[Card Description: Flying through battle in his war chariot, Ares is a young nude man wearing only his battle helmet, a sword, and the blood of his enemies. His face contorted in rage as he takes the life of his adversaries. Behind him, a village burns as families rush to collect save their livelihood from ruin and wonton destruction. ]
Would you ask me
Why would you?
Would you ask
defiled with gore,
pleased with war’s dreadful
and tumultuous roar?
In human blood,
in swords, and spears delight,
and the dire ruin of mad savage fight.
I hurt, maim and utterly destroy.
Intensely focused on one thing:
Knock me down again
I stand up
Prepared to fight
So bring it.
I break through cowardice
By destroying reason
Ready or not.
Statistics: Culture of Origin: Greece Location: Greco-Roman empire. Age: Mature or Young Beardless Warrior. Element: Fire
Mythology: In all of mythology, it seems that nobody has cause to by angry like Ares does. The only legitimate child of Zeus and Hera, he is despised by both parents, as well as the other Gods. Although usually considered the God of War, he is really the din, chaos and fury of war and the people who fight and die in them. It is his sister, Athena, who plans the strategy of War, and Zeus or Eris (the Goddess of Chaos) to induce it. But Ares is the one who does the dirty work, and he wins as often as he loses. He is, literally, the war drums, the sword and weapons of death, manslaughter, the battle cry, and the banishing of cowardliness. His energy is quite raw and pure, and he was never the one to engage in politics, though he was often a pawn by others. He was also the lover of Aphrodite, and became her partner in adultery after he lost a contest with Hephaestus to win the hand of the Goddess. When The God of the Forge, Hephaestus, found out, he created chains that none could break, and his invention captured the lovers mid-tryst. Hephaestus called in all the Gods to witness their shame. Ares struggled and fought, but no matter how much he wanted to save his lover from humiliation, the chains would not budge. Indeed, it was only at Poseidon offering to pay the Adulterers Tax (a law whereby the Adulterer must pay the offended husband) that Ares was set free. Ares is the father of Nike, the winged Goddess of Victory, and the Romans associate him with Mars.
Meaning in Reading: Although our society is changing slowly, men have traditionally been socialized to be aggressive go-getters, and honoring your emotions is seen as weak. Men often hide their real feelings because in an aggressive world, it could be seen as something to exploit. Often a man’s real emotions are hidden from the people he cares about most, like his own partner, or worse, hidden from himself. One of the few emotions men are allowed to show is anger. Consequently, a man might manifest fear, jealousy, excitement, even happiness and sadness, into anger. When that energy is used constructively, and with an eye for honesty, Ares can help you to address these feelings directly. Your anger doesn’t have to stay there. You can do something with it. It may be time to take up arms and fight for a cause, to fight against something that makes you angry.
Reversed: Failing to get beyond the anger means the real problem lies underneath the surface, festering like an unhealed wound. The angry fire of Ares pushes you to fight…but what are you fighting against? Are you wasting your emotional energy on battles that cannot be won? Are you standing against people who are actually on your side, like your friends, sweethearts and family? Of course you have the right to feel angry, but you still don’t have the right to hurt other people.
Connecting Ritual: There is nothing so raw as the power of a gun. With the smallest finger movement, you can kill someone, destroy lives shattered in violence, protect yourself, or feed your family in the depth of winter. Life and death become manifest and real in that object. Many people fear the power of guns, but Ares challenges you to master it. Go down to a shooting range and take a class on gun safety, then fire off a variety of guns on the range. Feel the power, the kick back, and the weight of that power in your hands. What would happen if you shot out of anger or jealousy? What would happen if you fired out of self-protection? If you can, bring something to shoot such as a fruit that will explode, like melons or apples. It will show you the destruction of that power. Know that the power of Ares is in that gun, and treat it with that same respect.
Advanced Working: Believe it or not, according to some sources, Ares was the God of Dance before he was the God of War. Indeed, the primitive pounding of drums gets directly to the heart of what Ares represents: raw power, pulsing rhythms, chaos, din, fighting for your life. Few of us in today’s culture, except for soldiers and police, have the opportunity to experience Ares energy. Gather some drumming friends around a bonfire, drink something that makes you angry and winds you up, like whiskey, and go nuts. Drum, dance around the fire, pound the ground with your feet and hands, and hurl an intense battle cry to Ares!
Interesting Fact: Gary Sanders, a prominent scholar on sexual health and on Gay couples in particular, invented the Angry Feeling Wheel. He helps men to identify what kind of anger they are really feeling. In couples who are experiencing anger in their relationship, he uses the wheel to have them identify what is behind their anger. The then asks them how they would react if their partner was feeling fearful, excited, sad, etc. This new perspective moves behavior out of the realm of aggression and anger and begins to deal with the problem more constructively.
