by Tony Howard
Next month I’ll give my first public conference lecture on out of bounds planets at the ISAR conference in Costa Mesa, CA. Since transiting Mars is currently out of bounds (through October 30), I thought I’d share some Mars out of bounds charts with you as well as a calendar of important aspects during this transit (you’ll find that below).
While doing research for my lecture, several patterns emerged as I pondered the names of well-known people with Mars out of bounds. Perhaps my favorite is that Mars out of bounds is strongly associated with innovation, trendsetting and originality in one’s art or societal contribution. I love it that this positive expression of Mars out of bounds is prominent. Because honestly, I was expecting to mainly see the violence, conflict and aggression side of Mars.
It’s true that there are some fairly dramatic examples of violence associated with Mars out of bounds. For instance, Aileen Wuornos, the woman who shot and killed seven men between 1989 and 1990, had natal Mars out of bounds in Capricorn. But there are far more examples of human drive and ingenuity. That made me excited, not only because it's good news, but because it reminded me to keep my perceptions of Mars open – to let the charts teach me what Mars means, and to use my preconceptions to direct my inquiry rather than allowing them to restrict my thinking.
One of the main things I’ve learned through this research is that referring to Mars solely as the “god of war” might be limiting us as we try to discern the planet’s meaning. Do Mars out of bounds people tend to be feisty? Looking at the full list, you’d have to say, “yes.” But are they all walking time-bombs of adrenaline waiting to violently explode? No.
Like every planet, Mars has many expressions, and not all of them will apply to each person with a strong Mars. Ultimately it’s up to us to take the high road with Mars every time we face a conflict. And in every moment, we have a new opportunity to creatively express our will. With that, lets’ take a look at a couple of feisty characters with natal Mars out of bounds.
The charts I’d like to share with you come from a group that stands out due to identifiable Mars qualities like action, aggression, assertiveness, instigating, igniting or not being conflict avoidant. So what does the out of bounds signature add to our understanding?
In a word, freedom. Not necessarily freedom in the Uranuian sense – a kind of spiraling trajectory towards greater freedom expressed in reaction to Saturn limits. Uranus is associated with awakening and revolution. Uranus is the liberator. It shows up whenever we have an evolutionary need to break free from something.
The out of bounds signature doesn’t seek freedom. It is freedom. A person with a strong out of bounds signature might encounter restriction and react against it. But their inner experience – something inherent in their nature – is already free, already uninhibited. Others might judge their actions, desires, or style as different or even "wrong." But the out of bounds person is not likely to internalize that kind of criticism. Instead, they’ll wonder what’s wrong with the person judging them.
The Icelandic singer Björk, who has natal Mercury, Venus and Mars out of bounds, is clearly marching to the beat of her own drum. And thank goodness for that! Especially with her 2011 album Biophilia, she reached a pinnacle of unique individual expression and artistry. If Björk had ever been negatively influenced by the myriad voices of judgment she’s received throughout her life, she might have stifled that special spark of inspiration that fuels her work.
In Martin Aston’s Bjork: Bjorkography, Björk lays out a perfect out-of-bounds manifesto as she describes her experience of being seen as different: “I got called weird since the age of four. I’d got used to it by five. I made a decision then – I’d either live my life by what people thought of me and to a set of rules I didn’t really know or understand, which would make me incredibly unhappy, or I could do just what I wanted. And that’s a lot more fun, isn’t it?”
This shows us that when a planet is out of bounds, it may have an innate freedom of expression above and beyond that of the “normal” expression. This might throw us out of balance, but it can also be a good thing. To understand what “normal” means here, first let’s look at the math.
The term “out of bounds” refers to a planet’s declination – a different measurement than you’re using to seeing in the natal wheel (which is based on the planet’s longitude). A planet’s declination can be easily found in the declination grid in most astrology programs. The number looks similar to the degree of the planet you see in the natal wheel, but it’s measuring something different. I won’t get into the astronomy here. Steven does some of that in The Book of the Moon when he writes about the out of bounds Moon, so check that out if you’re interested. For now, let’s keep it simple so we have time to talk about the symbolism.
The declination number determines if a planet is out of bounds or not. The Sun’s current declination limit of 23°26’ (North or South) sets the boundary. So a planet with a declination number higher than that (North or South) is called “out of bounds.” When it comes down to it, this is one of the easiest astrological techniques to use. All you have to do is look at the number and see if it’s higher than 23°26’. It’s just not the easiest to understand technically.
For an example, Mars is out of bounds in Barbara Stanwyck’s chart. The declination number for her Mars is 28S37 (you may also see it in this format: -28°37’, where plus stands for North and minus stands for South). So hers is above the “normal” range set by the Sun. In her natal chart, the “regular” placement of her Mars is 10° 31’ Capricorn. That still applies. Adding in declination just gives us an additional piece of information that will modify our understanding of her Mars.
Planets in the “normal” range aren’t necessarily plain or boring or middle-of-the-road. Having a planet with an in-bounds declination won’t keep you from writing a Pulitzer-winning novel or contributing something unique and valuable to the culture. At the risk of revealing myself as a super-geek, I’ll share that I know this because I ran the charts of every Pulitzer prize-winning author (and finalist) since the prize was first awarded! And there are plenty of brilliant Pulitzer winners with no out of bounds planets.
