Probably due to the conjunction between the Sun and Mars that occurred this week, I have had some reason to think about the red planet, though I actually feel some real curiosity and interest about Mars in any case.
There’s a lot of traditional bad vibes attached to Mars, he’s a bit of a bad guy to a lot of people really, as the litany goes something like: war, violence, aggression, murder, rape, destruction and the kind of wildness that people don’t consider romantic and noble. But is that really the story?
There is a clue in astrology of course, for though he is traditionally the “lesser malefic”, he is in modern astrology associated with energy, vitality, drive and sex, as well as aggression and conflict and accidents. When we say sex of course, we don’t so much mean flirty, toying eroticism and all the refinements of love making. The eroticism of Mars is a fiery, locked on chemistry where you know already that full consummation is gazing right into you, intelligently and deeply. You might say “no thank you” and so might they, but the horse power is on the tracks, and it shakes and humbles all. Not the chase and the charm, but the timeless end game. Put it down, condemn it as you like, try to control it as you will, the eroticism of Mars is the unfurled plot line of eroticism. Which in part is probably why Mars rules Scorpio as well as Aries.
If Mars is destructive, it is the destruction that life depends upon. If his wildness isn’t all nice or controllable, that’s because that is what real wildness necessarily includes. So have a heart for a god not so simple.
His metal is iron, that rusts red, that colours our blood red also, so that the blood can carry oxygen to our cells to burn fuel, and carry carbon dioxide away to dispose of the waste of respiration.
Iron that conducts lightning, and forms much of the heart of our own planet Earth, and gives us (along with nickel) a magnetic field that protects us from the radiation of space. Iron that is one of the last elements to be formed in stars, which can only be burned into heavier elements by the star exploding as a super nova.
Iron than gives rose quartz its delicate pink colour. Is it a surprise that Mars’ mineral is what gives rose quartz its pretty, misty colour, with its association with the heart? I don’t think so really.
And if Mars has an association with blood and muscle and exertion, there is surely an association somewhere here with menstruation and childbirth?
According to Ovid, Mars himself was born from Juno without being fathered, except by the touch of a special flower which Flora provided for Juno. The tale goes that Juno wished to bring forth a child all of her own, as Jupiter had brought forth Minerva from his head without a mother. Juno’s own child was Mars.
In fact Mars has associations not just with war, but old associations with agriculture. The kind of war he was associated with was a protective fight that should lead to safety and peace, not jubilation in bloodshed. He is very different to the Greek Aries in this sense. He has associations with the wild as well, and with forests, but again there is a sense of a balance here. Wilderness must have its place, so that cultivation can as well. Mars’ animal was the wolf, which we endow with endangered nobility often nowadays (and I find them extraordinary and beautiful animals), though our fairy tales betray an older prejudice.
Some years ago me and my husband had a therapy business, combining hypnotherapy and Reiki. We had a number of concessionary offers, eg for students, and one of the concessions was for military veterans. I found people’s reactions to that to be puzzling, because some were quite bemused, almost verbalizing “why do you do that?”. Why would you make special offers for soldiers? Like, is that a necessary thing to do? As if no one should be looking after the soldiers themselves, as if that were a strange idea. It reminds me of people who seem to resent firemen their wages. Like, can’t they just get on with it, doing that physical, risky stuff? Didn’t they sign up to be sacrifices? Well, no. They signed up to protect you, and be respected for it, not to be your willing sacrifices. And I do wonder what part the eye on the blood sacrifice has to play in our attitudes and subconscious relationships to martial issues?
And as blood flows through the vampire myth with an almost mystical allure, morphing between sex, seduction, violence, bestial transformation, immortality, life, soul, magical power, the body and it’s transcendence, I would say that Mars has his place there as well.
Richard Gardner used to say that blood sacrifice was one of the fundamental characteristics of human civilizations. I don’t know how accurate that is anthropologically, but he made a poetically persuasive argument. Basically that we are here to transform energy, and the bargain basement way of doing it is bloodshed. That’s part of our relationship with the Earth, and with being here. It doesn’t need to be blood, but in the absence of a finer consciousness, blood becomes the default. Richard thought we could do away with this subconscious need for bloodshed through the cultivation of good will. Gurdjieff also used to characterize human civilizations as going through cyclical processes of periodically destroying everything that they had built and developed, a process which his Beelzebub bewails as a tragedy. Richard was of the opinion that we couldn’t transform consciousness (and so energy) effectively without the free and enlightened exploration of Mars’ other domain of sex, so enlightened sex also becomes a remedy for social violence, as well as much else in his view. Love transforms energy basically, so that violence does not need to do it as a default. On this he was in broad agreement with Wilhelm Reich I think.
The transformation of energy must inevitably fall partially under Mars’ domain astrologically, because he is our personal, passionate and fully embodied experience of energy. So it makes sense that Mars is associated with sex, drive, energy, violence (and you should probably add sacrifice), and of course, transformation of energy. He should also be associated with a profound kind of healing.
Mars is a great and mighty need. The Wolf cannot be condemned or denied by a few inches of conscious awareness, and a mountain of righteousness. Blood and sex will have their way, because what both he and they spell out is the transformation of consciousness.
It is not Mars’ fault if we choose our own default of denial. But it is an ever present opportunity, that we could have such wonders and bliss in a world where our relationship to energy was affirmative, enlightened and free.
detail from “Mars and Neptune” by Paolo Veronese, retouched electronically. Original image in public domain via Wikimedia Commons