Mars Cycle Part One

by Daniel Giamario

On the evening of March 3 Mars (13 Virgo 47) rose in the East, just as the Sun set in the west. Technically, this is called the Acronychal Rise similar to when the Full Moon rises in the East as the Sun sets in the West. This is also known as the Sun/Mars opposition.

This is the point in the Mars synodic cycle when Mars is closest to the Earth. In contrast Mars was furthest from the Sun (aphelion) on February 15, 2012. Two days after opposition, on March 5th, Mars was closest to the Earth, about 63 million miles away and is also in its brightest appearance from the Earth’s perspective.

Mars Opposite the Sun
During the March 3, 2012 opposition, Mars was about a magnitude of -1.2, only slightly dimmer than the bright star Sirius. Mars was at its least bright appearance during opposition to the Sun since 1995. In contrast, the Mars opposition to the Sun in 2003 saw Mars radiate at -2.9, more than 5 times brighter than the 2012 cycle and at that time was even brighter than Jupiter can ever be. Mars is always retrograde when it is opposite the Sun and is usually retrograde for about three months. In 2012 Mars was retrograde in the sign of Virgo for 81 days from January 23 to April 13, 2012.

From Mars opposition to the Sun, to the next Mars opposition to the Sun, is about 26 months. Mars has an eccentric orbit creating considerable variability in each cycle with regards to length, distance from Earth, and brightness.

Even with this variability each synodic Mars cycle will always have the same phases and the same developmental processes relative to the observer on the surface of the Earth using naked eye. It helps to understanding the phases of the Mars cycle by understanding the phase of the synodic Moon cycle or the observable phases of the Moon (over 29.5 days) from New Moon to New Moon. Each month (moonth), the Moon cycles through all its possible phases, including the First Quarter Moon, Full Moon, Last Quarter Moon back to New Moon including all the phases in between.

It is important to know that the pattern and meanings of the phases of Mars (as well as Venus and Mercury) are completely unique archetypal expressions of that planet. The cycle of Venus, Mercury and Mars all have specific phases and meanings associated with each phase. The Moon also has its own equally unique pattern that repeats itself every 29.5 days.

Mars in Shamanic Astrology
There are many possible meanings and interpretations of Mars from different schools of astrology. In the Shamanic Astrology paradigm, Mars by sign primarily represents the specific archetypal expression of the masculine principle (the animus) for both men and women. For men, the sign Mars occupies at birth symbolizes the masculine archetype seeking expression through that man, or what God he is here to learn about and be.

For women, initially, Mars represents the projected externalized imagery of the masculine or the beloved. The intent for a woman is to eventually internalize and integrate her Mars in the psychological/spiritual process of the Sacred Marriage. This is when a woman develops the capacity and ability to take responsibility for her own Mars, for the purpose of creating wholeness.

Shamanic Astrology recognizes 12 organically evolving and ever changing core archetypal expressions of Mars (and 12 archetypes of the feminine for Venus). This is a full spectrum approach with wide diversity possible for each expression. These energetic patterns are found to have more essential value and significance than the more popular and more culture-bound definitions of masculinity (or femininity). Therefore, Mars is not to be identified with men per se (or Venus with women) but rather is the archetypal expression of masculine (Mars) and feminine (Venus).

Mars in the Current Culture
The Shamanic Astrology Mystery School continually questions and exposes the cultural and historical biases and assumptions regarding gender. It is clear that these days, human beings are confused about masculinity and femininity. It seems culturally we have far more clarity about what they are not, rather than what they are. However, the 12 signs, or archetypes of Mars, contain extremely useful and quite specific instructions for exploring our intended purpose as men and women at this time in history.

The synodic cycle of Mars through its 26 month phase process, describes the currently unfolding story and journey of the masculine principle through its 12 unique archetypal expressions. On March 3, 2012 the Virgo masculine archetype was center stage in the theater of life.  What follows is a possible structure for understanding and participating in any Mars journey and in this case the masculine journey through the Virgo archetype.

Where Does the Mars Cycle Begin?
Unlike Venus where there exists a variety of historical and traditional precedence (Babylonian, Sumerian, Mayan, etc) that uniformly placed her cycle beginning at Heliacal Rise (the Shamanic Astrology Mystery School uses this timing to begin the Venus cycle), no known tradition exists for Mars.

Shamanic Astrology places great importance on direct observation of the visible planetary cycles. For this reason, the Heliacal Rise of Mars has been ruled out as the starting point of any Mars cycle, because Mars is so faint and difficult to see it is hard to pinpoint a starting point through visual observation. Over the last 20 years we have found the acronychal rise of Mars (Mars opposite the Sun) is the most dramatic and useful starting point from a visually oriented perspective.

