‘Mars is bright tonight,’ Ronan repeated while Hagrid watched him impatiently. ‘Unusual bright.’
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 15 The Forbidden Forest
The word Mars is most likely the Latinised form of the Etruscan god Maris. And until the Roman Empire began to expand aggressively, he was associated with fertility and vegetation, a protector of cattle, fields and boundaries. It is the same mindset that produced the belief that Mars is the legendary father of Rom’s not less legendary founder, Romulus, and therefore is the ancestor of Romans.
This theme of ancestry is picked up by Dante by having Cacciaguida speaking to his descendant. And only after Dante asks him for his name he reveals his identity:
O leaf of mine, in whom I pleasure took
E’en while awaiting, I was thine own root!
Paradiso, Canto 15, Line 88-89
Yet, Mars – son of Juno and Jupiter, husband of Bellona and lover of Venus – is mostly known to us today as the Roman warrior god who was worshipped by the Roman legions. Words like ‘martial’ derive from his name as he was said to have not distinguished between camps and his primary interest was in battle and victory.
This vision of Mars is not lost in Paradiso. The Mars Sphere is inhabited by those who fought for Christianity, like Cacciaguida. He reports his own death with the words:
There by that execrable race was I
Released from bonds of the fallacious world,
The love of which defileth many souls,
And came from martyrdom unto this peace.
Paradiso, Canto 15 Lines 145 – 148
In the Harry Potter series too the third floor of Hogwarts, what would be equivalent to the fifth sphere in Dante’s Paradiso, is packed with attributes of war and competition. Just think of the Trophy Room.
Here Ron has to polish Tom Riddle’s medal for Merits for the School in detention in HP and the Chamber of Secrets. It was awarded to Tom, the later Voldemort, for rescuing Hogwarts from Slytherin’s monster. For the same deed Harry and Ron got the same medal after killing the memory of Tom Riddle. You can’t give any better example of blindness of Mars for the camps as long as where is battle and heroism.
It is no wonder that the Armour Gallery as well is located on this level. Once, right in the beginning of the school career of Harry’s generation, Neville got so frightened he toppled into Mars’ monuments. (HP and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 9 The Midnight Duel) So to say, he toppled into his role of his life in a time of battle and fear. And in the same way he stumbled into my art series. The Mars Sphere is Neville’s picture.
Yet, only in the last volume of the Harry Potter series Neville is able to fulfil his place as a warrior. Before that he had to fulfil another role (and perhaps or most likely he is even in the last book) – that of the Fool.
And here I am not playing on Neville’s clumsiness. In HP and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37 The Lost Prophesy Dumbledore speaks to Harry about the prophesy. And when Harry jumps to the conclusion that the prophesy speaks about him, Dumbledore corrects him:
‘The odd thing, Harry,’ he said softly, ‘is that it may not have meant you at all. Sybill’s prophecy could have applied to two wizard boys, both born at the end of July that year, both of whom had parents in the Order of the Phoenix, both sets of parents having narrowly escaped Voldemort three times. One, of course, was you. The other was Neville Longbottom.’
This similarities make him nearly to Harry’s, the hero’s twin. And that is what a courtly fool or jester was believed to be – the king’s twin or alta ego.
The jester was the one person at the court who could hold the mirror in front of the king’s face without further punishment. He could speak frankly on controversial issues and voiced words of common sense and honesty. Hence, he is a character of insight and advice to the monarch who is ready to listen.
It is exactly that what Neville does. His actions might seem foolish and like that of a coward. Yet, what Harry can learn from Neville:
Thou shalt have proof how savoureth of salt
The bread of others, and how hard a road
The going down and up another’s stairs.
Paradiso, Canto 17 Lines 58 – 60
The other could have easily been you, Harry. Even though you might not want to know it or see it, this clumsy boy – like Shakespeare’s Fool in King Lear – personifies the central core of your psyche, the guiding force that Jung has called the self. Neville helps Harry thereby in his process of individualisation.
Neville brings a toad to school. According to Hagrid toads went out of fashion years ago and appearing with one, the others would have made fun of Harry. (HP and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 5 Diagon Alley) We can conclude from that that the toad makes Neville a real fool in the eyes of his classmates. So, it’s not too much of a surprise to learn that the Latin word for toad ‘bufo’ is the root of another name of the fool – Buffoon.
What might surprise however is the fact that a toad is one of the symbols used by the alchemists for the Prima Materia. The Prima Materia is the feedstock from that gold is obtained. And one of the principles of the alchemists reads: To obtain gold you need to own gold. Therefore Neville, owner of the toad and a toad himself, has all opportunities to grow to a complete man.
And as we started with the armour gallery and it shows up prominently in the picture as well, we shall end with some ideas to armour. Armour was used by men to protect the body that were otherwise exposed to the elements and the weapons of enemies. In that it was useful to those who went out to the battlefield.
Yet, the armour like the rules of knighthood restricted the knight in his field of movement and vision. Both are made for one purpose and one purpose only – that of aggressively maintaining power/ the situation as shows itself at this moment in time. As that it is also habitual armour that resists and prevents change.
The sets of armour in the Armour Gallery of Hogwarts are empty. They were left behind by those who once inhabited them. They were cast off as cumbersome encasements by students of the castle during the centuries while gaining knowledge and insight. And so they appear in the colours of the Fool’s garment of Tarot in my picture.
They might roam the castle to find others willing to submit to their enticement of feigned security in stock phrases. However, they remain empty throughout all the time Hogwarts is open for teaching. And in the end even the stupid stock phrases – that means the enchanted armours – are use in the fight against the enemies of the stronghold of education.