walking with the wolf

Mars retrograde

Wolves and Roses

There is something pleasant about planets in retrograde motion. Who wouldn’t love it, or at least be curious, when Nature goes backwards. Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall (or through the mirror).

The one that is happening this Summer (now in fact) is Mars. A few other planets are also going retrograde over this period, but let’s focus on the red planet. Mars retrogrades happen about every 26 months (and last roughly 10 – 12 weeks).

I think Mars is somewhat underestimated, being both a personal planet, and the “malefic” that we haven’t done so much to redeem. I think that is because it is personal, yet it is also the first step outside of the Earth’s orbit, and has a key part in the transformation of personal energy (which is one of our species stumbling blocks). This energy is basically what we get all our…

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December’s weather

Just a little astrological musing here. December holds a few shifts and changes it seems.

There have been weeks of a certain kind of heaviness (at least that I found) with Mars and Pluto both being in Capricorn, while Saturn has been in Scorpio, putting the two camps in mutual reception. Mars is a hard worker in Capricorn, but with the resonance of Saturn added, that is accentuated, and with Pluto joining its Scorpio co-ruler in Saturn’s own sign, well it makes it feel pretty subterranean.

Everything that has been happening for a number of years now has also had the square between Uranus and Pluto as a backdrop. You can forget it, but if you listen you can hear the constant, distant grating, and if you could refresh your palate, you’d taste something metallic, disconcerting, sulphurous in the air. Thankfully we can forget stuff! But Uranus has been going backwards for a while now also (since July), and retrogrades are not negative things, they tend to internalize the influence of the planet, but we’ve had a situation where Uranus is going through its yearly retrograde, while both Pluto and Mars are in mutual reception with Saturn, while Uranus and Pluto are square anyway, and Saturn has an “interesting” relationship with Uranus most of the time, Saturn being limitation and structure, Uranus being what breaks through limitations and totally short circuits apparent necessity.

In December things start to change a bit.

4th December 2014 – Mars goes into Aquarius, which puts it in mutual reception with Uranus in Aries. That is a bit of a switch of colouring and allegiance for our prime planet of energy. Was hanging around with Pluto, in mutual reception with Saturn, will be out on its own, in mutual reception with Uranus. Out with the blacks and greys and deep maroons, in with electric blues and greens, and bright vermilions.

22nd December 2014 – Sun goes into Capricorn at the Solstice (actually late on 21st December), and Uranus turns direct! What that rolls back, I don’t know, but with the accompaniment from Mars, the energy is surging again.

23rd December 2014 – Saturn leaves Scorpio for Sagittarius. It will pop back in again during 2015 (as it does at a sign change generally), but going into Sagittarius, it leaves behind the mutual reception with Pluto, and that feels like a bit of  a relief.

With this Uranus-Pluto square we don’t get away from the relationship between the two, and it’s one of those combinations that seem morally compelling; it did at the conjunction, and it does at the square also. I think we are often surprised to find that the sense of moral compulsion is as much projection as it is anything to be righteous about, but then there wouldn’t be that kind of sense of moral compulsion without such psychological processes. How often do the villains and the heroes, not to mention their battle standards, turn out to be not what we thought?

With powers as absolute as Uranus and Pluto (and Neptune), it is easier to consider them as separate and discrete (like “us”), even irreconcilable, rather than the signs of a Oneness, cast like light through a triangular prism.

December sees our dream dappled with a shifting light.

Photo of glass prism by Kali David Heffernan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

2nd – 23rd December 2014: I corrected some of the astrological timing details in this post.

the engineer in the basement, and other tales

The Sun went into Virgo a few days ago – one of my favourite times, the road between high Summer and Autumn (in the Northern Hemisphere). It’s normally a light time, increasingly delicate even when it stays good and warm, as the light changes and takes on a sightly more slanted, almost silvery quality. The days are drawing in a little, but not so much that you’d really notice, and the light is very pure. It becomes very clear, and yet we’re still in the the tail end of Summer.

