Tidbits

So I found this interesting ditty doing research for my book. Supposedly, it comes from the Suda Lexicon compiled by the Byzantines around the 10th century A.D.

Theus Ares (Dushrara); this is the god Ares in Arabic Petra. They worship the god Ares and venerate him above all. His statue is an unworked square black stone. It is four foot high and two feet wide. It rests on a golden base. They make sacrifices to him and before him they anoint the blood of the sacrifice that is their anointment.”

 

A few small, quick observations: one, that this syncretic Ares is the chief god of their pantheon, which could be one reason the region turns out such good warriors–they’d want to make their god proud. Second, that his icon is a square, black stone, much like the Kaaba. Three, they perform anointing with the blood much in the way I personally do when blood is involved in my rituals. I never really had a source for that, but they, I figure that if I do have past lives, many of them were in fact Arab. Then of course there’s the fun, personal coincidence that Petra is the feminine form of my name… Ah the things you learn.

Dividends Part I

Some days it amazes me how a little effort gets one a long way–a spark creates a raging fire, a smile a date, or some whispered words a swelling wave of action. I have felt acutely aware in recent days just how the littlest things reverberate and cycle up like electricity in a capacitor, causing tiny currents to grow into palpable and powerful surges, enough to move entire groups of people. This is of course how reciprocity–a cornerstone of both Hellenic religion and human interaction–works.

I read a great article earlier today which, though vulgar, made me really think about the community as it is changing now. Some folks may not think it has changed much, but for me it has. I have changed in relation to it, too. I don’t want to jinx it, but it *almost* seems like the polytheist community is -gasp- growing up and into its own. How do I know? To take a leaf from John Cheese’s article:

#5. We’ve Become Embarrassed of Our Past Selves (And Then We Let It Go)

When I started in Hellenismos about five or six years ago, it was because I was tired of eclecticism in neopaganism, which seemed to be a common thread to many other Hellene’s conversion stories. At the time, I was definitely embarrassed about my roots; I was definitely a Silver Ravenwolf kid. A part of my still cringes writing that, but when I really reflect back on it, that woman did more to pique my curiosity in alternative religion than any other author I know. That’s me letting go. That’s not the end of the story, though. I was a very aggressive in my anti-eclecticism in my early days as a Hellene. I knew a lot of other youngish firebrands who were the same way. Eventually, however, I noticed a lot of people started to mellow out. At least in the circles I currently associate in, we’ve (mostly) moved past breaking things down into building things up.

 

#4. We’ve Started Double-Thinking Our Actions

 

From my contacts with polytheists, I know a lot goes unsaid and undone. I’m always cautious before committing words to the page; it’s tough to balance what I feel everyone should know about Ares and what I personally feel about things. We’ve begun to really acquire a self-awareness of how our actions affect others in the polytheist community. As Cheese’s article states, “You know you’ve made a huge step toward adulthood when you start regularly thinking about how your words and actions affect other people. Especially when dealing with anger.”  There was a huge upset over the summer regarding the effects pop-culture has on paganism/polytheism which led to the Silent July protest. The ripples caused by that protest are just now returning to the center from the edges of the blogoshpere. What amazes me is that, for the most part, the Silent July event did more to cement our small community’s values than talking to folks ever could. By writing letters instead of blogging–by writing letters in a physical medium rather than typing–I got to know other polytheists more than I could by reading. It’s that sort of intimacy that creates the environment necessary for building real relationships, which in turn creates real community. Sometimes that means caring even when you could care less (because there’s really only so many times you can read about how utterly awesome my chihuahua Chloe is).

 

#3. We’ve Stopped Following Through on the Desire to Break Shit

This one goes back to the whole pop-culture debacle, too. While Cheese is correct in saying it’s mostly a guy thing, it can occur with women, too. Remember a year or so ago when some polytheist women started veiling and were called regressive, damaging to women’s rights, and even racist for somehow marginalizing the plight of women forced to veil in the Muslim world? Because that happened. Yes, trolling still exists, but in my experience at least, things have died down or gone underground. Part of my struggle as a devotee of Ares is certainly about using a blanket “kill them all” solution to communal strife, because it’s not a practical (or even really desirable) solution. As I mentioned earlier, we’re beginning to move away from breaking things to building things, as evidenced by the Polytheism Without Borders project and Thessaly Temenos’ Hellenic Revival.

