August 2016 Newsletter
by Tony Howard
The big news in the astrology blogosphere this month is the Mars-Saturn conjunction on August 23. Seeing these two so-called malefic planets come together might give you pause, but with Mars moving briskly forward and Saturn at a standstill, this transit will be over before you know it. It might help to think of this as a “trigger” transit – a faster transit that sets off a slower transit. In general, slower transits make a more lasting impression because they have time to “cook.” Faster-moving planets often trigger events that engage with the bigger-picture story told by the slower transits. In this instance, Mars will activate the year-long Saturn-Neptune square that has been in range since last fall.
Here are the technical specs: Mars, at 6° Sagittarius, will apply to the conjunction with Saturn, at 9° Sagittarius, on August 17 within 3° orb. As transits apply within 3° they really start to heat up. As the conjunction forms, Saturn will be at its slowest, since it stations direct at 9° on August 13 and doesn’t move to 10° until August 30. The station emphasizes Saturn’s impact. On August 23 the Mars-Saturn conjunction will be exact. By August 25, Mars will begin separating from the conjunction.
Much has already been written about this year’s Saturn-Neptune square, including by me and Steven (see footnotes for links). So I won’t repeat that material here. But as you read this post, keep in mind that the Mars-Saturn conjunction is both unfolding within and triggering that complex. In addition, the long-term but now waning Uranus-Pluto square is still at play. But let’s break down the Saturn-Mars piece a little so we can begin thinking about what it might add to the mix.
Mars and Saturn may not sound like the most amiable dance partners, and in fact, there are plenty of negative potentials inherent in their shadow expressions. But if we look closer, we see that these planets can enhance each other in positive ways. Saturnian prudence can constructively temper rash Marsian impulsiveness. And Mars verve can jump-start Saturnian stuckness through deliberate actions that produce long-term results and success. In this post, we’ll explore a little of both, thinking about how to recognize the shadow expressions as well as ways we might nudge those energies toward the light.
Mars marks beginnings. It provides us with the energy to start projects, to take new actions, to innovate, instigate and move ahead.
Saturn marks endings, finality – especially on a material level. Saturn roadblocks might seem impossible to get around, leaving us feeling pessimistic and defeated.
Mars and Saturn come together, and we may experience starts and stops, progress and setbacks, and constant stress of all kinds.
But Mars with Saturn can relate to sustained energy and the ability to apply consistent and concerted effort to a long-term project or task. Someone with Mars-Saturn in the natal chart may have a kind of resilience we admire – the tenacity to wake up and face the battle all over again, even after a serious defeat the day before.
Both Saturn and Mars correlate with stress. In its pure form, Mars introduces conflict in our lives. This might sound “bad” at first, but remember that conflict and stress are natural. Stress arises when we assert our will in the world but meet challenges that prevent us from freely accomplishing what we want. Each of us has drives and desires – signified by our natal Mars – that conflict with others. Our own unique agenda rarely matches up exactly with those close to us. Conflict and irritation arises naturally as we approach working out our differences.
Even on a routine drive to the grocery store, we’re likely to encounter situations that keep us from getting to the store at exactly the speed (or direction) we’d like. As we drive, we are constantly forced to adjust our speed, slow down, stop, change directions, etc., as we make our way to our destination. And even if we have a naturally patient nature – perhaps thanks to our Saturn placement – we all have our limits. Mars will help us test those limits via frustrating triggers, whether in the form of an angry hothead following too close behind, or a squirrel darting out in front of the car that we have to swerve to avoid. The stress and conflict isn’t “bad.” It just is. Our Mars is there to help us make quick decisions under stress that both protect us and get us where we need to go.
Saturn stress has a different flavor. Saturn is correlated with obstacles that block our way forward, via slow-downs, limits and constraints. As we try to get what we want (Mars), Saturnian constraints imposed on us may seem to be saying, “No, you can’t have that.” If we push back against the tide of the daily roadblocks that a Saturn transit presents, we meet that unique form of Saturnian stress that comes in the form of angst and frustration. We might wake up in a good mood during a Saturn transit only to have our levity taken down bit by bit with difficulties that arise, leaving us feeling frazzled and exhausted by the day’s end.
During a Mars-Saturn time – or if we have Mars-Saturn aspects in our chart – we’re likely to feel like we’re constantly under both types of stress. Desires and wants get thwarted by limitations, blocks and conflict. Our rigid positions or authoritarian strongholds face challenges from opponents. It’s not hard to imagine difficult situations in which our responses spiral quickly out of control into anger, aggression or ruthlessness.
But Saturn relates to repression in addition to challenges or blocks. And here’s where this planetary combo gets interesting – and especially difficult. If you’ve lived a few years, you’ve probably experienced that moment when bottled-up anger explodes at the most inopportune moment. Saturn-Mars aspects can point to an area of our life where we repress our rage, fear or anger. And repressed energies do harmful things. We may direct them inward, harming our psyche – and our physiology. Or we may direct them outward, consciously – or unconsciously – hurting others.
