Archaic Terminology
Mars in Virgo

Posted to Subscribers on 2 March 2012

Dear Subscribers,

This email is about what is called the "lesser malefic" but for those who are not familiar with our special vocabulary, we need a few sentences to facilitate navigation through the labyrinth.

In ancient astrology, there were five wanderers plus the sun and moon, i.e. five planets and two luminaries plus, of course, the 12 signs, 12 houses, four elements, three qualities, and all the positions and relationships between these. That actually makes for so many potential combinations that the exact chart is never repeated.

In the early presentations of the system, everything was in a state of competition in which good and evil, merit and sin, rewards and punishment, and so on and so forth were always tipping the balance. According to the ancients, Venus and Jupiter were considered to be benefics; Mars and Saturn were malefics. Mercury is supposed to be neutral. The only trouble is that too much of even a very good thing can at least be fattening and maybe also congesting — so living exclusively in the land of milk and honey might actually be dangerous. Surely it would lack stimulation, but more importantly, when it comes to an excessively Venusian personality, we are talking hugely seductive and probably also self-indulgent. So, even if Mars is irritating as all get out, refusing to confront and waiting for storms to pass can sometimes be like waiting for Godot.

Even when it comes to Mercury, the truth is that Mercury is only neutral if Mercury is actually neutral because the moment the messenger is influenced by the message — or the one who sent it or the one who read it — Mercury no longer talks straight fact but rather spews various biases and, well, Mercury spins. Basically, our world today offers abundant evidence that Mercury cannot be trusted, and countless trickster myths are based on Mercury's propensity to twist rather than tell things as they actually are. So, there we have neutrality gone south.

Now what about the greater benefic and greater malefic. These are generally correlated to other alleged pairs of opposites such as church and state or Democrats and Republicans or liberals and conservatives. We could argue that there is nothing at all wrong with Jupiter except that Jupiter can often be stretched beyond his limits. He can also be the architect of many myths about morality, such as his way or damnation or perhaps something simpler, "if it feels good, it must be good." You could say Jupiter is high on optimism, but Saturn is stoned by pessimism. Jupiter is potentially an extravagant spendthrift but Saturn can be a miser. Jupiter is generous; Saturn is stingy. Jupiter is permissive; Saturn is strict. Jupiter is self-satisfied and Saturn is self-critical.

Well, it's a good time perhaps to repeat one of my favorite Zen jokes. Two monks were walking along a river and saw a lady in an elegant kimono trying to cross the river. One monk picked her up and carried her across the river. On the other side of the river, there was a deadly silence. Finally, the other monk said, "You took a vow not to touch a woman." The Jupiterian monk replied, "I put her down when we crossed the river; you are still carrying her."

If you tell this joke to many people and watch the expressions on their faces, you will quickly learn who is more Jupiterian and who is more Saturnian, but if you can navigate yourself into a Mercury mode, you might come to the conclusion that there are simply two ways — or multiple ways — to handle every situation that arises.

Now, we come to Venus and Mars. These two are more personal, not church and state, but female and male, receptive and assertive, docile and dynamic, patient and impatient, and so on and so forth. Venus is the one to retreat until the storm has passed. Mars probably rarely takes responsibility for causing the storm but in therapy, I am sure blame would be foisted upon him that would trigger lots of defense mechanisms, including justification for all the antics Mars feels are necessary to get a rise out of Venus. Her response, of course, is that she wishes to be approached differently because the aesthetics are important, and she enjoys the nuance more than the action itself. It goes without saying that the two can't possibly understand each other and therapists need to know this before taking sides.

So, without going into endless details about all the similarities and differences between planets, signs, elements, and so forth, let me tighten the discussion to Mars. It has been interesting to observe this transit, but since only a couple of you have learned to read my mind, it will probably help if I comment on the present transit through Virgo. One of my most popular articles was "The Monastic Moon". In it, I discuss how three signs are particularly susceptible to lives of the cloth. These are Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces. So, if you believe in reincarnation, you can more or less assume that anyone with the Moon or Ascendant in one of these signs would have had past lives, probably lots of them, where they were subject to vows. Depending on the order, these might have included celibacy but surely some kind of obedience to rules and surrender of ego, self interest, arrogance, anger, and all sorts of other emotions that are alleged to stand between us and our maker.

