Posts Tagged ‘Ares’

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Equals

March 3, 2010

Reality – oozing,
Dripping from his fingers
As though it was blood
Spilt from the wounds of men.

The rages and passions
Are his; he, simmering,
Darkest lord, controls most
Of that which we hold dear.

Yet we reject him:
We hide our faces and
Harden our hearts against him.
He is war, we say—

How can we trust him?

But Aphrodite did not suffer thus;
She, who some call the softest
And most beautiful of the gods,
Took him into her arms – her equal,

In all things.

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Porphyry – On Images – fragment 8

November 25, 2009

‘The whole power productive of water they called Oceanus, and named its symbolic figure Tethys. But of the whole, the drinking-water produced is called Achelous; and the sea-water Poseidon; while again that which makes the sea, inasmuch as it is productive, is Amphitrite. Of the sweet waters the particular powers are called Nymphs, and those of the sea-waters Nereids.

Again, the power of fire they called Hephaestus, and have made his image in the form of a man, but put on it a blue cap as a symbol of the revolution of the heavens, because the archetypal and purest form of fire is there. But the fire brought down from heaven to earth is less intense, and wants the strengthening and support which is found in matter: wherefore he is lame, as needing matter to support him.

Also they supposed a power of this kind to belong to the sun and called it Apollo, from the pulsation of his beams. There are also nine Muses singing to his lyre, which are the sublunar sphere, and seven spheres of the planets, and one of the fixed stars. And they crowned him with laurel, partly because the plant is full of fire, and therefore hated by daemons; and partly because it crackles in burning, to represent the god’s prophetic art.

But inasmuch as the sun wards off the evils of the earth, they called him Heracles (from his clashing against the air) in passing from east to west. And they invented fables of his performing twelve labours, as the symbol of the division of the signs of the zodiac in heaven; and they arrayed him with a club and a lion’s skin, the one as an indication of his uneven motion, and the other representative of his strength in “Leo” the sign of the zodiac.

Of the sun’s healing power Asclepius is the symbol, and to him they have given the staff as a sign of the support and rest of the sick, and the serpent is wound round it, as significant of his preservation of body and soul: for the animal is most full of spirit, and shuffles off the weakness of the body. It seems also to have a great faculty for healing: for it found the remedy for giving clear sight, and is said in a legend to know a certain plant which restores life.

But the fiery power of his revolving and circling motion, whereby he ripens the crops, is called Dionysus, not in the same sense as the power which produces the juicy fruits, but either from the sun’s rotation, or from his completing his orbit in the heaven. And whereas he revolves round the cosmical seasons and is the maker of “times and tides,” the sun is on this account called Horus.

Of his power over agriculture, whereon depend the gifts of wealth, the symbol is Pluto. He has, however, equally the power of destroying, on which account they make Sarapis share the temple of Pluto: and the purple tunic they make the symbol of the light that has sunk beneath the earth, and the sceptre broken at the top that of his power below, and the posture of the hand the symbol of his departure into the unseen world.

Cerberus is represented with three heads, because the positions of the sun above the earth are three-rising, midday, and setting.

The moon, conceived according to her brightness, they called Artemis, as it were, “cutting the air.” And Artemis, though herself a virgin, presides over childbirth, because the power of the new moon is helpful to parturition.

What Apollo is to the sun, that Athena is to the moon: for the moon is a symbol of wisdom, and so a kind of Athena.

But, again, the moon is Hecate, the symbol of her varying phases and of her power dependent on the phases. Wherefore her power appears in three forms, having as symbol of the new moon the figure in the white robe and golden sandals, and torches lighted: the basket, which she bears when she has mounted high, is the symbol of the cultivation of the crops, which she makes to grow up according to the increase of her light: and again the symbol of the full moon is the goddess of the brazen sandals.

Or even from the branch of olive one might infer her fiery nature, and from the poppy her productiveness, and the multitude of the souls who find an abode in her as in a city, for the poppy is an emblem of a city. She bears a bow, like Artemis, because of the sharpness of the pangs of labour.

And, again, the Fates are referred to her powers, Clotho to the generative, and Lachesis to the nutritive, and Atropos to the inexorable will of the deity.

Also, the power productive of corn-crops, which is Demeter, they associate with her, as producing power in her. The moon is also a supporter of Kore. They set Dionysus also beside her, both on account of their growth of horns, and because of the region of clouds lying beneath the lower world.

