The astro-psychological significance of the first Mars return
At the moment of birth, the cosmic blueprint of the heavens is mirrored in a person’s birth chart. The planets keep moving, and throughout life we have transits which show where the planets have moved to. When the transiting planet moves over, or in relation to, a sensitive location in the birth chart, it indicates an experience or the timing of an event.
The orbit of Mars is approximately 687 days, a little less than two years. It has a retrograde period when the Earth is passing it in orbit.
In astrology, Mars is one of the personal planets, however, unlike the Sun (conscious self), Moon (mother/emotions), Venus (love) and Mercury (learning and communication), the energy of Mars is directed outward. It’s associated with energy and fire, and rules the sign Aries, a cardinal fire sign. The key signature of Mars is initiation and activity. The symbol of Mars is masculine: a sword and shield.
In mythology, the Greek god of War, was Aries. The Babylonians associated Mars with their god of war and destruction, Nergal.
On a physical level, Mars is represented by the muscular system which is vital for us to move. In astrology, our Mars placement shows where and how we are motivated…it’s what gets us out of bed in the morning, if it’s functioning well. We can consider the energy of Mars to be like a soldier: off to war; fighting and anger. However, it doesn’t have to be aggressive, if used consciously. Mars is the power of sunrise, new beginnings, passion, drive, pioneering spirit, dynamic force. Mars has all the power of a new shoot in Springtime, so full of life force and energy. It’s the warrior, the courageous one, the hero of war time.
Mars is about energy, and how we express that is up to us. It’s where we are (hopefully) most driven in our life. The placement and sign of Mars in our natal chart stimulates a sense of urgency; gives us zeal and boldness.
When Mars make his first ‘return’, that is, his first orbit around the Sun back to the same position it was in our natal (birth) chart, it coincides with what is known in society as the ‘terrible twos’. This time in a child’s life brings fear to the heart of many a new parent. The fear can be alleviated when we understand the importance of this powerful time in our child’s life, and hopefully it helps us to be more understanding next time we see a toddler ‘losing it’ in a supermarket queue.
The first Mars return wakes us up. It shows us that we’re independent from our parents. For the first time in our little lives we feel like we have ‘tools’. The most important piece of ammunition we have access to is the mighty sword called “NO!” We wield it high and low as if our lives depend on it. They do! At two, it feels like it’s the only thing that can save us from those big people who are trying to walk all over our newly-discovered will-power.
Mars needs a mission. Without one, he causes chaos. His dark side comes forward. When he knows where he’s heading, and what his purpose is, then he’s our best ally. Understanding where a child’s natal Mars is (that is, what sign and house Mars was in at the time of their birth), allows us, as a parent, teacher, caregiver/guardian, to find ways to help channel that energy. Mars expresses his warrior self in one of 12 signs (like garments of clothing), and he channels this upon a stage (one of 12 astrological houses which represent the different areas of human life). What works for one toddler will not work for all toddlers.
Mars is the part of our personality which acts as our defender. It’s what helps us stand up to others. In astrological terms, the purpose of Mars is to act. If the warrior energy is subdued by hours and hours of television or artificial toys, pacifiers, or sedentary lifestyle or overly-aggressive parent, then he might react in ways that don’t serve anybody. Mars doesn’t like to sit still or be subdued. It’s like asking an Olympic athlete to always walk at your 90-year-old grandmother’s pace. Sooner or later, he’s going to explode!
What other ways does Mars manifest? Competition, impulse, passion, anger, independence, courage, bravery and power. Are these negative traits? That depends. Mars gives us the courage to defend the underdog; the impulse to run cross-country; the passion to launch campaigns; determination to reach the finish line. Without Mars, we might never get out of bed!
An unhealthy or unused Mars is often projected onto other people: “She’s so controlling.” “He’s so mean.” “Why is she so competitive?” We’re not likely to project the shadow side of Mars if we’re consciously expressing our own drive and power.
Mars is on ‘fire’, and if he’s not comfortable he’ll burn everything in sight. Who gives direction to our little warrior Mars? Hopefully, it comes from our natal Sun (the King) or our Moon (the lunar Queen). Maybe Saturn is saddling him with responsibilities and he feels insecure? Perhaps Jupiter is expanding Mars out of all proportion, or Neptune has swamped him in damp clothes. Every natal chart is different, and Mars will express according to the strengths and challenges placed by other planets in the chart.
