Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Eye of the World Read-Through #13 - Red Planet

Readers' Mail: an answer to
an 'Ask Zemaille' Question

Benjamin, from Qc, Canada asked Zemaille:

(...)I was intrigued by the red star that Moiraine claims will guide the rest of the group to the river after they are separated in Shadar Logoth (Dust on the Wind).

My knowledge of symbols and mythology may be limited, but I at least can recognise that guidance by celestial objects, apart from being a very useful method to track your position, is also relevant to mythological figures. Now, although a number of celestial objects could be called red stars, the most obvious of these is the planet Mars, which was often associated with war or fire due to its colour.

And that's where it gets problematic. Unfortunately, while I know enough basics to recognise this as noteworthy, I have no idea what do make of it. Is it that they need to prepare for war in order to reach peace? Or with the river symbolism that has been mentioned several times, that the path towards the Last Battle will lead to the world's rebirth in a new Age?

Or should I not be thinking of the war deities at all, and focus only on the fact that it is red and low in the sky?

Your insight would be greatly appreciated.

Zemaille answers:

Oh.. this is very very clever. Cunning Benjamin thinks he can get Zemaille to spill Sea Folk astronomical secrets (not that I'm implying we have any) for nothing! What could Benjamin offers Zemaille for a Bargain? Not much, not much, I bet. And poor Zemaille is very very busy, she is swamped with demands from the Amyrlin for revisions to the secr... hmmm... you don't really need to know about that. Zemaille always tells too much to shore bound boys, it's how she got sacked from her Windfinder training and shipped to the Tower. Hmmm... I guess I shouldn't really have told you about that either. Ahhh... boys distract Zemaille too much, she doesn't see any in the Library. I need to go before I tell everything. You'll have to make do with the two shore bounds for your answer.

Dom answers:

Of course, interpreting symbols like this is hardly an exact science. I agree with you it's most likely RJ was referring to the planet Mars there - the fact it's seen low in the sky is fairly conclusive. In spring, it's not really the best time of the year to observe it but RJ may have overlooked this detail. When in opposition (which wouldn't be the case in spring), Mars is renowned for being visible from shortly before sunset to dawn - so it 'guides through the night'. If we make abstraction of the fact Mars is actually a planet and consider it simply as a 'red star' symbolically speaking, a star is a solar symbol - a dim sun shining through the night. Lanfear claims many on her sigil, all of them trapped between the two 'horns' of the moon crescent, as if the moon could crush them, asserting the dominance over the sun of the Daughter of the Night, The Moon - of course this relates directly to the 'Lord of the Morning', the 'Prince of Dawn', Lews Therin as the Rising Sun - He who comes with the Dawn.

So Moiraine, herself a 'daughter of the rising sun' (Cairhien's) was putting the younglings in the care of a dim solar symbol, to guide them through the night of Shadar Logoth and to safety of dawn. The 'solar' characters, Rand and Nynaeve, managed it unharmed. Perrin and Egwene, the 'lunar' characters, did too, but they fell first into the river. Perrin nearly drowned - notably because of his axe - and rushing through brambles and falling over a cliff following the red star because he wasn't cautious (the whole scene is highly symbolic and later on will get repeated as one of Egwene's dream about him and Aram), and Egwene managed better solely because she accepted to let Bela carried her (Egwene in EOTW is the only character who accepts with either enthusiasm or fortitude changes and what destiny places on her path, this is what letting Bela drive her symbolizes. When Egwene refuses something or back out of something, she doesn't ride Bela. When she takes matters in her hands, she gets Bela back.. as a Tar creation, or as the horse she rode to her capture, for e.g.)

The night of Shadar Logoth was also symbolic, all the characters went through darkness and a very long night, and hung to 'guidance' (or a memory of light...). For Mat and Rand, it was Thom's instructions; for Nynaeve, it was finding Moiraine and Lan, for Perrin and Egwene who got lost, it was Elyas Machera, the 'god of crossroads'.

The crossing of rivers marks transformations. Rand and Mat we on their own almost immediately after they got off on the eastern shore. For Perrin, it was even more dramatic, with the wolves and the whitecloaks. Egwene, more "open-minded" at that point, accepted the new experiences and struggles. Nynaeve too got 'changed' by Moiraine after she passed the white bridge, and for that matter, Lan was too.

The crossing of rivers symbolism had been used twice in the novel prior to White bridge: the first instance was when the group crossed the Winespring.. without using the bridge, the easier path. They left Emond's Field behind. The second time was the crossing of the Taren, more important. Moiraine sunk the Ferry, symbolically cutting the possibility for the boys to go back (even when Perrin did, it was through another path and he was completely changed. Egwene only came back through her 'domain', the world of dreams).

