by Daniel Giamario
Many astrologers run charts for the Mars Return, either for themselves or their clients. Commonly used, this is a chart of the exact time that transiting Mars returns to its original natal position, and occurs around every two years. However, as explained in Part 1 of the Mars Cycle, the far more important Mars Return event occurs when transiting Mars returns to the natal degree when closest to the date and season of one’s birth (near the birthday).
In the previous article we discussed how synodic planetary returns are part of the great ancient Hermetic and magical project of discovering and discerning how seemingly irrational cycles can reduce to whole numbers. Let us now explore how this works for Mars.
Unlike the elegance and relative simplicity of the Venus cycle and its synodic return pattern that is created by the nearly circular orbit of Venus, Mars presents us with a very different situation due to its extremely elliptical, eccentric and variable orbit. Mars makes its closest approach to Earth, at opposition. The closeness of Mars to Earth can vary from 34,603,000 miles at its closest to nearly double that at around 62,930,000 miles at its most distant.
The Mars cycle (that started in March of 2012) was about as far away from the Earth as possible. From the year Zero to 3000 AD, Mars is furthest away from Earth in 2832. The closest approach of Mars to Earth was in 2003 and won’t happen again until 2287 (according to the tables of astronomer Jean Meeus).
Because of this variability, the pattern established by successive synodic cycles, of 779 days or a 26-month average, rarely if ever appears in the same season, let alone within a few days of a target birthdate. With Venus, remember the synodic return is within 2 days every 8 years!
Mars does have its own unique pattern. It’s roughly 15-17-15-17 with certain years way closer than others. After 7 synodic cycles, at age 15, Mars returns pretty close to its original degree in the same season and near the birthdate. This averages, over a long period of time, about 20 days before any one target date or birthday.
Note: Because the synodic cycle before and after the 7th synodic cycle are quite similar, it’s also possible to have the synodic return within 20 days of the birthdate at age 13 and age 17. However, the center point of the Mars return process is at age 15 as described in the pattern of 15-17-15-17-15-17 when Mars returns within 20 days of the birthday. With this pattern in mind here are the dates for the synodic Mars returns.
13, 15, 17, 30, 32, 45, 47, 49, 52, 64, 77, 79, 81, 94
Of these returns, the closest happens at age 47, occurring within an average of 8 days of the birthday, and at age 79, occurring within an average of 3 to 4 days after the birthday.
Having worked with this for over 20 years, it seems the returns at age 15, 47, and 79, are absolutely prime and major. From ages 30-34 and 60-64 the Mars returns are also of great importance along the Timeline of our lives. Some individuals will experience the Mars return at age 30 to be closer than the one at 32 and vice versa. The same is true for the age 60 to 64 Mars returns. However, due to the synodic return of Venus at age 32 and 64 we have a special reason for considering the Mars returns at those ages as having more importance. More experiential research on this is needed to fully understand the effect of the Mars return.
Meaning and Practice
Since becoming aware of the synodic return, I have incorporated it into my practice in a variety of ways. Should a client be in the vicinity of one of the magic age zones for Mars, it seems that the Mars Return process takes center stage at the highest level of interpretation Remember that the length of the Mars synodic return cycle lasts for the entire cycle (generally an average of 26-months). See Mars Part 1 for more about the Mars Return.
A client in the prime ages listed above may be anywhere in the synodic cycle of Mars from the beginning to the end. This means the client’s exact birthdate exists somewhere within the larger context of the 26 month synodic cycle of the Mars quest. The intention for Mars on the natal chart exists within the greater “story” of the unfolding Mars cycle playing out on the world stage. See Mars Article Part ONE
As discussed in Part 1, the synodic cycle of Mars begins when Mars is opposite the Sun. The sign Mars occupies when it is opposite the Sun defines the dominant archetypal theme of the entire cycle and is referred to as the Overtone, similar to the family or clan. For example, in March of 2012 Mars reached opposition to the Sun in the sign of Virgo. This means the overtone or clan or family of that 26 month Mars cycle was Virgo.
Taking this a step further, everyone has a personal Mars placement, and they also have a synodic overtone (or clan), that describes their synodic story at birth. For example, I have Mars in Scorpio on my natal chart, however, at the day and year of my birth, Mars was in the Leo Overtone cycle. Each synodic cycle has a different overtone, progressing through the zodiac.