The force of Mars can be volcanic and ruthless. It can also be idealistic and independent. How do we support our toddlers as these energies come alive in them during their first Mars return? It’s our responsibility, as parents and elders of the community these children are growing up in, to offer a ‘container’ for their developing Mars energy. If we suppress this energy or even ignore it then a huge part of the evolving psyche is left unresolved only to be faced again approximately every two years, and in ways that can be far more painful than at the tender age of two.
Your two year old is like a new soldier with his first weapon. He feels powerful and strong. The exertion of will is the purpose of Mars. How do we handle the raging, defiant toddler? Do we walk away (checking to see if they’re safe) and leave them to it? Do we scream back and demand they get it together?
Many adults access their own Mars to deal with what can be incredibly trying times. Our job is NOT to kill off the child’s Mars. If you ‘discipline’ or punish a developing Mars, you will teach your child to expect a world full of anger and hostility. It’s not healthy, either, to let the child run amok and terrorise everyone in sight.
The parental handling of Mars is crucial. We do need to create boundaries or our child may grow up to be selfish, disrespectful and violent ~ even if only at the bi-annual Mars return. If we approach our “NO!!” wielding Mars warrior with equally-angry energy we won’t achieve anything. As the ‘wise elder’, the key duty is to model healthy boundaries which honour and respect people and property. When a parent is clear about what is or isn’t acceptable in their family community, then the child grows up learning that. Parents often don’t know what their own boundaries are, and their child’s emerging Mars senses this. As an adult, when you’re clear about what is or isn’t acceptable, your child feels this. You can draw boundary lines or create fences which don’t involve shouting matches.
I’m grateful that my girls grew up able to stand their ground and say “NO!” It’s a wonderful, and often healthy, tool.
Every single day we are a living example to our children of how to express healthy passion and boundaries. We’re in a co-creation with our children. There are times, often many times, where they’re asking us through their actions to show them where the limits are. In olden days, some towns had walls around them to keep the residents safe. These were often border towns, where they were likely to be invaded. In parenting, we sometimes have to create walls, not only for our child’s safety, but also for the well-being of others, including ourselves.
How do we like to express our innate drive and passion? What’s our ‘fighting’ style? That depends on your unique natal chart. At two, the child controls the world. Everyone bows to the little terrorist’s demands (well, that’s what we’d call him if he was 20 and holding everyone to ransom.)
Parenting through our child’s Mars actually begins at birth. Our baby learns about his own sense of worth through how we respond to his actions. Most of his behaviours are instinctive, but our response, nevertheless, is feedback to him. If we’re parenting consciously, for example attachment parenting, and breastfeeding our child on cue so he doesn’t experience hunger, and carry him in our arms, he’ll be aware on a cellular level that his actions (snuffling for the breast; wriggling) mean his desires get met.
By the time junior is about six to eight months old, Mars has transited from the point of his birth to approximately 90 degrees away. This stage is shown by the child making the correlation between their actions and how they feel. Their arms are free and they can grasp things within reach. This is a huge turning point in physical development.
Between one year of age and fourteen months, Mars has moved to be in opposition to the natal Mars. This is commonly the time when a toddler begins to walk. The child is getting a sense of their individuality. Between 18 to 20 months of age, we see the second Mars square. We also see a courageous toddler, full of energy, demanding to be noticed. He is asserting himself.
At two years of age (24-26 months), we have the first Mars return.
It is natural for a two year old to think they rule the Universe.
The sign your child’s Mars is in will show how they gain experience. The angles in their chart between other planets will show what will assist or get in the way of their path to assertion.
It’s important to remember that Mars goes retrograde in its cycle, and this can show up as a variation in the ages between when children reach milestones.
It seems to me to be incredibly cruel to call the toddler years The Terrible Twos. Perhaps it’s symptomatic of a culture which doesn’t own its own anger? At two, the little child is learning to defend themselves (what’s wrong with that?) and learning how they can get what they desire. It was always going to be an intense time! It’s experimental for the little one. There’s a whole lot of unfamiliar energy invading their tiny body.
Although we’ll have Mars return to its natal position every two or so years throughout our lives, the first one is the most important that we’ll ever experience. How our caregivers handle it will determine the way we respond to it throughout life.
