Some Gnosis

Just dropping some knowledge on y’all regarding a few offerings of late.

I offered whiskey to Ares last night and received a pretty strong, almost immediate reaction. Also, Tess Dawson (who has recently given some offerings to our god) said black coffee works very well, too.

 

That’s all, carry on. Hail Ares!

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Grumble Mumble

This has been an interesting week, and it’s only Tuesday.There has been a lot to grumble over, what with racist scandals, the ever-popular Dionysian dramatist Sannion being a cheeky bastard, and then there was a post tag someone tried adding to one of my posts, decrying how the American people are a “self-anointed priesthood of Ares” and should “be steadfastly ignored.” Motherf**kers.

Now, I am all for the free exchange of ideas, and despite my loathing for anti-war types in general, I fully support the idea that people are allowed to criticize any government they please (or any other group of people for that matter). My problem is the idea that the American people, who are becoming more and more irreligious, even anti-religious, every day, are anywhere close to being a “priesthood” to Ares. Engaging in the acts of the god and serving as his priests are two very, very¬†different things. It floors me really, but then, I’ve come to expect this from people.

I don’t think I would feel so indignant if I wasn’t feeling so priestly lately. Really, I blame all of you. The “Hellenic community” you. I even requested an oracle to settle the subject, with this response: “It will be most impressive to try for it now even though you may not be quite prepared.” Perhaps this incident serves as a way to sober me against notion, I don’t know. And then there were some search terms that made me sad: “why do people not worships ares” ; “is it bad to worship ares”. (“sex is pthelm” made me giggle).

People do not worship Ares because I haven’t done enough work yet. I’m getting there, random seeker, but it’s a long way off. And no, other random querent, it isn’t bad to worship Ares (unless of course the monotheists are right, but my gnosis says otherwise). I would say there is still a lot of negativity surrounding Ares’ cult, but honestly, I don’t think that’s true. The truth, most likely, is that Ares doesn’t inspire everyone the same way he inspires me, and that’s fine. I will still extol the virtues of Aresian worship regardless of how few people I may actually reach, because in the end, this blog is a devotional offering. I will always evangelize, but I don’t really have pews to fill. I will continue writing for my god, and I will continue to be the sex ūüėČ 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‚Äô 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!

Ares 101: Answering the Call

In the previous Ares 101 post, I talked about getting Ares’ attention. So now that the call went forward, how do you know if you’re on the god’s radar? For those of you who are nuministically challenged like me, or aren’t great at divination, there are few reliable methods to tell if you’ve been noticed. Below are some of the experiences I’ve had in order to interpret the attention of the war-god. Keep in mind that while some of these methods are inspired by older methods, the majority is UPG, so if there is a traditional method to the madness, it will be marked as so. All other evidence is UPG.

 

1: Looking to the Skies

One of the traditional methods of divination in Ancient Greece was ornithomancy, or the interpretation of bird signs. Ares is associated with four birds in Metamorphoses 21: the barn owl, the eagle owl, the vulture, and the woodpecker. Three, the barn owl, the eagle owl, and the vulture, are bad omens, and the barn owl in particular is an omen of war. The woodpecker is a good omen, and is especially good for someone going hunting or attending a feast.

Normally, when I pray to Ares for a particular purpose or with a question in need of answer, I ask him to send a sign, most often in the form of a bird. If I see a woodpecker or two, I know I’m good, but if I see a barn owl, I know the answer is a “no.” Thankfully, both are native to my area. I’d be a little disconcerted if I saw a vulture or eagle owl, because they don’t normally show up in my environment. Then again, you don’t necessarily have to look for the living, breathing birds. The show up on TV and in Facebook feeds by chance, or even in logos for local businesses. You’ll have to develop your own methods of being attentive and deciding how long is too long to know if you’ll be getting an answer.

2: Look Down

Ares is the father of numerous snakes, especially of the poisonous variety (called drakon [dragons] in Greek). If such animals are native to your area (and in many places, they are), you can look for them as answers to your prayers. If it is a poisonous variety, however, DO NOT APPROACH IT. They are dangerous animals, and in general, are more dangerous the smaller they are.

Again, you don’t have to necessarily see the signs out in the world. Snakes are a potent symbol that pop up everywhere, much like birds. The biggest problem with this method, however, is that many gods are associated with snakes; Zeus, Apollon, and the Agathos Daimon are a few that come to mind.

3: Divination Time

I am not a diviner, personally, but many people in the pagan and polytheist communities are. You may try tarot, runes, oracle bones, or some other method. If you want to come up with your own method, I might suggest dice, as Aeschylus describes Ares as using dice to determine the outcome of battles. You may want to write down a number of possible answers to a query, say a prayer to Ares Epeekoos (the probable epithet of the oracular Ares of Asia Minor), and roll the dice, with the outcome corresponding to one of the answers.