At opposition to the Sun, Mars is:

  • Brightest
  • Closest
  • Retrograde (Shamanic Astrology views the retrograde phase of any planet as the time when metamorphosis occurs, or when complete archetypal change takes place shifting from one sign to another
  • Mars remains in the same sign for 6-8 months

Note:  Similar conditions also apply to the synodic cycle of Venus at her Heliacal Rise or the starting point of a new Venus Cycle.

The Six Phases of the Mars Cycle

Phase Zero: Conception, Gestation, Incubation, and Metamorphosis

Although the synodic cycle actually begins at opposition there is a preliminary phase just prior to opposition. This is like an initial dream or vision that occurs as Mars enters into the sign of the next opposition. Mars also begins the retrograde phase during this time. It’s here that the new archetype is actually conceived. During this phase, Mars rapidly increases in brightness, dominating the late evening and morning sky.

The Virgo Overtone Example
November 11, 2011   Mars entered Virgo
January 24, 2012    Mars stationed retrograde

Phase One: Birth/Emergence/Youth

Lasted from March 3, 2012 – May 29, 2012

This phase, began with the Acronychal Rise (Mars rising opposite the Sun), and includes the birth, youthful education, and the onset of puberty of the new Virgo God. It concludes with something similar to a strategy council or a specific period of training before embarking on the intended quest.

The Virgo Overtone that began in March of 2012
March 3, 2012    Sun opposite Mars – Birth of the new archetype
April 14, 2012   Mars stationary direct  – Mars at puberty
May 29, 2012     Mars reaches the degree of the opposition – Training and education is complete

Phase Two: The Labors of Mars

Lasted from May 29, 2012 through February 3, 2013

During this phase, we have the late teenage and young adult challenges described as labors or tasks. Each labor carries the Virgo God to a new place of knowledge and greater experience. This phase describes how the new expression of Virgo can rise to meet the challenges. There are usually about 10 conjunctions of the Moon with Mars during this phase that illuminate this journey of Mars traveling across the evening sky from east to west. The constellations and signs Mars passes through articulate the nature of the challenges encountered.

May 30, 2012   Mars conjunct Moon #1         Virgo
Jun 26, 2012   Mars conjunct Moon #2          Virgo
Jul 24, 2012   Mars conjunct Moon #3            Libra
Aug 22, 2012   Mars conjunct Moon #4          Libra
Sep 19, 2012   Mars conjunct Moon #5           Scorpio
Oct 18, 2012   Mars conjunct Moon #6           Sagittarius
Nov 16, 2012   Mars conjunct Moon #7          Sagittarius
Dec 15, 2012   Mars conjunct Moon #8          Capricorn
Jan 13, 2013   Mars conjunct Moon #9          Aquarius

Phase Three: Mars in the Underworld

Lasted from February 23, 2013 through June 20, 2013

In this phase, Mars enters into a 15 degree orb with the Sun and drops below the horizon into the underworld. This is the where Mars exits the world stage and undergoes a variety of initiatory experiences appropriate to the underworld including chaos, surrender, and conditions beyond one’s control. Spiritually, this phase can be perceived as a kind of sundance or okeepa, a spiritual trial that is ultimately undergone in service to the people and the greater community. At this time, Mars is totally invisible and located at the other side of the sun.

Feb 23, 2013      Mars enters the underworld
Apr 15, 2013      Mars conjunct the Sun 25 Aries
Jun 20, 2013     Mars leaves the underworld

Phase Four: Virgo Mars Rebirth and Growth of Wisdom

Lasted from June 20, 2013 through October 15, 2013

During this phase, Mars is barely visible slowly rising from the underworld. For months, Mars is diffcult to see in the morning sky. Slowly moving through the signs and constellations, the Virgo God regains strength and grows in experience as an a fully initiated male. This phase completes with the entrance of Mars into the sign (Virgo) where the journey began.

Jun 20, 2013      Mars 15 degrees from the Sun in the morning sky at 14 Gemini
Jul 13, 2013        Mars enters Cancer
Aug 28, 2013      Mars enters Leo
Oct 15, 2013       Mars enters Virgo

Phase Five: Virgo Mars Maturity and Elder Knowledge

Lasted from October 15, 2013 through December 7, 2013

Having now lived a long life with accomplishments, so many experiences, and overwhelming initiations, the Elder stage of the Mars cycle has arrived. Mars is now seen gradually gaining brightness in the morning sky. This phase represents the culmination and the assimilation of the entire journey of the Virgo masculine archetype. The mature wisdom as Virgo elder can now be disseminated.