That cherubic baby so full of smiles and gurgles is now stamping down their padded feet and screaming like a banshee. It’s not pretty, but it’s not bad. This is their initiation into independence. How you greet them and how you ordain them through this right of passage will shape them for life. It is his Mars mission to challenge you at every turn. Are you ready for the challenge? Are you prepared to be conscious through their journey even if your parents weren’t conscious during your first (or subsequent) Mars return?
Mars also represents our ability to be sporty or athletic. Most children would greatly benefit from physical activity to channel the excess energy. Try swimming, rebounding (mini-trampoline), toddler dancing, Tumble Tots and other activities. Daily walks are a must, and suitable for any budget.
The child’s job is to express his needs and desires. The parent’s job is to model how to express that appropriately. Even if you have to say no, you can always ‘hear’ the child. The difference between a difficult Mars return and a healthy one is that the toddler is being acknowledged and heard, even if their demands aren’t met.
If the toddler doesn’t have his new-found energies met graciously, he’s more likely to become someone who uses aggression to gain attention. (It’s better to be wanted by the police than not wanted at all). The parenting decisions you make at this crucial point determine whether your child will become a victim or a bully.
One of the most challenging aspects for parents at this time is that it brings up how they were parented during their first Mars return. Parents often feel helpless at this time; and don’t the toddlers know it? The truth is that many parents feel threatened by their toddler’s newly-found assertion or aggression. The usual responses by parents are either anger or surrender. Neither of these will help your child.
Use this powerful time to develop your own ability to assert yourself. Look at how you deal with situations with work, friends or family. Do you stand up for yourself? Are you aggressive? Do you walk away with your tail between your legs? What are you modelling to your child?
By questioning how you deal with difficult situations, you’ll discover a better way to walk, hand in hand, with your child during this time.
Mars in the Signs
Mars in Aries is seen as independent, self-assured, enterprising, direct, forceful, courageous, active and busy. This is expressed in ways which are assertive, aggressive, impulsive, pioneering and adventurous. There’s a strong need to be a leader, and for constant newness. A fire sign, this Mars needs to express itself through physical activity.
Mars in Taurus adores their resources. This is the child who will not want to share his toys. He’s possessive of all he owns. This person is determined, strong, and able to persevere. Mars in Taurus values security above all else. This Mars placement is best expressed through practical activities. Give this child their own vegetable bed to nurture.
Mars in Gemini is passionate about communication and is keen to always learn new things. The passion is based on being a messenger of information. Expect a jack-of-all-trades with this placement, and the potential to live off nervous energy. Siblings will be important as will being involved in the local community. An air sign Mars is stimulated and aroused by mental stimulation. Make sure your child has lots of books out from the library at any given time.
Mars in Cancer shows that the person is strongly affected by their feelings, and is protective of their emotions. Home is everything to these people, so ensure your living space is nurturing. Give them opportunities to help bake bread and set the table.
Mars in Leo shows a person who needs to be centre stage. It offers up a creative, dramatic tone which can be playful, fun and powerful. This is the person who needs a stage to express on: the actor, storyteller, dancer, singer. When this child dresses up and is thanking you for her Academy Award, she’s not joking! Make sure you do have a dressing up box for the Mars in Leo child, and be sure to do lots of storytelling or at least be prepared for her to tell you stories.
Mars in Virgo will give you a child who is happiest mucking in with household chores, and lining up all the toys neatly. It brings with it a tendency for purity, perfection, health and efficiency. This is the child who’ll tell the parent to tidy up! He’ll want the socks folded neatly, and the toys clean. Right from early on, offer this child their own toiletry bag which they can keep neat and tidy. Such simple things make all the difference for this earthy placement.
Mars in Libra brings with it the tendency to argue with others. The passion and drive is directed towards another person and they need to learn to fight for justice without attacking those in their way. An air sign placement, this Mars wants you to engage in debate. She’ll never be happier than when she’s winning an argument.
Mars in Scorpio is seen as the person who is forceful, passionate, intuitive and emotional. There’s a deep desire to penetrate the Mysteries, and always investigating the mystical or psychic. Don’t be surprised if this person has a set of Oracle cards in their possession. This water-based Mars child wants to know all about the usual cultural taboos: birth, death, sex, other people’s money and psychology. She wants to dig deep.