4: Ask an Oracle

Sometimes, you need a strong answer that you just can’t find. In times like that, I suggest pulling a page from the ancients and consult an oracle. I know of two Hellenes that offer oracles each month: Sannion, who offers them under the auspices of Dionysos, and Dver, who offers them under the auspices of Apollon. There may be more out there, but they’re all I know about personally. Each has their own requirements and limitations regarding their work, so you should read their listings very carefully and respectfully request more information if needed. You should always treat the process as if you were marching into Delphi–never ask frivolous questions of an oracle.

5: Go With Your Gut

Sometimes you’re just going to know when Ares is standing there watching you. To me, Ares. presence has always felt forboding but excited, like a trainer goading a new gym-goer into adding more weight to the bar. Others describe his presence as a stern but loving father looming over them. You’ll just have to wait and see for yourself.

 

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 offerings, symbols for representing Ares, musical resources for worship and more. If you have any topics you wish to see covered, or have any suggestions for approaching Ares, let everyone know in the comments. Until then, hail Ares!

Ares 101: Approaching Ares

Starting this new month, I will be posting various articles with what I would consider beginner information to help people build their own cultus with Ares. After a while, there should be enough posts to merit their own searchable section. While I generally despise the “101” moniker (it seems almost condescending), I learned last night that even many long-time polytheists sometimes struggle to approach the god. To that fact, I hope to convey some important, if sometimes obscure, information in easily digestible pieces.

 

A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about getting started with Ares. While I could have simply referred you back to that post an be done with it, However, I felt it might be more helpful to outline a few approaches, as some may want more than the simple once-a-month sort of relationship that approach offers. Besides, some of you might still feel that’s a bit emotionally superficial (it is in a way). So here are a few more tips for approaching the war-god and beginning your worship.

 

1) The Direct Approach

Ares is a sower of chaos and the father of tears; with all the fun wars and other conflicts going on around the world right now, he’s a busy god. It can be rather easy for a god to miss the small voices of mortals who leave quiet notes, timid requests, or whispered prayers. My advice? Try shouting. This can be metaphorical, but is literally fun, too. It is possible to forceful with a god without being rude or blasphemous.

The structure of ancient prayers is a great approach to use for this. You begin by listing off epithets and then perhaps extolling how you have exalted the god in the past, finally moving on to the purpose of your prayer. Some of my favorite epithets are Man Slayer, Father of Tears, and a personal epithet of my own, Strategos (general).

2) The Wingman Approach

Some people are concerned Ares isn’t impressed with non-soldiers. That’s not true, but that’s a topic for another time. So if you don’t know what a god (or a person) is like, and you want to approach them without coming off as a creep, what do you do? You get to know that god’s/person’s friends, of course! Looking to see the nicer side of Ares? Ask Aphrodite to set up a meeting. Feeling a little more business-like? Check out his partners in crime/justice Dike and Hermes. Wanna see the fun side? Ask Harmonia about dancing at her wedding.

3) The Waiting Game

One way to approach Ares is to simply wait for him to come to you. I would think this is probably the most involved and difficult method, as Ares is known to go after only the most notable and forceful types, like the heroes of the Iliad or the great criminal Sisyphos. It may just be safer to go for methods one or two.

Hopefully this should be enough information to get you going. If you want to go deeper into Ares’ cult, I suggest staying tuned in. In the next few post, I will be covering offerings, symbols for representing Ares, musical resources for worship and more. If you have any topics you wish to see covered, or have any suggestions for approaching Ares, let everyone know in the comments. Until then, hail Ares!

S**t I Wish I had Known

Going back to the theme of beginning a devotional practice, I wanted to go over some things that I’ve learned during my few years in the Hellenic Polytheist community and beginning my devotional practice. These are some things I wish I had known going in and don’t necessarily get written down anywhere, so I wanted to get them down in print. I hope they help you as much as reflecting upon them helps me.

 

1: Devote yourself to the gods, and also to people.

Being in a minority religion, even if you’re just dabbling, can be intimidating, especially in reconstructionist groups (you know, homework and all that). The gods make great leaders, but because of their transcendent, often aloof nature, they don’t always make the best of companions. The gods aren’t friends after all (imo anyway); who has the time when there are wars to start, a million newborns to watch over, etc.? My advice? Find some friends, even if you only talk online. If you can converse via letters, the phone, or (good gravy) even in person, all the better. You don’t necessarily have to be good friends or agree on everything; a simple study buddy can be a great help. Getting through the Iliad is tough, even for a hardcore student. But imagine if you could read it book by book with a partner and discuss the themes, anecdotes, and minor myths contained therein; it could even be fun. In a religion with homework, a study partner is almost essential.

2: Keep a diary and record your experiences and offerings you give.