A few years ago, I worked as a motor coach driver in Alaska. Based out of Anchorage, I used the opportunity to re-connect with my father, whom my mother had divorced when I was very small. Spending time with the family was wonderful, and I always associate Midsummer with connecting my father and the Sun God. It is a magical time and Alaska, too, is a magical place. The land is so alive with animals and plants, which go crazy with growth when the sun is out for so long.
the mountains give birth to the sun
He rides the Sky victorious
over the Back of the Whale
and he takes all day to do it.
For 23 hours and 15 minutes,
He conquered Darkness.
But Our Lady laughs
and calls him to her breast,
so like husband or child
Here is a subtle shift.
He is still King
Yet he misses his partner so
He rushes toward Her
faster every day.
He doesn't care
that the wildflowers
are turning to berries.
The leaves soak up the sun,
but in spending so much time
in sunrise and sunset,
they copy the golds and reds
His blood sacrifice
He knows he must
give in to Darkness
I am honored to be loved by many men, and I have several whom I consider my father. My father who gave me genes is a grounded, down-to-earth working man, while the dad who raised me is well-educated and from a more conservative background. It’s not that we fight, but rather that we agree to disagree. Coming to terms with that has been one of the challenges of becoming an adult that I’ve actively worked on. He knows I’m Pagan, but I’m not sure he quite knows what that means and what it means to me. I wrote this poem from his perspective. Do you have parents like this?
You know how I feel about you
Controversial book reading
Child of mine.
I served time so you could
Burn the flag
Ok, so I didn’t fight in war
But I would have
Because it is my duty
As an American Citizen.
When did you lose your morals?
Trade your free-speech amendment
Before you hurt someone.
You are saving yourself until marriage.
So it must have been a virgin birth
Which produced a grand-baby
At my young age.
You will be home by 10
Or there will be strict punishment
Just like my father told me:
I can’t trust you
If you don’t follow
But you know how I feel about you:
Child of mine.
Grey skies veil the Sun
Rain offers no nourishment
All the green is gone.
In her concealment—
Taken by the Lord of Death—
Love is her best achievement.
Stolen with a last breath,
With a kiss, Persephone
Descends in her depths.
A last snow flurry:
Demeter lets her grief go.
Earth begins to breathe.
“Daughter! My dear own!”
Mother loves Daughter too well,
To the return of Spring: Hail!
To little Kore: Farewell.
[Card Description: A Japanese Kami with wild bushy hair is in the middle of destroying the dragon while lightening rages overhead. He wears many layers of traditional Japanese robes, all the color of gathering storm clouds. He looks aggressive and determined to defeat his adversary. Behind him, the Sun Goddess shines out of her cave, but otherwise hides her light from the world. ]
I don’t care
About being polite
I have no tolerance
I will not
Solve your problems for you.
But I can wash them away
Or utterly destroy them.
And burn them.
Whatever and whosoever
Stands in my way
Had better watch out
As I test you
I rub you raw
The wrong way.
I am the adversary
I leave a mess in my wake
To let them all
Start over again
Statistics: Culture of Origin: Shinto Location: Japan. Age:. Element: Air and Water
Mythology: Susano-o was created when the head deity Izanagi wiped the muck out of his nose after visiting the underworld. It is no wonder Susano-o was born in a bad mood. He was in constant rivalry with his sister Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, and they often had contests of one-upmanship. At one point, became so excited at his performance in a contest that he destroyed her sacred rice fields, her weaving loom, and killed one of her attendants. She retreated into a cave, and Susano-o was banished to the earth. However, during his time there, he saved a province (and a princess) from an evil eight-headed dragon by getting it drunk and chopping it to bits. In the tail, he found a sword which represented his power as a storm deity. He offered this sword to Amaterasu as a way to reconcile after his tantrum. When Susano-o married and had children, he challenged his future son-in-law to a variety of tests, including chasing him in a field he’d set on fire, and forcing him to sleep in a room full of snakes!