See Mars Table Below to find your Mars Overtone
These are the dates Mars rises in the East at Sunset defining the Overtone of the Mars Cycle
|Mars with Sun||Sign||Mars with Sun||Sign||Mars with Sun||Sign|
Only after 7 synodic cycles (or about 15 years), is there the possibility of the same overtone clan reoccurring. Due to the erratic nature of the Mars orbit, the overtone is not always the same at the 7th synod. There is a greater likelihood of the same overtone occurring at the Mars synodic returns of age 47 and 79 than the other ones.
So far in our research we have noticed, the original Birth Overtone carries through the entire life. If there are differences in the Overtone during later synodic returns it signals an additional overtone clan over the course of a lifetime. The best way to approach this is to explore your own pattern of Mars returns and note what your experiences have been.
In Shamanic Astrology the archetypal sign of the overtone is used to help understand the larger cultural/global context of a 26-month time period. Unless a person is in a synodic return, I don’t usually integrate the overtone meaning into a reading. For practical purposes, the sign and aspects of the natal Mars works! It is fascinating to see where you are in the overall story of your Mars clan or Overtone, throughout a lifetime.
Mars Return for Men
The meaning and purpose of the synodic Mars cycle is different for men and women.
For men, this is when the primary archetype of the Masculine (natal Mars) intended for the current life, reconstellates or “drops in” at a deeper and more comprehensive level. It is important to note that nature of the initiatory process differs depending on the age.
For example from age 13 to 17 the Mars return occurs around puberty.
More research and understanding are needed to fully understand the Mars return time. Shamanic Astrology envisions a wide variety of Rites of Passage at puberty, each based on the specific archetype of masculinity arising from 13-17. For example, a boy with Mars in Aries or Leo, might desire to excel at a competitive sport or get the lead role in a school play. If Mars is in Libra, this might be the time for an early soul-mate projection that dominates their experience. The Rite of Passage for a boy with Mars in Cancer might be to take care of a garden, or the family pets.
The idealistic intention is to recognize and honor the specificity and diversity of the archetype of Mars. A one-size-fits-all approach would not work in supporting the activation of the individual Mars expression. For example, in some patriarchal African tribes, the puberty Rite of Passage sent all boys to the jungle with the instruction to bring back a Lion. Return to the tribe was not permitted unless this was accomplished. In a culture that desires to have only warriors this was an extremely effective technique! However, this also weeded out many other authentic expressions of masculinity.
|Age||Where Mars Return is on Timeline||Intent|
|13-17||Within the 1st Saturn opposition||Puberty|
|30-34||Follows the 1st Saturn Return||True Adulthood|
|45-49||Follows the 2nd Saturn Opposition||Full power, Next Phase of Adulthood|
|61-65||Follows the 2nd Saturn Return||Full Maturity|
|77-81||Follows the 3rd Saturn Opposition||Wise Elder and Completion|
I love how the pattern of the significant Mars synodic returns also tracks the Saturn return and Saturn opposition as demonstrated in the above table.
Therefore, for men, the synodic return cycle of Mars wonderfully co-incides with the developmental process of becoming an adept in their intended archetype of masculinity as it unfolds along with the Saturn generational timeline.
Mars returns for Women
For women, the Mars synodic return cycle is first involved with the projected “other” without reference to gender. Her natal Mars represents her relationship to the outer masculine. Eventually, the cycle necessitates the internal incorporation of this masculine archetype.
This is a process in Shamanic Astrology called the Sacred Marriage and parallels the Venus synodic return for a man. For women, the Mars synodic return cycle, is a most potent time for creating inner wholeness or an inner marriage with the “inner other” with or without a partner.
The previous schemata for men also applies for women as far as the life phases, but with a few additional features as described in the table below:
|13-17||The projected “other” appears as an archetype usually different, but not always, from “father”.||Sexual and emotional attraction to a potential partner emerges|
|30-34||Encounters the full power of the projected other||Beginning of Sacred Marriage|
|45-49||Post-Saturn opposition pre-menopausal time re-orienting feminine identity in relationship to the masculine principle||Greater Awareness around engaging the Sacred Marriage|
|61-65||Accomplishing the Sacred Marriage is even more possible||Full Maturity of Sacred Marriage|
|77-81||Completion of the masculine archetypal investigation||Attaining Wise Elder|
Everyone’s journey to wholeness is different, so the above is a very general map. Some “get it” sooner than others. With the exception of age 13-17, the Sacred Marriage potential of the Mars synodic return process can occur anytime. Each synodic Mars Return offers very real conditions and experiences for powerful inner work.