I’ve always found diaries a tedious undertaking, because writing without an audience just bites at the practical side of myself. However, if your goal is to become pious and more aware of the ineffable, a diary can be a powerful tool. The ancients used to keep ledgers containing lists of offerings they gave to the gods, both to organize the gods’ property, and to keep track of the gifts passed back and forth. If your ledger was in the red (the gods gave you more than you gave), maybe you could try pushing it toward black again with a libation or other offering. My advice: keep track of your blessings. It’s a great way to keep humble and put meaning into the offerings you give back.

3: Start slow.

If you try to offer to all twelve Olympians, the other gods, the titans, and other spirits, ancestors,heroes, and perhaps foreign deities, you’re going to go crazy. And broke. If you’re like most folks, you probably aren’t super wealthy anyway, so don’t worry about commissioning statues or building temples just yet. Pick one or two gods and start there. Students often give to Athene, and many folks follow Dionysos or Hekate. Also, don’t worry about being a full-fledged scholar. Yes, the recon groups are a bunch of stuck-up know-it-alls sometimes, but you will pick things up pretty quick if you pay attention. Besides, scholarship will come; you’ll read or hear some epithet or reference in conversation and want to know more. If you feel guilty about not offering to one god or another, be assured that some kind priestly person is offering on everyone’s behalf. Once you get into a comfortable routine, then add to it. A great way to start is to follow the simple monthly regimen given at HMEPA, which follows the ancient Athenian calendar (add Ares to day five!). Add to it as needed, and remember to keep your notebook handy!

4: Be patient and persevere.

Remember above how I wrote a lot of people are into Dionysos or Hekate? Well, I’m not really into either. At all. I feel called to Ares, who isn’t exactly the most popular god, either in antiquity or today. Most books have only a tiny section devoted to the god, and will rarely fill a chapter in even the most exhaustive books. It took me about four years and almost $100 to find an obscure dissertation about Ares’ cult. And Ares was an Olympian. Feel called to Nyx, Haides, or Harmonia? Good luck finding sources. They exist, but they are few. Don’t let that get you down. Information, both historic and nuministic (in the form of UPG and oracular announcements) can come to light at any time. Don’t be afraid to ask around and dig deep into whatever you find.

5: Pack your big-kid underpants.

The Hellenic community is filled with a lot of very smart people with very strong opinions that are often backed up by heaps of evidence, which can be great for a lively debate, but not for making friends. Between passionate reverence and cold, analytical study, little room can be left for empathy or sympathy. I’m a hardass and I know it. It’s important to remember that often times, a sharp jab at an idea or comment isn’t a jab against you personally. Most recons, in practice, often act too coldly to really be personal. If you make it personal though, do bring the Greek fire, because you can bet someone else will. Eris and Ares love the infighting, or as I like to call it, the crucible of awesomeness. ¬†If you are the sensitive type, you may have trouble, but if you stick with the like-minded, stick up for yourself, and refuse to succumb to trolls, you’ll be just fine.

6: Don’t forget the gods.

It can be easy to get wrapped up in debates about the validity of magic, which edition of whatever book is best, and exactly how much UPG is too much. Sometimes, you get so wrapped up in the academics and debates you get burnt out and forget the central focus of Hellenismos: revering the gods. They are the most important part. If you have to deviate from the books because your god told you to, everyone can bitch, but they can’t stop you. I disagree with the practice of magic, but there are plenty of people that do it and I can’t do jack squat about it. Does it interfere with my worship? No. Should it? Never. The gods are most important, and if they find anything particularly offensive, they’ll probably let the offender know before you. Seriously, don’t forget the gods.

 

 

 

7-9 Metageitnion

The last few days have been interesting. Libations were offered to a few gods. It was a little weird offering to Poseidon and Theseus. I’ve never been a fan of either, really. In fact, I absolutely hate water and avoid it except to bathe and/or not die of dehydration. I always get terribly seasick despite being born into a sailing family (my grandparents used to do the Mackinac race every year). Hell, swimming is a part of most Michigan public school curricula, and in many districts, you can’t graduate without it.

I did have a very odd dream last night, however. At first I was on a ship, with pirates. That didn’t last very long, as I was sent to hunt this giant white stag. It was probably six feet tall at the shoulder and living on a steep, Rocky Mountain covered in deep green mosses and lichens. The hunt occurred at night with moonlight, but I didn’t see what phase. I shot the stag, and somewhere along the course of the dream he transformed into a walrus. No clue why. Anyway, I sank probably twenty or so arrows deep into its flesh, but it just wouldn’t die. I went to fetch a knife, blue and very, very sharp, to end the poor beast, but it gave me this very sad look that said, “No, the knife is cheating, you must use the arrows.” That’s about where I woke up. I’m not one to remember dreams, and those I do remember are just the standard killing folks (I have those dreams a lot, because of war and all). This dream was oddly vivid and outside the normal symbolism of my dreamscape. Anyone care to interpret? Because I have a feeling this one means something. I made sure to thank whatever god it was that gave me the dream, but thanking is not understanding. Should be fun to learn, however. Until then, hail Ares!