The power of Kronos they perceived to be sluggish and slow and cold, and therefore attributed to him the power of time: and they figure him standing, and grey-headed, to indicate that time is growing old.

The Curetes, attending on Chronos, are symbols of the seasons, because time journeys on through seasons.

Of the Hours, some are the Olympian, belonging to the sun, which also open the gates in the air: and others are earthly, belonging to Demeter, and hold a basket, one symbolic of the flowers of spring, and the other of the wheat-ears of summer.

The power of Ares they perceived to be fiery, and represented it as causing war and bloodshed, and capable both of harm and benefit.

The star of Aphrodite they observed as tending to fecundity, being the cause of desire and offspring, and represented it as a woman because of generation, and as beautiful, because it is also the evening star-

“Hesper, the fairest star that shines in heaven.” [Homer, Iliad 22:318]

And Eros they set by her because of desire. She veils her breasts and other parts, because their power is the source of generation and nourishment. She comes from the sea, a watery element, and warm, and in constant movement, and foaming because of its commotion, whereby they intimate the seminal power.

Hermes is the representative of reason and speech, which both accomplish and interpret all things. The phallic Hermes represents vigour, but also indicates the generative law that pervades all things.

Further, reason is composite: in the sun it is called Hermes; in the moon Hecate; and that which is in the All Hermopan, for the generative and creative reason extends over all things. Hermanubis also is composite, and as it were half Greek, being found among the Egyptians also. Since speech is also connected with the power of love, Eros represents this power: wherefore Eros is represented as the son of Hermes, but as an infant, because of his sudden impulses of desire.

They made Pan the symbol of the universe, and gave him his horns as symbols of sun and moon, and the fawn skin as emblem of the stars in heaven, or of the variety of the universe.’

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Short – Ares

November 14, 2009

Ares sharpens his weapons with the shine
Of aching love. His smiles stop a dozen
Bullets in their tracks; his courage knows no
Bounds. He is the flame, and women the moths.

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Ares: the Lover of Love

October 13, 2009

As both the god of war and the ‘counterpart’ and companion to Aphrodite, it is easy to identify Ares as a god of pain. He is the pain of bullets tearing into bodies, of losing limbs in explosions – and the pain, whether momentary or drawn-out, of death. But he is also, as the father of Anteros, god of unrequited love, and the lover of Aphrodite, goddess of beauty and love, the god of the pain of love. The concepts of war and love have been tightly interwoven for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Aphrodite and Ares’ own love affair is testament to this: that love and war belong together, and that you cannot truly have one without the other.

If one considers Ares as a god of pain, he becomes more than the stereotype that many have of him. He becomes god of receiving pain, god of giving pain, and even god of mastering that pain. The giving and receiving of pain is clear in his roles as god of war and god of the pain of love—the heartbreak and heartache that is so oft thought of when speaking of love—but it is only when one thinks deeply on Ares that they can draw closer to a conclusion of who, exactly, he is.

He is the god of war, as is well-known among even the average person. He is the god of the fever of war, of the blood-lust of war – the singing need to battle that thrums through the veins of warriors. He is, of course, the god of warriors, soldiers, heroes, champions – and under this aspect, he becomes, also, the god of sports and sportsmanship. He becomes, too, the god of challenge, of fighting to get what you want (or need) – the god of rivalry, of stubbornness, and of courage. Homer, in the Iliad (such as 5.454, 5.506 and 17.210) concentrates on this latter aspect of Ares, as a god who leads men into battle and encourages them when they would falter. As the father of Deimos and Phobos—the gods of dread and panic respectively—and as the god of courage, Ares becomes the god of the inversion of courage: he becomes the god of cowardice, whether it is retreating in war, running from a love that demands one too many risks, or turning tail in the face of the unknown. Ares himself boldly strives forward to meet all these things, and yet this aspect is often hard to find in the words of the classic authors and the views of the modern world.

In Ancient Greece, Ares was a god that was feared and—often—outright hatred. He represented many of the ills of the world, especially when one considered him as the brother, lover, companion or so on of Eris, mother of the kakodaimones, the spirits that plague mankind.

