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.

 

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!

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…

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.