The Cardinal Path to Sexual Maturity: Mars/Saturn

blue mandala

A more theoretical article on the male/female psychic split as represented by the cardinal cross will appear in a future issue of The Widening Gyre.  It goes further to explain the patterns behind the Mars/Saturn developmental phase in male sexual maturity and will continue next month to explore the Venus/Moon phase of female sexual maturity.  Briefly, the two cardinal angles of the chart represent the union of male and female and form the axis of matter on the circle of the infinite.  The planets ruling those angles, Mars/Venus for the Asc/Desc and Moon/Saturn for the IC/MC, are the relationship planets directly responsible for integration of the male and female halves of the psyche.  Mars and Venus represent the younger, undeveloped side of the sexual divide.  Moon and Saturn represent the mature male and female.  We talk a lot about integration of the male and female side of the psyche, astrological synastry is dependent on it.  However, the journey from youth to maturity in sexual expression is little spoken of, and has to do with integration of Mars and Saturn in a male and Venus and Moon in a female. In a man’s journey to maturity, we start at Mars (Aries, I) and must move through the Moon (IC) and Venus (Desc) to reach Saturn (MC); he must pass through and integrate/experience the female.  The female journey mirrors the male’s.  She must go through Saturn and Mars to reach her Moon.  However, if we look at the journey of the circle of cardinal signs, there is a “missing quarter” on the map–the empty quarter between Moon and Venus in a woman’s journey, and between Saturn and Mars in a male.  In order for sexual maturity to occur, that last step of the journey must be taken, and the two representative planets must work together to process experience and create an understanding.  That last quarter gap is what these articles will be about.  This time we tackle the struggle between Mars and Saturn.

I have said it often and I will say it again:  Saturn is a grown-up Mars.  And our relationships, as well as our lives, would be a lot less complicated if we took that idea on board.

Alas, Saturn is most often seen in this culture as the anti-Mars, the thing that gets in the way.  Want to do something, anything?  Saturn will be there to stop you, or at least give you a good argument about why you shouldn’t go there.  Not exactly Mr. Enthusiasm, is our Saturn.  At the worst (least mature) end of the spectrum, Saturn is about repression of the genuine Self, denigrating individual responsibility for a collective one and doing the responsible, culturally acceptable (i.e. ‘boring) thing.  It’s the difference between ‘want’ to do (Mars is all about want) and ‘have’ to do, and when the ‘have to’s win out, Saturn is there.  He’s the anti-individual.  Alas, Saturn’s true face is one of mastery and inner authority, of genuine action stemming from soul need, but we tend not to look at him that way in this culture.  And so his magic is lost and he becomes the burden we try to shift, avoid or shed.  He represents what is old, tired, and entrenched in the past.  Who would want to embrace that?

Mars is about our impulses and our desires, sexual and otherwise.  Mars uses the body as a playground.  Mars unleashed instinctively knows what it craves and runs after it, damn the consequences.  Mars is our great motivator, and is the reason we move forward in great leaps and bounds, rather than in the careful, monitored steps that Saturn recommends.  With Mars, we take risks, and laugh at perils.  With Mars we make our move, and we can be innocently unaware of what is considered appropriate behavior.  We all, male and female, have Mars influencing our charts in a greater or lesser degree–how well we understand  his behaviour and his needs is a mark of maturity.  When we are young, we’re all impulse, and Saturn’s duty is to hone those impulses and that misplaced energy into something useful.  Mars wants freedom, but not freedom for its own sake, like Uranus.  He wants the freedom to act, and to act on his instincts.  However, Mars conveniently looks away from the consequences of his actions–it’s not his job.  When Mars eats the entire pepperoni pizza,  it’s Saturn who gets the indigestion.  As I mentioned, these two forces in the chart react against one another, even when there is no aspect between them.  If you have a strong Saturn and a strong Mars in your chart, you know what I mean.

Mars in aspect to Saturn may be one of the more complicated aspects to sort out in synastry or within a single chart.  The reason is that Saturn has desires, too.  He has his own agenda to carry out, and he will manipulate you to do it his way if he has to.  He will seduce and desire and chase after you (or something he wants) with all the heat of an ‘inflamed Mars’ (Liz Green’s words) if he decides he needs you.  You will be mesmerized and seduced, until Saturn gets what it wants and then you will be dropped like a hot potato, waking up dazed with your behind on the cold ground and no one to help you up.  Did I mention he is the controller extraordinaire?  Both Saturn and Mars can be bad boys…very bad boys…and when Saturn’s needs conflict with the needs and impulses of Mars, we’re asking for trouble.  Both can be violent, or draw violent reaction, if necessary for their own agenda.Tug of War

When they get together, one scenario is the tug of war that goes nowhere.  “Want to’ fights “have to.”  This is often what happens when the conjunction is involved, especially by progression.  If your Mars and your Saturn line up by progression, you are in for several years of major frustration where everything on Earth seems to be falling in the path of your progress.  Saturn is trying to get Mars to go along with the programme, especially if Mars has been a bit ‘out there’ and willful and uncooperative–in which case Saturn now has him cornered and won’t let go.  However, if Saturn is the chart heavyweight here, and has always won out over instinct and impulse, Mars might just fight back.  And maybe it’s the thing Saturn needs, to be infused with a little excitement again and persuaded to come out from under that cloak of fear and habitual restriction.  Even under the best circumstances, under a trine or a sextile, Mars and Saturn will be arguing the agenda–but they will find it easier to eventually agree on a path of action.  Mars will always chafe at any restriction, and Saturn always feels it knows better what needs to be done, until they can agree on a mutual goal and direct their considerable energy.