But just recently it has felt heavy, and I think we can find some of the reasons in the sky. Mars has been making his way through Scorpio, to a meeting with Saturn, and now they are almost exactly conjunct. The two “malefics” conjunct in the sign of “ill repute”, tis the stuff of Hammer movies! Just a short while ago we had the conjunction of the two “benefics”, Jupiter and Venus, in regal and sunny Leo, where they are indeed still conjunct. Now the bad boys are together in the sign of all things putrefying, sexy and downright dodgy. I imagine it as like having sex with a great Victorian engineer down in the engine room. All big beards, waistcoats, pocket watches and enormous, driving pistons. Slytherin 15 – Gryffindor 12.

Glamorous reputation aside though, Saturn-Mars feels heavy because it is about work. Energy, drive, motive force, structure, resistance. Without all these things together, a combustion engine would either just go bang, or simply sit there. But if it isn’t mastered, it’s a definite challenge, and even then it needs maintenance over time. In Scorpio Mars is in its own sign. It’s at home, whether coiled or released. Fixed water. Saturn will bring out anything uncomfortable or unworkable, show up anything that isn’t authentic. So there’s a liquid combustion engine working in the unconscious, but slowly. It’s almost like the first oil well. It could bring up wealth, it could bring up poison, and it’s so concentrated that it will probably act as both, so we have to think what we really want, because we don’t have to extract stuff ourselves, in that way. Everything has its place, and sometimes it’s best left where it is. But sometimes it just needs to be done. The capacity for deep and transformative work is there though.

What happened yesterday as well was the New Moon in Virgo, the chart for which is below (set up for London, where I live).


Virgo New Moon 2014

Virgo New Moon 2014

There’s our Victorian engineer, all hot and waistcoated in Scorpio, locked in that square with good time Venus and Jupiter in Leo (joined by not so good time Lilith). Whatever work might be required by the engineer, the abundance and beneficence of the time is not in a position to express itself in a way which lets the engineer go where he needs to go easily, thus the cross purposes of the square here. Similarly, if the engineer works, the party ends up getting the smoke and oil (and possibly scandal).

Both Mars-Saturn and Venus-Jupiter will do what they need to do, but not only are their energies very contrasting, their means of expression are my “stop” for your “go”, chalk for cheese, display for secrecy, celebrity party for private dungeon, my “play” for your “deep work”. Except that Lilith is there at the party too, and that will not leave things just glittering on the surface. At least a few spanners and whips on the tables, some secrets in plain sight, an invitation to go much much deeper.

The New Moon is right opposite Neptune, so there is a feeling of either immense but untested possibilities, or of curling up and sleeping the whole thing off. A flowing trine to Pluto could give the means to manifest some of those possibilities in time, or just a very very good sleep.

Uranus in Aries is still square to Pluto, so we continue to work out all the power and freedom, individuality and establishment, real life and ideals issues of the waxing Uranus-Pluto cycle that started in the mid 1960s (no news there). The Uranus end of the square blesses the Leonine contingent with a nice trine here though, so the party at the Hollywood palace is probably pretty unconventional, which is just what it needs for the good time feel to come through regardless. Nothing says “screw you Saturn and Pluto” quite like a strong, positive Uranus.

What really shows up here for me though is a pair of yods or “fingers of fate”. As the name suggests, these aspect patterns can feel very fated in their influence, but it all depends. The pattern forms when two planets are sextile each other (60° apart), and both are quincunx a third planet on the other side of the chart. It looks like a long, narrow, triangle, and in the New Moon chart you can see two. One is between Mars-Saturn, Mercury and Uranus, and the other is between Pluto, Neptune and Jupiter.

The yod is a pattern which tends to take a considerable time to work out individually in a person’s life, as it is challenging and awkward, but it does have great potential. The energy is meant to resonate in this pattern, and I get the sense of it going in and out of phase until a person “gets” the hum that it is actually trying to reach. The two planets in sextile work harmoniously together, but the third, while it is in relation to both the others, the spatial arrangement around the zodiac (at 150º) give the means of expression nothing in common with those other two. If one is mutable, the others aren’t. If one is fire, neither of the others are. If one is “masculine”, both the others are feminine. The quincunx by all rights could be a complete miss, a complete nothing, but actually it isn’t. The relationship is there, it just doesn’t match any usual criteria of relationship. That is the nature of its relationship. In a yod, two planets focus that aspect on a third. It could be a complete nothing, but it really isn’t.


