by Steven Forrest
Mars, currently in Sagittarius, enters Capricorn on March 17th, joining Saturn and Pluto there. Interestingly, around the same time, it also goes “out of bounds,” crossing south of the Sun’s most southerly possible declination. Mars remains in that strange, volatile “OOB” condition until early April. On April 1, it forms its conjunction with Saturn. Finally, back within bounds, it catches up with Pluto on April 26th.
It promises to be a colorful few weeks.
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Before I attempt to unravel all this moving symbolism, first let’s have a quick word about what it means when a planet goes out of bounds just so we are all up to speed. It’s an easy concept – imagine Earth’s equator projected onto the heavens. Planets are usually above it or below it, just like New York is north of Buenos Aires and they lie on either side of the equator. In the sky, what we call “latitude” here on Earth is called “declination.”
When the Sun reaches its maximum northerly declination, it is as high as it can get in the sky – at least up here in the northern hemisphere. That’s the Solstice, marking the start of our summer. After that, it’s all “downhill” for the Sun – until six months later, it reaches “the bottom” and our winter begins. Meanwhile, our Aussie friends are firing up their barbies. It’s the beginning of summer down there.
The Moon, and most of the planets, can get a little further north or south than the farthest the Sun can reach. When they do that, they are said to be out of bounds. And when that happens, they get a little weird, as if they have been unleashed from the repressive, controlling grip of the Sun. That’s what Mars will do around the 17th, right as it passes into Capricorn.
The Sun is what tethers the solar system. As above, so below – so the Sun is what tethers your head too. The Sun represents Reason. It represents your core values – that to which you must be true if you are going to be sane, whole, and authentic. What would happen to you if, for example, your Venus grabbed the steering wheel and made all your decisions? Or your Neptune? That’s what an out of bounds planet is like – highly independent, profoundly creative and self-expressive, and a bit unhinged.
When the Moon or a planet progresses out of bounds, that planet has “gone to the wilderness in order to re-invent itself.” The part of you it represents has been too stifled by customs, other people’s expectations. It is sick of “the rules.” It will look a little crazy for a while, but there is a good chance that when it comes back in bounds, it will be refreshed, liberated, and renewed – and significantly re-oriented.
Progressions are personal. Transits are collective, even though they have personal meaning too. So this month, everyone on Earth will experience Mars going out of bounds, right as it crosses into Capricorn. The fact that Capricorn is already supercharged by the presence of two slow-moving “heavies” really puts this upcoming Mars event in the spotlight. Bottom line, for about three weeks the epochal cultural processes symbolized by having Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn will be served with some additional hot sauce.
(Let me add that Mars will again go out of bounds this summer, starting in early July and running into late September. Apart from a brief return to Capricorn from August 13 through September 10, much of that will happen with Mars in Aquarius, and so apart from those three weeks, that is a different ball game from the one I am discussing here.)
So what does it all signify?
I wrote quite a lot about what it means when the Moon is out of bounds in The Book of the Moon. In chapter three I provide some solid grounding in the broader principles of declination. You can also check out this out of bounds Moon article on my site.
Tony Howard has really begun to make his mark as a pioneer researcher, writer, and lecturer about the out of bounds expressions of Mercury, Venus, and Mars. You can check out his work – we’re releasing his 2-part webinar series on Mars this month. He’ll also be speaking at NORWAC in Seattle this month on Venus out of bounds, and giving an intro lecture on out of bounds planets at UAC in Chicago in May.
This subject is a broad one. Before we get specifically to Mars, let’s quickly set the stage by thinking of the slower, theme-building planets that are already waiting in Capricorn. This extra-edgy Mars will definitely trigger a fierce and perhaps highly creative expression of something – but of what?
Pluto brings shadows to light. Secrets are revealed. Lines of taboo – or control – are crossed. Truth surfaces. Meanwhile, Saturn deals with justice – the eternal law that all actions have consequences. Underlying both planets right now is the archetypal field we call Capricorn. Among other things, Capricorn represents the existing order of things. With Pluto in Capricorn (2008 -2023), one pattern we are seeing revealed is the dark side of conservatism – and I don’t just mean the political philosophy. I mean the existing, underlying “conservative” structure of society, which is what “conservatives” always seek to conserve. We are talking about social class, national boundaries, the patriarchy, the current economic systems, gender definitions, sexism, racism, family structures, and so forth – the whole enchilada of society’s “givens.”
Saturn in Capricorn (now through 2020) is another big deal. Justice – plus a re-definition of integrity – is the heart of it. Have a look at my newsletter for December 2017 for a deeper grasp of that transit.
Now add Mars to the mix, and passion, anger, and intensity enter the equations. Throw in the fact that Mars is out of bounds and we simultaneously throw out the rule book regarding the expression of that passion, anger, and intensity.
Positively, it is time for some bold creativity relative to all those old dinosaurs. Negatively, pent-up destructive forces of rage and resentment are freed from any moral boundaries or scruples that might previously have constrained them.
