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Down the Rabbit Hole
Paul Kiritsis, PsyD candidate, DPhil., MA (Psychology), MA (History)

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Esoteric Symbol Nine: Mars or Iron

Paul Kiritsis - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

 

Comprised of active planetary and passive metallic energies, the Martian formative force stands near the centre of a cosmological schema in which the masculine aesthetic, symbolized by the Sun or gold, and the feminine aesthetic, symbolized by the moon or silver, inhabit each end as polar opposites. Quite like Venus or copper, Mars or iron is a blunted expression and impure reflection of the supernal incarnated light that suffuses the active pole. In the Venusian force we discerned that the spirit or embodiment of life force crystallized the elements under the aegis of the solar power. Furthermore the cosmic condition was personified by the configuration of the symbol itself. In the case of the Martian force, the opposite certainly holds true. Governing this cosmological condition is the re-submergence or entombment of spirit in the obscurity of a fourfold elemental differentiation–fire, air, water, and earth. Mars’s traditional symbol, the circle surmounted by the cross, exoterically expresses this chaotic position. In the alchemical opus the Martian formative force is ascribed rulership over cauda pavonis or Peacock’s Tail, the stage in which putrefied matter in the alembic of the alchemist miraculously generates iridescent blues and greens, a reinvigoration of matter which immediately precedes the coagulation of a new form that unravels under leucosis or albedo, the whitening phase.

The metal came to prominence during the Iron Age when it was used together with steel to inveigle, exploit and destroy nature, but unanimous opinion in scholarly circles has it that its properties and usage have been known to human beings since at least the mid second millennium bce. This is vindicated by ancient Egyptian bas reliefs portraying the metallurgical procedure of iron smelting which dates to approximately c.1500bce. In African countries like Egypt along with the Middle East iron was looked upon with immense awe and reverence and held a much grander and dignified position in metallic hierarchy than gold because the first samples identified were meteoritic or celestial in origin. Iron was divine in origin, the metal of the gods. Hence to pamper the ego and pacify any budding political unrest what greater and nobler gift could the war-loving Hittites have sent King Ramses the Great (II) than an iron sword and a lump of meteoritic iron? These profound sentiments extended classical Hellenistic consciousness, for Homer reveals that the meteoritic iron was bequeathed to competition winners of the Olympic Games. During the classical period of Greece proper use of the sky metal extended to therapeutic medicine. In the Iliad, for instance, Homer relates how rust of iron obtained from a spear that injured Telephus was applied to his wound to facilitate the healing process. In another classical myth the legendary seer and physician Malampus cured Iphiclus, the King of Phylacea, of extreme bodily weakness or anaemia by encouraging the daily ingestion of a tincture combining wine with the rust of iron.

This therapeutic value attributed to the metal by the ancients influenced its practical use during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period. Deeply impressed by the deep-rooted qualitative and emotional connection between the sky metal and the astringent, restless nature of blood and war, sixteenth and seventeenth century physicians prepared tinctures of iron as remedial therapies for debilitating physical conditions. Three of these gained widespread exposure: a black oxide known as aethiops martial, a sesquioxide of iron called Crocus martis, and an ammoniated chloride named flores martias. All three are united by the epithet of Mars (the Hellenistic Ares), betraying their primordial connection with the Graeco-Roman god of war and the fiery qualities of strength, urgency and activity. In retrospect one should never forget that the endeavour of war is underpropped by iron, a metal that has always served as the base material from which all cutting-edge weaponry is fashioned. Hence the god Mars or Ares, the metal iron, the act of war and the primary qualities associated with all three quintessentially express the same formative force at work in the cosmos.    

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