May 2014: To the Edge & Beyond
One of the core astrological ideas in the current grand cross aspect involves Mars, the planetary ruler of Aries, retrograde in its opposite sign Libra.
I will say that slower. Every sign has planets associated with it. In traditional astrology, Aries, the first sign, is “ruled” by the planet Mars. Mars is now retrograde in the sign that is opposite Aries, which is Libra.
Let's use a simplified version of astrology wherein Aries is the sign of "I am" and Libra is the sign of "We are." The ruling planet of a sign represents that sign, wherever else it may be in the zodiac. One way to think of this setup is that Mars, the representative of Aries, is being fully projected from Aries to Libra.
This describes a concept of relationship powerful enough to be on the level of an expectation or cultural mandate. Mars is the planet of maleness, but it can represent anyone, depending on the context; in our context here, it's an expression of self-concept, so it will work for all sexes and genders. There are other contexts where Mars represents men or maleness.
In Western astrology, which is almost always psychological astrology, Mars is the planet that describes individual will (or “personal”) power, self-assertion, desire, sex drive, and going after what one wants, as well as aggression and violent tendencies. Remember, Mars started out as the Roman god of war; psychology works with its subtler shades.
Mars projected into Libra presents the image of investing one's power into a relationship. All that I Amness of Mars looks like it has handed over its individuality and becomes involved with the We Areness of Libra.
There's more to the picture. Mars is currently retrograde. You can think of the retrograde as representing withheld energy. It's also a reference to the past. In a natal chart, retrograde planets can represent personal qualities that we masked over or suppressed as a child so as not (in the child's mind) to threaten our caregivers.
Mars is also in “detriment” in Libra. That's a way of saying that it's potentially uncomfortable, out of sorts and, depending on the circumstances, either not performing up to its full potential or expressing itself differently than usual. There's a persistent question of whether whatever Mars represents is really welcome in Libra; or the sensation of potentially being unwelcome.
It's as if Mars is trying to assert itself in Libra, but ends up meeting inner psychological resistance (detriment), or keeping quiet, as if trying not to push things out of balance (retrograde). There is the sense of "I am here, but I'm not sure if I belong here" (detriment).
The reference to the past might be saying, "This has been going on for a while. Maybe things have always been this way" (retrograde).
There's also the sensation of either one's identity lost to a relationship, or seeking identity within one. Mars so invested in Libra potentially looks like a situation with no obvious way out, a kind of entanglement. Or it looks like an experience of total submission to a relationship.
When people define themselves as aspects of one another, which is one of the more popular current relationship models, their wholeness seems to depend on the involvement, acknowledgement, or approval of the other.
I've noticed a good few people who don't consider themselves to be people if they are not in a relationship of some kind. These days you will meet very few people who openly admit to being single. There seems to be no concept of, and exceedingly little cultural support for, taking a break between relationships, to do a self-assessment and figure out something about yourself.
We all know there is plenty of cultural pressure to be in a relationship. There are places and levels of society where one will be treated as a person when one is "in a relationship" and treated as somewhat less than a person when "not in a relationship."
In his essay “Jealousy and the Abyss,” William Pennell Rock explains that one of the reasons jealousy is so devastating is that people tend to project their identity into relationships with a kind of totality. The relationship becomes their reality. When there is a jealous episode, it's not just the relationship that's threatened—most people feel like their very existence is threatened.
Mars is a planet that's about both desire and aggression. Often, desire is aggressive, and jealousy episodes often come with a measure of rage; many people expect this, or feel entitled to it. It's just one example of the way that desire is conflated with aggression. There are many others—for example, all of the various presumptions of personal ownership that come along with relationships. These presumptions have gone on for so long they are invisible.
At the heart of the matter, the problem seems to be a mix of ignorance and shame. I would propose that both are voluntary; and both are optional.
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