But, interestingly, Ares’ Roman “counterpart”, Mars, was much less disliked. Mars was initially a Roman god of fertility, vegetation, fields, boundaries and farmers; it was only when the Roman Empire began to expand that he became identified with Ares and, perhaps as a result, gained associations with war. However, it is my opinion that Ares and Mars are, at the core, the same god. Ares could easily be seen as a fertility god, when one takes into account his relationship with Aphrodite. Aphrodite and her husband Hephaistos had no children together—though they were married and, by several accounts, seemed to have had sex several times—and yet Aphrodite and Ares brought forth, by several different accounts, gods such as Eros, Anteros, Deimos, Phobos and Harmonia, suggesting of fertility and, therefore, the fertile earth (including the fertility of vegetation). Also, interestingly, Priapos, the rustic god of vegetation, fertility and garden produce (who is often considered a son of Aphrodite, though not by Ares), taught Ares to dance, therefore further increasing the link between Ares and fertility and vegetation. As the god of war, the pain of love and courage, cowardliness and sportsmanship—and so on—Ares would naturally be a god of boundaries: the boundaries between life and death, between warring armies, between the human body and the world beyond it, and so on. Ares’ links to farmers and fields are more tenuous—as not many Greek authors, it seemed, explored his links to fertility and the farming men and women who so relied on the fertility of the earth—but the links are there. As a god of warriors, he would also be the god of returning soldiers and warriors, and of the family of those people: who would likely be farmers. He is known as a god of the battlefield, but also, as a god of farming and fertility, he would be a god of the fertile earth and areas that can be cultivated for food – namely fields, farms, and so on.

Ares-Mars, then, is perhaps one of the most irrationally disliked gods. As a god of courage, bravery and stubbornness, he is the patron of those who stand up for what they believe in, or who step in to protect those who cannot protect themselves – the innocent; the young and the old. He is the patron of soldiers, both in war and returning home, and he is the guide of those who die on the battlefield. He is a god who does not hide his true nature behind sweet poetry and gentle smiles – he is the harsh truth of the world, the reality that bites. He is the cruelty in being kind; he is not cruel for the sake thereof, but for the greater good of the individual or community. He is the lover of love, and therefore of life – he protects the next generation, and yet he is constantly demonised, reduced to merely one aspect of who he truly is. He is a god of many more things than just war, or the lust for such; and a person could do much worse than having his guidance and protection as one’s patron or friend.

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Read Write Prompt #13

October 9, 2009

Read Write Prompt #13: No Pain, No Gain (Sacrifice In Poetry).

Ares.

A letter-opener lies on the desk,
Dribbling a papercut’s blood: rich and
Red, begging for my lips. I yield to the
Hunger, and think back to the ancient times.

We were in our prime, at the height of our
Power – we danced with a foot in each world,
And we laughed and we fucked without fear.
Now, we do not share warmth. We fight always.

I do not live on constant war. I need
Peace; one cannot savour the sweetness if
All that one tastes is sweet. Long ago, I turned
My sights to cheaper food: to whores, addicts,

To children starving in the filthy streets,
Begging for any loose change you might spare,
And crying when you all just pass them by,
Uncaring: it does not affect your minds.

Those are my people now; not warriors
Who gun each other down and scream in my
Sister’s name, Enyo’s name, not mine. I do
Not care for them, not now, not anymore.

I do not want your incense and your wine,
Poured to guarantee my favour – no, I
Want your blood. I want it to pour over
My lips: a sourness to match the sweet.

Tonight, I haunt the world of men. I see
All the horrors you hide even from your
Own eyes, and I lap it all up. Tonight,
I walk, and men fall down dead around me.

Tonight, I will accept your sacrifice.

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The Nature of Deimos and Phobos

October 6, 2009

It is human nature to be fascinated by that which horrifies and repulses us. We watch films and television programs for their graphic scenes – the mangled bodies, the dead children and the utter madness. When we drive past a horrific car crash, we slow down to see the destruction. Some among us enjoy watching animals chew off their own body-parts in order to escape the traps we set for no reason but to sate our sadistic amusements. The majority of us will, at one time or another, have hurt somebody, stolen something, lied to somebody – and some among us have even killed somebody. We are, due to our very natures, sinful creatures; and that is all that sets us apart from the ‘lower’ animals. They do not sin, or set out to sin. We try to strive for virtue, and in the process we get exactly the opposite.

This is the nature of Deimos and Phobos, the gods of terror and panic, respectively. They are the sons of Aphrodite, the Olympian goddess of love, beauty, sensuality, pleasure, feminity and women, and Ares, the Olympian god of courage, battle, war, blood, masculinity and men. Deimos and Phobos inspire the blurring of their parents’ domains – they are the pleasure derived in pain, the love of war, and the stirring and spilling of blood.