Meaning in Reading: Many Shinto practitioners find Susano-o to be very approachable, because like all of us, he has a temper, he’s jealous, and he can be very destructive. His name translates to The Brave-Swift-Impetuous-Male. He addresses problems head-on, without politeness or tact. In the end, his methods are very effective. An ignorant scholar might interpret Susano-o’s destruction of Amaterasu’s world as animosity, but a closer look at their relationship shows a brother and sister who are both owed certain authority as Gods. And in the end, despite Susano-o’s violent outburst, He recognizes her right to rule, surrenders to Her power, and moves on with His life. Susano-o advises us to attack problems directly and voraciously, with passion and purpose. His antagonism forces others to be at their best and prove themselves—it is not pointless aggression. While he seems to be getting in the way of his future son-in-law, he is actually testing the young man’s mettle. As a storm God, he rages, makes a great deal of noise, and will literally rain on your parade, but in the end, the crops get watered and it is in everyone’s best interest. What inner storms are you battling? What enemies or antagonists in your life do you have and how do they challenge you?
Reversed: Perhaps, like Amaterasu, you are so put off by the noise and destruction that goes on around you that you have retreated into yourself. The problem is that Susano-o is not the kind who will give up easily, and there is no stopping the storm until it has worn itself out, or passed on. But the Storm God’s sister did not come out when Susano-o’s wrath had passed, but stayed hidden out of embarrassment, pride, anger, or a complete inability to face the ruins of her world at the hands of her brother. What challenges are you avoiding? Why aren’t you able to face your adversaries head to head? If you are sensitive to your buttons being pushed, how is that working out for you?
Connecting Ritual: Think about all of the challenges surrounding you right now. What adversaries are causing you problems, road blocks or potential problems you are trying to avoid? When you have these firmly in your mind, go to the second hand store, and purchase a variety of porcelain or clay dishes, and the uglier the better. Using a permanent or dry erase marker, write, draw or otherwise express your challenges and problems on the plates, glasses and bowls. Then, on a day it is storming mightily, go outside to a clear area, like a driveway, and lay out a tarp. Protect yourself with eye goggles and perhaps gloves. Get a hammer, bat, sword, or a hefty rock. Ground and center yourself and connect with the storm raging above you. See yourself as the cloud of thunder, the raging rain washing things away. Imagine the power behind you helping you to clear away your adversaries. Let the power raise inside you, and when you are ready, utterly destroy every plate, glass and bowl. Howl and rage, directly face each adversary, each road block, each problem, and completely break it to pieces. Know that as you destroy each item, that your hesitation at facing the problem also breaks. Remember that you are not breaking the person, but breaking the problem that lies between you. You are facing the problem head-on. Leave it overnight. The next day, clean up the mess you made. And as you sweep up the bits of your problems, know that they are surmountable. Thank the night’s storm and Susano-o for their help.
Interesting Fact: Like Susano-o himself, there are many kinds of clouds and storms. Learning to identify what the clouds mean can be key in forcasting the upcoming weather patterns. For example, high, thin, whispy clouds indicate fair weather, but a sudden drop in temperature can make them chunk together and drop snow. Cumulonimbus, on the other hand, is extremely tall, heavy clouds that are light on the top and dark on the bottom, and almost always mean rain. These often bring thunderstorms. But big, light fluffy clouds usually are just passing through. Of course, this all varies by region, so you might consider learning to identify the different types of clouds and record your learning in a cloud journal. Write down the date and time you saw a specific kind of cloud approaching, and then the weather associated with that cloud. You’ll quickly learn to tell the difference between them!
I stand at the door of Apollo’s shrine–I’m not sure why I have come. Whether I am simply drawn by the energy of this place, or by the serendipity of a short line, I know not.
The Pithia is at the door. She’s the mysterious prophetess of Delphi, and the most powerful women in the world. She invites me to share in her fumes–a heady incense that would take me ages to recognize. It goes straight to my head. She speaks to me, but her words make no sense. By the time she motions me to enter the shrine, my doubt clears and I enter the door. I glimpse the mosaic ‘Know Thyself’ as I commit myself to crossing the threshhold.
Somehow, my frivolous hat with kitty ears seems woefully inadequate to wear when you stand before a god. I couldn’t take it off fast enough.
He is glorious. A young man in a shining chiton of pure white and gold. Clean shaven and well groomed–he looks like that hot professor I never actually had in college. Behind him, a sparse altar with symbols sacred to Him; a vase, a bust of Himself, a crown of laurel, some soil from Apollo’s own birthplace, and several offerings of poetry and writing.
For the scarcity of time, two are allowed inside, and when Apollo the Sun God asks kindly what brings us here, I defer to the woman next to me. She is to be the caretaker and healer of young boys who have seen real trauma and experienced great loss. Boys who have had violence against them and no true father figures in their lives as they were in and out of the system. Suddenly my own desires for Apollo’s blessing seem shallow and contrived. I turn my gaze to the young Sun God, joining in this woman’s beseech, “Lord Apollo, can you heal them?”
