As Mars rises in the twilight of evening, shortly after sunset, the reddish-orange spectrum of light (reflected from the Sun) reaches Earth and hence our eyes. For the past several weeks, Mars has been growing brighter and brighter in the evening sky. But there is more than just visible light, there is also the relationship of Mars’ position in our sky and the other celestial bodies. Mars’ position or location in the sky is near the place of Autumnal Equinox or the part of the sky where the Sun would rise after summer’s end in the northern hemisphere. In astrology, we call that area of the sky Libra as the astrology signs are based on Earth’s seasons and not the constellations of star patterns (those play a different role).
Earlier and earlier, Mars rises in the east all the while moving ‘backward’, or in astrological terms, moving ‘retrograde’. The brightness and the “sunset-Mars rise” relationship all contribute as indicators to an approaching opposition between the Sun and the planet Mars. In addition, Mars has paired up with the state Spica in the constellation of the Priestess (astronomically known as Virgo, but not the astrological sign). On April 8th, the Mars-Sun opposition occurs, marking a new Mars cycle in the sign of Libra. It’s been 32 years since Mars has been in Libra when it reached opposition with the Sun.
All Mars-Sun oppositions occur only once every 24 to 26 months. In space, in means Earth and Mars are near each other in their orbits. Earth is now between Mars and the Sun. The arrival of an opposition between the Sun and Mars is the start of one cycle and the end of another, a synodic cycle. In Shamanic Astrology, a synodic cycle of a planet has to do with our perception of the planetary bodies and stars when standing on Earth. We are seeing Mars’ relationship with the Sun and Earth change over time, reaching a point where Mars comes into its brightest and closest point to Earth.
With all of those factors, it has taken Mars 32 years to come back to this part of the sky when it reaches opposition with the Sun. Going back to 1982, one will find Mars in the constellation of the Priestess when it reached opposition with the Sun. That opposition happened on April 1, 1982, 32 years and 7 days ago.
People who were born in 1982 are experiencing or about to experience a Mars Return, which means the Red Planet coming back very close to the exact degree of their natal Mars position. But this is also about timing because it is coming back to that place on their birthday. It is a re-creation of original intent for their emerging animus or masculine principle.
MARS IN LIBRA & THE PRIESTESS
What is this relationship of Mars with this part of the sky in the sign of Libra? Traditionally, Mars was looked at as something of a malevolent nature while its counterpart Venus was benevolent. This is a judgment from humanity that wants to assign “good” and “bad” to the movement of the planets. In Shamanic Astrology, judgment has been deleted. This removal of judgment frees a person to more readily exercise free will and live their soul’s intent or life purpose more fully and with wholeness. The relationship that Mars has with the Priestess and Libra is neither benevolent nor malevolent. It simply calls attention to the sacredness of non-hierarchical, conscious, equal partnerships.
Back in December, Mars first entered the sign of Libra, signaling the gestation of this emergence into the sign of Libra. This passage through Libra continues through July 25th, nearly 8 months of Mars in this sign. This allows more opportunity for us to explore the nature of Libra in the Priestess constellation, especially the bright Spica. The Priestess represents sacredness and a commitment to be of service to spirit and to the Earth. It is about honoring the natural cycles of the Earth and a connection to the food harvested in the late summer. In the ancient skies, the Priestess constellation had an affiliation with the goddess Ceres, the mythology and story of Persephone as well as the Egyptian goddess Isis. The constellation was also looked at with a connection to Rhea, daughter of Saturn. In most of the cultures across the Mediterranean, Asia Minor (Middle East), Southern Asia and in China, in South America, there is always a connection with wheat or other harvested grain (pgs 381-385 Star Lore by William Tyler Olcott).
Bernadette Brady writes in her book, Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars (pgs 270-271) that this constellation “is considered by some astronomers to 15,000 years old in human awareness (which was about the time spring equinox occurred in this constellation)”. Brady goes on to discuss the connection between the Priestess constellation and the harvest as well as Earth’s seasons. More cultures, as mentioned Olcott and Brady, that a goddess, maiden or some other feminine persona is emblazoned upon that constellation with its attending connection to agriculture and Earth seasons.
Mars is now occupying that part of the sky of which is filtered through the sign of Libra. In Shamanic Astrology, Libra means non-hierarchical, conscious, equal partnership. Libra’s primary intent is to relate to others, especially in partnerships, romantic or otherwise. In Daniel Giamario’s Shamanic Astrology Handbook – 2012 edition (pg 61), it is a relationship or partnership “that honors each person as having equal value in what they bring to the relationship. It is important to understand that equal in this case does NOT mean the same, rather each person has different skills, insights, wisdom etc that enhances the relational experience.” From that definition, it is not about giving up or sacrificing self for the relationship but adding to the partnership where two wholes travel a path together, each retaining their identity.