In his Dionysiaca, Nonnus describes a scene in which Aphrodite and her Erotes—the winged gods of love in all its forms—, accompanied by Deimos and Phobos, sack a city. The scene is spine-tingling: Aphrodite is usually described as a soft, gentle, smiling goddess, rather than a goddess of war, and thus to see her in the company of such ‘awful’ gods as Deimos and Phobos is unnerving. “Kypris [Aphrodite] wore a gleaming helmet, when Peitho shook a brazen spear and turned into Pallas Athena to stand by Minor in the fray . . . when the bridal swarm of unwarlike Erotes shot their arrows in battle; I know how tender Pothos sacked a city, when the Kydonian trumpet blared against Nisos of Megara and his people, when brazen Ares shrank back for very shame, when he saw his Phobos and his Deimos supporting the Erotes, when he beheld Aphrodite holding the buckler and Pothos casting the lance, while daintyrobe Eros wrought a fairhair victory against the fighting men in arms.” (Nonnus, Dionysiaca 25.150ff.) This scene further blurs the line between Love and War; and, interestingly, it is not Aphrodite who is shamed to see the fighting, but Ares. This suggests that while Ares’ warfare has little to do with love—and therefore he is shamed by the war for such—Deimos and Phobos care not for the cause, but only for the outcome: war, war, war.

Aeschylus describes how war-oaths are sworn not by Athene, or by the usual gods of oaths—Styx and Horkos—but by Ares, Enyo (Ares’ sister and the goddess of war) and Phobos: “Seven warriors, fierce regiment-commanders, slaughtered a bull over a black shield, and then touching the bull’s gore with their hands they swore an oath by Ares, by Enyo and by Phobos who delights in blood, that either they will level the city and sack the Kadmeans’ town by force, or will in death smear this soil with their blood.” (Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 41ff.) This passage hints at how warriors viewed Phobos, at least – as a god that you want on your side, rather than as on your enemy’s team.

The Roman author Valerius Flaccus, in the Argonautica, also deeply identifies Aphrodite’s (Venus’) crueller aspects with the nature of her son Phobos (Fear): “Venus herself whirling a pine-torch in spires of flame piles gloom on gloom and girt for the fray sweeps down to quivering Lemnos; storm, lightning and peals are her escort from heaven; the pomp of her father’s thunder lends her glory. Then through the terror-stricken air again and again she makes a strange cry ring, whereat all Athos first did shudder, and then the sea and the wide Thracian mere, aye, and every mother in her bed; and children at the breast grew chilled. Straightway Fear and insensate Strife from her Getic lair, dark-browed Anger with pale cheeks, Treachery, Frenzy and towering above the rest Death, her cruel hands bared, come hastening up at the first sound of the Martian consort’s pealing voice that gave the signal.”(Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 2.200ff.)

A passage in Hesiod’s Theogony identifies Deimos and Phobos as gods of disorder, of chaos: “Also Kytherea [Aphrodite] bare to Ares the shield-piercer Phobos and Deimos, terrible gods who drive in disorder the close ranks of men in numbing war, with the help of Ares, sacker of towns.” (Hesiod, Theogony 933ff.) This, then, leads on to furthering their link to their mother, Aphrodite – as a goddess of the human body and of beauty, she is also goddess of the chaos of expression—particularly in art—and, also, she is furthered as a ‘chaos-god’ by her very nature as a goddess of love: for what is love if not chaotic?

As gods of war, terror, panic, fear and chaos—and representing the fear of losing war, or of losing someone in war, by their nature as sons of Aphrodite and Ares—Deimos and Phobos become more than mere sons and attendants of Ares; they become terrifying in their own right. And yet they do not strike without need – they are both merciless and merciful, for the myths do not speak of their attacking without reason. They exist in the chaos of humanity – in the beating of the heart; in the blood streaming through veins and, when spilled, over skin; and in the madness of the human mind. They bring about the fascination with the awful, with the hideous. They are the patrons of ‘circus freaks’, as well as warriors and fear-inspiring fighters; they are the gods of disfigurement and the revulsion it can cause; they are the gods of horror, of fear, and of everything you’ve ever wished does not exist.

But if they are treated well, and shown proper respect, they are not necessarily awful. Their natures do not change, but their aims may – and if Deimos and Phobos stand beside you, in any and every matter, then they are not standing against you. If they are against you, then they are the voice in the back of your mind, stirring in delicious terror over the consequences your actions may be; if they are beside you, they lend their strength unto you to do what you must, regardless of how selfish your reasons might be.