” The energy of the two planets in sextile is focused like a laser beam on the action point ………. A sextile is a positive aspect that creates energy. The quincunxes take this heightened energy and raise the vibration even further. The action point planet then comes under incredible stress and tension and must release it somehow. Individuals with this Yod pattern will experience this as continual buildup then release of tension”

Astrology King

Some astrologers do take this to be a very powerful pattern, that can even give a sense of mission. It is a challenging pattern, supposedly involving the learning of repeated lessons around a theme, and is sometimes taken to be karmic, where necessary things are learned, and skills gained.

“The skills are shown by the sextile planets, the challenges through the quincunxes, and the mission or task through the apex planet. The quincunx is an aspect of karmic readjustment”

Astrology King

My sense of the yod is that it might bring about a new and original level of awareness, one which doesn’t fit expected parameters, and may have a bearing on our sense of identification. There is a dissonance in the pattern, focussed on the apex planet, but it is perfectly natural, and this is a powerful pattern. The dissonance will go in and out of phase, in and out of awareness, over time and experience, until the person can “get” it, and incarnates something unique.

But how does this manifest in a chart for a time, rather than a person? Given that our collective and mass manifestations provide a substrate, but not a resolution, for the challenges of consciousness, I would say that they might point to challenges, tensions and potentials of the sort we have indicated, with the sense of karmic patterns involved. The “action planet” should say something about where it is trying to go, and where the tension shows up.

With the Pluto-Neptune-Jupiter yod, the orbs are maybe a little wide (though they are shown as present on the astrodienst chart), so it is the more questionable of the two patterns, but the harmonious base of it is the Neptune-Pluto sextile which has been a backdrop since the 1940s, and will be pretty much in place till 2040. In key word terms it shows illumination and mystical transcendence harmonized (with a little conscious work) with deep transformation and transmutation of life. This shows a potential for spiritual transformation, and according to some it goes along with periods of relative religious liberalism. Where these planets are now is in Capricorn (Pluto) and Pisces (Neptune). Neptune in Pisces has I think a considerable potential to bring about compassionate awareness and sensitivity to collective suffering, while Pluto in Capricorn is shaking and cracking the established structures of how we live, even if it does so in part by casting the shadow of that structure bigger, in shapes more cruel and ruthless. You can see how these two can resonate with each other.

But right now they both focus across the sky on Jupiter in Leo, with that totally-miss-it-exactly aspect of a quincunx. Jupiter is our more personal sense of philosophy, teaching, adventure, and consciousness expansion of the exercising rather than the mind blowing kind. Jupiter can be tremendously healing, and hopeful, and brings light, warmth and benevolence when well aspected. In relation to the yod, the sense of expansion and philosophical answers and generosity is just too personal and egocentric in Leo to answer to the concerns of where Neptune and Pluto are right now. But the relationship is there (if you accept the slightly wide orbs), so there is that tension at the moment. A bit of a missed opportunity, a misplaced good intention, or just partying on as Rome smoulders. It’s not that Jupiter doesn’t care, he’s a big hearted guy, but right now he is in the middle of a world that is like from another time. So there’s maybe a question there, about what kind of philosophy, benevolence, generosity of spirit, can also serve to alleviate the crisis of compassion that Neptune-Pluto is resonating with, without being personally inauthentic. But you can’t force a quincunx, there is just no leverage in any direction, and I think that is probably part of its genius.

