The Moon in Pisces is slowly approaching aspects to both Mars and Saturn today. Meanwhile the Mars/Saturn sextile in the sky right now is creating a mutual reception. Saturn is in Mars’ home sign of Scorpio and Mars is in Saturn’s home sign of Capricorn. So today is really featuring Mars/Saturn themes!!
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Back to Mars/Saturn…
The archetypal combination of these two planets by sextile (the aspect connecting them today) creates a smoother blend of what were called the two “malefics” by the old astrologers. Mars was related to conflict, challenge, and strife, while Saturn was related to limitations, depression, and death. Today in modern archetypal astrology we’ve done a better job than the old astrologers did with imagining beyond the simpler “good/bad” dichotomies of the planets. So Mars has come to mean competition, strength, courage, and risk-taking, for example, and Saturn means maturity, focus, commitment, and structure (as well as the other heavier themes mentioned above).
The followup question my students generally ask is “how do you know which side of the planet is more likely to show itself in a birth chart or on any given day?”
This is a great question, and like most things in astrology there isn’t a one size fits all answer. There is no guarantee that one side of the planet is more likely to express itself than another. And there is no guarantee that one side of the planet, the perceived negative OR positive side won’t in effect be the exact opposite of what we might perceive as the planets negative or positive traits.
For example, sometimes strife and depression are beautiful, and sometimes courage and maturity are the exaggerated qualities of an inflated ego. The archetypal nature of each planet is a lot like the visionary landscape of a psychedelic experience. Anything can shift quickly from one thing to the other and all values we assign to things, morally or otherwise, can invert or flip themselves just as fluidly as images in the clouds or water currents moving across a constantly changing surface.
As James Hillman once said, and I’m summarizing, “the soul isn’t a thing, it’s a process.” The soul has also long been equated with moving images. More: images express and contain feelings and memories and history as well as the implication of a future. Images are also highly flexible, they are themselves, a moving and dynamic process..not just “things.”
So all of that being said, what matters most when we have two “difficult” planets in the sky is that we don’t allow our moral judgements of these planets to block our imagination from participating IN them. What the soul craves most is participation rather than the attempt to control and/or detach and observe the archetypal weather. The soul craves relating and relationship, in other words, rather than transcendence. When we try to fly above Mars/Saturn our soul will smell a rat, most of the time. If we don’t know how to romance difficult archetypes, then our soul will eventually get bored with whoever is doing the avoiding or transcending, and this leads to what we’ve generally called “self sabotage.” It should actually be called “the soul taking action.”
Let’s use an example so this all makes sense. Let’s say that someone has an angry and competitive streak, as well as a very focused and committed quality to their personality. Let’s say this person joins the military at age 18 because they grow up being told that the only appropriate place for these qualities is in service to the country. Then let’s say, after seeing several friends die in combat, this person comes back home and says, “War is a crock of shit. I’m going to become a political activist.” Then they utilize all their anger and seriousness to fight a new enemy…those war mongering people who convinced him to join the military as a kid. After a decade and two divorces from two women who say he has an “anger problem,” and that he’s “married to his work life,” he randomly attends a yoga class and hears from a very focused and provoking yoga teacher about the nature of physical, mental, and emotional control. He hears about how learning to master the passions can lead to happiness, and in a matter of no time he’s joined up again. Now he’s as peaceful as can be, but he’s doing so in a fiercely athletic way and he’s married his atheleticism to a restrictive dietary and lifestyle philosophy. He now believes in karma, which explains his problems (you get what you have coming to you based on what you’ve created), and he’s well on his way to enlightenment (but it’s going to be COSMICALLY hard work).
From one archetypal point of view we can stand back and say, wow, Mars/Saturn really evolved in his life. He started as a block headed naive soldier and gradually learned how to shift his Mars/Saturn into a higher, spiritual calling. And yet, from another archetypal point of view, we can say that nothing much has really changed. His life has been filled with conflict, competition, aggression, seriousness, focus, and intense commitments. And from yet another point of view we could say that he’s actually devolved. As he’s gone along he’s made the mistake of thinking that the Mars/Saturn qualities within him were “bad,” and so his life has been a journey of trying to do away with or develop something within himself that he would do better by simply accepting. In fact, we might say that what he really needs to learn is that he’s a “Mars/Saturn” kind of guy. His imaginative freedom, his living “relationship,” or his participation WITH these qualities will open tremendously once he knows that there is not just ONE form that these planets take that is morally superior to another. And yet, and here’s the kicker, the archetypal qualities of Mars/Saturn would suggest this exact struggle. To take things so seriously and so concretely that one believes its one’s “will” that can move one past the limiting factor’s of one’s own personality or character. To take things SO seriously and so concretely that one believes the only solution is to push and focus and exert force toward overcoming an obstacle.
And so Mars/Saturn, by the very nature of its archetypal body, reflects all of the above….even the inherent difficulty WITH itself. Perhaps this is why the old astrologers saw these planets as so difficult?
Regardless, if we don’t learn to go beyond simple good/bad or positive/negative expressions of the planets we’ll miss all the deeper ironies of the complexes. Even calling them complexes sounds algebraic…like Mars/Saturn is here with me trying to bulldoze through these archetypal problems. Instead: let’s hear the voices of these ironies. The persistence of the gods speaking….why so persistent? Because they are in exact sextile in the sky and the moon is aspecting both of them today. Because archetypes are holographic and fractal and sort of endless and when they’re on the stage they’re not moving until they’ve said what they’ve come to say!
Prayer: Mars/Saturn…help me fight through obstacles with more imaginative freedom. Help me to simply recognize your vast presence as much as I feel the need to “do” anything about it.
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Image by DennisJarvis, courtesy of creative commons image licensing.