 

#2. We Learned Ways to Make Responsibility Suck Less

This is really more of a mish-mash of individual achievements lately. A lot of folks are stopping talking about creating community and are doing it. While the two projects above certainly are the largest and ambitious so far, there’s a lot of little stuff going on, too. Community building is a long, tedious process, one which we are all responsible for. Silent July really helped this when everyone decided to write letters. Yes, we created a new responsibility/chore for ourselves; writing a letter means taking time out of a busy day, buying paper, pens, envelopes, and stamps. That’s right, we had to spend money–a book of stamps costs around $20 right now, pens can be up to $5, and a ream of paper or box of envelopes are about $2. If you’re like me and like to write everyone at once, that means sacrificing about an hour or two of your day. But you know what? That shit is worth it. There’s no better feeling than opening up the mailbox at the end of the day and finding something other than a bill, a fistful of ads, or some stupid notice from the VA telling you something you already know. It makes the effort and the expense worth it. The mutual obligation and responsibility also create shared experiences and esprit de corps, two very necessary elements in molding a group of very different people into one cohesive whole.

 

#1. You Realize That if Something Happens to You, Other People Are Fucked

A lot of people don’t know they’re important to other people. Part of the reason we  as a species record and pass on information is that we’re mortal, and any day can be our last. Even in cases not involving mortality, things still change or come to an end. Some people stop blogging, and if you’re the only one who’s got the info on a particular subject, everyone loses out if you somehow go missing. I’m not sure if any of you have noticed, but for one reason or another, the voices of Apollon’s worshipers have gone pretty quiet lately, at least for the blogs I follow. I’ve been contacted by folks as far afield as Brazil and France saying they thought they were the only ones who worshiped Ares. I’m glad there are more Areisian voices out there, but I feel bad when I don’t post enough, because there is a desire out there to learn about my god. For those of you that were members of the Hellenismos.us forum, it was pretty disappointing when it was shut down for (silly) political reasons involving its creator (thankfully a few folks there created the Olympianismos forum instead). Its nice to see that a lot of polytheists are noticing this and are doing more to spread the knowledge and experience around, as well as mentoring and supporting each other.

 

 

Don’t think that because you aren’t writing a blog, starting an event, or creating artwork that you aren’t integral to the community. There are plenty of polytheists I interact with on Facebook or other places that don’t write, but they do support me and I in turn support them. Just because it was religion that brought us together doesn’t mean we don’t have other things to talk about. Plenty of you are parents, which I’m not. Some are artists, some are cooks, others are students. You want to know what Lady Imbrium I talk about most? Goats. I really look forward to her letters because I love hearing about her goats and the rest of the farm. She’s doing some pretty awesome stuff, and supporting her outside of the religious sphere is my duty and privilege as a friends. In the end, no matter what you do, that’s what community building is all about: support. Keep doing good work folks.

Ares 101: The Many Faces of Ares

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

Ancient Cult Titles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poetic and Dramatic Titles

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Pete’s Revival Update

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

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

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

Festival Time

Well folks, it finally looks like it’s happening. There is going to be a full-fledged Hellenic festival next fall sponsored by the folks over at Thessaly Temenos in Louisiana, USA.

I. Am. STOKED.

I don’t care if only five people other than myself show up; I’m really looking forward to meeting some people. I’ve already begun sketching out my banner and ritual wear. Which makes me think: if any of you want to go that do not belong to a temenos or demos, I propose creating one, at least in spirit, for we Areistai. I think it would be pretty cool. I’ve already been working towards this privately, of course, but it would be nice to be semi-official.

Also, for those of you who are considering going, if there is support for it, I wouldn’t mind leading a ritual, especially since the Greater Aresia festival I created should fall near the proposed Thessalian festival. Y’all can vote on it at the bottom if you like. If there’s enough call for it, it would be fun to write a sacred drama of the binding of Ares, with actors representing the gods and all. Armor is part of my ritual wear after all.

That’s all I really have on this right now. Make sure to check out the link and look at all the events they already have planned. Just don’t wet yourselves from excitement. Until then, Hail Ares! 

