The Mars Quartet - Four Seminars on the Astrology of the Red Planet
The Mars Quartet - Four Seminars on the Astrology of the Red Planet

Lynn Bell, Darby Costello, Liz Greene, Melanie Reinhart

The four seminars in this volume reveal the many facets of one of the most misunderstood of astrological symbols. In the present world climate, it is particularly important, perhaps even urgent, that we have a better grasp of this most instinctive and fundamental human urge. Named after the Roman god of war, Mars is usually associated with aggression and violence, and in medieval astrology it was perceived as a "malefic" and the bringer of disaster. But without the energy and motivation of Mars, we become passive victims of life, unable to defend ourselves or stand up for what we believe in. Each seminar explores Mars from a different perspective, emphasing the importance of working with Mars' qualities consciously and creatively rather than fearing its force and 'selfishness'.

Whether we view Mars at work in individuals or as a force in society, it is essential that we understand and relate to this powerful archetypal energy in a positive way. The book will be a surprise and an eye-opener for all those interested not only in astrology, but also in human psychology and the compulsions which drive individuals and societies to act aggressively toward each other.

Review in Horoscope, 2002

Violence is probably the most important problem of the modern era, whether it's physical abuse in families, violent crime or military conflicts. Dealing with violence on a constructive level means coming to terms with Mars, the planet symbolizing violence. The astrological community has inherited a tradition that classifies mars as a malefic, and until now no book has appeared that focuses solely on Mars by investigating its underlying psychological dynamics.

Renowned astrologer Liz Greene has assembled an excellent treatise on the Red Planet, calling it The Mars Quartet, since it's actually a collection of four seminars given at the Centre for Psychological Astrology. each of the four authors felt that Mars has not been fully understood by astrology students, and so each in her own way explores the destructive pathologies associated with Mars and its creative and life-sustaining power. Astrologers in general tend to have a difficult time with mars, since most of us are on the so-called spiritual path and seek to transcend our lower natures, which can be symbolized by martial desire and aggression. The repressed or denied Mars then snaps back by appearing as clients with Mars problems.

Lynn Bell opens up the discussion on Mars by describing the Mars themes found in the epic Homeric poem the Iliad. From this classic case study of Mars themes, Bell enters the world of psychological astrology and makes the point that a withheld Mars is just as much as a problem as an overactive one. This usually happens early in life when one has experienced some kind of overwhelming defeat and Mars's energy becomes unavailable. The teaching style here is not given as a cookbook reference so the reader will want to make many notes and underline the salient comments. One theme repeated by the other teachers is that Mars without limits is destructive, "and that's why it's exalted in capricorn where Mars is given limits and law." Bell excels in her discussion of planetary pairs involving Mars and an outer planet.

Darby Costello's lecture is the most easy to use as a reference on Mars. Mars is explained by understanding how it's modified by its element. Mars in the fire signs (Aries, Leo and Sagittarius) is inspired to take action by inner images of perfection. Mars in the earth signs (Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn) requires physical obstacles in the external world to develop its goals. In this way, Mars in each of the twelve signs is discussed, with frequent chart examples to help illustrate key points. Costello's aim is to help students navigate their desire nature rather than be dominated by it.

Melanie Reinhart's seminar is wide-ranging and a good primer for beginning students. she looks at Mars the glyph, Mars in astronomy, Mars in mythology, and Mars as a psychological archetype that is especially relevant when projected onto others. An interesting debate erupts when going over the chart of two supposedly nonviolent activists, martin Luther King and Mohandas Ghandi. She also discusses Mars in planetary combinations and in each sign.

Liz Greene's seminar is deep and transformative. Students will learn some of the basics, while professionals or advanced students will be able to focus in on a pervasive problem of modern society and feel like they have the intellectual tools to help resolve it. Greene begins her discussion by describing the roman view of Mars and mentioning that Russell Crowe's starring role in Gladiator sets a good example since he is an Aries with his sun conjunct Mars. The basic Mars themes are survival in the face of dangers, a competitive instinct, and an urge to build something concrete in the material world.

Parents and astrologers guiding parents will appreciate Greene's explanation of Mars in a child's chart. "A baby Mars needs a big Mars to look up to," she says, "A child needs to see anger expressed in a clean, honest way." This entire discussion in itself (just a few pages) will be worth the price of the book alone for many readers. Greene emphasizes that Christianity and Walt Disney have a lot to answer for regarding how Mars has been demonized. We all have Mars somewhere in our chart and coming to terms with our own inner warrior or our essential masculinity means understanding what Mars wants. this can be discovered by looking at natal Mars by house, sign and aspect.

Mars is often linked with depression. According to Greene's view, when people live in a society where individual expression is stifled, and the capacity to make things happen is restricted, rage will build up. Violent eruptions could follow or, more often, individuals end up medicating themselves, tranquilizing their rage with prozac. Being angry is often the beginning of the healing process for severely depressed people. Anger can be used to heal physical symptoms as well, skin rashes, headaches or chronic pain. The trick is to work through the rage with someone who can contain it without condemning it. Astrologers who understand the gist of The Mars Quartet may facilitate the process.

Greene's discussion of Mars in combination with a few other planets is enlightening, as is the one on Mars in synastry. Those who use Chiron will be especially rewarded with glimpses into the Mars-Chiron link, the wounded warrior. Too few astrologers are deploying Chiron in their charts, and Greene makes abundantly clear the importance of this archetype. On the subject of adding non-traditional archetypes into the horoscope, this reviewer was struck by both Liz Greene's and Lynn Bell's discussion of Athena as the female counterpart of Mars in the chart. Greene says "Athena is abundantly credited with wisdom whereas Ares (Mars) is glaringly lacking in it." Bell's account of Athena is more elaborate and complimentary, starting with the description that Athena exults in war as much as Ares, but always keeps her cool. "Athena is always advising people, very involved with results and outcomes." Athena exists as a valid archetype and has actually manifested as the asteroid known as Pallas Athena. As these respected astrologers acknowledge the archetype, perhaps they will soon deploy her in the natal charts as they did with Chiron.

© Horoscope 2002

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