What does the centaurs Ronan and Bane's statement of "Mars is bright tonight" mean?

Ronan sighed. He flung back his head and stared at the sky. ‘Mars is bright tonight.’
Philosopher's Stone - page 184 - Bloomsbury - chapter 15, The Forbidden Forest


Bane walked over to stand next to Ronan. He looked skywards.
‘Mars is bright tonight,’ he said simply.
‘We’ve heard,’ said Hagrid grumpily.
Philosopher's Stone - page 185 - Bloomsbury - chapter 15, The Forbidden Forest

What does this mean? What does this mean in relation to Harry? Was there some kind of significance behind "Mars is bright tonight"?

A canon-based answer would be great!

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    I imagine it has more do with astrology canon than HP canon. – Tacroy Nov 28 '12 at 20:11
  • @Tacroy - Is it fair of me to take "I imagine" to mean you're giving an opinion? Which is totally fine, but I'd just like to know. :) – Slytherincess Nov 28 '12 at 21:06
  • Considering the level of ambiguity to which JKR assigns centaurs, especially when dealing with astrology, I highly doubt there is a canon answer. Even from the "horse's mouth" so to speak, the best answer one could hope for would likely be "humans do not understand enough of the skies to comprehend...etc. etc." – NominSim Nov 28 '12 at 21:23
  • @NominSim - Well, for example, the last thing Firenze says as he lets Harry off his back is, "‘Good luck, Harry Potter. The planets have been read wrongly before now, even by centaurs. I hope this is one of those times.’ And there are several other things the centaurs say. I'm just curious if it's possible to piece these bits together for an idea of what the centaurs meant. Perhaps a better way to put it is "an answer based in the spirit of canon would be great." And you always doubt there is a canon answer ;) :D I'm joking with you ... :) – Slytherincess Nov 29 '12 at 1:52
  • Btw, a quick glance at heavens-above shows that Mars was not particularly bright that day in Scotland. – ibid Mar 2 '17 at 0:54

The answer actually comes four years later in The Order of the Phoenix chapter 27: The Centaur and the Sneak, when Harry goes to his first Divination class with Firenze:

Firenze pointed to the red star directly above Harry.

"In the past decade, the indications have been that wizardkind is living through nothing more than a brief calm between two wars. Mars, bringer of battle, shines brightly above us, suggesting that the fight must soon break out again. How soon, centaurs may attempt to divine by the burning of certain herbs and leaves."

So in Harry Potter, the centaurs view Mars "burning bright" pretty much the same as it has been viewed in astrology historically. It's a "bringer of battle" (probably because it's red) and a symbol of war.

In relation to Harry, Mars burning bright that night may specifically have been a warning of his encounter with Voldemort the same night, which was a sort of battle. I doubt, however, that the centaurs would ever say anything so certain.

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  • 3
    So he points to a red star talking about Mars? Rowling really needs to learn the difference between a star and a planet. – phantom42 Dec 4 '12 at 21:11
  • @phantom42 Mars the planet or Mars, bringer of battle? – AncientSwordRage Dec 4 '12 at 21:32
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    @phantom42 On the other hand, to the average person who looks up at night and sees it, Mars looks like a red star. Poetic license, if you will. Harry probably did just think of it as a red star until it was named by Firenze... – Izkata Dec 4 '12 at 23:55
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    The person complaining that they are irked by jkr talking about planets showing as stars, I took astronomy in 2011 and we learned that planets actually are visible and they look like bright stars. You can't tell what color they are but I remember when I had that class the teacher asked us to monitor the skies and I femember walking home every evening to see mars being the shiniest "star" in the orange sky. It didn't last long, it followed the sun as it set so when planets are visible, they look exactly like stars. You can google and find what planets are visible to use at what time of day or n – user14997 Jun 2 '13 at 18:17
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    @phantom42 it is perfectly acceptable (especially in astrology) to refer to any point of light in the night sky as a star, including planets (wandering stars) and meteors (shootings stars). Even "asteroid" means "star-like". – OrangeDog Oct 10 '16 at 17:58

I have no canon references to back me up, but there are a number of conversations across the web which generally agree with my thought:

"Mars" is a reference to the Roman god of war. In these scenes, they have recently learned of Quirrel sneaking through the forest and drinking unicorn blood. The centaurs know war is coming. Metaphorically, the god of war is starting to show himself.

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  • IIRC, Mars has no direct war connotation in astrology. IANAA, though – DVK-on-Ahch-To Nov 28 '12 at 23:51
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    @DVK Does JKR know that? – Dason Nov 29 '12 at 0:12
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    I think if the answer depends on what JKR knows about astrology, then the question might be Not Constructive... – Ward - Reinstate Monica Nov 29 '12 at 3:48

Professor Quirinus Quirrell.

The name "Quirinus" is possibly derived from the Sabine word quiris meaning "spear". Quirinus was a Sabine and Roman god who was later identified with Mars. The name was also borne by several early saints.

"Quirinus" is also associated to the Roman god Janus, as in Janus Quirinus. Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, is often depicted as two-faced, with one visage looking forward, to the future, and one looking back, to the past. This image is reminiscent, of course, of Voldemort's face set opposite Quirrell's own.

Firenze’s quote is:

"In the past decade, the indications have been that wizardkind is living through nothing more than a brief calm between two wars. Mars, bringer of battle, shines brightly above us, suggesting that the fight must soon break out again. How soon, centaurs may attempt to divine by the burning of certain herbs and leaves."
Order of the Phoenix, ch. 27

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  • 1
    The first two paragraphs seem an interesting fan-theory about Quirrel's name, but don't address Bane's comment. – Valorum Sep 29 '18 at 5:21
  • This appears to be mostly a quote, but there is no attribution. Please edit your answer to include where your quote is from and give a link to it if possible. Lack of attribution comes under the heading of plagiarism on StackExchange sites, which could well get your answer deleted. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 29 '18 at 9:16

If you google the significanc of mars in astrology the first thing that pops up is this: mars, god of war, in astrology/zodiac. Astrology- Mars, planet of energy action and desire, and can be thought of as the "leftover" animal nature of man.

The last sentence explains everything. They didnt know what was out in the woods only later to find out that it was what was leftover of voldemort

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Because I love to read about greek and Roman mythology. I always thought that when they say "mars is bright tonight." I always thought they talked about war, since Mars is a Roman god and he is based on Ares, who is the God of war. So I use to think he was talking about War.

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  • 3
    Welcome to the site! :) This sure seems like the right answer, I'm just not sure if your post adds anything to the existing answer. That'd be fine most places, so don't worry, but here on Stackexchange, it's important to ensure that you contribute something new, especially to very old questions with heavily upvoted accepted answers. If you agree with an existing one, it's best to simply upvote that answer with the arrows (although you'll need a little reputation for that). You can get that reputation by providing good answers and a handy tip is to always try and include a reference if poss. :) – Au101 Oct 21 '16 at 23:51

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