Oct 15, 2013      Mars enters Virgo
Oct 21, 2013      Mars reaches previous stationary direct degree 3 Virgo 41
Nov 09, 2013    Mars reaches the degree of the opposition 13 Virgo 47
Nov 24, 2013    Mars reaches the degree of previous stationary retrograde degree 23 Virgo 06
Dec 07, 2013     Mars enters Libra; the sign of the next opposition and cycle

Phase Zero: Conception, Gestation, Incubation, and Metamorphosis

Lasted from December 7, 2013 – April 8, 2014

This returns us back to Phase Zero, as Mars enters the sign of the next overtone highlighting the sign of Libra. Included in this wrap-up of the Mars journey is retrograde phase with Mars in Libra and then completes the current cycle that begins March 3rd, 2012 when Mars reaches opposition and the birth of the new god. The entrance into the next sign begins a renunciation stage, beyond the active elder, where the deepest inner work of the spiritual journey dominates.  At the Mars retrograde, the archetypal journey of the entire synodic cycle comes to an end, and the rest of this phase begins the metamorphosis into a totally new “god.”

Dec 07, 2013      Mars enters Libra
Mar 02, 2014     Mars retrograde at 27 Libra 31
Apr 08, 2014      Mars Opposite Sun at 19 Libra 00 – A New Synodic Cycle Begins

Speculations on the evolving expression of the Virgo Masculine Archetype

The synodic journey of Mars from March 3, 2012 through April 8, 2014 describes the larger storyline of the evolutionary journey of the masculine featuring the Virgo “god.” Every man or woman’s individual Mars placement can be located somewhere within the context of this larger story.

Note: Part 2 of this article explores the ramifications and meaning of the synodic Mars return process with the special emphasis on age 15, 30, 32, 47, 62, 64, and 79. 

The Virgo Mars Developmental Journey

From the perspective of secular mainstream culture Mars in Virgo has been seen as a left-brain, work-oriented, non-relational expression of the masculine. This is often equated with two different types of impersonal workaholics. The first type is a positive workaholic who totally loves what he does and can seldom be bothered by anything else. The second type is the negative workaholic who works all the time because there is literally nothing else he knows how to do, even if the work itself isn’t compelling.

Globally and historically, Virgo archetype shows up as renunciate, or a person who has little interest in householder, relational, or secular affairs. In masculine psychology theory, this is the “priest” archetype. The idealization of this masculine function is as the sacred priest in service to a sacred work.

Another way to frame this is through the primary inquiry for Virgo (also Venus in Virgo) and that is to answer the question “what is my sacred work and how does it serve Spirit?”

Virgo is an earth sign, and in the feminine archetypal category. It’s the sign that most connects to Gaia, or Earth-Mother herself. If we strip away the strange and damaging historical aberration of the last 3000-4000 years, that featured the union of patrialineal culture, hierarchical patriarchy, and monotheistic religions, it is possible to envision a Virgo god that is radically different.

How about a Virgo god dedicated to a sacred work in service to the Earth-Mother, or in service to the living planet and her seasons and cycles?  The Virgo masculine then expresses its spirituality as a sacred ecology dedicated to the health and balance of the Earth. It also participates with the feminine, and her priestesses in ceremony where Priest and Priestess working together as allies.

Although the Virgo God (or Goddess) is seldom perceived as personal or relational, a new emerging archetype of the masculine is slowly revealing itself. So far, maybe around 10% of men with this archetype have felt this new birthing. This expression of masculinity is completely fascinated by the sacred feminine, knowing he cannot control her, or even understand her. And yet, he loves her complexity and ever-changing nature. He remains present in his body and heart, and intends to go where she goes and to know what she knows. For him, sexuality is always sacred. Additionally, as sacred priest, he is in service and support of Her.

One of the purposes of Shamanic Astrology is to participate in dreaming the dream onward. This kind of co-creation envisions the evolving masculine with each new Mars cycle. In the case of the Virgo God, he supports the revitalized sacred feminine. As her priest, he is assisting in the restoration of the Earth and her peoples to balance, harmony, and the vitality found in peace and cooperation.

A great homage to Virgo could be sung or spoken by the Virgo God through the words of the following folk song:

There is a woman who weaves the night sky.
See how she spins, see her fingers fly.
She is within us, beginning to end.
Our grandmother, sister and friend.
She is the needle and we are the thread.
She is the weaver, and we are the web.
She changes everything she touches,
And everything she touches changes.
She changes everything she touches,
And everything she touches changes.

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