Mars Magic and the Sword of the Secret Fire

Is there life on Mars? There sure is … although I don’t mean huge Spiders at the centre of gigantic silvery webs, or little green men running around.   Even the kind of plant-based life that would be visible to NASA rovers and Hubble Telescopes is probably not going to be discovered on this red planet … anytime soon. That’s because to the naked eye, Mars looks like a barren and burned out piece of rock, spinning its lonely course around the Sun.

But even if they do find life on Mars, of how much value would that discovery really be? Not much, compared to the discovery of how to communicate with the extremely powerful being that is its governor, the god of Mars, who will never be found at the end of an outward-facing telescope.

This new video is part of a series about how wishing upon a star really can make your dreams come true.

Of course, that’s a simplistic and poetic way of illustrating the effects of engaging with your own hero’s or heroine’s alchemical journey to full enlightenment, with the help of the gods and goddesses who govern the seven planets.

We have already discussed, in previous videos, how as human beings we are constantly shadow boxing with those planetary forces, even when we are asleep. So following on from the videos on the Sun and the Moon, today’s about the planetary force of Mars and about how that shadow boxing relationship can help us to find our courage, heal our inner shadows and speed our spiritual evolution.

You probably know that the shamans of old drew stories in the stars of the night skies, to leave us messages about the qualities and characteristics of each of these gods. These stories have come down to us as myths, which all follow the same blueprint of the mythological hero who journeys around the rim of the wheel of the constellations of the zodiac, and who gets help from the planetary governors – otherwise known as gods and goddesses – along the way.

But these stories were not composed just to benefit those who lived in the past… because in essence, no matter how much technological progress we make, the human condition and what the heart needs to grow never changes.   And so today, these myths are still being recycled for our benefit in the movie theatres and on Netflix, Disney and Amazon Prime. All the best Rom-Coms, the ones that smash box office records anyway, are actually based on the part of the hero’s journey which is the great love story between Venus and Mars.  

In this video, I’m going to be breaking down those hidden meanings as they are found in The Notebook, whose hero is Noah, and who starts off his journey as a young, undeveloped Mars in relentless pursuit of a seemingly unattainable and unviable relationship, in the long term anyway, with the beautiful Ali.  I’ll also be throwing in a few tales from other much older heroes, to show you how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I’m hoping then that you’ll be able use The Notebook as a Rosetta Stone to help you recognise the traits of Mars and also how to interact with him at the various stages of your journey around the rim of the wheel.

So just click on the video, or if you prefer, you can carry on reading it as an article.

It’s interesting that the author of the original novel of The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks, named his hero Noah.   In the oldest known story about a hero, which is 5,000 years old at least, the hero Gilgamesh is searching for his most ancient ancestor who had been granted immortality as a boon from the gods for building Noah’s Ark.

I love the way these writers so often hint to give a nod to the cognoscenti, although I’m never sure whether it’s conscious signalling or if just that they are unwittingly dragging up these long-lost motifs that have been imprinted on our race memories or DNA as far back as anyone can remember.

But there is nothing in Sparks’ biography to tell us that he has any knowledge of mythology or the hero’s alchemical journey.   He has all the same, written the perfect Venus and Mars myth for the modern age.

Now I know that the critics were not overly- keen on The Notebook. But that’s just them. The common folk like us, whose bums on seats these film moguls need to keep their mistresses in fine minks, still have enough wit to recognise and avidly lap up a great magical romantic tale, with a narrative that yes critics, is formulaic. But in the case of The Notebook, it is the right formula, it is the formula we long for, because it follows all the most well-known and well-loved milestones and landmarks.

We never get tired of hearing these sagas, because even though to some, they’re deemed not sophisticated enough, or are too corny and hackneyed, or there’s not enough sex, drugs ‘n violence, they are true to the human heart, and the human heart knows what it wants, and that will never change.

We humans on Earth are like people with dementia.   We need to be reminded all the time of who we truly are, and these kinds of movies do it for us.   They give us the fairground ride we want to go on because we know when we get off it at the end, we’ll be grinning from ear-to-ear with happiness again…. and speaking of fairgrounds…

The Fool sets out at Aries

Right from the get-go, there’s blaring signal in the Notebook,  like a starter’s pistol, that we about to enter that familiar, enchanted Tunnel of Love. This is when Noah leaps on to the Ferris Wheel in the fairground on Seabrook Island, to grab the attention of the stunningly beautiful, wealthy heiress Ali.

