Smokes rises into the sky. Great black plumes of it, rising over the tops of silver birch and haggard pine. Follow the winding country road, and you hear the screams of villagers cut through the air. Get closer, and you hear the clash of metal on wood, the thump of bodies, and the hard gallop of hooves. Raiders have ridden in and have begun to burn and pillage the town. They dig crooked daggers into the backs of weaker men, spilling their blood onto the dirt floor of their homes. They laugh as they tie children to their horses and drag the women out by their hair, using them in the street without civilized guilt or shame. Fire rages and swells, eating thatch and wooden homes in a fury of heat and smoke. The raiders steal, rape, torture, and torment, but these evil men haven't a thought to spare for the lives they ruin. At the heart of their evil is selfishness, and at the end of their raid, they themselves are fatter, richer, and selfishly spoiled with the things they take.
But they are not the only powerful men in this village. A drumbeat of hooves thunders down from uphill. Through the smoke and dry heat of the fire, great warriors storm into the village, swords held high, bellowing out from their chest. They swing and hack great cuts into the raiders below them, and torrent of blood fall flat onto the ground. The cling of metal on metal rings out again and again, until their screams are silenced once and for all. The raiders are cut into piles in the street. And the warriors emerge from the smoke, bloodied, but victorious.
Those brave men are ridden through the capital under the king's banners, flanked by thankful villagers at their side. Young boys chase after their decorated horses as they ride through the streets, and women fawn over their powerful bodies. Scrawny, adolescent boys makes gods out of them. And later, in the barn with their brothers, they swing a sword as big as they are and imagine fighting evil themselves. Determined to emulate their heroes, to become the epitome of strength and bravery themselves, they pray to Mars and ask him for the courage to fight their enemies. They glorify their violence as strength and cunning, and see dominance as an exercise in power.
The glyph we use for Mars (♂) is the alchemy symbol for iron, but you may recognize it as the universal symbol for the male gender. As a combination of an arrow and a circle, it can be seen as a person driven forward and upward towards some goal or desire. Originally, some speculate that it depicted an iron spear and shield. But one can also look at it and see the erect penis and body of a man, making it a phallic symbol as well as a violent one.
In my last article, we talked about how Venus is your feminine side, the part of you which is soft, submissive, sweet, and more relationship-oriented. Mars, your self-oriented masculine side, is the opposite of all that. Where Venus showed how you magnetically draw things toward you, Mars is the hunter that goes out and chases down prey. Where Venus describes your sexual relationships, Mars is your drive for personal sexual pleasure. Where she is lazy or lackadaisical, he is actively moving forward. And where she is cooperative and harmonious, he is competitive and destructive. From Mars we get ambition, motivation, drive, and desire - all the things we need to get what we want. But he is also where we get our violent temper and selfish intentions, so we need to be careful with what we do with his energy.
Without the need or desire to please anybody but himself, Mars is, above all else, set upon making himself happy. It comes as no surprise then, that conflict can be found where ever Mars lies in your Natal Chart. When you free yourself from needing to please other people, you free yourself from needing to speak and act in a way that makes you likeable. Being blunt, honest, and borderline inconsiderate, you invite other people to treat you the same way. Which then turns competitive, and from there into an argument, a debate, a confrontation, or a fight you need to win. Whether you are throwing hands or tossing words, you use your Mars to rip your opponent apart and stomp all over their ego. When - and how - you release him, depends on your Mars Sign, and where you let him out depends on which House he is in.
In a positive light, Mars is our greatest source of bravery, confidence, and courage. With him we are strong, and able to stand up and fight for what we believe in. There are times where our rights are being trampled on, where we are being threatened with violence, where people in power are turning tyrannical, and the only way out is by being loud, getting angry, and fighting back hard. In the past, we needed our animalistic nature to survive a world divided by predators and prey. Now we use it to wage wars, climb the corporate ladder, push back abusers, and to fight off oppressive regimes. Deep in your Mars heart, you have a warrior, who bangs against the walls of your chest and screams for justice. But with him comes the urge to rape, pillage, and dominate our surroundings, and that is the side of human nature that we fear the most.
