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A Survival Guide to Mars in the Signs

© Lynn Bell

Mars is a planet that functions close to the bone. It protects us from danger and enables our survival. When all is smooth, and life is harmonious. Mars fades into the background. But when there is danger, imagined or real, Mars goes into action.

If anger arises, a question to ask is always, “Am I frightened, am I fearful?” Sometimes just becoming aware of what is behind anger may be enough. These two emotions, fear and anger, belong to Saturn and Mars respectively, the two traditional malefics.

Every planet in our chart has a fundamental role to play, it is the imbalances that occur with these planets that can become problematic. 

Mars is activated the first time an infant has a fever. It may be frightening to watch but the high temperature awakens the immune system. A child that  has never been exposed to dirt or bacteria may be later vulnerable to allergens and auto immune issues. What is often difficult with Mars is  finding the right dose.

Because Mars is largely unconscious and triggered by subtle threats, it kicks into action before we even notice. Mars can move quickly and without warning, and increase dramatically in amplitude. We now understand much more clearly how some of our reactions are linked to past trauma. This too is Mars, firing in response to long ago events.

Later, Mars moves us out in the world, and helps us get what we want. Mars constellates desire, ambition and drive. Mars describes our  motivation, and the way we go about getting what we want.

Mars constellates the warrior, the activist, the protector, the entrepreneur. In the descriptions that follow I will be focusing on Mars as a planet of survival. We have wired-in responses that often correlate to our earliest experiences. This is the quick, reactive, instinctive part of Mars. 

Mars: Fight or Flight? 

Every Mars has its own style. The sign where Mars is found often has a  great deal to do with our initial responses.

Keep in mind that the sign placement is also influenced by any aspects to Mars. Mars is easily externalised in Fire, and tends to be intellectualised in Air.

In Water and Earth, Mars can be slower to respond, and this confers certain strategic advantages. But it can also dampen responses, or hold back emotions. 

Mars in Water 

Mars is said to rule the water signs by night. It’s placement in this element is complex. In Scorpio Mars has great strength, but it is thought to be difficult in Cancer, one of the other water signs. Water can be calm and  placid, or tempestuous and overwhelming.

Mars in Cancer protects and defends. Its attention is on the inner world. It reacts strongly but often inconsistently to perceived threats. The Moon, a highly variable planet, rules Cancer and brings irregularity, moodiness, inconstance. Mars in Cancer can be calm, but at other times very reactive. Mars in this sign may  withdraw from conflict, in a desire for self protection, or react disproportionately. There is an innate misfit between the active side of Mars and the protective , introverted sign of Cancer. 

 In Scorpio, Mars takes things in to the deepest degree. A powerful feeling memory acts as a motivation for a lifetime. Mars here confers a steadfast, unswerving intention, a power of will beyond the ordinary. Nothing will stop it. Mars in Scorpio is drawn to extremes and may bring experiences of  great intensity on all levels.

Emotional patterning can create an unparalleled survival instinct, but if early experiences are difficult, it can carry a fierce sense of danger. These memories are not easily erased, and  become a trigger in highly charged situations. Mars in Scorpio has the  capacity to wait a long time for for what it wants and is rarely influenced by others. 

Mars in Pisces is gifted at camouflage, and may extract itself from difficult situations with a seeming inattention or indifference. Mars in Pisces often directs energy away from the situation at hand and may give the  impression of being uninterested in competition. In extreme situations it may quickly withdraw from conflict, but don’t be fooled – this Mars is gifted at outcomes.

Mars in Pisces can choose paths that seem irrational to others. There is a magical ability to appear or disappear at just the right moment. This Mars should never be underestimated as it often gets excellent results  by going around or under obstacles. 

Mars in Fire

When Mars is in fire it needs to feel the joyful rush of aliveness, and rises quickly to any challenge. These signs may worry less about survival than about the effect on their environment. Fire is idealistic and often doesn’t realise its own strength, unintentionally burning others relationship.

Mars in Aries is the archetypal expression of the red planet, impulsive, rushing into  situations without thinking of the consequences. Risk brings vitality and seems necessary for the affirmation of self. With difficult aspects, Mars in Aries can burn too brightly and create situations of conflict and stress, exhausting its environment. 

Mars in Leo has a steady confidence, and will not easily give ground when challenged. Mars in Leo needs to decide for itself, and its certainty infuses others with courage and confidence. It relies on internal guidance and almost never listens to well meaning advice, preferring to find its own solutions.

