On Thursday 18th the Sun and Mars meet up – a meeting that happens more or less every two years. This marks the beginning of the Mars cycle as Mars is imbued with renewed vigour from the Sun and prepares to set out afresh on his journey round the zodiac. Mars is the hero figure of the skies, the warrior, adventurer full of youthful energy and enthusiasm which becomes renewed as he is set his next quest by the Sun. Mars is also the shaman figure of the zodiac – the hero who will venture into the parallel world of spirit beings and primal life forces in order to bring back knowledge and power to the everyday, ordinary world. He does this during the retrograde phase of his cycle – a time when the outgoing energy of Mars can cross the narrow divide that is said to separate the everyday world from the world of spirit energies and personalities.
This is different in many ways from the journey that Venus undertakes during her retrograde phase – she is said to descend to the underworld (or to earth in many myths) where she undergoes trials and a dismantling of all that identifies her as ‘Venus’ (a dismantling of ego if you like) before returning to the upper world or the skies renewed. Mars does not journey into the underworld – the place he can venture into runs parallel to ours, existing in the same space and time but through different eyes – a different sense of reality. An alternative reality.
This next cycle of Mars promises to be quite an adventure indeed and as he meets up with the Sun he gets a direct view across the zodiac to where he will have to make his retrograde journey at the beginning of next year. This in itself is unusual as the somewhat erratic retrograde motion of Mars most often means that the retrograde phase takes place at an angle to the conjunction with the Sun rather than opposite. Plus as we already know the Mars retrograde phase will key in directly to the energy of the ongoing cardinal square and in fact that cardinal square will go through its remaining 4 passes during this coming Mars cycle – so our warrior hero Mars has a lot to live up to if he is going to fulfil his shamanic quest and travel into that parallel reality to find the solutions to the problems we seek.
The shaman’s journey is fraught with difficulties, traps, dangerous encounters and energy sapping events. The quest is to enter the spirit world (in other words that realm of reality where the energies of plants, animals, rocks, rivers and so on take on personalities and interact with us as conscious beings), hopefully find helpers to guide us on our quest, track down the spirits we need to ask for advice or challenge to help us and then return to our ordinary world armed with that knowledge and ready to use it for the good of the whole (shamans do not act out of concern for themselves, their journey is always undertaken for the sake of others). And this week Mars gets a good look at just what he’s going to have to prepare for and we get hints of things to come as we look at the chart for the Sun’s conjunction with Mars – and the line up in Libra where he will have to make his shamanic retrograding trip is quite a one!
For a start, marking the degree at which he will enter his shadow is Typhon – the greatest monster ever created according to Greek mythology:
Typhon was the largest and most fearsome of all creatures. His human upper half reached as high as the stars. His hands reached east and west and had a hundred dragon heads on each. His bottom half was gigantic viper coils that could reach the top of his head when stretched out and made a hissing noise. His whole body was covered in wings, and fire flashed from his eyes.
Typhon is glaring across the heavens at Uranus and between the two of them they mark the point at which Mars will pass into his shadow with Uranus opposing his quest and Typhon standing directly in his way. Astrologically Typhon represents that which we most fear, which we want to control or contain and which we hope ultimately to defeat. In Libra the arena where we will see these forces at work around us will be in relationships – not just romantic relationships but any relationships in which we have vested some long term interest and energy. Fear of losing out, of losing control, of being controlled by others all come to the fore.
But never fear, close behind Typhon is Zeus, chief of the Gods and the one who eventually defeated Typhon and cast him into Tartarus, throwing Mount Etna upon him so he could never escape. If we can just see our way through to Zeus then we will find the means of defeating and containing the monster that tries to block our way. According to Arlene Kramer Zeus indicates creative, directed energy, control and leadership. His is the well planned strategy put into action – and indicates the kind of qualities that will be needed to defeat Typhon – a creative and well organised approach that gets right to the heart of the matter. Generally flailing around getting angry will not do the job, not will random attacks – whatever difficulties we face will be best dealt with rationally – and Libra supports this approach as the sign likes things to be well thought out, balanced and rational.
Mars then gets to meet Haumea, Hawaiian goddess of the Earth, of childbirth, fertility and sufficient food. Haumea was known for her ability to stay young and continue to reproduce with generation after generation. She had no single consort and it wasn’t until she left the realm of men that women would stay with one man for life – even today the astronomical Haumea cannot be claimed by any one man as his discovery! Mars’s encounter with Haumea is unlikely to be a smooth and easy going meeting id Mars does his usual thing of trying to use his masculine energy to bend her to his will. If Mars is to work with the energy of Haumea – the creative, earth energy of nature that ensures we have enough food and that life can continue to grow and flourish – then he will need to learn from the old Hawaiian myths about working in partnership (another Libra lesson) rather than going it alone. Haumea is also about looking for new, more effective spiritual paths, new sources of enlightenment – the old ways will not do and if Mars is to be successful he must learn some news ways from her.