The subject, again, is vast. The definitive textbook will be this month’s headlines. Here, in this limited essay, I want to focus on one critical contemporary aspect of the configuration, paying particular attention to its Martial ingredients. Specifically, I want to think about gender. And I want to start with Mars – which has often uncritically been defined as a “masculine” planet.
Astrologically, the idea that “Mars is male” is ancient. But that notion must be scrutinized carefully as human cultures transition into their future forms. Not to over-simplify, but a pretty good opening “Tweet” here is that “I’ve seen a lot of women’s charts and I’ve never seen one without a Mars.” Ditto for men and Venus.
Obviously, we’ve all got the full complement of planets regardless of our plumbing.
A generation ago, psychologist John Gray made a ton of money with his popular book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Some people, myself included, were annoyed by its black-and-white dichotomizing of male and female psychology, but the book spoke to a lot of people – I’ll admit, myself included again.
So, are males more Martial than females by nature – and females more naturally Venusian than males? Or is that just social conditioning?
Damned if I know.
And I’d rather not be subjected to a long dinner with anyone “who has it all figured out.”
The revolution is still in progress. I bet it has another century to go before anything is really clear.
One effect of this momentous shift is that it has put men – and Mars energy – in very tricky territory, which I want to explore here. These tensions are boiling over as Saturn and Pluto challenge the old Capricornian hierarchies and assumptions. With Mars about to enter the fray – and out of bounds to boot – we can anticipate some pyrotechnics. And, hopefully, we will see some creative thinking too.
An absolutely reliable principle in astrology is that planetary energy – just like energy in physics – will always manifest somehow. But the form in which it manifests is subject to the influence of human consciousness. In a nutshell, if we don’t get a planet right, we will surely get it wrong. Add some shades of gray in between and you have the theoretical foundation of evolutionary astrology – which is always about helping people use their own magic to make right choices rather than disempowering them by making “predictions.”
Running with this idea of “the conservation of energy” from physics, we recognize that Mars is the War-God. Immediately that frames Mars energy in violent terms. There is far more to the planet than that, but let’s not be so prim as to avoid the tiger in the living room. Mars kills. If you are a guy, Mars is what punched you in the nose when you were in high school. If you are a woman, Mars is what wolf-whistled and made “improper suggestions” as you walked by the construction site.
All that aggression is truly Mars – but none of it reflects the higher ground. Mars also protects. It is the part of every woman – and every man – that would attack a rabid dog with our bare hands if that beast were attacking our child. That is violent behavior too, but let’s not throw the baby out with the water. That face of Mars is the heroic part of your nature.
Let’s get really primal here. For almost the entirety of human history, a lot of that protective Mars work has fallen to men. The reasons are pretty straightforward. Man’s part in “making a baby” is generally not terribly burdensome to him, nor very time-consuming. A pregnant woman … she may be as tough as Ayla in Clan of the Cave Bear, but she is still pregnant and significantly incapacitated for a few months. Then she is nursing and recovering from (the very Martial) ordeal of childbirth – and, given prehistoric reality, probably pregnant again before long.
Meanwhile, a man – in order to be considered honorable and “a man in full” – needed to protect her and their child. This wasn’t because she was weak or helpless – far from it; it was because she needed him and she trusted him, plus she was in a vulnerable state. There was thus a natural symbiosis between men’s Mars energy and women’s Venus energy. That symbiosis allowed our species to survive. It is why we are here today.
All this was simply the biological truth of life for something like 99% of human history.
Then the world changed.
Modern society emerged. Survival became less dicey. People had fewer babies, and more of them survived. Life got longer. Cities rose up. Efficient birth control entered the picture. The “Tiger Problem” faded as a daily concern.
Suddenly women no longer needed men to protect them.
Cards on the table: in my opinion (and feel free to have a different one) feminism is the single most fundamental revolution of the past century or more. It has rocked the world, and will continue to rock it.
That said, I hope that the misleading word “feminism” quickly fades away – not because I have any problems with its principle values, but rather because the word “feminism” implies that the whole thing is a female issue. This revolution is rocking men’s consciousness every bit as much as it is rocking the world of women.
A closer scrutiny of the exclusionary effect of the word “feminism” gives us another critical clue: in general, without social and mythic support, men are dealing with this whole explosion in a far more unconscious way than are the women. One takeaway is simply that it is a lonely and confusing time to be a man – and if that thought doesn’t trigger a little trill of compassion in your heart, then you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Not to be sidetracked here, but the current #metoo movement was triggered like clockwork astrologically by Jupiter’s entry into Scorpio –
which crystallized some of the deeper rumblings of Pluto’s passage through Capricorn. Remember: with Pluto in the mix, the shadow dimension of old social structures – in this case, the patriarchy – is being revealed. Male sexual aggression no longer hides behind the cloak of denial.
A few paragraphs ago, we said, “An absolutely reliable principle in astrology is that planetary energy will always manifest somehow. If we don’t get a planet right, we will surely get it wrong.” We also recollected that through almost the entirety of human history, an honorable man “defended the women and children.”
This social reality gave men a positive and necessary expression of pure Mars energy. Men rightfully drew dignity, identity, and self-respect from their protective, providing role.