The link to Mars, God of War? Yup, it's definitely there. I will let Linda elaborate on this, but I will note that Mars's symbol is the shield and spear, the Aiel warrior's attributes. The Red Star guided them East. Egwene and Perrin found the Tinkers - and in the longer term, Egwene would find Amys and Aviendha, and Perrin would find Gaul, Bain and Chiad. Mat will find Rhuidean, and Melindrah. Rand would find the People of the Dragon. All the main characters have important Aes Sedai connections, and all of them have 'Da'shain Aiel' connections too (beside Aiel proper, Egwene had a connection to Aram, like Perrin; Mat saw Tinkers slaughtered and in KOD was surrounded by a band protecting Tuon from him, Rand has at his side a Green Ajah ex-Tinker, Tuon has Tinkers under her protection, and Aiel prisoners - and Karede has Ajimbura from the "Hill Tribes" that, like the Amayar, obviously originated with the Da'shain Aiel).

Linda answers:

The first point is that RJ’s astronomy is rough but his symbolism is good. I’m going to include both in my reply.

It is Aine 19 (equivalent to April 3), less than two weeks after the equinox.

The phase of the Moon is waning crescent:

The moon was up, the last thin sliver before the new moon, its faint light defeated by the night.

The Eye of the World, Shadow’s Waiting.

The Moon is new when Egwene and Perrin meet Elyas two days later:

Day faded into twilight before they began to slow down, moonless darkness closing in around the fire, and then Elyas spoke.

The Eye of the World,, Wolfbrother

However, the waning crescent Moon should rise well after midnight, in this case about two hours before dawn since it was only two days from new Moon. It would be visible in the east for a short while before dawn and Moiraine could have used it, rather than a dim red star (probably Mars) as a marker for the location of the river. Moreover in reality it was nowhere near dawn, since they fought and struggled for quite some time in the dark.

If we read the sky as the ancients did, what would it tell us? What Pattern of influences was operating at that moment?

It was April 3, so the Sun is in about 13 Aries. The Moon will conjunct the Sun (new moon) sometime two days later (in 15 Aries), the first new moon since the sun entered Aries at the equinox (RJ’s Beltine). The Moon moves about 13 degrees per day, therefore it is likely to be in the early degrees of Pisces.

Mars is low on the eastern horizon, just rising. It is therefore in the 12th House, and possibly still conjunct the Ascendant. We don’t know what time it was, and the Moon is no guide either, for reasons stated above.

Mars represents self-assertion and action, violence, crime, even war; the Sun represents authority and personal identity, and the Moon feelings, mothering and sense of home. The Sun has long since set; in fact, authority over their lives has been given to Moiraine, a woman from the land of the rising sun. She is currently both authority (Sun) and mother figure (Moon) to them so far from home. However the Moon is waning – her influence is declining as the Shadow tries to break her hold over them.

Mars rises – it is literally in the ascendant: violence and danger force the group to break and each of the characters to act for themselves. As a further indicator of Moiraine’s loss of authority, Mars is the ruler of Aries, the sign where the Sun is currently located. However, the Sun is strong in Aries, though, so the threat of violence and war can force the development of the main characters.

Mars is in the 12th house, the house of asylum, seclusion, exile, imprisonment, self-undoing, psychological problems, dreams, secrets, secret enemies, and people and things that are hidden or have gone missing.

The group tried to hide from the violence and danger of the Darkfriends, but they followed them into the secluded Shadar Logoth where a lost soul is imprisoned and is searching for someone to take over. So the asylum they sought in Shadar Logoth was not forthcoming. Mat’s greedy action was an act of self-undoing which resulted in him being corrupted by the Shadar Logoth dagger. With its ruby capstone, it is quite Mars-like. Mordeth captured Fain and they evolve into a fearsome entity.

Using Mars as a guide to escape the dangers of Shadar Logoth and the Shadow signified that the young characters had to act for themselves so they can develop their own skills and powers, fight, and later raise armies of their own. The Shadow too will raise other armies and bring out other weapons. (From Moiraine’s point of view this was something that followed the Law of Unintended Consequences. It was a rude shock to her that her influence with them waned so much.)

Although they get away, Rand and probably Mat experience psychological warfare as Ishamael taunts them in their dreams. Rand develops channelling sickness, Mat paranoia and amnesia. During the conjunction of the Sun and Moon (the new moon, signifying the past brought into consciousness), Perrin’s atavistic gift for talking to wolves surfaces. It is something from the remotest past which brings him access to ancestral memories.

One can also look on this symbolism as a sign of conditions in nations or the world as a whole. (This is called mundane astrology and was the main type of astrology in earlier times). In this case Mars represents armies, aggression and violence and war.

Mars in the 12th house is:

a very evil position, denoting a great increase of crime, murders, incendiarism, violence.

Alan Leo, Mundane Astrology

Mars conjunct ascendant is also generally evil, bringing discontent among the people, strikes, riots, crime (such as we saw in Andor and again in Cairhien). Military activity and war are the general state of affairs. Since Mars was in the 12th House, this is a secret war for the time being. It is a good indication of the Pattern developing at that time.

Apart from the three ta’veren mobilising the forces of the world and leading the fight against the Shadow, the rise of Mars (at the expense of the waning moon) also looks ahead to the rise of the Asha’man (an army of channellers developed to be weapons) and the development of gunpowder weapons. The authority of the female Aes Sedai is waning.


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1 comment:

Fanatic-Templar said...

Thanks for the answer, very interesting!