Monday, October 03, 2005

Mars Retrograde & The Incredible Disappearing Man

Mars Retrograde & The Incredible Disappearing Man

3:03 AM 10/3/05 Mon

On Sat, Oct 1, 2005, the Red Planet Mars went retrograde in its transit at 23 Taurus. I find it most fitting that Mars chose to go backward both in an Earth sign (emphasis on funadmentals) and on a day ruled by the planet that rules its Exatation sign, Capricorn. Of all the planets, Mars is without a doubt the most male - yet, as many of the writings that have cropped up in anticipation of this transit in print (The Mountain Astrologer had a huge writeup on it) or on the internet, none of the astrology-writers have mused upon the deeper and, I must say, more obvious implications of this period. This essay will attempt to just scratch that surface, with an eye toward getting astrologers to, as always, keep our feet on the ground while keeping our eyes on the prize.

Big Fundamentals
First things first: what role does Mars play in the overall scheme of things, and why are Retrograde periods important? Well, as we all know, Mars represents the "fight or flight" response in us all, regardless of sex; our energy level, and, by sign and aspect in our own charts, how we deply that energy to get things done. On a larger (macro) level, Mars represents the pioneering spirit, and endeavors such as war, construction (and other skilled trades) and sports. But at the most fundamental level, Mars represents the male principle, and men in particular. As for the idea of Retrograde, all of the planets we use in Astrology save the Moon, appearing to move backward in the sky from our vantage point here on Earth from time to time; these periods are those when the backward moving planet in question will tend to manifest problems, issues and/or challenges that we here on Earth need to focus and concentrate on for improvement or change. Thus, the current Mars Retrograde transit in Taurus is a time when we should be considering the state of men in general, where they are, where they've been and what lies ahead for them.

If you haven't already, I urge you to get a book called "Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man", by Susan Faludi (born Apr 18, 1959, New York City). Bets known for her reporting work and her book "Backlash" this feminist writer spent the better part of the 90s taking a hard look at men at the end of the 20th century. While I don't agree with all of her premises, and definitely am shaky about her final conclusions, nevertheless, Stiffed is an important read at this time, and forms much of the backdrop of this essay.

Let's go back to the future, if you will - the roaring 90s. Bill Clinton was President, the Internet Bubble (and Economy) was just beginning to bloom...and men were in big trouble. The film "Falling Down" starring Michael Douglas showed a man who dedicated his life to his job and family, and was betrayed by both, finally driven over the edge, literally, by the end of the film, chillingly brought to life the much written about "Angry White Male". Other movies depicted the state of affairs men were in: "Boyz in the Hood", "Menace to Society" and "Colors" showed boys - in this case, in the main, African American young men - trying to forge for themselves the meaning of manhood in the midst of the rapidly shifting socioeconomic landscape of late 20th century urban America.

The Spur Posse, a group of suburban White teens that Faludi covers in her book, try to attain manhood - and fame - by seeing who can get the most "points" by scoring chicks; rural White boys began shooting up their classrooms; the old phrase "Why Johnny Can't Read?" was later joined by "Why Johhny Can't Keep Still?", as more and more "problem kids" in school were deemed to be boys, the antidote to which was Ritalin. Today, both women and girls outpace men and boys at school at all levels, with the vast majority of highschool dropouts being boys, and fewer and fewer men applying to college. The massive corporate and industrial downsizing of the 80s and 90s brought to an end the notion of working hard, playing by the rules and reaping the pension-laden rewards for being a "good man" was what was hoped for, expected - and in its wake, a new sort of man emerged to take its place - one for whom no one and nothing is too sacred to stand in the way of his own selfish greed and aggrandizement (think that line from the movie Wall Street: "Greed is good"). On the homefront, fathers were vanishing right before our eyes; in the Black community, where it is now documented that close to 70% of all children are born to unwed mothers, Black fatherhood-in-the-home presence dropped from nearly 90% in 1920, to less than 40% in the year 2000(!); and in the larger, middle class and mainly suburban White community, the fatherless home rate is climbing, the figure as of 2000 having already exceeded the Black figure as of 1960. Now there are entire groupings of young, able bodied men, who have grown up most if not their entire lives without a crucial mentor in the form of a dad for them...who have never seen a man go out to and return from work everyday.