Never challenge the sovereignty of Mars in Leo, or attempt to control its actions. Mars here makes its own decisions, and responds with generosity and warmth when acknowledged with respect. Criticising Mars in Leo is almost never a good idea. They are convinced that they are right and will rarely admit otherwise. 

Mars in Sagittarius rises to adventure, and can respond to challenge joyously. It likes to function on multiple fronts and easily tries new strategies, quickly pivoting to a different direction. It chafes at control and  prefers freedom over power.

Once something has been accomplished, Mars in Sagittarius rarely holds onto the past, although its appetite for conquest can be impressive. With difficult aspects this Mars can fight different versions of the same battle many times. Its most entrenched conflicts are over ideas. It fights for what it believes and gives the best of itself for an ideal.  

Mars in Earth 

Mars is exalted in Capricorn and in detriment in Taurus, revealing a complex relationship to the earth element, although they all share a concern with material security.

Mars in Taurus is Venus ruled and is motivated by pleasure and sensual enjoyment rather than by conflict. It can be comfort-minded and accommodating, but rises to action in any question of territory or ownership.

Once it has something, it only reluctantly lets go of it. Never push Mars in Taurus – the outcome will be frustrating for both and unlikely to have the desired effect. Mars in this sign will remember those who have acted against them.

Mars in Virgo is motivated by a powerful need to get things right. Even the slightest imperfection will goad this Mars into action, and often into the service of others. It is rarely calm, given so much to repair, align and bring into correct focus. This Mars worries at problems and people in the same way, feels compelled to help. It can take on more than is good for its own nervous system.

Mars in Capricorn is exalted, traditionally one of the best placements for this  planet. It paces and redirects Mars energy into long-term strategies. Mars in Capricorn always has its eye on the goal. It has an instinct for right timing  and is not afraid to act on a large scale. A cool head under duress, observing, learning, and planning ahead, makes for a formidable strategist and a talented leader. The coolness of this Mars can become problematic with difficult aspects. 

Mars in Air Signs 

In Air signs, Mars survives through understanding.

Mars in Gemini understands exactly which words will keep others at bay. It can use humour and commentary to demolish a rival, while distraction, and sleight of hand  are all good for destabilising an aggressor.

Quick on the uptake, this Mars alternates between openness and quick verbal skirmishes. It may throw others off balance without even intending to. Mars here splits into friendly and rivalrous. Without even realising it, Mars in Gemini is scouting for information, ideas and insight even in the most friendly situations. It is motivated by a dangerous curiosity and rewarded by insight.

In Libra, Mars wants what you want, or at the very least seems to. Mars in Libra does things for you, and so assumes that of course you would like to do the same!

Mars in Libra focuses on the motivation of others. Early on, this may be a defense, a way of calming conflictual situations. Mars here is in Venus’s sign and  said to be in detriment. Too polite, too deferential to win? Look again. Mars in Libra is energised by the effort to convince others of its point of view, and  can achieve great things when it touches the hearts and minds of an opponent. No sign better understands an adversary. 

Mars in Aquarius is an outlier, following paths that often move away from the flow, towards a world that is yet to come.This can create a disconnect with ordinary people, and the feelings of the moment, but can also be a source of great appeal.

Mars in Aquarius wants other people to see the world differently, to hear the call, the beat of a distant drum. It can feel cut off a personal level, remote, attention elsewhere. At some point, this Mars understands the moment perfectly and gathers others to it. It can then create community and change the world. It understands that we are capable of more than we think.  

But Wait, There’s More

There is so much more to Mars! This survival guide offers insight into the  motivations and defences of Mars in each sign.

Mars also calls us to courage and conquest. It invites us to dance and drum, to create, and  make love. Each Mars has a shadow and a light to offer. Mars can take us to war, as well. Some reflections below. 

 Mars and War  

We all have Mars somewhere in our charts, with its red hot urgency, its reactivity. Mars gives us vitality and  passion, it enhances raw energy, hones the will. It is only when it functions outside the civilized self, when it overwhelms consciousness and replaces it with hatred or revenge, that Mars unleashes War. Then it leads to  destruction, death, and loss.

The Mars energies in many parts of the world have been unleashed. When this happens it is very difficult to pull them back, Mars is the fire that keeps burning, the blood that keeps  pumping, the bullets flying. These wars can be collective or individual.

© 2023 Lynn Bell. Please do not copy or distribute in any form without written permission.

Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash