The Fellowship leaves the Kingdom of Pisces and makes their transpontine journey into the equinoctial sign of Aries, so put on your Red Shoes and get ready to dance until you drop, because we're about to enter Death's Kingdom.
Aries, Kingdom of the Sun, Domicile of Mars
Whenever I think of Aries these days I get military images buzzing through my head along with the orchestral sounds calling out for valor. I'm tearing up again when I hear them (why does everything make me cry? Jeez!), but there's something about Mars in his highest form of caring sacrifice, effort, and honor that just breaks my soul the way Beauty and Love do. Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man? Chills. Respighi's Pines of Rome? Transcendence and sobbing. John William's Olympic Fanfare and Theme? Put the headphones on me, crank the bass, and watch me crack as my imagination puts on wings and ascends to Heaven. This is the kind of music I want playing as I enter the Gates and the Angel is there waiting to tell me, "Good job, Jared. You made it, kid. We're all so proud of you up here."
Whatever the Olympics have become, the essence of the Games remains pure Aries, and when those athletes walk into the sacred stadiums, they're walking into the Kingdom of the Sun. Going for gold (Sun), as they say. By extension, that Kingdom gets to look like your treadmill, your exercise bike, the gym, the path in the park, maybe your bedroom where you do yoga, or a dojo where you shape body and soul with the Martial Art. Maybe it's your workplace. Maybe it's a room in your home, or the home itself. Maybe it's a chamber in your Heart. A Ventricle Valhalla! Ha!
The Kingdom of the Sun is anywhere you strive.
Let's return back to the Martial image and figure of the Blacksmith. The first image and sound which immediately come to mind is a muscular arm lifting a hammer and then smashing it down onto molten metal. Clink after clink after clink as that sledge descends to forge a new entity out of the old. Transformation through effort!
One of my favorite Solar images for Aries is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Stellar Gellar was born as the Sun was passing through Aries, which is one of those awesome sync experiences where the actor and character are united through an astro-mythic Image. It's like they're both telling the same story; it's gotta feel GREAT as a performer to experience that! Which is why I still want to take a crack at Sweeney Todd.
That, or Elrond: The Musical.
Buffy's journey will find more life in this blog, as it's loaded with the kind of astro-stuff embedded in LOTR, but suffice to say, Buffy is most definitely our kick-ass Sun in Her Kingdom of Aries. There is much to relate between Buffy and Aragorn, our solar protagonist, and at the end of the whole Buffy series (at least the televised portions of the story), Buffy (Sun), with the help of Willow (the Moon, obviously - willow trees are Lunar plants), pulls a complete Aragorn move and closes the Hellmouth for good. It's pure Sun. Hint: Buffy's season 7 move is a line Aragorn says when we enter Scorpio.
Speaking of Scorpio, it's worth noting here that both Scorpio and Aries are under the domicile rulership of Mars, linking them through themes of battle or any other arena where iron cuts into and separates flesh (check out the local hospital's surgery wing). The difference, however, is that Aries has the Sun as King to order the Martial principle and provide structured containment and direction (Leadership) to Mars, where in Scorpio, the Sun is dying (it's autumn) and cannot do this. In Scorpio, without a Leader to Guide, Mars the Soldier gets out of control and becomes a Wolf. (This is also why Mars-as-Scorpio needs his Taurus partner, who we'll meet soon.) Though, let's not shit all over Scorpio. There are plenty of narratives where I wouldn't want to see Mars-as-Aries doing poorly; that Solar Furnace is one mighty hot blast of power, and can you be sure that your Sun King isn't actually lead on the inside? Is the cause Honorable? The dictionary definition of "honor" emphasizes the word "respect" in multiple instances, indicating to me that what is honorable is worth looking at (seeing = knowing) over and over again from different angles (re-spect, to look again). You'll notice that ol' One-Eye cannot do that. Maybe seeing/knowing over and over from other perspectives actually builds worth and honor. Better get your Hermes hat on.
First and foremost, I encourage Mars for protection and defense rather than offensive moves. Don't they say that the a good defense is the best offense? Get the willow branch and beat the bounds. Fortify. Build immunity by moving energy through the system.
Remember Mars from his Kingdom of Capricorn, our Nile Irrigator? Before we leave the Mars element behind, it's worth remembering here that Sam is our Mars-as-King and should be cross-referenced into Mars-themed episodes in the story. Though Frodo isn't quite our solar figure, he is Sam's Sun, and Sam will protect, defend, and support Frodo to the end. Cut to that scene on Mt. Doom where Sam picks up Frodo and carries him the rest of the way! (Tears again.) "I can't carry your burden for you, but I can carry you!" Now that is honor.
Along with themes of honor and effort, when we enter the oracular Kingdom of the Sun, we encounter his guise of Double-Tongued Apollo, master of riddle, divination, and prophecy. Bilbo and Frodo really nail it on this front as competent riddle-solvers (apparently it's a heritable trait), even over and above Gandalf. (If you've got the Sun dignified in the 9th place in your horoscope, get your automatic writing hand ready and start huffing those snake-fumes!)