In relationships, the difficulties come when life circumstances shake us out of our habitual patterns and an agreement between these two needs to happen.  The two arguing archetypes reach a stalemate and need to come to terms with one another.  However, their first instinct is to fight, and this is why the brokenhearted find their way to the astrologer’s door.  Because these two are relationship planets, the split often projects itself onto relationships and the natural issues that arise when two people try to form a future together.   I’ve found it fascinating, over the years, how often we project this internal conflict about embracing the more mature archetype on to our partners, especially in the years between the progressed lunar return (age 28) and the Uranus opposition at around age 42.  (Crisis in relationship regarding this conflict tends to cluster around the nodal return at 37.) Women have no easier a time shifting from Venus back to the Moon, which we will see next time.  In both cases we find the partner “oppressive” and/or “restrictive” which feeds back in to parental modeling–no surprises, considering the planets we’re dealing with. 

When there is fallout from the actions of Mars, Saturn awakens.  Saturn pulls back from the initial impulse, and tries to gain clarity.  Sometimes the awakening is a sobering one, as in “My god, what have I done?” or  “I didn’t want it to go this far.”  Sometimes, there is pleasure in what was gained, but the additional responsibility for the actions involved is enough to engender fear.  Fear of what?  Fear of change (this is Saturn, after all), and fear of losing what’s been gained.  If the time is ripe for a relationship to occur (via transit or progression), the fear factor is often made worse, not better.  “But if I lose what I’ve gained because I turn away from it, then how is that any better than losing it in another way?”  No one said this was a logical process.  Walking away, however, gives Saturn the illusion of control, and he likes that.

Women tend to embrace relationships (of all kinds) often without thinking about the consequences of them.  The Moon/Venus aspect of the female psyche makes her receptive and inclusive.  Because of the result-oriented Mars/Saturn aspect governing the male psyche, the consequences of relationship are very much at the forefront, and its possible to experience an internal tug of war between the pure desire impulse of Mars and the added responsibility whispered by Saturn.  Not that men don’t give themselves over to relationship–of course they do, all the time.  There is no love without surrender, and defenses come down.  But it seems, for the guarded male psyche, it’s a much more frightening and precipitous fall.  As Jung pointed out, there is also a ruthlessness to the male psyche that the female is often unaware of, and I attribute this astrologically to the tug of war between Mars and Saturn.  It will cut and run, especially if it’s uncertain.

Relationships stimulate our growth, and our relationships are directly related to the activity of Mars/Saturn and Moon/Venus in the psyche.  Relationships stimulate change in the way these planets cooperate (or not) with one another, but often we go backwards before we go forwards. The consequences of the Mars/Saturn split is that there is a huge grey area before commitment (where in the female psyche this area can be just a blip in the landscape plastered over with fantasies about how things will be).  A man who has experienced too much Saturn in his life and has been denied the chance to explore his individuality and his Martian side may be opened by relationship to a whole new aspect of himself, a place where Mars rules and Saturn’s voice is quashed, or at least quieted temporarily.  Another man who has been too much involved in the Mars side of life will be opened to the more responsible, authoritative side of his personality by relationship, and at once fear and desire it.  These are usually the ‘I don’t want to lose your friendship” types [when this phrase is not being used as a kind substitute for ‘I don’t want to get involved with you.’] The endless potential of the current status of the relationship is much more seductive than being faced with the out and out failure of losing the one thing that is emotionally sustaining. Mars, and the sea of vast and infinite potential, wins.

Needless to say, a man’s relationship to his own father, and to any authority figures, has much to say about the way Saturn works in the relationship stakes and whether Mars and Saturn become integrated.    The parental marriage is a model of the psyche, and if it has been particularly challenging, there may be a deep desire to avoid the whole thing.  If a man has been put into the role of being responsible for ‘mother,’ there are also Saturn issues at stake (needless to say, this pops up with Moon/Saturn/Mars especially).

When Mars and Saturn learn to work together, it is a beautiful thing.  Desire, responsibility, and personal integrity work hand in hand towards shared goals, and the result can be especially attractive to the opposite sex.  Saturn no longer has to hide its inner mastery, and can shed its crust of fear and restriction. It is comfortable in its own skin, the real sign of authenticity. Mars gets the excitement of working at full speed towards a goal, which, for Mars, becomes more like a holy crusade, especially with Saturn backing it up.  Responsibility becomes honour. Sometimes, with Mars/Saturn, the issue is really about focus.  A few well-placed questions to the soul about what is ultimately wanted and needed from this life can do wonders on the path of effortless and elegant action, which is what the partnership of Mars and Saturn is all about.


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