“Although I have felt many heartaches and pains that mortals normally bear alone, I am compassionate to your blight where other Gods cannot be. But I cannot heal these young men. I can offer my love, empathy and protection,” he touches the woman, “but you must heal them.”
I can see her breaking down–the weight of such a responsibility is heavy, yet she knows Apollo will be standing behind her, guiding her actions as long as her intention is pure. She straightens herself and seems so brave to me. I know of Apollos loves and losses from my mythological studies. His understanding is real.
He turns to me to ask why I have come. I wring my cat hat and shuffle my feet–I wonder if Hermes has stolen the words out of my mouth, for suddenly I seemed to have more words than I could edit coming out of my mouth at His shrine not fifteen minutes ago. Now I stand before the God of decorum, right action, poetry…and my words and body language reflect none of these things.
“Er, it’s like this…” I begin, “I have all these projects–too many, really. I went to your sister Artemis to ask for her help in finishing what I start. And She said I should see you about, er, getting organized with my writing. Or something.”
That sounded dumb, so I try again, “I’m writing a book, you see. Several, actually. I’m well blessed by your inspiration, my Lord. I just can’t seem to accomplish anything.”
Apollo, the God of inspiration, of song and civilization seems to contemplate me a moment, “Is it one thing you wish to accomplish, or one big thing?”
“It’s huge!” I gesticulate widely in demonstration, “A big idea–a vision–I want to give to the community. It involves several separate writing projects.”
I thought his statement ironic.
“What is the action you must do to begin and sustain this project?”
My mind races–research, interview, find time, support myself, keep the lights on, make the computer work for me…
“No.” said Apollo, reading my mind, “You have to write. What is a book but an accomplishment of chapters? What is a chapter but an accomplishment of pages? Empires and encyclopedias are gained and created by a thousand accomplishments inside a thousand accomplishements inside a thousand accomplishments. Begin with the page. Write what you know. What you put there will be honest, true and perfect for you at that moment. If, when it is done, you find it not to your standards, then you do one of two things: You might honor Athena and delve into research. Or you might honor my sister Artemis, and accept is as practice, and try it again.
“If you are open, I will keep you well inspired, but to become overwhelmed by the big idea and never make accomplishments toward it–that is failure. But looking where you are and seeing how far you have come shows your many accomplishments. It is not a failure simply because you are not at the end.
“The sign above the door says “Know Thyself”, but unless you are a God, it is an impossible task. The goal is to strive toward it. Everything you do something to enrich that is an accomplishment.”
He seems done, but the magic is broken by noisy events outside the shrine. From my place in Apollo’s presence, I peer out the door over the green. I can see Ares stomping away from the shrine he shares with Athene.
“If you would just listen to reason!”
Without a word, but with many grumbles and a flare of cigar smoke, Ares pulls off his armor and kicks it to the ground, piece by piece, and heads straight for Aphrodite’s shrine. He pushes through the long line of worshippers, even shoving Her mermaid attendant out of the way. He swings open the door to Her shrine, and I swear I could see Aphrodite dismiss the Lord of War with a wave of her hand.
Apollo and the other woman and I look out. The young Sun God shakes his head, “My family is so…dramatic, sometimes. O dear. He’s not going into there, is he?”
Indeed, Ares slams the door at the shrine of his lover, and proceeds to a group of Sirens–fierce bird women who would sing to you lovingly as they play with your entrails. Their song lures Him in as they dance and sharpen their claws–the woman and I look at each other with worry.
“Fear not,” Apollo touches our shoulders and invites us both back into his shrine, “If anyone can handle their play, it is my brother Ares. Now, where were we? O yes.”
He blesses us both, and I leave the temple inspired by what I’ve heard and ready to write. But first, there are other Gods to visit. I step out of the shrine into Apollo’s glorious sunshine, and inhale the sweet air of optimism. I spare a glance back for the Pithia, who snakes into Apollo’s shrine–no doubt to drink up the words of prophecy he sends to her. I wonder what my destiny will be, and the outcome of this project. But first, I know, I must write…
[Card Description: A middle-aged, bearded man sits beneath a tree on a mountain top in a puddle of mud. He is filthy and there are sticks and leaves in his beard. He is babbling to a sow and his eyes look mad with lunacy. He is accompanied by a young man who is writing everything he says down in a book. The young man is Taliesin the Bard. His face shows concentration on the task at hand and a kind of awe that children get when they see something for the first time. He is dressed like a druid and his staff of office lies beside him. It is night, and they are surrounded by nocturnal animals like owls and mice.]