Then the world changed and women were not so dependent upon men any longer . . . so what became of the male avenue for healthy Mars expression?
Poof. Suddenly it is gone.
Here’s the crux of everything: with far fewer positive avenues available for male expression of Mars energy, it is not difficult to see what had to happen. These eternal astrological principles work with a high degree of reliability: thus, lacking positive avenues of Mars expression, men would inevitably be drawn to less positive ones, and eventually pulled into truly negative ones.
Unless paradigms shift. Unless radical creativity creates new answers.
More about all that in a minute . . .
So, historically it was a man’s job to “protect the women and children.” Have you detected what appears to be an epidemic of the exact opposite? Instead of high Mars energy a low energy? Specifically, men attacking women? Rape is the most obvious illustration. What about men attacking children? Or men abandoning their own children – which may not be intended as an “attack,” but certainly functions as one? This bleeds out into the whole sorry world of exploitive or degrading pornography. What about “revenge porn?” All this has made the headlines recently as #metoo exposes male abuse toward females in the professional world – Harvey Weinstein, and all he represents. Why are there so many films and novels nowadays in which “something terrible happens to a woman?” – and then male vengeance masquerades as justice.
Misguided, misqualified Mars energy is everywhere. It is an epidemic. There is no way to over-estimate its horror. Without exaggeration, we recognize that it could actually destroy the world. On a milder level, male obsession with televised violent sports is a sublimation of this Mars energy too – and with sports, let’s be careful to make a distinction between “enjoying a football game” and the compulsive, life-and-death addiction to watching sports.
It is a short, disheartening step from here to seeing how this dark “us and them” Mars energy has infected politics, where a sports-like “fan” relationship to a political party leads to a nation’s real needs going down the drain – all in the sacred name of “my team winning.”
Are men to blame for this? Some people try to make a case for that, but I’m not convinced – and that’s for the same reason I don’t like the word “feminism.” This is a human problem, not a male one. Men will not fix it. Humanity will fix it.
Mars’ current entry into Capricorn and its brief tour out of bounds are not likely to provide a quick Answer. But I believe we have come to a significant moment in this evolutionary process. That statement brings us back to the big astrological picture – I mean, the effects of Pluto and Saturn in Capricorn, while Jupiter passes through Scorpio. Mars will probably trigger some headlines that reflect these underlying tensions, for good or for ill.
My deepest hope – and I address this to you, my readers, knowing that you are not simply “representatives of the status quo,” but rather active ingredients in cultural evolution – is that these words catalyze mindfulness and creative reflection in you, and that you can thus add to the collective treasury of hope and insight.
To surf the wave of this Mars-on-steroids energy, you will have to avoid being seduced by passion and rage. That’s the dark side of the Mars “OOB” territory, and it exerts a powerful suction. When we are righteously indignant, it is difficult not to appoint ourselves judge and jury.
Knowing that the fish’s knowledge of the sea is limited, here briefly are my own tentative thoughts:
* I believe the time is ending when men are naturally identified with Mars and women with Venus. That was necessary, even healthy, for a long while. But no longer. Burn any of your books that promote that heresy!
* You astrologers, please stop speaking of “masculine” and “feminine” planets. We are all made of the same star-stuff. Women are from Mars – and Venus. Ditto for men. The old language only further entrenches the problem.
* Let’s recognize and actively appreciate the creative role that the LGBTQ communities are providing. They are very literally reflecting the blurring of these archaic gender-boundaries. They are on the front lines where there are always a lot of casualities. We all have a lot to learn from their stories.
* Men, try to actively claim your Venusian energy. Buy flowers for the sheer joy of it. Cook candle-lit meals. Ask for help. Write a poem. Consult other people for their opinions. Tell your friends you love them. Be brave enough to be dependent on someone else. And change your underpants.
* Women, you can help by actively claiming your Mars energies. Take some physical risks. Get sweaty. Go out on the streets looking like what you really look like. Tell us exactly what you want. Be brave enough to cherish your independence even if someone wants to take care of you. Initiate sex.
Hey, it’s a beginning!
As we equilibrate the division of Martial and Venusian energy in our own lives, we are addressing these problems right at the core archetypal level of their origin. All humanity will benefit.
Creatively, jointly, both genders holding hands in a spirit of mutual respect, how can we devise more positive outlets for men and their Martial force? . . . because we know that if men do not find a positive release for that red-hot energy, it will continue to manifest in harmful ways.
In parallel fashion, how can we support women in exactly the same areas?
I am aware of treading on thin ice – and probably some toes – as I write all this. I am wide-open to the idea that I am wrong about some of it – and I am 100% certain that I’ve missed 99% of it. But it is through this kind of thinking that we create a human future worth living. And I think that between March 17 and early April, some significant seeds are going to be planted.
Mars Out of Bounds
In this webinar Tony Howard explains the meaning of Mars out of bounds as derived from several insightful chart examples that will give you a sense of the broad range of possibilities inherent in this dynamic placement. Tony has been researching out of bounds planets since 2012 and shares his research on Mars here for the first time.
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