Of course, that is an authentic, healthy expression of culture-bearer sign or mystery school of Libra. There are shadow expressions of this sign, just like any of the other eleven signs. The shadow of Libra can be expressed in losing one’s identity through the other and/or having an unhealthy co-dependency of the other (i.e. cannot exist without the other). Another common shadow of Libra (Pisces can also exhibit this as well) is giving up one’s voice or say in decisions involving a relationship or anything else. Libra wants and desires to keep the peace at the cost of self. There are healthy expressions of sacrificing self for keeping the peace, but it can become and addiction where no self exists while living as a mere extension of another(s).
Beyond the mystery school of Libra is Mars’ relationship with the star Spica, near where it went into opposition with the Sun 32 years ago. Spica symbolizes the sheaf of wheat from the hand of the goddess and a gift to humanity. Brady writes that it was the gift of knowledge of harvest and cultivation. Spica and the constellation of the Priestess are symbolic of how human life revolved around the cycles of agriculture and therefore the Earth’s soil and seasons. As Mars hangs around, moving ‘ahead’ and ‘behind’ the star Spica (also one of the 4 royal stars of Persia), the Libra mystery school is filtered through the matrix patterns of Priestess and drawing it forward into the ‘actional’ energy of the masculine principle (Mars is the Masculine Principle or Animus in Shamanic Astrology).
ALIGNMENTS, LIBRA AND THE MARS RETURN CYCLE
It has been long time since Libra has had ‘starring role’ and the talk of astrology. Mars, and to some extent, the asteroids Vesta and Ceres all are in retrograde near each other in the sign of Libra. This ‘backwards’ movement of Mars, Vesta and Ceres in the same sign has not happened since late 1943 into early 1944 in the sign of Gemini but not a 3-way conjunction. All 3 planetary bodies (all in direct motion) were in a conjunction in 1963 and 1979 in the signs of Virgo and Pisces respectively. But it’s been 526 (in the year 1488 in Scorpio) years since all 3 planets were in conjunction during their retrograde phase.
But how long has it been since Mars, Vesta and Ceres were retrograde at the same time in the sign of Libra (and in conjunction)? It hasn’t happened in over 2000 years. The current alignment of planets is extremely rare just by the Mars/Vesta/Ceres conjunction. However, if you bring in the Grand Cross planetary alignment between April 20th and 25th sandwiched in the middle of a Total Lunar Eclipse and Partial Solar Eclipse, one can find the rarity well beyond extreme.
The Culture-Bearer Grand Cross is formed by 4 or more planetary bodies with 2 of the planets opposing 2 additional planets. In this case, it involves Mars (and Vesta), Uranus, Pluto and Jupiter. In Shamanic Astrology, we call the Cardinal signs “Culture-Bearer” signs. These four signs (Libra, Aries, Capricorn and Cancer) occupy the first 30 days of each Earth season and can be referred to as cardinal points. Each sign’s essence is contained in part of a season and the culture-bearer signs occupy the most important calendar markers of the solar-based year. Mars’ role in this alignment is one of initiative, stepping up into who we are in relation to our partners and communities. I will write more about the Grand Cross in the next article later this month.
It was mentioned earlier that people who were born in 1982 (and 1983) turning are experiencing or are about to experience a Mars Return cycle. However, this can also be applied to people who are turning 15, 47, 64 and 79. Again, this means the Red Planet coming back very close to the exact degree of their natal Mars position. But this is also about timing because it is coming back to that place on their birthday. It is a re-creation of original intent for their emerging animus or masculine principle. This cycle lasts about 25 ½ months from the point of the Mars opposition to its next opposition on May 22, 2016. If your birthday of 15, 32, 47, 64 and 79 falls between April 8, 2014 and May 22, 2016 then you are about to have a Mars Return.
Daniel Giamario’s study of the Mars cycles in his latest 2-part article: http://shamanicastrology.com/archives/3346 illuminates the differences of various masculine archetypes and how they are expressed in the world. The stages of life in which men and women have their returns have a relationship to Saturn astrological cycles, which helps direct the maturity of human development. In the case of this upcoming Libra ‘overtone’, Libra’s growth is uncovering their personal essence, knowing it through and through. This is both with a partner and within themselves.
CG Jung defines the masculine principle (and I am paraphrasing here) as a man’s sword quality and knowing how to use the sword. For Libra, it is “personal-ness”. For men who have Mars in Libra it is wanting to be wanted for who they are, not what they do, their accomplishments, their talents or skills or money but for their personal nature. For women, it is about knowing the inner other or inner partner that will be there for you, relate to you and be personal. Since this is within it becomes part of a woman thereby facilitating wholeness.
When we look up into the night sky and see the Sun’s rays reflecting the red-orange gem of Mars, we can see more than just the light or even the position of that planet. The knowledge contained above us is a part of us here on Earth. The knowledge will help us navigate and understand the uniqueness of this alignment of planetary bodies, the stars around it and the nature of Libra as expressed through us human beings.
– Erik M Roth, Shamanic Astrologer