I often get asked questions about Ares. How he came to me, how I developed the rather comfortable relationship I have with him, how fellow Hellenes used to treat me regarding him that sent me running away from Hellenismos originally, and how I honor him. So, I figured it was time to maybe make a full post on it here that I can always link people to if they want this information.
It may surprise some pagans, but perhaps not, that Ares first came to me when I was very young. I never sought him out, he found me. There were no great meditations on the nature of deity or seeking a patron. No, one of my earliest memories is of myself around six years old dancing in a thunderstorm outside at our home in Milwaukee. This was before people started over-parenting. Kids were allowed to do things like play in the rain. As the rain poured down I took handfuls of rainwater from our birdbath and splashed it on things in our fenced-in yard while my mom, dad and sister did something else indoors. Dad may have been in the garage, I don’t remember.
At one point I heard a throat clearing, turned and saw a man that looked like he was out of some movie with his black curled hair, his handsome face, his tunic and bronze armor. And he was pointing a short sword at me. I remember looking at him, smiling with no fear of his sword and went back to playing. He chuckled, withdrew the weapon and spoke to me. I will not share with you the name he addresses me by, as that is between myself and him. But he also called me daughter. Not in the literal sense, but in that sense that you are a child of god in the Christian sense.
He asked what I was doing and I answered that I was blessing things with the magical water that fell from the sky. Oh, the simple mind of a child. He laughed again and that was about the gist of my first meeting with him. He never gave me his name, initially, but I knew him to be god. When my mother asked who I was talking to outside, I simply responded that I was talking to god. Which for a good Catholic girl… was not a stretch to the imagination.
He came to me many times where we did nothing but converse in the way a child does with the divine or with family and I remember before my First Holy Communion having a sit-down conversation with Father John at the Basilica that I was to take my first communion in and I asked of him, “Father John, what if I don’t believe in all this?” He replied, “Dawn, it doesn’t matter what you believe in, just that you believe in something. For without faith, why get up in the morning and live your life?” That has stuck with me even through the time when he was deemed too progressive for the Roman Catholic Church I belonged to by order of my family and shipped off to a church in Nevada.
Ares never stopped speaking to me. I didn’t always see him, but I frequently heard his voice speaking to me when I needed added strength or courage. When we moved from Milwaukee to the small town I will mostly hate until the end of time, he was there with a hand on my shoulder as I cried -leaving everything I knew behind to start anew.
He was there when the small-minded small-town folk outcast me for not being from their town since birth. He was definitely there when I threw my first punch in self-defense. He was there when I started fighting regularly to earn my place in the hierarchy of small-town life. Every detention, every cut, every bruise… all in an attempt to defend myself from bullies and the cruelty of other children, Ares was there with a hand on my shoulder guiding me.
I’m sure it would disgust many to know that he encouraged me to fight, but what sort of doormat would I be now if I had simply rolled over and taken it? I was beaten on a regular basis for being a… as was so colorfully told to me within a week of starting school in the new town, “nigger lover.” In fact, I remember the exact words uttered by a boy I had developed an early crush on. One day he turned to me, in class, and said, “Nigger lover, go home. We don’t want you here.” All because I had black friends when I lived in Milwaukee. The teacher did nothing.
I won’t go into detail of my school years. That’s where my health problems started to manifest and years of misdiagnosis began. Even so, Ares was at my side.
Now, I’ll take a moment to say that unless I’m in formalized ritual or prayer… or talking of him to others, I only ever refer to him, when speaking to him, as Sir. Even now, at 31 years old, I still call him Sir. He deserves my respect.
I became very interested, after discovering a book on Wicca… a Scott Cunningham book, if you care to know, in how the Greeks would have done things. Thanks to the rise of the internet in the late 90s, I found a few mailing lists and a group out of Madison trying to recreate practices. In both venues, I was… as I put it, booed out of Hellenic Reconstrucionalism. Ares wasn’t liked by a lot of the writers and thinkers of ancient times and therefore, a lot of modern interpretations of the ancient religion assume the same mindset. I was told, rudely, that no one followed Ares. That he had no temples, no organized worship and was hated throughout the Greek lands.
But this couldn’t be true, could it? This god who had stood by my side through some very difficult times couldn’t possibly have been hated. Was he not loved by Love? Did he not love Love? Did he not sire two love gods? Did he not avenge his daughter Alcippe’s rape? How could this god be wrong to worship or honor? And why were these people questioning my relationship with him?
I left Hellenic Reconstructionalism very disappointed and heartbroken.
That didn’t last for long, though, if twelve or so years isn’t a long time.
But how do I honor him? Well, I talk to him. Daily. I have statuary now, and while I don’t need those to focus my words to him, I do greet him every morning. Usually something like, “Good morning, Sir. May the day find you well.” I offer him libation in group honoring rituals. I leave offerings on the altar I have for him in my home. Little things that build my relationship with him. It is he who I generally have long, deep coversations with in the candlelight labyrinth at Pagan Spirit Gathering. Usually the conversations leave me in tears, because it is in that hypnotic trance-like state that I am most receptive to hearing the things about myself I need to work on. But even when he is most cross with me, I still know he is there. Like my physical father who I will constantly find myself bending myself over backwards for, if Ares asks it of me, I try to do it.
It was in that candlelight labyrinth about six years ago that Ares left me for a time. He pointed to another god of another pantheon and said, “here, you have much to learn from him.” I balked. I cried. I threw an epic temper tantrum that a girl in her mid 20s should never have thrown. I didn’t want to deal with Loki, I had Asatru friends, I knew this would only end badly.
I was wrong, but that’s another story for another day.
He never really left, contrary to my belief. He just watched and waited.
I do a big libation ritual to him that I open to my local pagan community every year. Usually in October or November, depending on the farmer’s almanac’s prediction of late fall/early winter weather. This started about the same time I thought I lost him and was forced upon Loki (who I generally refer to as the weird uncle that grabs your ass at dinner parties when he thinks no one is looking). It’s one of our higher attended events and I’m glad for that. Even though I burn in the fire an offering that makes many gag -store bought chicken livers for those curious, I feel like the yearly pomp and circumstance really strengthens my relationship with him.
I’m back in Hellene now, finding it more accepting and relaxed than it was in the late 90s. I’m confident on my own and happy in my spiritual life. Ares is my patron and I’m grateful to have him in my life. I’ve disappointed him at times, I’ve made him angry, but he has never betrayed me, tricked me or done anything that didn’t result in me learning a lesson I needed to learn. He’s a god with a bad reputation. A reputation we, as mortals, gave him. Would I say I love him? Yes, definitely. In the way a child loves their father and in some ways, he has been a far more supportive father-figure than my biological father ever was. I have seen people who have wronged me beyond my capability to right get metaphysical bitch slaps that I can only assume come at the hand of an angry and protective war god.
Regarding his mythology: it’s important to remember that yes, he was a god of war. But he was a duality. While Ares could bring war, he could also protect from war. He was courage and cowardice in one. He was many different things. He was protective of his children. He danced… drunk and naked at his daughter Harmonia’s wedding. He loved Aphrodite.
This god is not a monster. He’s flawed, as all gods are… as we are also. He is simply… himself. Hi, my name is Dawn and Ares is my patron. And I’m proud of it.