For this third planet spotlight posting, we’ll be looking at Mars. Mars was the god of war (equivalent to the Greek Ares). He was not the subject of very many stories in classical mythology – his character seems to have been summed up by his prowess as a warrior and his passionate love affair with Venus.
In astrology, Mars is regarded as the “lesser malefic” – not as bad as Saturn, but still often the harbinger of bad news. But whereas Saturn presides over those big life issues that challenge us for decades, Mars presides over more transient calamities: car accidents, a sudden row with a family member or coworker, the plan that backfires.
The basic energy represented by Mars is that of self-assertion, ambition, competition, and striving. This is a very physical energy: Mars presides over physical combat and all types of sports and physical recreation, including sex (its physical aspects, at least – the romantic side of sex is more Venus’s domain). Most of us today pursue our ambitions in ways that are not so physical, but for most of our history as a species, getting what you wanted or needed meant facing physical challenges and overcoming them. This is what Mars is good at, even though for many of us today, his energy is channeled into activities that are more social or mental.
We can see now why Mars can preside over those nasty accidents and upheavals. His basic mode of operation is to take on the world, to plunge into the day with spear and shield, ready to face whatever comes. This is a confrontational stance, and it manifests confrontation. Sometimes the world strikes back. Every fierce warrior is bound to collect a few battle scars.
It has been said that the position of Mars in a woman’s birth chart says something about her image of the male sex, in particular about men as prospective mates. I think this was more true in the past than it is today. When the culture did not allow women to openly display competitive ambitions or to assert themselves, women would often project these parts of their psyche onto the men in their lives, much as men would project their sensitive, affectionate impulses onto women. This still happens, of course, but it is generally much easier today for a woman to express Mars energy directly.
Mars can be an uncomfortable or problematic planet for many of us to integrate and work with. His competitiveness can easily run toward conflict or anger, which many of us would rather avoid altogether. When we do experience anger, the temptation is to project that energy onto the other party in the conflict. It may be difficult to acknowledge how much our own drive and ego contributes to the strife we experience in dealing with others whose intentions conflict with our own. Yet denying one’s own competitive nature produces more problems than it solves. If we don’t claim our own Mars energy, we are doomed to encounter it in our interactions with others, without any good way to manage or control it.
Although it is certainly possible and desirable to minimize the anger and conflict one experiences in life, the underlying energy that fuels conflict – the struggle to obtain what one seeks and to achieve one’s goals – needs to find expression somehow. Using Mars in a healthy way means creating situations where his drive can express itself without striking out at others. There are many non-hostile ways to use Mars: physical recreation, pursuing personal goals that don’t clash with those of others, and “friendly competition” that encourages both parties to do their best. What Mars is really after, at his core, is not strife and bloodshed, but victory – the experience of struggling to accomplish something and succeeding.
Mars can be a valuable asset to us – none of the other planets come close to him in terms of drive and determination. Working for a goal will also draw upon Mars to some extent, in some role. The key, though, is to not get so caught up in Mars’s view of the world that we forget the larger context. Ambition is a servant of the soul, not its master. Mars needs a zone of life in which to operate and accomplish things, but we also need to recognize when he steps out of bounds and needs reining in.