Art by Stella Gilmore
Mars dominates the astral waves of change this week, and although there are other influential celestial currents, Mars owns the field. While it isn’t the most profound planetary influence on the collective consciousness, Mars does drive the regular routines of daily life, so when it assumes a prominent position, we pay attention. Its presence, along with the other inner planets—Mercury, Venus, and of course, although not planets, the Sun and Moon—determine the day-to-day goings-on of life. And because these days are nothing other than uncertain, we need to stay present to the micro as well as the macro realities.
On Saturday, June 27, Mars entered Aries, its Home Sign, where it’s strongest and where it stays until January 2021, an unusually long period of time for Mars to transit a Sign. Mars usually moves through a Sign in 6 to 7 weeks, except when it retrogrades back into that Sign, which it does during this transit of Aries, from September 9 through November 13.
Mars signifies the principal of self-assertion, although it is best known as the warrior archetype and is also often referred to as the god of war. At its core, Mars represents the process of individuation and the idea that we have a separate self, distinct from others. Many astrologers think of Mars as the arms and legs of the ego, symbolizing physical muscle as well as psychological, emotional, and spiritual muscle. It is, literally, how we move in the world.
The placement of Mars in a birth chart—the Sign and House it occupies and, most importantly, how it connects with other planets—indicates how we take a stand in our individual life as well as in the world. From the first Mars Return, when Mars returns to the position it occupied at our birth, (when we’re about two years old), it supports the need to say “no” when “no” is the best way to establish, experience, and preserve individuality.
All the symbols in astrology play out along a spectrum from negative to positive. On the negative end of the Mars spectrum is unspecified or global rage—anger for anger’s sake—and at the positive end is self-actualization—acknowledging and harnessing our gifts and talents to fulfill their potential. Along the way to that fulfillment (and perhaps through many lifetimes), we cobble together a deep understanding of what it means to be a self, separate and distinct from others, but comfortable enough with who we are to join in with others without fear of losing our unique expression.
For the next six months-plus, we are all participating in a collective, prolonged Mars intensive—there are so many issues, individual and collective, that need positive warrior energy. So pick your personal and collective causes carefully, and as you do, remember that as Uranus transits Taurus we are all identifying what matters most, and as personal values shift, so does the zeitgeist.
But be aware that for many fellow travelers this Martian journey is going to be a rough ride—lots of people are going to be prickly and ready to fight about any and every little thing. If you are having difficulty channeling your anger into a positive spiritual warrior stance, just do your best not to add to the already hot air that could become the atmosphere of daily life, especially toward the end of August as Mars gets ready to retrograde. Yes, Mars fuels demonstrations and protests, but it also fuels resistance to those protests. As we struggle toward concretizing social justice as a way of life, keep an eye on what it will take to transform the hatred and greed that have given rise to so many societal problems. Mars may be in Aries for six months, but the change we are trying to effect is for the long haul and as many are realizing, it’s going to take a lot of energy and effort to build a brave new world where everyone is, actually, equal. I know it sounds idealistic, but that’s one of the most important qualities of being a spiritual warrior—hope in the possibility of transformation.
The second Jupiter/Pluto conjunction in Capricorn was exact yesterday and it is unrelenting in its emphasis on the transmission and contagion of COVID-19. The first of three Jupiter/Pluto conjunctions was on April 4; yesterday’s conjunction was at the same degree as the last one—both 24° Capricorn. The third conjunction on November 12, 2020, occurs at the same degree as the Saturn/Pluto conjunction of January 12. It seems we just can’t get away from the great reckoning of Saturn/Pluto—a reckoning that facilitated the great unraveling of government structures—and in some cases, the very foundations—of American democracy. Over these next weeks and months leading up to the third conjunction, masks, contact tracing, and social distancing are going to be essential in saving lives.
Unfortunately, this conjunction also feeds the need for power at any cost, and as Mr. Trump experiences his own personal Pluto transits, he is likely to stay on the same track, oblivious to or uncaring of the pain he is causing by his reckless attitudes and actions. What remains stunning is just how many people continue to be fooled by him—fooled and gullible enough to put their lives at risk, as well as the lives of others.
It’s hard to maintain a compassion practice in the face of so much callous self-interest and ignorance. The other day the news showed a scene of a bunch of people in a bar shoulder-to-shoulder, without masks, and my first reaction wasn’t very kind. I won’t repeat it here, but even as I thought it, I also thought, “Shit. I’ve just used up at least a decade of accumulated merit from my compassion practice.” It’s difficult to remain kind when so many people are being so reckless. I keep wondering how many people must get sick and die for all those skeptics to realize that COVID-19 isn’t a hoax. I also wonder how long it will take for so many to realize that science and religion aren’t antithetical pursuits.
Throughout this week and the many weeks to come, the contrast of what divides us is stark, and in the glare of that severity it’s quite easy to become increasingly depressed about the state of the world. Do your best not to succumb to that desolation or to a deepening sense of futility. We are in a process—a truly mind-bending process, but a process nonetheless. We will eventually learn what we need to learn, transform what we need to transform, and heal the hatred with love and with knowledge. It is simply going to take time, and during that time, kindness is key—and as I am learning, it must become a constant practice.