Mars is the warrior planet, winking baleful orange-red in the sky. He signifies all things related to conflict. He is the planet of extremes. Mars is hot, dry, sharp and abrupt.
Mars cuts and Mars burns. He severs, separates, destroys.
The astrological meaning of Mars is best understood through his mythological namesake: Ares, the Greek warrior god. Ares was a god of physical valour and courage, but also bloodlust and brutality.
Similarly, the astrological qualities of Mars are the same things that make a good soldier: courage, bravery, boldness, strength, decisiveness. There is a place for these skills in modern times, though they must be tempered and moderated to be of productive value.
The danger with Mars is losing control, because Mars wants to lose control. It’s in these moments where his negative qualities crash through: violence, bloodshed, brutality, cutting, burning.
Briefly, these are the main astrological significations of Mars:
The planet Mars has captivated humans for centuries, and has been a particular focus in the past couple of decades. Mars is at the heart of our current discussions around becoming a spacefaring, multi-planetary species and colonizing another planet in our solar system (again?). These conversations are centred around NASA’s rover missions to Mars and more recently, Elon Musk’s SpaceX mission.
Mars has also figured prominently in science fiction for the past two centuries. A couple of main themes are prominent in fiction about Mars: it’s often the site of human colonization efforts, and/or it’s home to a hostile alien race that threatens to invade Earth and subjugate or destroy humans. There are many famous examples: Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom series, H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.
These themes of colonization and violent invasion match the astrological interpretation of Mars perfectly, and indeed modern astrology has been certainly informed by these works. However, keep in mind that Mars was associated with such things long before contemporary science fiction or the recent Mars missions.
Mars rules Aries, the cardinal fire sign that is the start of the zodiac. This is Mars as the soldier on the battlefield in all his glory: charging into battle with sword held aloft. Aries is fiery, initiatory, outwardly expressing. You know when an Aries enters the room for they command attention, state their opinions boldly and never back down from a challenge.
Mars also rules Scorpio. Here, he becomes the assassin: lurking in the shadows, invisible, his blade slicing out in an instant and disappearing just as fast. Scorpio is a fixed water sign. This is a brooding, inwardly expressing, stubborn form of Mars. Scorpio is emotional, as all water signs are, but these emotions are buried and protected under spiked armour. Few can penetrate through a Scorpio’s stubborn, chthonic, poisonous shell.
Mars is exalted in Capricorn, the cardinal earth sign ruled by Saturn. This is Mars as the general at the edge of the battlefield, able to clearly see and understand all the different factors in the conflict, and to move all the pawns around the chessboard to crush his enemies.
Mars struggles in Libra and Taurus, the signs of his adversity. He loathes the connectedness of Libra and wants to stand alone. He rejects the comforts of Taurus and prefers to spend his time obsessing over all the things that are uncomfortable and the slights he has experienced.
And in Cancer, Mars is at his most uncomfortable. He becomes passive aggressive and insolent, unable to be all that he can be. A bloodstained warrior in battle armour is not a good match for the family dinner table.
In the night sky, the planet Mars appears reddish-orange because its surface material is rich in iron oxide – the same compound that gives blood and rust their orange-red hue. This is an immediate and obvious connection to Mars’ astrological associations with blood and fire. The planet Mars is made of iron, the same compound that gives our blood its red hue, and the mineral that we forge to make steel.
Accordingly, Mars rules all types of people who work with blood, fire, iron and steel: soldiers, surgeons, blacksmiths, firemen, cooks, butchers, thieves, murderers, tyrants.
Mars is a planet of extreme geology – another obvious connection to its astrological association with the extremes of human emotion and action. It is home to the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, which is twice the height of Mount Everest. It’s like a giant phallus rising from the surface of Mars – how martial!
The planet Mars also has Valles Marineris, a huge canyon so large that you could drop Earth’s Grand Canyon into one of its side channels, and the Hellas impact basin, which is the largest clearly visible impact crater in the solar system. The Hellas basin is nine kilometres deep and you could fit Mount Everest inside.
There is geological evidence on Mars of an ancient watery past. Scientists theorize the planet used to have abundant liquid water on the surface, which ended in catastrophic floods and heavy erosion – extreme, violent events that further reinforce Mars as the planet of extreme violence.
In mundane astrology, Mars’ meaning is similarly straightforward and revolves around its connection to blood and fire. Mars represents soldiers, the military and war. Mars can represent actual fires and explosions, as well as those who work with these: firemen, cooks, blacksmiths (in modern times: weapons manufacturers). Mars is also strongly associated with criminals, especially violent ones, thieves and tyrants.
In general, when interpreting Mars in mundane astrology, he shows conflict, separation, antagonism, declarations and acts of war, fires, the military and military activities.
To finish this article, I will leave you with two quotes from other astrologers to sum up the meaning of Mars in astrology:
Stephen Arroyo, Chart Interpretation Handbook, 1989
“The element of Mars shows what types of experiences and modes of activity stimulate one’s physical energy and with what energy one seeks to assert oneself. The element of one’s Mars is the energy that feeds your need for physical excitement and the mode through which you can express your aggressive powers to prove your strength. It describes the specific method you use to get what you want: Mars in air uses persuasion; Mars in fire uses power and the initiative; Mars in earth uses patience and efficiency; and Mars in water uses intuition, slyness, and a rather unconquerable persistence.
Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 2006
“The principle of energetic force; the impulse and capacity to assert, to act and move energetically and forcefully, to have an impact, to press forward and against, to defend and offend, to act with sharpness and ardor; the tendency to experience aggressiveness, anger, conflict, harm, violence, forceful physical energy; to be combative, competitive, courageous, vigorous; Ares, the god of war.”