Pagan and the Pit(bull)

The adventures and musings of a Pagan and her dog.


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Happy New Year, Queen of Heaven

queen of heavenHera starts off the New Year in terms of devotionals, and I will be the first to say I think Hera gets a bad rap and that isn’t fair to her. Hera is the best example of the oversimplification of the gods to fit a cultural narrative. Let’s lay down some truth here: Hera is pretty bad ass. She has a pretty strong realm of dominion; Hera is the Queen of Heaven, the goddess of kings and empires, goddess of marriage, of women’s fertility, one of the three goddess of child birth (she is the protector of the mother, Artemis is the protector of the child being birthed, and Eileithyia the patron of the act itself), and the goddess of dynasties. Quite literally, she rules. Hera fights in the War of the Titans, and the War of the Giants, Dionysus Indian War, and she sponsors Sparta in the Trojan War. If the idea of Hera as a warrior queen seems counterintuitive, consider that Pausanias describes a strong cult to Hera Aigophagos (Hera the Goat-Eater) in Lakedaimonia and its capital of Sparta. Hera takes no prisoners.

But wait, her detractors say, Hera treats Zeus bastard sons and other consorts pretty shittily. My response to this is yes, she does. But look at those actions in light of her realms of dominion: she is Queen of Heaven, goddess of empires and dynasties and women’s roles in them. She isn’t going to let others come in and take what is rightfully the jurisdiction of her and her children. After all, even though Hera is considered the last consort of Zeus and tricked into marriage, she was Queen of Heaven in her own right before he got there. No upstarts allowed. It’s even debatable whether all of her divine children have Zeus as a father. Of her children, Typhaon and the Charities don’t have a mentioned father in myth; Hebe, Ares, Hephaistos, Eris, and Eileithyia have disputed paternity.

And through it all the ups and downs of enforcing her dynastic claim on Olympus, Hera does some very kind and loving things. Philostratus the Elder describes Hera welcoming Athene into the company of the Olympians. Hera fills the rivers with rain water of Argos for the devotion Inakhos after Poseidon dries up the island in rage. When the daughters of Pandareos are left orphaned she blesses them with wisdom to lead. And she sponsors Jason on his search for the Golden Fleece and his journey to bring prosperity to Argos.

Despite of all of this Queen Militant badassery, and kindness and support to her devotees, Hera is remembered as “that bitch who gets in the way of Zeus fun”. Hera is reduced from mighty queen of heaven on a cerulean throne to…shrew.

I’ve always thought that the Wiccanate Triple Goddess of Maiden, Mother, Crone to be heinously limiting. And that we need to reclaim the goddesses who embody more than the young nymphet, the voluptuous mother, the disfigured old woman. Women deserve goddesses who represent womanhood in all of its forms, not just the forms that are palatable to the public or described and defined by the older and sexist Pagan writers. Hera is the goddess of leaning in and while she may not be the goddess every woman needs, she is one of the goddesses that everyone deserves. So this month, I’m raising a glass and starting to bring her back.

O Royal Hera of majestic mien, aerial-form’d, divine, Zeus’blessed queen,
Thron’d in the bosom of cærulean air, the race of mortals is thy constant care.
The cooling gales thy pow’r alone inspires, which nourish life, which ev’ry life desires.
Mother of clouds and winds, from thee alone producing all things, mortal life is known:
All natures share thy temp’rament divine, and universal sway alone is thine.
With founding blasts of wind, the swelling sea and rolling rivers roar, when shook by thee.
Come, blessed Goddess, fam’d almighty queen, with aspect kind, rejoicing and serene.


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Happy Holidays, Ares!

In terms of libations and such, Ares kicks off the holiday season.

At first blush, that seems very counter-intuitive. Most non-Pagans are a little confused by the idea of Ares as a holiday god, and most Pagans would agree with them. Ares is not your party boy, unless your idea of a party is one that ends with at least one ambulance called and possibly the cops. Just make sure there are no large pots nearby.

For those who aren’t familiar with him, Ares is the son of Hera and Zeus and a fairly well known war god. But that’s about all his duties encompass. Ares is almost exclusively a war deity, true he is also a patron of the police (#Ferguson and #Icantbreathe make so much more sense now) and an ancestral god of Thebes but that’s about it. He isn’t a particularly glamorous war god either, he doesn’t have the wisdom of Athene, nor does he carry a sense of honor for those who die in battle. Ares does not offer a glorious death, there is no Valhalla for those in his service. But in an odd, contradictory way, Ares is a god of peace.

Ares is a god of peace, in that war avoided is peace; and for this reason offerings are given to him. Which seems a little bit like bribery. Or maybe like Christian prayer-bargaining, “If you give me this, then I will do this”. But I think that it’s a little more complex than that. So humor my explanation.

Ares isn’t the easiest god to identify in art. He doesn’t have very distinctive symbols like Hecate’s torches, or Apollo’s harp, or Athene’s owls. In all the ancient images I’ve seen (and I will totally own up to not having seen them all, so if anyone has a counter example I’d love to see it!) he shows up as a man with weapons and helmet, pants and shield optional. When he does carry a shield, the device seems to change if it has one at all. The point I’m trying to get at is, even when it’s not obvious Ares is there. That temper, blood lust and almost uncontrollable desire to cause damage is there. Which all sounds vastly negative and harmful; so why am I spending a whole blog post on him this close to the holidays?

Because the holidays suck. Everyone has a story about a holiday gone sour. And not just sour; screaming, raging, furious, throw-the-plates-on-the-floor bad. Where the strongest desire you have is to hurt those who have hurt you, when you revel in the shock and pain on the face of the person you are fighting with, when seeing them hurt makes you feel good. This kind of family throw down seems to happen most often when children are different in a way that their parents and families have difficulty processing. When we have been hurt, we want to hurt others back, particularly those who have caused us pain.

For those of us like that, for us Pagans who have some pretty intense friction with our families, the holidays are exceptionally difficult. As we attempt to navigate the murky waters of family, family tradition, and our own autonomy and core; it helps to remember Ares and that lurking rage. Honoring Ares is honoring that anger and rage, we acknowledge it exists. We acknowledge that it is there, and by honoring we can move forward.

This is why Ares is the first god to receive a libation during the holiday season at my house. Thanksgiving and Yule don’t seem like the best time to do shadow work, and to be honest I’m fairly certain libations to Ares is shadow work lite. But at a time when the lights can be a bit over bearing, Ares can be a nice break.  Below, I’ve included the hymn I give to Ares when I pour libations.

 

To Ares, fumigation of frankincense:

Magnanimous, unconquered, boisterous Ares, in dart rejoicing, and in bloody wars; fierce and untamed, whose mighty power can make the strongest walls from their foundations shake: mortal destroying king, defiled with gore, pleased with war’s dreadful and tumultuous roar. Thee human blood, and swords, and spears delight, and the dire ruin of mad savage fight. Stay furious contests and avenging strife, whose works with woe embitter life; to lovely Aphrodite and Dionysus yield, for arms exchange the labors of the field; encourage peace, to gentle works inclined, and give abundance with benignant mind.

~Orphic Hymn 65