A shaman who journeyed for me years ago felt that I was suffering from lost parts of self due to such surrender. This was an interesting concept and it took rather more than an hour or two to process. In fact, I was so strongly inclined to disbelieve what she reported that it probably took months or years to wrestle my way through the idea that doing something that seems good might actually be harmful to me. So, regardless of what we believe, there are truths that are more coherent than what we commonly accept, but the point is not who is right and who is wrong but rather what happens when we give up the instinct to defend ourselves against injustices or when we acquiesce to authority that we do not actually respect. This may not be quite the same as rolling over and playing dead but there is definitely a risk that if we yield to what we believe is inferior, we will not be faithful to what we believe is superior. In short, this behavior tends to enable the inferior, and psychotherapists can make a decent living explaining this to countless innocents who have not yet got their yin and yang in order.

Mars in Virgo

Okay, so Mars entered Virgo back in November. Mars orbits the Sun in roughly two years so under normal circumstances, Mars would transit a sign in about two months. However, when retrograding as now, Mars spends a long time in the same sign, in this case, in Virgo which is an earth sign. If you shovel dirt on a fire, you smother the fire, which is a good thing most of the time except if you happen to need the fire. Mars turned retrograde in January at 23 degrees of Virgo and will go all the way back to three degrees of Virgo in April and then go direct and slowly, slowly, slowly retrace all the steps, taking until the end of May to get to where it is now — before finally entering Libra, where its status is quite low, in July.

Yuck? I think not.

Given the clamoring for WWIII by those who profit on the suffering of others, this actually feels safer to me than a headstrong Mars with a finger on the button. Tensions are very high in July but Mars will then head for a conjunction with Saturn who is way more cautious than Mars so even if the potential for volatility is high, there are still some deterrents in place for a while.

The Middle Way

So, let's rewind a bit and think about balance and then come back to Mars. If Venus rules sugar, then Mars rules insulin. Without insulin, sugar is not just a sedative but a potentially life-threatening drug. We need both. Likewise, if Venus is magnetic and anabolic, the process of attracting molecules and adding to the infrastructure would not end unless there were an offset. To balance the surfeit, we need to expend energy: exercise, radiate, and release the excess, net zero?

If everyone were magnetic, we would all be zombies . . . well, maybe. However, if there are too many athletes and warriors, the competition would never be harmonized by cooperation.

I now rest my case, but we can summarize with a few remarks about Virgo.

Virgo, of course, is the sign of details, endless details, all of which are important because a single oversight can be disastrous, like the O-ring syndrome. It is the sign that rules everything from accounting and mathematics to herbs and medicine (real medicine, not fake pharmaceuticals). It oversees services such as nursing the poor and downtrodden, taking care of animals, especially small animals. It is the sign of humility but also wit, the clever type of humor that depends on quick minds and rapid synaptic responses to trigger laughter.

When I had a clinic years ago, it happened that everyone working there had Mars in Virgo, myself included. In its awkward manifestation, it can be uncomfortable with the need to think things through before acting, and it can sometimes have a rather caustic side. I'll give you one for instance. I had a newsletter and hired someone to write about ingredients in toothpaste. She had once been married to a lawyer who specialized in medical malpractice so when she read that a teaspoon of toothpaste would probably cause death to an infant . . . but not to worry because babies would most likely not ingest that much, she wrote, "If it is your grandchild who dies, it is not quite . . ." well you know what . . . it is neither a statistic nor sufficient to allay anxiety but that is not what she wrote. In fact, Mars in Virgo can be a chivalrous knight, but probably the potential for finding clods is there as well.

Ultimately, Mars needs to participate in the creation of the future. Mars therefore needs to be privy to the information required to lead us into the future, and Mars is used to working as part of a team, you know the athletes and warriors who all wear uniforms that reveal their alliances and allegiances. Mars really thrives on passion and commitment so the real issue is how to throw oneself into something truly worthwhile. If you cannot find such a project, Mars will potentially become a malefic. If you can, you are on terra firma and apt to be quite happy with where you are.

Meanwhile, we should expect more and more scrutiny of details, like the mortgage fraud and other banking scams, more probing into the books of the Federal Reserve, more analysis of profits and losses, more mind-boggling numbers. We should also expect more innovation in hugely practical areas like soil remediation, local agricultural productivity, services for the homeless and uninsured, labor exchange programs, and endless attempts to track the money and eliminate corruption.

On a personal level, Mars likes to be decisive so procrastination tends to provoke Mars into saying and doing things that may later be regretted, but we are still talking Virgo, not Libra. If what you want to do does not require the consent and cooperation of someone else, you can probably act now, but if you try to take on something really big and really long-term, keep in mind that such decisions are often reversed once Mars goes direct which is not until mid-April.

Many blessings,


Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2012


The Astrology of Healing





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