The other yod (and this one is unquestionably in orb) is between Mars-Saturn, Mercury and Uranus. The harmoniously related planets are Mars-Saturn in Scorpio and Mercury in Virgo. So all that work-demanding stuff in the underbelly of the zodiac, it’s getting good support from detailed, digesting, integrating Mercury in Virgo. Communication and travel, mobility (and mental activity in general) might have a somewhat slow feel, but you can tell it’s processing, or maybe even healing. Not a time for quick anything. But thorough? To the last detail. And what Mercury adds to the engineer’s labour, Mars-Saturn’s work, is the lightness of a bit more consciousness. What this very solid grouping focusses on, across the sky again, is Uranus in “head for the hills!”, pioneering, individual Aries. It’s difficult to imagine them making any impression at all on Mr Lightning Strike, but one way or another, they resonate with each other (though Mercury will move on quickly) and while Mars-Saturn-Mercury work together and hold together, Mars-Saturn to Uranus, and Mercury to Uranus relate in a WTF, bull in a china shop, “don’t bring that thing in the lab!” kinda way. But Uranus is always a truth, whether welcome or not. So there is the unease, the doubt, the inkling, of what we don’t know, of what we haven’t included in our calculations at all. So that heaviness that maybe comes from the Mars-Saturn conjunction, it’s helped by the conscious work of sifting, digesting, integrating (or even just doing the hoovering). There may be some tension in the background of it, some unease, but don’t worry, it’s just a transdimensional, ultimately individual truth, reminding the world that it’s there, even when the world can’t quite relate. Being a quincunx aspect, it could be. It’s just that it isn’t in any conventional, recognizable terms. Just be open minded, and leave some spaces in the plans. That’s good engineering too.

One body that aspects just about everything we have talked about here, one way or another, is Chiron in Pisces. Sextile Pluto, trine Mars-Saturn, opposition Mercury, quincunx Venus, semi-sextile Uranus. The wise, exceptional centaur, in its “Summer of Love”, Sergeant Pepper sign touches on most of the things in the chart, so my inclination is to view the New Moon as being about a lot of healing when it comes down to it. It feels heavy, but it’s shifting, integrating, processing, transmuting, for a new day. In Pisces, I think Chiron teaches us to be realistic, know our limits, not try to literally save the world, not take in our own huddled masses, and also not over value our own suffering. Chiron is a lot about wounds we re-inflict on ourselves, but ultimately it is about gaining the wisdom that stops the repeating cycle, which we can share realistically to make our world actually a better place, rather than just making ourselves feel better, or worse. Sometimes he will just tell uslet it be”.

West Oil Company Endless Wire Pumping Station, U.S. Route 50 – by William E. Barrett, Photographer, 1973. Image in public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


The Sun got into Sagittarius a few days ago and the branches of the trees are more and more bare. The chill is setting in and the days are getting to be a quick fling of the Sun in a low arc over the south. On bright days the light is dazzling, shining deep into our home from low in the sky, and then it heads for dusk by about 4pm.

Sagittarius is one of the Jupiterian signs (the other being Pisces) that lead us into or out of Winter. Mars begins and ends it, Jupiter takes us there and back, Saturn guards its heart.

For a while I used to think that Sagittarius was associated with the figure of Chiron, and while Chiron is a wonderful figure with a complex myth, a very atypical centaur and a child of Saturn, it turns out that Sagittarius may well be associated with a different mythological figure (and Chiron is already identified with the constellation Centaurus).

According to Eratosthenes Sagittarius is associated with the satyr Crotus, a son of Pan who lived with the Muses, and hunted on horseback using a bow and arrow. He was placed in the heavens by Zeus at the request of the Muses.

“Some say that he is Crotus, son of Eupheme, nurse of the Musae (Muses). As Sositheus, writer of tragedies says, he had his home on Mount Helicon and took his pleasure in the company of the Musae, sometimes even following the pursuit of hunting. He attained great fame for his diligence, for he was very swift in the woods, and clever in the arts. As a reward for his zeal the Musae asked Jove [Zeus] to represent him in some star group, and Jove did so. Since he wished to display all his skills in one body, he gave him horse flanks because he rode a great deal. He added arrows, since these would show both his keenness and his swiftness, and he gave him a Satyrus’ tail because the Musae took no less pleasure in Crotus than Liber [Dionysos] did in the Satyri. Before his feet are a few stars arranged in a circle, which some said were a wreath, thrown off as by one at play.”