Nowhere is the double-nature of the Sun more apparent than in its role as a dealer of death who makes life possible. This paradox still makes my mind vacillate wildly. Though Light reifies and makes an entity knowable, when a planet gets too close to the Sun it burns up, is turned to gold and rendered unknowable and inert in its significations and "responsibilities," possibly even signifying physical death.
David Mathisen's works (The Undying Stars, the three huge volumes of Star Myths of the World) have helped to nuance the Sun as life-giver and death-dealer by pointing out the etymological connection between the words "pure" and "fire." Our word "pyre" goes back to the Greek "pur," which means "fire." Hence, if someone is a pyromaniac, they're crazy for fire! Or, a pyre is a pile of wood upon which a body is placed and then set aflame, releasing the spirit from the body. (Note which cultures burn their dead and why, as well as which preserve the body after death. There's a spiritual technology at work behind both.)
So, nested inside our notions of purity is a flame. We could say Sun = Death = Flame = Pure. The Sun, through burning, releases an entity into its purest form (spirit, essence). This also gives us a clue when we read something like "a pure virgin," which can be understood in the astrotheological sense as "the Sun in Virgo." Or, let's take Venus' retrograde cycle wherein she moves backward to descend into the flame, undergoes purification, and is reborn. Her underworld Sister-Queen might even be understood as an aspect of Venus herself, imaged as the Queen at the Heart of the Sun.
By the way, to be in the heart of the Sun (sharing the exact degree with it on the Wheel) is called cazimi.
I just love that word!
I should also mention that when a planet is cazimi, it is the most exalted, powerful place in the whole Zodiac. I'm at a loss for words to describe what something so cosmically radiant and eternal might look and feel like, but fortunately, Tolkien gave it a shot! (Though we won't get the image until The Two Towers.)
Much of the imagery in the Faces associated with the sign of Aries is quite constructive and powerful, what we'd usually associate with positivity. In Tolkien's story, though, the world is quite divorced from itself and in a state of death-wielding madness, so rather than creating Life through establishment of order and effort, we have Aries as a field of death and destruction. The Life-creating Force turned against itself as in War; the dividing blade of the axe and plough have been set to flesh.
ARIES FACE ONE
The first Face of Aries is ruled by Mars and is the Two of Wands in the Tarot.
The Sun's passage into the sign of Aries in the Tropical Zodiac marks the beginning of Spring and the start of the New Year. At least in the northern hemisphere! Aries is the Kingdom of the Sun because it is at this point on the Wheel that the Sun now begins to increase in light and days become longer than nights. Symbolism of birth and creation abounds here, and in Tolkien's story it is the point at which the Fellowship is "born" and enters into the world at large. I can see the head!! (The sign of Aries rules the head in astrology, too.)
By the way, contrast Aries' here-and-now presentness and birth energy with Venus' preceding Kingdom of Pisces. Might the womb symbolism of Pisces-Venus describe something to us about what's prior to birth? Mother and baby as One? Souls United?
The Sun and Moon can both be understood as aspects of consciousness where the Sun is active and the Moon passive. These ideas get burdened with a bunch of our limiting and frustrating hangups over the sexes, but in their essence these two consciousness modes are about wanting and creating (active, Sun) and learning (passive, Moon). Look to both the Moon and Mercury in your horoscope to determine your learning style and how best to set up your life for maximum learning and reception. Also, look for and notice when your consciousness is in active mode, passive mode, and both at once. A lot of television watching and book reading falls into the Moon mode (the quicksilver faculty of imagination is given to Mercury).
So, here in the Sun's Kingdom of Aries, the story is all about wanting to do things and create things. A lusty spirit drives the heart here, a zest to go out into the world and expend effort in following your passion. I want! I want! I want! (And it's common and easy to be disconnected from that and feel the burning misery of not knowing what you want - and by extension, why you exist. This may need rediscovering at multiple points across a lifetime.)
So, like Diana Ross, the Fellowship has come out, and right away we see them plagued by the destabilizing Mars ruler of this Face, Sarumon. (Mars = Five = Sarumon) The group must hide from a pack of Sarumon's crows, which he of course can communicate with. Birds have long been and continue to be oracles (watch for when flocks of birds gather around your home!), and there's a long tradition of being able to read signs by them. We are, after all, in Apollo's Oracular Kingdom. Apollo struck the crow with blackness for bringing a message he didn't like receiving, and thus are crows bearers of bad news. Among other things, of course. Crows are highly intelligent and know things. Secret things. I was told a story by a friend who talks to crows (they are always around him and they all caw back and forth) that, when out in the forest alone and in complete solitude, crows sing with the most beautiful song ever heard. Remember how Apollo is the father of the Muses? (Muse = Music)
Sarumon, being a smart cookie and ascertaining from his crows that Gandalf plans to avoid the combustion kingdom of Moria, takes action to force the Fellowship into danger's way. He does this by controlling the weather, another wizardly skill set. (Ever heard of a cloud buster? Reich's orgone energy?)