Just a little further on is Rhadamanthus the incorruptible, inscrutable and impartial judge of the dead of Greek mythology – he is right opposite the crucial degrees of the recent new moon and Eris, Greek goddess of discord and strife. Libra represents the scales of justice and here they are held by Rhadamanthus who decides upon the fate of the judged – so Mars will have to prove himself, defend his actions in order to pass Rhadamanthus and move on towards the light of Apollon. Apollon indicates brightness, increase, harmony and success – this is what is promised if our hero Mars is successful in his quest – but in order to be successful he will need to go back through where he has just passed, all the way back to grapple once more with Typhon, all the while being opposed by Uranus who is encouraging him to just think ‘me me me’ and squared by Pluto filling him full of doubts about his ability to succeed and wondering whether it isn’t someone else’s responsibility.
All these characters continue to occupy the Mars retrograde degrees from when he makes his conjunction with the Sun on Thursday until after he has finished his retrograde phase next year. All with the exception of Apollon who moves on to wait for him as he emerges from the shadow having completed the shamanic journey and now tasked with bringing the knowledge into the everyday world where it can be useful.
Now, fine story as this can make for those of us who like to tell stories, but what does it actually mean in terms of our lives? For a start, Mars energy during the retrograde phase can be usefully directed towards finding unusual ways to deal with persistent issues – it can tune in to the possibility of alternative realities and bring to light the unexpected – and not just in our minds but in the ways we behave with one another and the ways we understand our place in the world. Mars energy is usually concerned with expressing itself quite forcefully, but turned retrograde it can learn to express itself less forcefully and more in tune with its environment. For those of you who have ever practiced aikido or a similar discipline you will understand about deliberately using the flow of energy to transform an attack – Mars retrograde energy is similar.
The intervening months between now and the retrograde phase starting when Mars enters his shadow at the end of December can be likened to the initial stages of the hero’s voyage – with interesting encounters and events, all of which lead into the final telling of the story – and as Mars passes each degree of the zodiac that is currently occupied by a significant character (or planet) then he will encounter people and/or events which involve such characters. So at the end of April he will pass over the degree where Venus sits as he makes the conjunction with the Sun so that is a time when our outgoing energy is met receptively by creative and complementary energy – it could be this happens within ourselves and we feel particularly creative at that time, or it could be that we find others are particularly receptive to us and find our energy inspiring and stimulating.
Towards the end of June Mars heads through the somewhat more turbulent waters currently being stirred up by Jupiter who is getting ready to move out of his shadow and passing through the unpredictable energies of chaos – that from which all things are created. As Mars heads through this part of the skies he is likely to need to keep his wits about him as there could be all manner of surprises waiting to ambush our hero and pull him off course – anything from unpredictable people to chaotic and confusing events, anything could happen here!
In mid August Mars comes to where the Moon is at the time of the conjunction with the Sun, and the Moon indicates all things emotional, family ties, home and so on. It could be that Mars travelling through Cancer becomes homesick, especially after the difficulties faced making the way through the cardinal square a little earlier in August. It’s the kind of time the hero has second thoughts and wonders whether he wants to go on this quest at all, wouldn’t he really rather just go home and have an easy life? It may well be that many of us feel tugs on our heart strings from family members and memories of past good times – but there is no way back, the hero must go on, the shaman is obliged to complete his journey for better or worse! On into September and Mars faces opposition from Juno – we may find that partners, especially marriage partners (or others that we are personally committed to) raise some opposition to what we are doing and what our plans are – it is important to work through this as Juno will join the Sun at the flashpoint during Mars’s retrograde so if things are not worked through now they will be raised again in a more vehement way later!
October through November see Mars out on his own in Virgo and confronted across the skies by Neptune and Chiron in Pisces – this is harder going than he thought, he is lonely and even his dreams seem to be causing him more trouble than help. This is a difficult time for our vital energy and sense of self assuredness which may be undermined in a number of ways, not least through weakening our constitution and immune system and leading to illness. Virgo can help alleviate this through attention to a good, wholesome diet, attention to hygiene, keeping things simple and natural. This is important because as we head into the New Year and the shadow we will need our energy to be at a peak that way we can make sure we focus attention, do not simply react to difficult situations, look for new ways to address problems including if necessary new spiritual paths. Some of these problems may well be very practical and earthy – issues to do with food, the earth, agriculture. It’s not beyond the bounds of reason to suppose that some places in the world could be facing shortages – can we tune into the constructive energy of Mars to find solutions?
Time will tell, but that is our hero’s shamanic quest set by the Sun this coming Thursday!
Interested in Shamanism? Michael Harner’s work is one good place to start.
Aquarius Papers has a good piece on the Sun/Mars conjunction, while The Mountain Astrologer has interesting stuff on the Mars cycle (even though it was written a little while ago, it’s still relevant – especially, for astr
 See here for more about Haumea and the peculiar circumstances surrounding her discovery that means she cannot be claimed by any one man http://www.midlandsschoolofastrology.co.uk/haumea_dwarf_planet_and_sacred_nature.html