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 27, quoted on Theo.com

The Constellation Guide says that Sagittarius has an association with the god Nergal from the Babylonians. Nergal was a god of death, plague, pestilence, warfare and the netherworld according to Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses (AMG&G) . The Encyclopedia Britannica associates him with scorched earth. He was fiery, fierce, forceful, and had an association with intentional death, whether by human, divine or demonic hands¹. As AMG&G points out, death brought by Negal had a supernatural dimension, and Mesopotamian psychology often attributed to  disease a “demonic agency”. Nergal controls a number of demons, and consequently he also had an averting and protective function, as demonstrated by his appearance on house amulets.

There is a fair amount of overlap (and later even syncretism) between Nergal and the god Ninurta, and Ninurta was often shown holding a bow and arrow or a sickle sword. There are indications that Nergal could fulfil a Mars-like role, and Ninurta a Saturn-like role in ancient Babylonian religion (certainly links with the heavenly bodies). Mesopotamia.co.uk claims Ninurta was often shown running on the back of a monster with a lion’s body and scorpion’s tail. He does also have rain, thunderstorms, flood, and agriculture/fertility associations.

Renna Shesso links Sagittarius to the Babylonian Pabilsag, a figure shown with a horses legs, great wings, and a scorpion’s tail, sometimes with a small dog on his back or at the back of his head.

“Some of the earliest lore connects Pabilsag with Ninurta, who eternally wrestles with the Cancer turtle. Other stories …… credit him with the role of psychopomp, a guide for the souls of those departing from life”

Renna Shesso, “A Magical Tour of the Night Sky

AMG&G notes syncretisms between Pabilsag and both Ninurta and Nergal, and his functions are suggested as including healing, judgement, war and hunting, plus connection with the otherworld of the dead. In terms of representation the author also notes:

“In the first millennium Pabilsag could be depicted as a high administrative official (Akkadian zazakku) (Krebernik 2003-05: 164), while by Hellenistic times he was depicted as a centaur, a mythical creature part human and part horse, sometimes with the tail of a scorpion (Green 1993-95: 256). By that era he was also identified with the constellation Sagittarius”

Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses

A very interesting PDF with information on Pabilsag and Sagittarius by Gavin White can be found here.

“The origins of Sagittarius, the Archer, are to be found in the strange composite figure known as Pabilsag. The familiar image of the Greek constellation as a horse-centaur armed with a bow and arrow is, in fact, a simplified version of the Babylonian figure, which is a truly composite character with a number of features not seen in the Greek version, such as a set of wings, a scorpion’s tail and the head of a dog. The details of Pabilsag’s iconography show a considerable amount of variation – some depictions omit the wings or dog’s head altogether, while other images can replace its back legs with those of a bird”

Gavin White, Babylonian Star Lore

Pabilsag, as per illustration shown by Gavin White. Note centaur form but with wings, dog's head looking backwards, scorpion tail and erect phallus. This drawing done by Mo Batchelor

Pabilsag, as per illustration shown by Gavin White. Note centaur form but with wings, dog’s head looking backwards, scorpion tail and erect phallus. This drawing done by Mo Batchelor

Gavin goes on to say that though the horse-centaur image can only be traced back to the 2nd millennium BCE, the figure is “undoubtedly older as the constellation name appears in the star-lists of the preceding Old Babylonian period”. An older form of the Archer can be found on entitlement stones, combining a human archer with a scorpion’s body and bird-like feet. He adds: “Very similar creatures first appear in Akkadian artwork where they can have wings and often have a snake-headed phallus. It isn’t known if these Akkadian images represent an early form of Pabilsag, nevertheless their iconography certainly seems to have influenced its later appearance”.

Gavin also notes that from the Old Babylonian period Pabilsag is often identified with Ninurta, but little is known about him. He is the son of Enlil, his wife was the healing goddess Ninisina, and their son was called Damu (“the child”) and was annually reborn after midwinter. Ninisina’s constellation was the She-Goat, and her divine symbol was the dog. Damu was represented by the “Swine-star”.