The fear of our dark side is why most of us have an unhealthy relationship with our Mars nature. Too much Mars makes you hyper-masculine, which makes you selfish, rude, erratic, and overwhelming for other people to be around. It takes away your self-control and numbs you to the feelings of the people around you, which makes it easier for you to jump on every impulse and desire without a thought for how your actions might affect someone else. Taken too far, Mars becomes violent. But a too little Mars makes you weak, cowardly, insecure, and a doormat for people to walk all over. It takes away your drive and motivation. The person who is forced to let go of their masculinity is likely to turn resentful, and to lash out in other ways later on. So, as you can see, neither Mars extreme is good.
As we learned with the Sun, the other masculine planet in our Natal Chart, the key is to cycle near and away, so that others do not get burned by our energy. You need to be masculine enough to stand up for yourself, but not so much that you are starting fights everywhere you go. You need to be selfish enough to take care of yourself and put up boundaries against people who want to hurt you, but not so selfish that you turn inconsiderate, abusive, and rude. Violence, be it physical, sexual, or through hate speech, has no place in a civilized society. But in war and revolution, in defense of yourself and your loved ones, you need to have the courage to fight.
RULERSHIP AND EXALTATION
Mars started off Exalted in Capricorn and Ruled jointly between Aries and Scorpio. Then, upon the discovery of Pluto in 1930 (and the decades of astrological speculation thereafter), Pluto was given to Scorpio and Mars was Ruled solely by Aries. But because I have to do everything my own way, I say that Mars is Ruled by Aries and Exalted in Scorpio. And that's the way I teach it.
To me, Aries is the soldier, and Scorpio is the assassin. Aries is the side of Mars which yells and charges out in broad daylight, making his anger and intentions known. He butts into everything head-first, knocking it down, kicking it into the dirt, and then proudly prances away in victory. Scorpio is the side of Mars which acts in the dead of night, sneaking in and slitting throats when the enemy least expects it. Here he exacts revenge, striking his barbed tail into the feet of those who dare cross him. Both of these Signs are highly masculine; driven, dominant, aggressive, highly sexed, intensely loyal, and willing to kill or be killed for the cause they care about.
Mars is in Detriment in Libra and in Fall in Taurus. These two Signs are feminine in nature, and not comfortable expressing themselves in such a brash, confrontational way, as Mars wants them to. Libra is too conscientious about how other people feel to act selfishly, too dependent on others to be independent, too rational to get lost in anger and passion. Taurus is driven, but lazy and reluctant to make big changes or express themselves dramatically. Their emotional nature is too placid to allow for outrageous outbursts, and they choose instead to hold their anger inside and let it fester. Both of these Signs need to prioritize their own happiness enough to let go and chase after what they want, and can learn a thing or two from their more fiery companions.
mars THROUGH THE SIGNS
MARS IN ARIES is in its Ruled position. When you want something it never occurs to you that you can't have it, or can't do it, or that the feats you want to accomplish aren't possible. Even when other people doubt you, you retain enough confidence in yourself to pursue any goal that crosses your mind. Challenges and obstacles are brushed aside; you believe you have the strength, energy, independence, and determination to overcome anything, or anyone. What really bothers you is boredom, oppressive or unappreciative authority figures, or when you are forced to patiently wait on other people. That is when the impatient, angry, and selfish volcano inside you erupts, and you say and do things that hurt you in the end. To keep these episodes in check, get yourself into an active routine, and live an independent life so you don't have to rely on anybody but yourself.