Ares 101: Building a Shrine to Ares

Last time in the Ares 101 series, I covered the reasons one might consider when deciding whether or not to build a shrine to Ares. So let’s say that’s something you are now contemplating doing. Where do we want to start? Let’s look at the bare essentials and move out from there. Keep in mind, the “essentials” aren’t  so essential as in mandatory, but essential as in “this is generally what one has on a shrine regardless of who/what it’s for”. For ease of explanation, I am including photos of my current shrine to serve as inspiration, as well as some other from around the internet. shrine

The Essentials:

A cult image–cult images often serve as the focal point of any shrine. Many folks use a framed picture or a statue as their cult images. Sometimes, there is more than one cult image; my own shrine currently contains four. They can be simple drawings or complex paintings, simple effigies or elaborately made affairs cast from metal. Don’t think you need expensive stone or metal statuary to serve as your cult image; some of the most beautiful, like this one at Hellenion’s Temenos site, are a simple yet elegant homemade painting. In fact, I will always suggest a handmade, personal cult image over a run-of-the-mill one you can buy in a store. They’re much more meaningful, and make great gifts to the god.

Not all cult images depicted the god, however. The Thakians used an old iron sword, and weapons of all types have been used to represent the god, the spear in particular. The Corinthian helm is another iconic symbol of the ancient warrior and can be used to represent Ares among others. I have two statues that serve as cult images, one I’ve made and one bought online. I also have two other drawn images I use as cult images.

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Ares Andreiohontes A Libation dish–libation dishes serve to hold liquids from libations. It is important you use a vessel that is not porous or can tarnish; wine is acidic and will eventually work its way through metal. Glazed clay or wax-sealed metal vessels are your best bet. Many craft stores sell both pre-fired vessels and a variety of clays  for making your own dishes, and most can be sealed simply by paining them with food-safe acrylic paints or melted beeswax. If you have access to a pottery, you can buy or throw a small vessel and glaze your own. This is what I have done myself. I used an underglaze to include armor and weapon motifs and Ares’ name before adding a clear coat to seal the clay and make it watertight. As a matter of courtesy to the god as well as good hygiene, it is important to regularly clean your vessel so it does not develop mold.

Libation dish

 

Incense burner–the final item I would consider essential would be an incense burner. Depending on the type of incense you use, this could be a stick burner, a stone platform for cones, or even a metal urn for holding coals for use with resin incenses. I actually use both stick and resin incenses, so I have a wooden stick burner and a black metal urn filled with sand. I generally use the stick incense, but I will use the resin for special occasions. The benefit to sticks is that you can technically reuse the stick by putting it out and relighting it until it is gone, though I don’t know too many who do this. Resin incense is great because it creates a lot of fragrant smoke and is always dung free, unlike some cheaper sticks and cones.

 

Other Items

 

Some other items you may encounter include a tablecloth to protect the surface of your shrine, a container for incense (I use soapstone jars for resin incenses), candles, and various devotional or votive offerings. Items common to Ares’ historical shrines included the weapons and armor of dead heroes and enemies as well. I welded together a wire frame Corinthian helmet to signify this,

shrine 2

 

 

 

Hopefully, This gives you enough information to start your own shrine for the war-god. If you want to go deeper into Ares’ cult, I suggest staying tuned in. In the next few posts, I will be covering symbols for representing Ares, holy days and more. If you have any topics you wish to see covered, or have any suggestions or comments regarding your decisions about whether or not to build a shrine, let everyone know in the comments. Until then, hail Ares!

Ares 101: Your First Offering

In the previous Ares 101 post, I wrote about answering Ares’ call and making first contact with the god. Now that you’ve met Ares, it’s time to start leaving some offerings to begin building kharis. I will describe some of the traditional offerings given in the ancient and modern cult, as well as some ideas to try out if you are so inclined based on the level of involvement and/or scarcity of the objects.