I could have cheered at that moment, from my vantage point in the cheap seats, because that’s the wheel rim of old that we know and love.  It is the setting off point on the Spring Equinox, when the Sun enters Aries, that is ruled by Mars, and the elemental fire bursts up through the Earth in a blazing display of fertile growth.

The earliest story about a hero traversing the wheel rim of the constellations is the Epic of Gilgamesh.  Before leaving on his quest from the fairground celebrations in Uruk of the Spring Equinox, the Sumerian Gilgamesh announces to the townsfolk:

 “Listen to me, men of Uruk,
The men of Uruk, who know …
There would I be strong,
I travel the wheel-rim...”

Fairgrounds, carnivals, circuses, amusement parks and pleasure gardens are always present in these myths.  If you’d like to know more about what they mean, I break it all down much further in the chapter on Pinocchio in my book Stories in the Stars.

But in a nutshell, fairgrounds and the like represent the seemingly infinite and glittering possibilities of human life that only the fool rushes into open-armed, only to end up stuck on a never-ending Ghost Train or caught in the Hall of Mirrors in a fragmented and false reality.  In Pinocchio, he turns into a donkey, to be sent to the salt mines.   These are the perilous dangers of the enticingly fairylit fairground that trap the neophyte human, who at that point is the fool.

It is only the fool that enters into the fray, and this is why the path of the wanderer through the Tarot deck begins with the Fool. 

It is always as a young brash, arrogant and over-bearing clot that the would-be hero of Mars always starts out, just like the young chap, Noah, in The Notebook, hanging from one arm from the struts of the wheel, to impress Ali and get her to agree to a date.

We find another synchronicity with Pinocchio – whose name in Tuscany means pineal gland – when we are told that Noah’s job is working with wood in a lumber yard. Just like the wooden puppet, Noah’s journey from blockhead to real man charts the passage of how an umpromising plank of wood is transformed through the challenges he meets, into the Philosophers Stone, that turns all it touches into gold.

This is Neil Young’s Heart of Gold, that he’s always searching for ….although the path of his quest has become recently blocked by a huge Black Rock!

But of course Jesus and his father Joseph were carpenters … as was Pinocchio’s dad, Geppetto, by the way! There’s a reason for that …. it’s alchemical.

And so it is that we first meet Noah as he carelessly risks life and limb and jumps on to the rim of the Ferris Wheel in the fairground at the beginning of summer.  He goes on after that to demonstrate many of the characteristics of an immature Mars… brash and over-confident about his abilities to have whatever he wants without having yet become worthy of life’s rewards.

Ali is completely out of his league … she comes from a wealthy family and with her great beauty, she is expected to make a good marriage into one of the richest Southern families. But a few days after the fair, Noah practically accosts her in the street, and insists she go out with him, telling her that if he wants something he just goes for it and always gets it.  Yes, that young Mars all over!

Despite the huge gap in their social standing – which meant much more when the film was set, in the 1940s, than it does now – Ali is bowled over by the intensity of his ardour, and so she starts going out with him.

The love, though, that quickly flames up between them is the elemental fire of Aries, very powerful but raw and untamed.   So pretty much during their whole time together, at the beginning of the story, their uncontrollable passion manifests into either making out or having a blazing row.

I should perhaps say at this stage, now that I’ve mentioned the elemental fire of Aries, that alchemists recognise four kinds of fire. They use the heat of the elemental fire to start up their stoves on the Spring Equinox.  There are also the central fire and the cosmic fire, which need not delay us here, but I will be coming on the fourth fire, the secret fire, later on when Noah has travelled much further round the wheel rim to reach Scorpio.

But right now in story, we are still in spring with the sun passing through Aries, and so the raw Martian fire between the two is still too elemental.  It is yet to be alchemically refined into the sword or javelin of the secret fire that leads to the birth of the Philosopher’s Stone.

Noah’s romancing of Ali, in the old broken-down, derelict house of the Windsor Plantation, is hot hot hot …and made all the more so because they are just fumbling their way to the ultimate conjunction without either of them knowing what they’re doing.