MARS IN TAURUS is in its Fall position. In the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, you are the plodding, hard-working, dependable Tortoise, ambling toward your goals slowly but surely. You possess admirable work ethic, willpower, and stubbornness. Your commitment to the task is why you accomplish more in the long-term than other, more fast moving Mars Signs. But problems arise because you get comfortable, lazy, and passive, and are too content with things just the way they are. Instead of rising up and confronting problems, people, or obstacles, you put a lid on your anger and let it simmer deep inside your chest. Ultimately, either you burnout and breakdown, or you erupt and destroy everything in a rage. Your patience and discipline are what get you what you want, so keep those qualities close to your chest. But don't be so quick to set your happiness aside for the sake of routine!
MARS IN GEMINI is the Hare in that story, who races forward so many steps before getting suddenly distracted and taken off-course. Boredom and a short attention-span lead you chase too many things in too many different directions, scattering your energy, changing your mind and changing it back again. Here is the erratic, Twin-nature of Gemini trapped inside the arrow of Mars, trying to splinter off and shoot down three things at once. Working in your favour is your intelligence, your rational problem-solving, and your charming people skills. Mental and intellectual challenges are easily overcome, and you enjoy tackling these sorts of problems head on. As for the more aggressive (bordering on violent) sorts of obstacles you encounter, your sharp tongue and quick wit are what you use to incite action, using them to attack, defend, charm and manipulate. Whatever it is you are after, you can bet you know exactly what to say in order to get it.
MARS IN CANCER doesn't aggressively or directly go after anything. Like the Crab, you walk side to side, always moving in indirect ways toward what you want. You are tenacious and stubborn; you know what your goals are, and how you are going to get them. You just use more subtle tactics - manipulation, sulking, guilt trips, negotiation, or seduction, for example - to weave other people and circumstances around you until you get what it is you are after. It is only when you are desperately, violently angry that you are able to wall yourself off and have a dramatic meltdown. Other than that, direct confrontation is something you struggle with. Learn how to speak up when you're being pushed around, and to be more upfront about what you want. Things will comes to you much faster. And it will make things so much easier for you, you'll wonder why you did it any other way!
MARS IN LEO is loud, powerful, assertive, and a force to be reckoned with. You are a natural leader, not just because you can rally people around you, but because it is impossible for you to take a back seat on anything. You are always pushing yourself to the front of the line or the head of the stage, placing yourself under the spotlight, where you can be seen and heard above everyone else. Like the extraverted child who jumps and yells dramatically for attention, you get what you want by demanding it for yourself. What you want is power and prestige; many of your goals circulate around your desire for fame and public adoration. These goals may be challenged by your own Mars qualities, which make other people not like you. But although you may be largely egotistical, prideful, and sensitive, your optimism and positive, outgoing energy is what earns you a spot in the hearts of so many people.
MARS IN VIRGO is one of the hardest-working Mars placements one can have. You get what you want (money, property, and other material comforts) by concocting a rationally laid-out plan, and then working hard toward your goals. It is a good plan. it works well, and it almost always guarantees success. The challenges of this placement are all self-imposed, stemming from your own perfectionist attitude. You are never satisfied with anything, and you beat yourself up over how you could/should have done things better. This spills into your sex life, where you worry about your performance, and your personal life, where you refuse to express your anger and neglect to reward yourself for all that you've done. As Dana Gerhardt said, "A Mars without big missions will often find petty ones, swelling with little irritations or meaningless competitions." So the remedy here is to learn how to focus more on the here-and-now and on the big picture, instead of nit-picking the details.
MARS IN LIBRA is in its Detriment position. Libra is a Sign designed to avoid conflict through its willingness to cooperate and see the other side. You are looking for a peaceful resolution, a compromise, a solution where both parties walk away happy. It feels so selfish and unnatural for you to put your own desires first and fight for what you want, as everything Libra does is to make people like them. But that is what Mars is here to do, so therein lies the conflict. There are two ways that the energy of the Sign and that of the planet intersect. One, is in your ambition to form and maintain relationships with other people (though the fighting may drive you apart). And two, in your desire for justice. Your Mars energy comes out in a debate or an argument, where you use logical and rationality to fight and win any verbal discourse that comes your way. This may be the only area of your life where Mars aggression and insensitivity makes itself known, so use it wisely!