I have seen it—
The before and the after of all things.
I know it I know it
I see the future emblazoned on my eyes closed tight
A thousand years of wars
I see the past in blood.
You must know it
Know what I see.
Only through madness can you find the truth
The knowledge that does not lie in books
He writes it down.
The rivers of time
Flow forward and back
For those with prophecies.
I shall tell you
I have told you
What lies in store for thee.
Statistics: Culture of Origin: Welsh. Location: Wales and South Britain. Age: Man in old age. Elements: Earth, Air
Mythology: Myrddin was a deified Welsh madman whose prophecies and knowledge propelled him on into the future. Originally driven mad by witnessing horrible war in the 6th century, Myrddin retreated to the wild woods, where he befriended many animals. In his lunacy, he realized that everything he learned from books was useless, but what he had inside him was truth. He babbled his secrets to a friendly pig sow, but was overheard by Taliesin, the great Bard, who wrote down his visionary war prophecies. Myrrdin correctly predicted a united people could defeat the Anglo-Saxons, and later the Normans, back to the sea. He was later melded with a familiar character of Arthurian fame, Merlin. In these legends, he was the wise counselor and friend to a young King Arthur. Merlin was basically Myrddin stripped of all his power of madness. With the gift of magic and foresight, it has been rumored that Merlin was born in the future and aged backwards, which gave him his powers. Perhaps the most interesting prophecy Myrrdin made concerned his own death: he foretold that he would be beaten, stabbed and drown—a combination which seemed impossible. Yet one day, some thugs beat him mercilessly with clubs and kicked him off a cliff. He landed on a spear some men fishing the Tweed River left out, impaling himself. They found him with his head in the water. A triple death! The more we know about Myrddin, the more questions we have about him, although he himself would certainly have all the answers—assuming we could understand his rants.
Meaning in Reading: The problem with knowledge parallels the stories of Myrddin throughout the centuries: just because you know what will happen, doesn’t mean you know how to apply that knowledge. In his aspect as Merlin, Myrddin applies his knowledge to help. No longer the madman in the woods, he uses his knowledge to serve others. Myrddin challenge us to think about what we do with the facts as we understand them. It is about the search for ultimate truth. Knowledge can come from books, plain common sense, and internet websites. But it also can come right from our gut. It comes from the Godforms looking after us, and from our own inner truth. Are you accepting of all kinds of knowledge? Or do you limit the sources of truth to certain methods?
Reversed: Before Myrrdin went to war, he had read all there was to read and even did alchemic experiments in his laboratory. He believed his magic and knowledge could defeat whatever threatened his people. But he didn’t know what he didn’t know. A head might be full of knowledge and empty of common sense. Believing you know everything is an act of hubris. Are you so busy being a know-it-all that you don’t bother to listen to others? Has your quest for information blinded you to the emotional impact of the facts and events? Are you engaged in a battle of wills to prove someone wrong? They do say knowledge is power, and power corrupts…but you knew that, didn’t you?
Connecting Ritual: Myrrdin can help you find the knowledge you seek. Find yourself a rocky stream. Follow the banks and pick up three white rocks and three black rocks. Make sure they are approximately the same size, shape and texture. Clean and consecrate them in ritual, along with a small fabric bag with a drawstring. If you would like, decorate the stones with pictures of wild woodland animals—try using acrylic paint or permanent markers. In your ritual, dedicate them to Myrrdin, and place each stone in the bag one at a time. With each stone, tell Myrrdin what you will do with the knowledge he will give you. Promise him you will use it wisely. Now you have a bag of yes/no stones! To use them, shake the bag and ask Myrrdin to answer your question. Form it so it will have a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. When you feel Myrrdin is ready to help, put your hand in the bag (no peeking!) and draw the first stone you can. This is your answer: Black stones mean no, white stones mean yes. Continue in conversation with Myrrdin until you have the knowledge you need to move forward. Don’t forget to thank him!
Interesting Fact: Following the literary evidence, it becomes clear that the 11th century clergyman Geoffrey of Monmouth mixed information about the madman Myrddin and the tales of Uther Pendragon with several other historical and legendary figures. The truth is that the historical person Myrddin existed a few hundred years after the historical King Arthur. But Geoffrey’s stories have taken on a life of their own! He inspired dozens of new tellings and reimaginings of Arthur and his friends, and it has become nearly impossible (and indeed, undesirable!) to pull apart the strands of fiction from fact. Maybe Myrrdin wasn’t worshipped in ancient times as a God, but in true Celtic form he has achieved immortality through these stories, and is as strong and true an archetype as if he had been a God from the very beginning.