What happened?

The Macro and Micro View
Astrologically, we can see this shift occurring with respect to men, in two "waves" if you will - the Uranus-Pluto conjunction of 1965, and the Uranus-Neptune conjunction of 1993. As we all know, these conjunctions had massive social, legal and economic implications for all concerned. One of the most sweeping - and far reaching - was with regard to Women. The Women's Movement gained monumental steam during the 60s, and by the time the early 90s rolled around, more women were in every sphere of public life than ever before in American history. On the micro level, more women had choice in nearly every aspect of their lives than ever before, ranging from career choice to reproductive options. While we astrologers were caught up in assessing these conjunctions themselves, I posit that we might have overlooked their impact on the "inner planets", in this case, Mars; at the time of the Uranus-Pluto partile, Mars was conjunct Venus and trine the Moon (both female planets); and, perhaps even more ominous, at the time of the Uranus-Neptune conjunction, Mars was sitting opposed it in Cancer and RETROGRADE. Classically its sign of Fall, Mars in Cancer shows a much-weakened male population, made all the moreso by its retrogradation. The Uranus-Neptune conjunction, portended a protracted period of confusion, befuddlement, literally being in a fog, about what it means to "be a man" (and please note, that Faludi's book centers on this period!), as all of the "male" institutions - schools, colleges, corporations, industries, even the military (think VMI and The Citadel) - underwent massive and rapid change. Today, most men don't know whether to hold the door open for a woman or not; many men are chided for having "base" desires, such as the liking for buxom women; and we all have either heard about and/or read about the dangers of "patriarchy". Men have truly lost their "male compass" and it's my view that this Mars in Taurus Rx transit is pointing us in the proper direction to go - if we but would listen.

The Essential Truths of Mars - and Men
We read in many of the textbooks, that Mars is the male principle per excellence - he is the warrior, the blacksmith, the athelete. He is also the criminal, the rapist, the thug, the lout-drunkard, who is much more a detriment to society than a benefit. While many of today's astrologers are loathe to mention the name, Mars truly is one of the "malefic" planets in our astrology. While that word sends chills up the spine of my Birkenstock wearning colleagues, they need to understand that malefic only means that you acknowledge that the planet so named has the great potential for both good and bad. And no, "all" planets DON'T have that potential. No one ever cast charts for when Venus and Jupiter were in conjunction over a national capital somewhere in the world. It's just a fact of life, that some planets have more potential impact, for better or worse, than others. And Mars is one of those planets.

Likewise, it has always been recognized for millennia, that boys needed a different kind of instruction in how to be an adult than that of girls. In this era of androngyny and political correctness, I fully realize that what I'm saying here could potentially get me stoned. But the facts as we have it regarding boys and young men are crystal clear - they need fathers to mentor them into the ways, responsibilities and rewards of manhood.

In its own sign, Aries, Mars is unrefined - the boy with talent, the young man with lots of gusto - but without direction, purpose, training, that boy will go nowhere, and worse, he do all kinds of damage. Enter Mars in Capricorn, its exaltation sign, which symbolizes man at his level best - competent, responsible, dutiful; willing to sacrifice his own desires to a higher calling and purpose, and who works hard at his craft, not just for increased material benefits but for the good of all and for his own internal sense of well-being and accomplishment. These things are what it means to be a man, and, unlike what many in our national discourse say today, they are not situational "mix n match" qualities. They are enduring and have stood the test of time, while many of the theorists' notions have begun to fray at the edges.