MARS IN SCORPIO is in its Exalted position. Scorpio knows, better than anyone, that there are times where one cannot be brash, loud, and demanding in their pursuit of their goal. You can't scream and yell and fight everybody to get what you want - sometimes you need a more subtle approach. Mars in Scorpio uses cunning, intelligence, and clever manipulation to sway the chess pieces into place. Brooding and patient, you can wait a long time for the opportune moment to strike out from the shadows. You are adept at getting people to do what you want in order to get that promotion, outsmart your competition, or to make that person fall in love with you. Depending on your intentions, these tactics can either be used for good (getting what you want without conflict or competition) or evil (abuse fueled by emotional intensity and selfish desires). In business and politics, these tactics work wonders. Use your powers to get ahead there, and watch your Mars work its magic.
MARS IN SAGITTARIUS has high hopes and ambitious dreams, but has trouble sticking to goals long enough to accomplish anything. As I wrote before, "Sagittarius can start anything - a relationship, a job, a project - with contagious energy and enthusiasm. But follow-through is what they lack. With their restless impatience, their want to see and explore everything at once, and their abandoning of anything that binds them to a singular goal, they end up actually accomplishing very little. [...] Sagittarius needs to acquire more tough-it-out grittiness, the kind that takes years of dedication and single-minded determination, in order to succeed in life." In other words, keep the optimism, the energy, and the enthusiasm, but learn some self-discipline, stick to your plans, and see things through to the end.
MARS IN CAPRICORN is among the most ambitious Mars placements. You want all the power and material luxuries you see at the top of the mountain, which you climb through hard work, discipline, commitment, and grounded realism. Like other Cardinal Mars Signs, you battle against authority and shove yourself in the driver's seat, fighting anyone who tries to dominate you. But despite your confidence, periodic stress, doubt, and the added pressure you put on yourself, may puncture your journey with insecurity, anxiety, and depression. You may be slower to get what you want than, say, an Aries or a Leo (who just get up and move without thinking about it). But your eyes are on the prize and your steps are sure-footed, and you reap the rewards for your hard work in the long-term.
MARS IN AQUARIUS is disciplined, motivated, and one of the hardest working placements a person can have. You get what you want through stubborn commitment, social graces, and intellectual reasoning, coming up with a formula for success and sticking with it all the way through. What stands in your way is your unrealistic ideals and your own unpredictable spontaneity. As I said before, "Few are more committed and hard working than an Aquarius with a dream. But few are more likely to ditch it all and suddenly change course halfway through, either. It may be due to a sudden squirt of stubborn rebelliousness, or it may be that a new ideas has struck them and inspired them to work on something else entirely." Follow your mental and social pursuits, but choose avenues that allow you to change course without abandoning all you've achieved so far.
MARS IN PISCES is difficult, since the Sign is naturally so feminine and submissive, and Mars is the part of you that wants to stand up, confront problems, and fight it out. The compromise here is that you get what you want by being subtle about it, sort of like Mars in Scorpio or Cancer. You turn to guilt, seduction, manipulation, and other similar tactics to swoon others to your favour, avoiding direction confrontation at all costs. You appear passive and submissive, and others have no idea the emotional powers you carry, or how ambitious you actually are. Many people are surprised to learn you have big dreams and high ideals that you actively chase and seldom talk about out loud. Don't be so afraid of failure that you avoid your pursuits altogether. Procrastination will only breed frustration and resentment. Add some masculinity to the mix, and forget the doubt that holds you back!
We all have one Venus and one Mars in our chart, so we all are one part feminine and relationship-oriented, and one part masculine and self-oriented. Mars may not be a likeable or agreeable part of your personality, but he is a source of strength and determination, which you need in order to tackle your goals and get what you want out of life. Mars is just for you, and no one else, and he has the power to steer your heart in many different directions with the passions he ignites within you. Use his energy wisely, and you can achieve success with minimal casualties along the way.