It is here that Noah tells Ali that one day, he is going to buy that old mansion and restore it to its former glory.   Yet there is nothing in his future that would indicate how on Earth he could ever achieve such a feat, just as there is nothing in his future to indicate how he, as a poor and  humble lumberman, could ever win the hand of such a great and illustrious Venusian beauty.

Her parents of course realise the impossibility of the match and worry about the heartache that the inevitable split will cause their daughter when she has to leave Seabrook Island, at the end of the summer, and take up her place in college, in New York.

Her father tries to reassure the mother: “Don’t worry, it’s just a summer romance”, and so it turned out to be although not without some major interference from her parents that caused a massive row between Noah and Ali and which led to their break-up.

The metanoia of Cancer and the Moon

I am reminded, in this first part of The Notebook, of when Gilgamesh first meets Ishtar at Taurus.   Ishtar is a much earlier version of Venus, and Venus governs Taurus.  Ishtar offers herself to Gilgamesh, and he is attracted to her but can’t quite compute it all in his undeveloped brain. Whereupon his best mate and wing man, Enkidu, manages to kill her brother-in-law, the Bull of Heaven. Then when she protests, Gilgamesh roundly insults her, which doesn’t go down too well. As a punishment, the Sun god sees to it that Enkidu dies slowly of a fatal disease. 

So in The Notebook we see a similar motif when the action enters World War 2. Noah has been separated from Ali for more than a year when he enlists, along with his best mate Fin, and they spend two years together under Rommel, fighting in the North African desert. From there, they are transferred to the theatre of war in Europe, and they are still together on the battlefield when Fin is blown up and dies of his wounds.

In the hero’s journey, it is so often the death of the closest friend that provides the catalyst for deeper growth through all the metanoia.   It is such agonising almost unbearable pain,  alternately dissolving into gut-wrenching grief and then wailing and raging and fist-shaking at the gods, that it cuts deep into the heart of the hero. And this tragedy always takes place when he has reached the part of the wheel rim that’s at Cancer, which is governed by the mistress of the tides and tears of man, the Moon.  It brings our hero up sharp, enough anyway to slow him down and to re-examine his life, to start to ask the right questions that will eventually open up to him the treasure caves of greater wisdom.

Yes, that hoard of gold is guarded by a dragon … but that is just another symbol for the one whose role it is to provide the hero with his challenges so that he can transform from a piece of wood into the Philosopher’s Stone.

Leo and Virgo – all the hard work pays off

Noah returns to Seabrook after the war, happily in one piece, to find that his father has sold the old family home so that they could use the money to buy the derelict, ramshackle mansion on the Windsor Plantation, and restore it to its former glory. Once again, this is a familiar motif … a father or other older relative often appears when the hero reaches the Leo stage of the wheel’s rim, after the metanoia of Cancer has given him enough pause to grow and realise that he needs to settle down and listen to his wiser elders if he’s going to make anything of his life.

There is a Welsh version of this Venus and Mars love story called How Culhwch Won Olwen, and it is another tale of star-crossed lovers from different social standings, and therefore an impossible quest to reach conjunction. In that Mabinogion myth, it is Arthur … yes, the Arthur … who as Culhwch’s’ older cousin, comes to his aid in his suit of Olwen when our hero reaches Leo.

But back to The Notebook…

Noah knew instinctively when he first told Ali, back during that heady summer of love of their youth, that he was going to restore that mansion, even though he didn’t then know how. Now his achievements around the wheel rim have magnetised that previously unachievable situation into his life, bringing him the means to rebuild it and to make it a worthy home or nest for the great love of one who is in effect, or at least to him, the embodiment on Earth of Venus.

The rebuilding of the mansion is a very obvious metaphor for those who have the eyes to see. Jungian psychologists believe that if you have a dream about a part of your house that needs fixing, it is usually to indicate a part of your life that needs attention. It is the perfect material for the lumberman, who found such a great use for all that wood to create a structure so beautiful and so lasting …

In other words, in the process of rebuilding that mansion, Noah is rebuilding his whole life from the inside out and it is with the fervent desire that it will attract Ali back to him.  It is his dedication to her and their great love. But it is slow, grinding, meticulous work which requires great patience and attention to detail, and this is the challenge the hero always meets at Virgo.  This is where he learns the value of putting in painstaking effort to create a worthwhile legacy on Earth.