Please note that Mars is at his best in Capricorn - the sign of the Father. Classically, Mars and Saturn were said to be a "malefic" combination. And there is a great deal of truth to this observation: the clash of hot and cold, of gusto and temperance, of "stop and go" is vivid here. Both planets, Mars and Saturn, represent metals like iron and steel - think of the image of sharpening a knife or sword against a stone or rod. And while either could potentially be destructive, their coming together also forges a benefit for the common good (ever try to cut something with a dull knife?). On the other hand, please note that Mars is at his worst in the most feminine of all the signs, Cancer - and the past 40 years' focus on "feelings" and "self-esteem" in place of competition and learning-by-doing, just to name a few, has greatly demoralized men and boys. For anyone to deny any of this, is not only fooling themselves, but seriously running the risk of harming others. The lesson in all this? That Astrology confirms the fact that there are indeed crucial differences between the sexes, and that it would be wise for us lowly human beings to be mindful of such a powerful truth.

Moreover, Mars in Taurus reflects a sort of "salt of the earth" quality; I think of the "everyman" when I think of Mars in Taurus. Indeed, if anyone has taken a hit over the past 40 years, and in the past 10 years in particular, it's been the Average Joe. The guy who just want to take care of his wife and kids, earn a decent living and have some sense of respect for his modest efforts. The fields that are most represented by Taurus - agriculture, construction and the trades in general, etc., have been greatly devalued, with more emphasis and dollars going to IT fields, marketing, medicine, law and so on. We are all told, that "education" (that is, getting a degree) is the way to go in the future. Not only was that shortsighted (as we all need plumbers and carpenters) but we can clearly see now that it just isn't true - everybody won't graduate Magna Cum Laude, and if they did, there's only so much space for academics and the like. There is nothing wrong with a man still earning by the sweat of his brow (a Taurean phrase to be sure), and may actually be just what the doctor ordered for the many men attempting to find purpose in their lives and a way to keep the lights on. Regularity and consistency of work in this way defines every man. Always has and always will.

We can expect there to be a great deal of discussion on the topics mentioned above during the retrograde transit of Mars in Taurus, in particular, whether we as a society are better served overall if we kept certain traditional views with respect to men and boys in place. Already, there have been reports of Ivy League college educated women stating desires to be mommies, not corporate raiders or courtroom stars; if their maternal dreams are to be realized, they will need good men with bedrock values in the things that really matter in life. Many astrologers believe that Pluto is the higher octave of Mars, and if that's true, then this current transit of Mars is the prelude to Pluto's transit of Capricorn, to commence only a few years from now. In a recent essay on the possible implications of that transit and that time, I suggested the following:

"In particular, the role of fathers and breadwinners have greatly diminished since the idyllic era of the 1950s. With Pluto in Capricorn, all that will change - you'll see more women than ever before opting out of Corporate America to raise kids at home; you'll see more of a demand for fathers to be involved with the raising of the kids and so on. As Capricorn not only represents big business but also the common worker, there will be a renewed interest in seeing to it that the average working man has the means and wages to take care of his kids. Men's Movements will take centerstage, as groups like NOW and the like go on the wane, and this will have effects on the way things are done in the courts with respect to divorce proceedings, custody rights and paternity. Marriages will go up, particularly among those who are a bit older than one would expect for marrying. It's, as one writer put it "Return of the Guy" - and he's kickin' ass and taking names."

"On Pluto In Capricorn...", by Mu'Min M. Bey, Mon 8/15/05

One final point: at the time Mars went Rx, it was exactly opposed Venus in Scorpio. This opposition is very strong, not only because of the aspect itself, but also because of the fact that these planets are in Mutual Reception. Over the years, a great deal of focus has been put on men needing to understand women in all their dimensions; this Mars Rx transit will reverse that process, with great emphasis being laid on women needing to understand men this time around - especially in the area of sex. It has long been my contention, that the vast majority of women out there have absolutely no understanding of Male Sexual Nature AT ALL.

But that's another story.



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