Mars in Sagittarius is symbolised by the need to be independent, free, optimistic, enthusiastic. These people thrive on outdoor pursuits and adventures as befits a fire sign placement. If you have a Mars in Sagittarius child expect to spend their childhood climbing hills, going camping and skydiving!
Mars in Capricorn will gift a person with drive, ambition, efficiency, tendency to take responsibility, organisation skills, planning ability and a desire to achieve. Buy this child a filing cabinet, stapler, paper clips, pen jar and other organising tools, and watch her thrive. Another earth sign, she’ll love to be in Nature, too.
Mars in Aquarius people have a very active intellect. These are the people who want to change the world by working with large social movements. Freedom is so important for these people. Like the other air signs, this Mars is stimulated by intellectual pursuits, so be prepared to read, talk and do a lot of listening.
Mars in Pisces children and adults are sensitive and affectionate. They suffer when there is conflict or violence around them, and deeply desire peace. There’s a tendency to be sacrificial in order to achieve the peace they need. These people are poetic, artistic and imaginative as befits their desire to live in a dream world. You will find with this water-based Mars that this isn’t a child who’ll stand up and roar, but one who’ll hide behind your skirt.
Mars in the Houses
The houses of an astrological chart show the areas where our Mars likes to hang-out and express himself.
Mars in the first house is seen as someone who is outspoken, dynamic, masculine, headstrong, impatient, courageous and independent. In short, it’s the risk-taker. At two years of age, it’s the girl who likes to dive-bomb onto the sofa. Usually from the chandelier!
Mars in the second house will manifest as the child who hangs onto her toys. She knows exactly how many she has, and where they are. Mars here will be passionate about food, values and resources. This child will thrive with a money box. To minimise their tendency to buy happiness with shopping trips, show them the resources which abound in Nature.
Mars in the third house can be seen in the person who is combative, intellectually energetic, and zealous about their ideas. There is the tendency to express this in writing or speech. The drive to learn is very strong. If your child doesn’t like the neighbours, the chances are good they’ve got a third house Mars. They’ll appreciate having a high fence! Take this child on regular trips to the local library.
Mars in the fourth house will be expressed as someone who is strongly drawn to the home and family life. Family ancestry will be very important, and helping the child to keep a scrapbook with a family tree is a good way to express this energy early on.
Mars in the fifth house offers a place for Mars to play. This is the house of creative endeavours and fun. People with this placement tend to be very creative and enjoy pleasure. They also have a need for exercise.
Mars in the sixth house will enjoy the day-to-day efforts of keeping house, such as cleaning cooking, etc. There’s a keen interest in healthy, healing and purification. This child will value learning all about homeopathy, flower essences and herbs, so be prepared for lots of potion making. This is the child who is more than happy to spring clean the house with you.
Mars in the seventh house can highlight the need to be forceful in one-to-one relationships. It can, when used positively, give drive to be dynamic in relationships. This person is passionate about being in partnership.
Mars in the eighth house shows a person who is driven to investigate the mysteries of life. She’s the secret detective. Set up treasure hunts and cryptic clues for this little sleuth.
Mars in the ninth house craves adventure, travel, outdoor pursuits, and is often drawn to philosophy and foreign cultures. This can be explored through learning a foreign language and making meals from around the world.
Mars in the tenth house manifests as the great achiever: the mountain goat which makes his way to the top of the hill. There’ll be a great drive to be recognised for one’s achievements. Honour this child’s successes, no matter how seemingly insignificant. This child will need to ‘create empires’, so find toys, games and activities that enable that to happen.
Mars in the eleventh house will be seen as the person who is driven by the need to be in group situations. There can be a tendency, however, to quarrel with friends. This person will prefer interacting on a wider, social level than one-to-one.
Mars in the twelfth house gives a person the desire to be involved in social services but in a very behind the scenes way. This child will be drawn to the mystical side of life. Opportunities within the family to value the spiritual, unseen side of life will help this Mars person to flourish.
Veronika Sophia Robinson is a second-generation astrologer, and has fond memories of her mother’s astrology room; a sacred sanctum held up with esoteric tomes and a magical black glass coffee table adorned with planetary symbols and glyphs.
If you would like to understand yourself or your child better through astrology, Veronika is available for Skype (worldwide) or face-to-face consultations at her home in Cumbria. www.veronikarobinson.com