Mars symbolism and story seem to be everywhere I look recently, on both a personal and global-political level. As I write this, it is Tuesday, Mars’s day, and so, heeding the divine timing, here are some thoughts and observations as I wrestle with this week’s existential dread from an astrological and spiritual perspective.
On January 3, Mars entered the tropical sign of Sagittarius, a mutable fire sign with religious connotations, and the two dominant headlines in my newsfeed are the wildfires ravaging Australia and the threat of war with Iran. The year is already off to an ominous start. In a couple of months, the Red Planet will move into Capricorn, his favorite place in the zodiac, joining up with Saturn, Pluto and Jupiter, evoking an image of a belligerent general striding into a room full of power-hungry patriarchs sitting around a table with a map, carving up territories or targeting sites without a thought for the human lives that inhabit those places. Add some retrogrades and eclipses into the mix too…it’s not a cozy picture; in fact, it’s goddamn terrifying if you let yourself dwell on it for too long. So in the interest of not dwelling in fear, allow me to work through some stuff:
I have a complicated relationship with my natal Mars, being more of a Venusian type. It is admittedly the least comfortable planet in my chart. The warrior* is not an archetype I identify with at all, but I recognize that he is still a tenant of my psyche regardless, so we do the best we can to co-exist. I have to try hard to remember the higher manifestations of the so-called malefic: passion, initiation, courage, action; and even harder to accept the other side of that coin: violence, arrogance, separation, pain. After all, I remind myself, we are all made of blood and iron. Anger can be a productive, healthy emotion. Athletes are capable of amazing feats. Bravery is an ennobling and often necessary thing. The food we eat, animal or vegetable, is obtained from one form or another of butchering, however removed you yourself may be from the blade. Even birth, one could argue, is the original act of Martial courage, on the part of both mother and baby, as we emerge from the womb and are pitched head-first into existence. We appear to be designed to need Mars, same as the rest of the planetary pantheon, or life would cease to exist.
But do we need war? I accept that it’s an archetype and that we’ve never known a world without it, but must that forever be the case? Is it an inherent aspect of the human condition, or the result of inevitable planetary cycles, or is it a malfunction in humanity? Why the hell do we self-destruct? Seriously, like, why can’t we all just get along? From an astrological point of view, it seems to me that the warrior planet alone cannot take all the blame for the misfortunes of violence on a larger scale. It needs help from the outer planets to make it a collective endeavor. Pluto’s need for power and wealth, for instance; or Jupiter’s foolhardiness; Uranus’s rebellious, revolutionarly spark; Saturn’s entrenched hierarchies and father wounds. Or help from the terrain of the signs: its home territory of Aries or Scorpio, Cancer’s tribalism, Capricorn’s patriarchal attitude, Sagittarius’s religious zeal, etc etc. And still, we can study history and time cycles and try to predict and hope and pray and resist and there is no way to know for sure where we’re headed or how exactly the future will unfold. We are at the mercy of big forces, and we are not in control. At this point a feeling of helplessness starts to set in. The world is in crisis. And what the fuck are we gonna do about it?
Being now in the big-picture mindset, I think: maybe the Aquarian Age will save us. Maybe the Pluto in Capricorn generation will be able to reform the systemic injustice at the root of this mess. Maybe the US Pluto return this year will enable our country to do its shadow work, atone for its past, and finally learn to live up to its own ideals. But these are hypothetical solutions, and while they can instill hope, they veer too far into the abstract and they conveniently bypass the here and now. A collective, I try to remember, is made up of individuals. And world peace, if we are ever to achieve it, will have to start with peace in the Self.
For years I have worked in the world of domestic violence victim advocacy. I have heard more Mars stories from women than I could possibly count. The other night, as a matter of fact, in keeping with this week’s theme, I sat at a table of first-time support group attendees, as they recounted one-by-one their experiences of intimate partner violence, power, and control. One of the tenets we strongly stand by and try to instill as part of the learning and healing process is that we all must be accountable for our own actions. A corollary to that: we have no real control over whether our partners change or not. All we can control is how we show up in the world, how we treat others and how we treat ourselves. It’s a truism that holds up in all areas of life, not just marriage and partnership, and I think helps to keep it in mind when the dark thoughts about the state of the world seep in.
If you’re a bleeding heart pacifist like me, you want to solve all the world’s problems. But we have to admit that’s just not possible. But nor should we be paralyzed by inaction, fear or despair. And if you’re nothing like me, this message still applies to you. These planetary transits are happening to all of us, not just to the bloody-minded politicians, and will interact with each of our natal placements in a specific personal way. Let’s try to reframe them as opportunities. I think I’m starting to hear and understand what Mars is trying to tell me in my own life. What message does he have for you? How is he encouraging you to find your voice, or start a new project, or stand up for yourself, or have an adventure? How is he reminding you of a painful experience, or making you uncomfortable, and what can you learn from those feelings? What is your relationship to sex lately? To exercise? How is he making you angry or irritable and how can you learn to express that frustration without disrespecting or hurting the people around you? Find Sagittarius in your chart, and that will give you some clues. Each action we take, however small, that leads us toward individuation, tests our courage, or allows us to understand ourselves better, is a gift from Mars, and funnily enough, creates more balance and harmony in the world.
Your birth chart does not contain all answers to all questions, but it does contain many. And marking transits can give us a sense of what to expect from the upcoming week, month, year, decade or generation, even if we can’t say with specificity what will happen. If you would like to learn more about what story Mars, or any of the planets, is telling in your life, contact me to set up a consultation.
Strength and courage in the year ahead, from my Mars to yours. We’re all in this together.
*For the record: I differentiate between the Warrior archetype and the Soldier archetype, though they certainly overlap. I also do not personally identify with the Soldier, for what that’s worth, but the distinction felt important to mention.