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Fiction: Aphrodite: Winter

September 28, 2009

She isn’t there in the winter. They – men leaning on staffs and breathing heat into the air – discuss it among themselves. She isn’t there, and they ask why. They invent stories amongst themselves, tales of her with Persephone, threading the pale flowers of the Underworld through her fellow’s hair – but no, no. That is not true, because then she would be somewhere, not here but still there, and she is not.

The truth doesn’t make sense to her. Winter, the chill nipping along throats and shoulders, destroys her. It tears her apart with curved nails and makes her scream – pleasure pain pleasure pain; she’s not sure, it’s hard to distinguish the two when she rules such a vast domain. But winter: still it destroys her, still it kisses her until her eyes stream with tears and she forgets herself.

If she forgets herself, she doesn’t exist. That much is true and that is honest, and yet if the men knew, they would ask: then how does she return? Where does she go?

She laughs at them when she hears their words in the summer, and slaps them with pulsing waves of desire, need. She speaks, without the need for oracles or sacrifice to appease her, for she laughs often and without restraint: “I am everywhere.”

That is the truth. She exists not at all, and yet she does, really: she exists in the occasional kiss, mostly chaste now, just a brush of lips over a brow, or else in the tentative touch of icy fingers.

She has to wonder, though: where does she go? She’s not certain – not to the Underworld, though, and that is all she knows. Not even to the Kharites, with their red-red, ever-smiling mouths – even they succumb to silence in the all but endless winters. To her, they are endless: and yet they are incredibly finite, for she never remembers anything of them.

Once, she asked Zeus where it is that she goes, and he laughed at her, as though she were nothing more than the humans that she herself mocked. “You? You are not of winter, and so you do not live there.”

His answer terrified her, and it still does now. She hides: she wraps herself in Ares’ warmth; she is hot beneath her skin, and flames blaze in her summer-girl veins. She thinks, thinks, thinks, and she dreams, but she can’t find an answer better—or equal—to that Zeus gave, and she doesn’t like that. She doesn’t like to think herself an outcast, but, in the winter, that is what she is.

Nothing grows through the snow that settles over the earth, or even in the chill that creeps in the autumn days and makes her mind hazy and her pleasures harder to find. Not love, or plants, or fruits: not even hate can blossom here. Yes, yes, even Eris fades in the winter – a cooling of the words at first, the sharpness edged with something softer, and then even she goes.

Aphrodite does not stay, cannot stay, when winter sets in. She has tried before – fighting back with teeth and nails, snarling and screaming – but it never works. Ice blazes against her, pulsing like a fire that she can’t control, and it pulls her under. She drowns in the ice like a child, struggling to press her face up through the jagged hole to breathe: and it does not work.

She blames not Demeter, nor Persephone—and from the tales whispered among women with loose-hanging breasts and thin, cruel mouths, she knows this to be strange—but Athene. She is Aphrodite’s undoing: thus the chill winter months must be of her. She curses Athene and flies at her, screams, attacks: and cold, hard Athene simply ignores her.

That, though, is the way of things.

It is only when she looks, finally, to herself that she realises what she knew all along. She looks past the image that the humans set upon her, trying to define who she—she!—is, and she understands. Winter takes her from the scope of humanity and places her back among the kosmos, as Ananke once again: for it is inevitable that the kosmos need her influence, too, in order to remain as they are. In the winter, she realises, she wraps herself with Khronos, and melts, fluid and snakelike, into him. He remains with her when she returns: she understands that. He keeps her heart beating—hers, hers; the only heart of all the gods that truly beats—as she dances with mortals and exchanges kisses with her lovers.

Winter does not seem so harsh, now. She thinks of him in the spring, summer and autumn, and that makes her disappearance easier. She shares kisses with Persephone at the solstice and then waits: but she does not wait long. Winter sears through her, tearing her apart – she feels no agony, not really, but only the bliss of knowledge.

The pulse of ichor, of life, in her veins is kept there by her yearly embrace with Khronos. She melts into him, and he into her, and she becomes new once more. She is refreshed; she shines among the Olympian gods and puts even the Titanes to shame. Her heart beats and her eyes flutter, ichor pulses and need claws at her belly, and she understands that this is her own blessing. She smiles to the sky in the dead silence of a summer night, and looks on with bright eyes to the coming winter months.