And yet there is something unique about people with out of bounds planets. For instance, I suspect there will never be another person like Björk. If you have any doubt, watch this video for “Moon,” a song which explores the lunar cycles by incorporating them into its very structure. Based on four sequences, played by four different harpists, the song is crafted to resemble the four main lunar cycles. It’s not your average pop song. Not by a long shot.
Björk's music is a great example of Mars out of bounds ingenuity and singularity in action. And as far as feisty goes, let me ask you this. Would you wear a swan dress to the Academy Awards?
I mentioned Stanwyck earlier because her feistiness is plainly visible in her prolific body of work, from Double Indemnity through television’s The Big Valley. Stanwyck overcame harsh circumstances early in life with a force of will that shines through many of her onscreen performances. For example, a botched abortion at the age of 12 left her infertile, and getting pregnant at that age wasn’t by choice. She worked hard to change her circumstance and become successful with a steely determination that helped her bulldoze her way through the rampant sexism and abuse that colored her personal and professional life. You can read all about the details in her 1056-page biography by Victoria Wilson, A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940. Over time, Stanwyck became one of the wealthiest women in the United States, with one of the most enduring careers, leaving behind a legacy of amazing films.
Here’s an example of the kind of astrological synchronicity that never ceases to amaze me. In 1935, Stanwyck played Annie Oakley in the film of the same name. Incredibly, just like Stanwyck, Oakley had natal Mars out of bounds (28S01), retrograde, in Capricorn.
Oakley was another one-of-a-kind. A sharpshooter and “exhibition shooter,” she defied gender roles in her time by becoming a renowned public performer of her skills. In addition to busting stereotypes by demonstrating her prowess, she made it her mission to teach other women do the same. This amounted to earthy, grassroots feminist activism, although I’m sure she wouldn’t have called it that. It’s estimated that Oakley taught over 15,000 women how to use a gun, and her motivation was telling. According to Wikipedia, she believed it was “crucial for women to learn how to use a gun, as not only a form of physical and mental exercise, but also to defend themselves.” She said: "I would like to see every woman know how to handle guns as naturally as they know how to handle babies.“ Can you hear the out of bounds Mars talking?!
This is so much fun, I could share so many more examples with you. But I just have time for one more, and given all the racial tension in the world, with so much of that at stake in our upcoming election, I’ll leave you with an example of a celebrated author with Mars out of bounds – Toni Morrison. In this case, you see an example of the out of bounds signature expressing in a way that polarizes others.
Morrison has natal Mars in Cancer out of bounds (24N24). She won the Pulitzer for her novel Beloved, which was also ranked as the “best work of American fiction” from 1981 to 2006 by a New York Times survey of writers and literary critics. Beloved is set just after the Civil War and is inspired by the real-life story of an African American slave named Margaret Garner, who temporarily escaped to freedom, but when caught, killed her own daughter so that she would not have to be a slave.
I think you’ll be able to hear Morrison’s Mars out of bounds loud and clear in her 2015 response to the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Walter Scott, when she said, "People keep saying, 'We need to have a conversation about race.' This is the conversation. I want to see a cop shoot a white unarmed teenager in the back. And I want to see a white man convicted for raping a black woman. Then when you ask me, 'Is it over?', I will say yes."
I know this quote might rub some of you the wrong way. And that’s the out of bounds signature at work. Like Bjork's dress at the Academy Awards, it elicits strong reactions in others. So for a moment, look beyond what you *think* about Morrison's quote, and instead notice if you can see the out of bounds nature coming through. Out of bounds people are here to stir things up, often for good reasons. As we get triggered by them, we're called to reassess our beliefs and values. And we all need a little jolt sometimes, even if it's a little jarring.
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Transiting Mars Out of Bounds 2016 Calendar
Mars went out of bounds on August 8 and remains so until October 30. Along the way, it will make several important aspects, infusing those aspects with an out of bounds vibe as it goes. Below are the dates for the major aspects during this Mars out of bounds cycle.
- August 8 – Mars went out of bounds in Sagittarius while squaring Venus in Virgo.
- August 13 – Saturn stationed direct in Sagittarius.
- August 24 – Mars made a conjunction to Saturn. See my newsletter on Mars-Saturn for more about that conjunction.
- August 26 – Mars squared Neptune in Pisces
- September 12 – Mercury in Virgo squared Mars
- September 13 – Sun in Virgo Squared Mars
- September 17 – Mars trined Uranus in Aries
- September 19 – Venus in Libra sextile Mars
- September 27 – Mars entered Capricorn
- October 5 – Mars in Cap square Jupiter in Libra
- October 11 – Mars sextile Neptune
- October 13 – Mercury in Libra square Mars
- October 19 – Mars conjunct Pluto in Capricorn
- October 29 – Mars in Capricorn square Uranus in Aries
- October 30 – Mars returns “in bounds” in Capricorn
- November 9 – Mars enters Aquarius
Coming up: Venus moves out of bounds October 26
Venus goes out of bounds October 26, 2016
Venus moves in bounds December 3, 2016
Tony Howard graduated Summa Cum Laude in history and film from the University of Colorado. His degree turned out to be the perfect precursor to his career in astrology, where his focus includes historical research and chart analysis. His writing has been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and in two Flare anthologies: Astrology, the Next Generation and The Book of Music Horoscopes.
Tony has been researching declination since 2011 and specializes in “out of bounds” planets. He also loves working with and studying aspects, which forms the core of his work with clients. He is the founder of Astrology University.