When Culhwch reaches Virgo, in the Welsh tale, he has to complete 39 Impossible Tasks, set by Olwen’s father, the ogre who rules the land, and there is no way he could have achieved a single one of them without the help of his older cousin, Arthur.

I won’t go into too much detail about what happens next in The Notebook because I don’t want to spoil it for you.

So I’m going to fast forward a bit, to where that screenplay really scores big-time with me, as the perfect modern day myth, in that it doesn’t just end with the couple just going off into a rosy sunset to live happily ever after.

The mythological hero always meets the love of his life again at the Autumn Equinox, in the sign of Libra, which is ruled by Venus.  In other words, he gets a second chance, and the idea is that the lessons he’s learned on his journey around the wheel render him a much more suitable partner for her.   And so this is where the movie usually ends …

But not in the Notebook… our hero, after spending some time Libra, eventually into the darker travails of Scorpio.

Scorpio and the gift of the sword

During the last years of his life, Noah has to face some extremely painful, but unavoidable, challenges through his love for Ali, and he has to find courage and strength to endure what is in effect a kind of torture. But it is here too,  from Mars at Scorpio, that his efforts could win him the boon of the secret fire, which will help him meet all his foes. And he will need it, because next he will come to Sagittarius, where he tumbles down into the Underworld to face his greatest trials, which if he passes will result in his death and rebirth at Capricorn.

And so this is the role of Mars in all our lives … to take us from the elemental fire raging out of control at the beginning of our journey, to the more refined secret fire which is what will turn us from wooden blocks into Philosopher’s Stones.

This secret fire was symbolised by alchemists as a sword, or lance, or javelin or arrows – all very Mars-like symbols.  It is Luke Skywalker’s light sabre. It is the sword Excalibur that Arthur pulls from the stone. It is the sword Fragarach that is wielded by the Celtic heroes in my series of books, The Glastonbury Chronicles.

That is why Mars is the guardian spirit of the true warrior … the spiritual warrior, the war shaman like Geronimo who led the Apaches. 

The alchemist Pernety knew of this secret fire and he wonders about it here …he writes:

"The fire of the Sun could not be this secret fire, because it is unequal and does not penetrate. The fire of our stoves, which consume the constituent parts of matter, could not be the one. The Central Fire, which is innate in matter could not be that Secret Fire so much praised, because this heat is very different within the three kingdoms; the animal possesses it in a much higher degree than the plant."

So it takes Franz Hartmann, a 19th century German physicist, to identify, in his book Alchemy, what the secret fire is.   He writes that it’s …

"...a serpentine working power in the body of the ascetic. It is an electric, fiery, hidden power and electro-spiritual force and creative power."

You will find this gift of Mars when you reach Scorpio to be so powerful that you may never have to use it, because your enemy will see this sword, even if only subconsciously, glinting menacingly beneath your cloak, and it will be enough for him to turn tail and run.

So I hope you will find it to be the perfect tool for your own toolkit once you’ve reached this part of your own Notebook story. Mars can grant you that boon. It is within his gift and only within his gift. But he needs to be asked. His day is Tuesday and his advice centre is open at dawn on that day.

Just finally to say, some of you may be a little uncomfortable with the idea of your life as a story in a notebook. And you may believe that every facet of your life is literally true to the point that the Fact Checkers would happily verify every single second of it.  So in that case, can I introduce you to the idea of recommissioning?

Recommissioning means resetting the mission or fine-tuning its trajectory, and it is what we are able to do at various stages around the rim of wheel as we hone our judgement through accruing more wisdom and eventually more compassion.

These gifts are often hard won, but  they are vital in helping us to understand better the events we lived through in the past, and which led us to where we are now. In other words, what we think happened to us at eight years old wasn’t what really happened, or at best, the memory of it is only a fragment, a partial rendering, of the whole, which with the development of wisdom, and perhaps some shamanic healing like Soul Retrieval, should eventually heal us into wholeness, if only in our dreams.

And so to conclude, I hope now you see that the story of all heroes – from Gilgamesh, Noah and Pinocchio to the one of you and me – is the story of a recommissioning and a re-membering which transforms even the most unpromising wooden puppet actor into a wise and compassionate superstar who turns all he or she touches into gold.