Gandalf knows exactly what's going on down in the mines and when asked about taking the passage through Moria replies that he'd avoid it at all costs. When we remember Tolkien's experience as a soldier in the First World War, we can read Moria as the Front on continental Europe (Aries = Mars = Warfare) and Gandalf's words as a response to conscription. "I'd avoid it at all costs." But Gandalf is "drafted" - notice that he doesn't choose Moria of his own agency but has Frodo decide - and the Fellowship begins its deathly descent into the heart of the Sun.
Of course when they reach Moria they are met with another riddle (Sun), though in a fascinating script which can only be read by moonlight. The dwarves love their moonlight, don't they? Being Venus, the dwarves are under Luna's regency (in the way that Jupiter is under the Sun's. This all has to do with the doctrine of sect - which planets are diurnal or nocturnal).
Before the gang enters Moria, though, we get some accidental mischief that sets a series of unfortunate events in motion. Our twin Mercury hobbits are going to cause all sorts of trouble in Moria, the Sun's Kingdom, foregrounding the way low, common, impulsive, scatter-brained Mercury acts in the Sun's realm of dignity, forethought, focus, and right effort. In a perfect world Mercury can don Athena's helmet and owl and stand as strategy, but Merry and Pippin, while fun and funny, don't think ahead. God doesn't give with both hands.
ARIES FACE TWO
The second face of Aries is ruled by the Sun and is the Three of Wands in the Tarot.
As the Fellowship is forced into the mines, we encounter a grim scene. Tolkien uses the Sun like before to signify a kingdom, but the Saturn association with the number Three manifests here as Death, much to Gimli's horror and despair (Saturn = a fall away from hope, hopelessness).
The path leads to an impasse when it forks into three (Saturn) possible doors, which stalls Gandalf as he can't remember the way (Saturn = forgetting).
Frodo engages Gandalf in conversation during the wizard's remembering, and a most Solar exchange is uttered. Again in despair (Saturn), Frodo says that he wishes the Ring had never come to him, that none of this had happened. Jupiter-Gandalf responds invokes the Sun itself by saying, "So do all who live to see such times. But that's not up to us. All that we must do is decide what to do in the time that is given." Back to the Sun as marker of time! And in astrology, the Sun is a guide as to what to do with the time you have - look to the sign it's in, hence the enduring popularity of Sun-sign astrology!
Gandalf then pops back into full Jupiter mode and talks of Destiny, telling Frodo that there are other forces at work; both he and Bilbo were meant to have the Ring. These forces at work point us back to the eclipse cycle wherein the New Moon conjunction on the North Node creates the Ring, but the Moon then bears the shadow away. Bilbo and Frodo, being our two Moon stand-ins, are implicated in this Fate: they are part of the celestial drama where the Moon makes a full cyclical return to the North Node eclipse point (Rahu, the Dragon's Head).
ARIES FACE THREE
Our final episode of Aries is ruled by the planet Venus and is the Four of Wands.
Once the Fellowship passes through the mines and into the great hall of Moria, we enter the final episode of this Kingdom. Balin is discovered to be dead, and we see the first of many Venusian tears to come. Pippin pulls his Mercurial move and starts the goblin-ball rolling, which leads to Balrog straight to the group. In this demon we find personified all of the horrors of combustion and battle, all of the War in its fury dealing death to the land. This is the gatekeeper on the journey to the heart of the sun, and it is Death. The Balrog itself reminds me of those photographs of the Sun where black sun spots can be seen speckled all across its body.
Even though the Balrog is a foe beyond all of their capabilities, Gandalf, in an act of courageous sacrifice, faces his combustion, drops into the abyss, and in so doing drops out of Time and Space. Venus is said to be in the sign of her "fall" in Aries, and here we see the loss of those we love as they meet the purifying flame. The hawks of war overcome the dove here; purification makes us weep as we lose the living flesh to hold and hug.
Gandalf's mantra may come in handy for moments when facing combustion: "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun."
To wrap up this Aries episode, the spring equinox does not bring with it a Balrog, nor a World War every year. What it tells us is that the time has come for us to begin the Season of Works, wherein we use our red-blooded, muscular effort to start preparing the soil for fructification. When that equinox hits, it's time to get out the iron, hit the fields, and begin phase one of the growth season. Our blood is sacred, and our effort is, too. We make holy by giving our bodies and souls to Life. Caring is the root of effort. What is begun here yields harvest when the Virgin arrives to usher in the Season of Grace, where we live off our efforts during the dying time of fall and winter. The Farmer's Almanac probably has a lot to say on this topic.
It's worth striving to make Aries a time of Creation where we forgo our Rites of Spring, our Red Shoes, our Dances with Death, and till not our living blood into the soil but our Will to create an abundant, safe place for those we love.