Level One: The Basics

Like most gods of the ancient world, Greek or otherwise, incense, wine, and blood are common sacrifices or offerings to Ares. The Orphic hymn to Ares suggest using frankincense, which was a very common scent in the ancient world. Depending on your situation, you can use pure resin, which is burnt on charcoal, or you can use sticks, cones, or oils. I generally use the resinous form when I do larger, more important rituals as it is easier to time and produces a stronger and more voluminous scent. Otherwise, I use stick inscense as it travels well and is rather versatile. Whatever you choose to use, I suggest buying the nicest quality product you can afford; it is a gift for a god, after all, and lower quality incenses can have terrible scents or contain too many impurities, which may harm health (especially to pets). As far as other scents, I have also had luck with sandalwood, but I would avoid dragon’s blood.

Wine is another common offering. For Ares, I generally choose strong, dark reds imported from Greece. A favorite is the brand Kouros, which hails from Nemea and is known colloquially as the “blood of Heracles”. As a matter of taste, I don’t mix wine for the gods, especially Ares. If you are too young to buy or consume wine, I would substitute water, as that is the lifeblood of the military. It’s one of those commodities essential to fighting; you can continue fighting without food and ammunition, but even a day without water in combat and you’re going to be hurting, badly.

Blood sacrifices are great offerings. However, because most people can’t afford a whole animal to sacrifice, or have the proper skills, legal environment, and other resources required to make it work, this sort of offering seems to be off the table for most. It doesn’t necessarily have to be, however. I have performed mock blood sacrifices to good effect. Select a cut of meat that retains both fat and bone, and save any blood left in the packaging. The best cuts will be kosher/halal, as the methods used to raise and slaughter the animal are very similar to how the ancients slaughtered animals for sacrifice. Trim away the best fat off the muscle and remove the bone–I find lamb shanks to be the best offering for this type. Keeping the purpose of offering in your mind, roast the meat over an open flame, and wrap the bone in the fat, offering this portion to the god (as this is their allotment by decree of Zeus). I usually sprinkle the blood about the fire first as an opening to the ritual. It’s not the lifeblood, but serves the same purpose.

 

Level Two: Votive and Dedicatory Offerings

Votive and dedicatory offerings are generally objects, often some kind of art object, that are given to the god. The object then becomes the property of the god, and should not be used for any other purpose without permission. The main difference between votive and dedicatory offerings is the impetus for giving the gift. Votive offerings are given upon giving a vow to the god, or upon completing the stipulations of a vow. Dedicatory offerings are those gifts given just because, much like giving flowers to your sweetheart.

Both types of offerings can be either bought or built, but making your own will obviously have more meaning. In my experience, the object needn’t necessarily be of museum quality, as long as the object was your actual best effort. You can dress up the offering with as much ritual as you please, but with Ares, I generally just place the object on the shrine with a curt nod (the standard guy greeting) and go about my business. These offerings can be as complex or as simple as you wish.

 

Level Three: Event Offerings

Event offerings, though they can be as simple as a libation, are on a level all their own because they generally arise under specific, often infrequent circumstances, be they required* for a holy day, specific act, or in response to an oracle/UPG. For instance, in Sparta, it was customary to sacrifice a puppy to Ares before ritual combat, and the enemy was consecrated in true battle by priests wielding torches so as to avoid the miasma of bloodshed. Obviously, these are not everyday circumstances. Obviously, if you are a college student, a stay-at-home mom, or a farmer, these offerings will have little to no meaning for you. They require people to be aware of their own circumstances and their surroundings. They also generally call for more study and dedication than basic worship. For now, unless you are called to or find yourself in such circumstance, you needn’t worry about such offerings just yet. Rest assured, however, that I will cover these at a later date.

* I use the word required because as a general rule, when you reach the point of these offerings, Ares considers thing less optional, at least in my experience.

Leaving an offering to any god, Ares included, doesn’t need to be a reason for stress. Ares may be the foreboding type, but he is also acutely aware of the limitations of mortals, and as a gracious father, will most likely make allowance for early stumbles. Sincerity and honesty are key to piety, and if you plan to go beyond simple lip service (if you don’t, still no harm done), then be ready to be scrutinized far more thoroughly than anything our cheery friends at the NSA can muster (hi guys!).

Hopefully this should be enough information to keep you going. If you want to go deeper into Ares’ cult, I suggest staying tuned in. In the next few posts, I will be covering shrine-making tips, symbols for representing Ares, holy days and more. If you have any topics you wish to see covered, or have any suggestions or comments regarding offering you’ve given to Ares, let everyone know in the comments. Until then, hail Ares!