Gavin White mentions a few other things too. As Pabilsag’s star rises, the Sun “descends to its lowest ebb at the winter solstice and the gates to the underworld are opened symbolizing the transition between death and new life”. 

Another is that Pabilsag is situated within the course of the Milky Way:

“where it abruptly rises from the southern regions close to the horizon into the higher reaches of the heavens. Judging by the other constellations found in this part of the sky, such as the Eagle and the Panther, this section of the Milky Way arguably represents the souls of the dead on their way to the afterlife. Taken together these features paint a picture of Pabilsag as a guardian and guide to the souls of the deceased. In many of his essential features he can therefore be equated with the figure of the Wild Hunter found in western folklore”

Picking up that association of hunting I found fascinating. The name Pabilsag can be translated as forefather or chief ancestor, and Gavin considers the hunt references to be camouflaging the ancestor’s role  “as the guide to the deceased, spiriting away the souls of the dead with the winds, away from the earth and into the heavens above.”

“The themes of death and destruction are very apparent in the astrological lore of Pabilsag. So far only omens for Jupiter’s presence have been recovered but these paint a pretty desolate picture predicting destruction and carnage for the land, and the death of the prince. Like the other ecliptic constellations that rise during the winter Pabilsag has surprisingly few omens explicitly attributed to him. This lack of omens is ingenuously circumvented by Babylonian astrologers by identifying his component parts with other independent star figures of a similar appearance – in this instance, Pabilsag’s arrow can be identified with the constellation of the Arrow (properly speaking the star Sirius, which marks the summer solstice), and his scorpion-tail can be identified with the Scorpion’s Stinger. The close affinity between Pabilsag and Ninurta may have contributed to these particular identifications, as both the Arrow and the Scorpion’s Stinger are closely associated with Ninurta in astrological lore”


Nergal and Ninurta give us Mars and Saturn associations, and as we have noted, Mars begins and ends Winter, while Saturn lies at its heart. The figure of Pabilsag seems to lie at the root of Sagittarius, and brings in associations of the Wild Hunt, the ferrying of souls, the divine psychopomp. This all fits those connections with the netherworld and the dead which have also been noted. Pabilsag seems to have elements reminiscent of Scorpio as well, while the modern constellation of Sagittarius shoots it’s arrows back into Scorpio, at Antares, the “heart of the scorpion”. Antares is the “anti-ares” star, similar to or rivaling Mars. Of the fixed stars it has a pretty infamously rough reputation, but has been said to be of the quality of Jupiter and Mars, while others say it is of Mars and Saturn. The themes connected with Sagittarius are pretty fierce, one way or another. He seems to have a touch of St George slaying the dragon that would hold us back, but his roots have a sting in his own tail. If he can combat darkness, it is because he also is darkness. He ferries us into Winter, but as leader of the Wild Hunt his accompaniment is compelling, wild, and possessed of a very firm grip. Even in his modern form he is noble, far sighted, magnanimous, healing, teaching, an opener up of horizons; but we need to remember and respect that his roots are in the bestial and the feral. It’s a whole deal, not a half.

For myself, at this time of year, which is to say after Halloween, I notice that one of my bright and beloved gods has disappeared from the “outer” world of visions, and his brightness has become now the inner light. I would be fibbing if I said I even knew what that really meant, but I accept it with gratitude and renewed surprise each time. I just have to watch, as a child would.

Incidentally, the centre of our galaxy lies in the direction of the constellations Sagittarius, Ophiuchus (the “serpent bearer”) and Scorpius.

However you’d like to view Sagittarius, keep warm and bright, and your spirits light, and may your footsteps be well guided through Winter. And Happy Thanksgiving to any of my American readers who celebrate it.

"Bare hooves prints" by Alex Brollo, electronically solarized. Used under  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

“Bare hooves prints” by Alex Brollo, electronically solarized by Credencedawg. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

¹ Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses


red as rust and sweet as honey

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 doamin via wikimedia commons

detail from “Mars and Neptune” by Paolo Veronese, retouched electronically. Original image in public domain via Wikimedia Commons