Going further, Mars and Saturn are both planets which bring up fears. Mars transits may correlate with events in which we have to defend ourselves from attack. In a best-case scenario, Mars helps us develop the courage to overcome such fears as we willingly face our opponents, defending our turf or our right to express our own will. The fears we have to face with Mars can also take the form of a fear of losing, fear of impotence, or of not making the grade.
Saturnian fears take the form of imagined worst-case scenarios. Saturn gives us awareness of potential difficulties and the limiting boundary of structures – whether physical or conceptual. Under a Saturn influence, we might find ourselves thinking about all of the ways we might fail, or how things could end badly. If we dwell on negative possibilities, our Saturnian fears can immobilize us.
Saturn can also correlate with fears that arise as we’re pitted against authority figures who block our way. Saturn doesn’t define whether the authority is just or not. It just represents the authority – the law of the land at the time. If we have the misfortune of living in a cultural context where outdated laws and societal structures unjustly limit or harm us, we may have to face Saturnian fears every day. For instance, people of color in our culture live within a system of systemic racism where their skin color alone limits their ability to self-actualize on a daily basis. And at the dark end of the spectrum, it’s plain dangerous just to be themselves. We’ve witnessed this all too much in recent years thanks to small video-recording devices that have made it easier than ever to record the kinds of unjust tragedies that have thankfully brought these issues into greater awareness. While talking recently about what seems to be an increase in racially-driven violent events a friend said, “The unjust killing of black men has been happening for years, it’s just that now our phones give us a way to prove it.”
If we give into the shadow with Mars+Saturn, we risk letting our fears get the best of us. If we give in to insecurity and feelings of inadequacy, we run the risk of unconsciously directing those feelings outwardly in unhealthy ways. We might approach life with too much aggression or ruthlessness. We may steamroll others in our drive to get what we want, feeling like we have to aggressively take what we want before it is taken from us.
The planets give us both the problems and the solutions. So what do Mars+Saturn solutions look like?
Fear can prevent us from being effective and successful. Fear of failure because of inadequacies can keep us from ever taking action. Mars wants to take action, but Saturn points out all the ways we might fail. Saturn gives us reasons not to move forward. The trouble isn’t that Saturn is always “Debbie Downer.” That’s just Saturn’s job. But we don’t have to let Debbie run the show. She’s there to help us. We just have to give her the right job. Once we take stock of what Debbie is pointing out, Mars can assess the risk and decide if it’s worth it to move forward. And then Debbie needs to buckle up her seatbelt and enjoy the ride!
With Mars-Saturn we have to be careful not to let Saturn immobilize us. But we can’t do so by ignoring or suppressing Saturn. Saturn can actually help prevent the kinds of mistakes an unchecked Mars can make by jumping into things without thinking.
In another scenario, when we feel like we can’t go on, or we’ve given up in defeat in the face of Saturnian obstacles, applying some Mars willpower to muscle through can reinvigorate us. No matter how beaten down we find ourselves, we can take a next-step action to start moving past what blocks us. Saturn is associated with time, and it might take a while to clear those blockages, but with daily effort, we can get there eventually. And even if we don’t know what the next step is, we can start clearing Saturnian energetic stagnation with Mars physical exercise. Sometimes going for a run, or doing some other type of vigorous exercise can give us the boost we need to start moving again.
If you’re having a Mars-Saturn experience with fear of inadequacy, focus on what you can do and start to vanquish your fears through daily action. Put a practice in place – like journaling – that will help you take stock of your accomplishments, no matter how small. Take time to savor and appreciate those moments when you do reach a milestone, whether it’s the completion of a day’s work or a longer project. In doing so, you’ll be able to gradually rewrite the (false) inner story of lack and see that you’re actually someone with determination and a strength of will that is a force to be reckoned with.
Learn to appreciate the unique gifts granted through delayed gratification. The Mars side may want results now, but Saturn is there to help us experience the reward we can only get at the end of a hard day’s (or year’s) work.
Notice if you have a defeatist attitude towards obstacles. And then consider how your attitude is shaping outcomes. How does your inner approach or attitude incite certain types of responses in others? Ask yourself, what is really achievable here? How can I work within this structure and still get what I want? If I could build the perfect structure from the ground up, where would I start? And how could I create the strongest, most lasting foundation?
I hope this jumpstarts your creativity as you think about ways to work with Mars-Saturn energy. As always, we’ll see examples of light and shadow express in the world. But lasting change starts from within.
P.S. Mercury will be enjoying an extended stay in Virgo this year since it retrogrades at 29° Virgo on August 31.
- Webinar: Saturn-Neptune Aspects in the Birth Chart
- Audio Download: Jessica Murray’s excellent recording Crisis of Faith and the Saturn-Neptune Squaret
- Artcle: Saturn Square Neptune: How Will You Steer the Conversation
- Article: Saturn Square Neptune: Sobering Up
- Article: Saturn-Neptune: Bridging the Ideal and the Real
- Article: Saturn-Neptune Disillusionment at the Academy Awards
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New Webinar with Steven – Pluto Transits
In this live webinar Steven will guide us into working with Pluto transits. In astrological circles – especially evolutionary ones – the lore around transits of Pluto takes on almost mythic proportions. Holding in mind that all transits are opportunities for integration, we’ll look at the lessons Pluto brings and how we can respond with conscious intention.