sure I believe it, but there’a a part of me that knows I’m right (because I usually am). We need to start doing things. We need to really come together if we want to create a community. I’ve seen the posts everywhere, too, so you can’t say, at least nominally, that you don’t want it.

Sannion also talked about leadership, and went into it more with Suz in the comments (she’s pretty great, even if I’ve never really gotten to interact with her much). They talked about how people get pushed into leadership, and how that never works out well for people. There’s a problem with leadership though. It has to be wanted. But it’s a catch-22, because we inherently mistrust the people who want to lead. We have cautionary tales about groups that became insular because of self-aggrandizing leaders. I get that and that sucks, but here’s the deal: if someone doesn’t want to do a job, are they going to do a good job? Hell no. One of the reasons the military works so well (and let;s face it, it works better than anything you civilians can really imagine, even when it doesn’t) is because you don’t get to pick your leaders. If you get a shitty commander, you deal with him or her until another one comes along to replace them in two years.

I’ve thought about starting groups before, but I put up with too little bullshit to really make that happen. I’m what you’d call a hyper-conservative. If I could, I’d go back in time to Sparta, then throw myself from the cliff because I have psoriasis, and the Spartans wouldn’t have any of that shit. I really live up to my name’s etymology, and I’m as unmoving in my positions as a stone monument; it literally takes a force of nature to get me to move. Don;t get me wrong, I know what I’m doing and I have the experience, but even if it’s something a community might need, my impatience for stupidity wouldn’t allow it.

Part of the problem is due to the nature of the internet. Sannion talked longingly of days past when people got to get together to do ritual and yada yada yada. Then the internet happened and we were given choices. Choice, contrary to what republicans (the system advocates, not the party) may posit, does not actually make people happy, especially when we get all the choices the internet offers. Don’t like Hellenion? Join Neokoroi. Still not a fan? How about Elaion? There are (or at least were) plenty of groups, fora, and mailing lists. So what happened? Choice happened. The days Sannion and Suz and the other folks miss–they had one choice: participate or be alone.

I can say I’ve tried not being just a writer. The truth is probably less than that. My ego is even disappointed, and there isn’t enough collective data-space in the world to fit my ego. Also, as nice as it would be to be a “professional pagan”, that doersn’t pay the bills, and I’m not the kind of person who is okay with merely getting by. Maybe that’s why I love Ares so much: the world really is not enough. So I guess I’ll go out and start taking things over. Gotta make the big man proud after all. And Sannion, if you’re reading this, I owe you a drink, and you’ll have to come out into the world to get it.

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!

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.

Ares, God of Manliness

So I was poking around Facebook groups the last few days, and I started to get annoyed (go figure). One incident got my attention and incensed me like no other. It was some guy complaining about how some in the group hurt his feelings. Maybe it’s the dangerous amount of testosterone I hide in my beard, but I wanted to tear this guy a new rectum. Why? Because he was breaking what many would call “man code”, an institution so old, women first started the earth’s rotation with a collective eye-roll (and they just altered it reading that just now ;).

All joking aside, what is the man code and why does it matter? Every boy is brought up with models, scenarios, and rules, both spoken and unspoken, about what it means to be a man. This code can sometimes change, but some parts do not, being biological. Ares, as the god of manliness, exemplifies the qualities of manliness that the ancient Greeks ascribed to, as do many people today. Let’s explore some of those qualities, and how they reflect (or do not reflect) some of the same values we hold today.

Number one: A man is responsible for his words and actions.

This sort of thing should be obvious, and is rather understated in the myths of Ares. However, one myth does really call this virtue to the fore: that of the rape of Alkippe. Alkippe was Ares’ daughter, and she was raped (a dubious term for the ancients, so from the context of the myth, we’ll assume it means what it does today) by Poseidon’s son Halirrhothios. Ares caught him in the act, and like any dad could be expected to do, Ares killed him on the spot. Now, killing folks is what Ares does, and as a mortal, no one would have given a damn for Halirrhothios, except he was the son of another god. Well, once Poseidon found out, he demanded retribution. Now, Ares could have blown Poseidon off, but instead went to face the music in Athens (where the offence occurred). In a tribunal of the gods, Ares was acquitted on account of defense of another, and everyone went their merry way (except Poseidon). This is one reason given for the hill being named the Aeropagus, and the Athenians held their most serious trials there for centuries after.