When I first started working with the synodic return cycles, in my usual idealistic way, I thought this was invariably a great and enjoyable cycle. I have learned this is not always the case. After years of experience, what I have noticed is that if the natal Mars position is relatively free of challenges, then the cycle IS enjoyable. This is also true if there are no challenging dynamic aspects happening to Mars during the return cycle. Natal challenges to Mars appear to be amplified at the synodic return, and if there are dynamic transits to Mars at the same time, then the synodic return cycle is a maximum intensity initiation event.
I have also noticed a certain somewhat “spooky” reoccurrence of the same themes that keep coming up again and again at each Mars synodic return. (This is also true with synodic Venus Returns). Each return offers up an opportunity to handle and perhaps even resolve the issue. Yes, the planet is very strong, and it is also encountering its primary challenges and possibilities.
Thoughts About Age 2
Even though the synodic cycle will not arrive back to the vicinity of its starting point, until the 6th and 7th cycle (age 13 and 15), something worth adding to this exploration is what happens with the first Mars Return after birth.
The cultural story identifies this time as the terrible twos. The astrological correlate that happens around age two is the first Mars Return. Because the average synod of Mars is 26 months, it does not necessarily return all that close to the birthdate (certainly not within 20 days). However, when and how the “around age two” Mars return occurs seems to relate to a process that psychologists call rapprochement.
This is the time when the toddler develops an initial urge to separate from mother and tries to get away from Mom. Some children get far away, others not so far, before realizing that they can’t make it without Mom. The theory is that the distance of separation before needing to get back to Mom becomes the spatial and psychic distance that will exist throughout the life, with reference to personal and intimate relationships.
One can easily see how the sign of Mars and its aspects at birth can magnificently describe the nature of rapprochement in each individual chart. I suggest looking at your own age two Mars return, noting when and how the first return happened for you. You are looking for the time when natal Mars first returned to its sign degree, even if it’s some weeks before or after the actual second birthdate. Be sure to check the transiting aspects and remember to include the natal Mars aspects as well, particularly with reference to the archetype and sign of the Moon. You may find this to be very illuminating.
This view of the first synodic Mars cycle, while not actually a true synodic return, demonstrates the added importance of the time period of 13-17 as being the actual initiatory window of separation and individuation from mother and father.
The use of the synodic planetary cycles is relatively new in modern astrology – not in ancient astrology. Because of this much of our understanding is experimental. In the Shamanic Astrology Mystery School we are learning more about these cycles all the time. Please do share your feedback and any findings either from your own life or work with your clients. Thanks!
This is a great article. I really enjoyed reading it, although I was unable at this time to read through it thoroughly. I skim read it.
Thanks for your great thoughts.
The timing of my finding your article is divine indeed. I came across it yesterday, where I read part one. Now I just finished part two. As I was reading, I realized that I’m reading a client this morning who just turned 47 and, as your table shows, is not only in her synodic Mars return but her overtone sign is the same as the natal sign — Virgo! The same sign as the example you gave in part one. This is a woman who has very strong Virgoan qualities which, due to her Moon+Merc in Aries in the 3rd, often ends up at odds with her equally strong intuitive mind (Pluto+Uranus in the 9th). You could say there’s something of a battle between left brain and right brain, but when she can resolve that then her true intuitive genius can shine through. It seems that when she can integrate her search for the “other” in service to Spirit, that will calm her Martian energies and redirect them, grounding into Earth instead of flying around in battle.
For me, my 12th house Mars in Gemini (Apr 3 ’72) is at opposition to my Moon. There was quite a separation from mother in those very early years. She was there, but was in certain ways closed off to me that caused me to venture far off. It’s been quite a journey in my adult life to find my way back to the divine mother.
Thanks for a great article Daniel. Read you again soon I’m sure.