This is not the only bit of wisdom we can draw on. In Plato’s etymologies of the names of the gods, he pondered that Ares is so named for his “hard and unbending nature”. Ares makes decisions that are often of a most permanent nature (death and all that), and thus must live with a decision he makes regardless of the outcome. Unfortunately, modern man has a very hard time with this concept. Politicians of all stripes are notorious flip-floppers. A major problem exists in urban populations, and despite the lamentations of Bill Cosby, it’s not just blacks that abandon their baby-mommas. Public apologies are all the rage today, and the media rarely reports consistency of character (unless it’s bad), and so many young men are given mixed messages in this department. Speaking of mixed messages, this brings us to number two on our list.

Number two: Men are fighters.

It’s pretty easy to see where Ares fits into this one. Almost all of Ares’ mythology is devoted to his war stories. From the Iliad to Aeschylus to modern myths by Sannion, Ares is a fighter. Much of a man’s inclination towards fighting is entirely involuntary, and comes to him though the wonderfully chaotic chemical testosterone.

Despite all the manly and awesome qualities testosterone provides (like aggression, sex drive in men and women, beards, etc.), average testosterone levels around the world are dropping. This is one reason many men these days just don’t seem so manly anymore. Between spending time indoors, dieting too much, becoming obese, and modern sleep patterns, testosterone doesn’t have the opportunity to be made, because all of those ingredients interfere with its production.

Fighting today is on odd thing to quantify today. Fewer and fewer boys have ever gotten in a fist fight. Unfortunately (in my opinion), this decrease in physical confrontation leads to a real lack of resolution in peer groups. You often hear of a “bullying epidemic” in the news today. Truth is, bullying has stayed pretty steady over the centuries. The strong pick on the weak until they are no longer weak. Now, however, the culture of non-confrontation (the use-your-words method) means the weak get picked on until a point they either commit suicide or homicide. Coping skills are at an all-time low, and you can see this today in politics, business, and domestic life.

Fighting should not be allowed to run willy-nilly, though. Much of the poets’ disdain for Ares stemmed from his “stab first, ask questions later” attitude. It is important then that Ares was coupled with a passionate yet gentler female influence; hence, Ares is paired with Aphrodite.

Number three: Most of a man’s emotions shouldn’t be public.

Now, it’s a truth that Ares was an extremely passionate character, and that said passion would get him in trouble. In addition, there are a few stories of Ares being quite the softy (saving a baby, yay!), especially when it came to his lovers and children. But there’s a difference you will see in Ares versus many other gods: most folks don’t get to see this. Unlike his own dad, Ares isn’t in the habit of making his affairs public. Other than his rage, Ares doesn’t go around putting his emotional baggage in others’ laps (and I’m sure that’s one reason he distracts himself with his wife).

Part of taking control, whether as a man or a woman, means putting aside emotion in order to do what needs done. People, as much as they might enjoy fighting, usually have a natural distaste for killing, however necessary. Sometimes, the only answer to a solution requires one to disregard that feeling. Man needs to eat, and despite raising the family pig for a year or two, he needs to kill the animal in order to prevent his family from starving. Do you hate your job? A lot of people do, but it needs done. Does this mean you can’t have those feelings, or can’t ever express them? No. What it means though is that you find the appropriate time and place (usually never public) to express that.

The best parable to emphasize this point also relates to Ares as a god of courage, which is seen by the ancients as a manly quality. Courage, as described by Aristotle, is not an absence of fear, but rather the acceptance and refusal to shrink back from fear. The courageous man is therefore afraid, but denies the power of fear despite his holding onto it.

Number four: A man is responsible for, and to, others.

This is a theme that has been running through the last three, especially in relation to Ares. Ares stands behind his children, his lovers, and his order, despite how others feel about him. Though Zeus calls him the most hated god on Olympos, Ares still supports his father (unless he’s supporting his mom). He and his sister Athene may fight, but when they need to, they fight together. He and his buddy Hermes work in tandem bringing criminals to bear. He may not be well-liked, but Ares gets his job done, and never stops even if he fails. His responsibility is to bring war to mankind, and thus mankind shall never find peace. Ares knows what is best for man, even if what’s best for him isn’t good for him or others.

 

We as a society can learn a lot from Ares. From him, we learn it’s okay to fight, but that there’s a time and place. We learn about responsibility in an irresponsible world. We can learn about tough choices, and about never backing down from the challenge. We can learn to deal with our own issues. Most of all, we can learn to make ourselves, and our sons, into good men. Hail Ares!