Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from a book that’s been in the making for a decade. It started with closely looking at the second Jupiter return that happens when we’re 23–24 years old. And it has blossomed into a focus on the planetary cycles during the first and only decade when we’re considered both “kids” and adults at the same time — our 20s. Like most planetary cycles, these don’t happen only once. In fact, we’ve been having Mars returns since we were two years old, about every two years. But we can learn a lot about our Mars returns at the start of our 20s as perhaps a template for understanding the others we’ll have onward through adulthood.
When you’re 19, you’re technically a teenager since there’s still a “teen” in the number. It didn’t feel that way for me. Probably doesn’t feel that way for others. Perhaps the proximity to the teen years keeps you feeling your youth. But you’re also in the waiting room of a large part of your life’s journey at this age. You’re boarding.
The age of 19–20 years is when you’re:
Two planetary “returns” symbolize what’s happening at this time: the return of Mars and that of the lunar nodes.
A planetary return means that a planet comes back to the exact zodiacal position it held when you were born. For instance, close to your birthday, if not on the actual day, the Sun returns to the position it held at your birth. If you were born with the Sun at 13° Leo, then every year, around August 4, you will have what we call a solar return. The Moon also does this monthly. But it’s the Mars return that should have our attention at 19–20 years old.
The Mars Return
The astrological glyph for Mars ( )is the same symbol we use to represent men. Of course, this says more about what we associate with masculinity than all that can be said about being a man. These associations are present within men and women, whether we appreciate them or not.
In astro-speak, Mars represents how we have the power to define what we desire and struggle for it. Mars is the original warrior, go-getter, and bad-ass honey badger. It symbolizes our individual ability to say “No.” Most moments, we have what seems like an infinite set of possibilities to move forward. But it’s Mars as a principle that shows us how we narrow those possibilities and act. He’s the part of us that loves action. When we can’t act (or don’t), then this is when Mars can transform into anger. Anger usually erupts when you can’t take an action that you desire. Or when someone threatens your ability to act in the future, perhaps in a way that physically or emotionally harms you. When managed, this Mars anger can become a powerful protector. This is another side of Mars.
As a protector, Mars acts to preserve life and what we value. This truth bears out even in our solar system’s astronomy. Moving from Earth, away from the Sun, Mars is the next planet out toward the edge of our solar system. It’s ironic that so much of our modern sci-fi mythology has been about aliens from Mars attacking us — Mars actually protects us from the asteroid belt between itself and Jupiter.
Every two years, energizing and independent Mars comes back to his original position in our birth charts. If you were born on December 9, 1987, then Mars will come back to about 10° Scorpio every two years. Most often, Mars won’t be returning on your actual birthday. But sometime during the year of his return, he’ll come back to that point. By the time you’re 20, you will have had nine previous returns. Perhaps the most dramatic and illustrative Mars return is the first one.
The first one happened when you were two years old. It’s no wonder these are called the “Terrible Twos.” This is the age when even the most normally docile child learns “No!” and loves saying it. She’s working her Mars. This is an important stage for setting boundaries (though it mostly annoys parents and caretakers alike). It’s important for a child at that age to know that she is separate and distinct from what and who’s around her. She must assert herself. Perhaps the child has a beneficial fear that she could be swallowed up by the care and concern of others. So, there’s resistance. And if that child’s resistance is met with more pushback from her caretakers, then anger mounts. This is all Mars, and often leads to tugs of war in store aisles. “Mess” seems interchangeable enough with “Mars” at this first return.
At 19–20 years old, you’re probably not going to end up tussling with your folks in a food market like a two-year-old. But there are stranger places and ways to find yourself butting heads with people. And you could experience feelings (or even situations) similar to what you felt at earlier Mars returns. There is likely to be some strong struggle to express who you are and what you want out of life. Yet it’s this raw energy of Mars that symbolically pushes you into your 20s in the first place. This won’t be your only push, of course. Remember, you have a Mars return every two years. That means that you’re due four more Mars returns before you turn 30. But this is the last Mars return of the second decade of life and the beginning of a whole new adventure.
Finding Your Mars
There’s no one way this happens. It mostly depends on how Mars works in your chart, and a trained astrologer can tell you how it’s working. She’ll likely look at the sign and degree where Mars falls and how the Warrior Planet connects to other planets and parts of your birth chart. But one way to gain easy-to-grasp clues about how your Mars return will work in your life is to look at where it lands in your chart, if you know your birth time. That “where” is called a house in astrological lingo. Each house has different topics associated with it, like marriage, finances, travel, groups, and health.
If you don’t know what house your Mars occupies, there are other clues to look for, of course. This is why many other astrology books emphasize a planet’s sign, like your Mars in Scorpio, as a way to understand Mars. Here, though, I will emphasize houses over signs, because house placements, calculated according to your birth time, give more detail.
Let me also share perhaps a better way to think about this. A planet’s sign drops clues about how well a planet is able to accomplish a task. But if you really want to know the specifics of how and where a planet is directed to carry out that task, it’s best to know what house it’s in. That’s where the real magic is.
If you don’t know your time of birth, there are ways around this problem. First, a trained astrologer can “rectify” your chart. Rectification is the process of using past important events in your life — like the birth dates of your children, your wedding date, or the date of a serious accident — as a way to make the best possible guess for your birth time. Rectification works best when there’s a narrow range, such as you were born between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. But it can also be done when there’s a broader range like 12 to 24 hours, though it’s a lot of work for that broad of a range. The more specific dates of significant milestones an astrologer has, the better her chances for figuring out your birth time and houses.
If rectification isn’t possible because you don’t know the range of your birth time at all, you can’t get a birth time with your birth certificate, or there’s no one around to remember, all is not lost. You can still get a good bead on your Mars using what’s called a solar chart. A solar chart is a chart that uses your Sun sign as the 1st house. This is what most people commonly call their “sign,” such as if you’re born on December 9, you might call yourself a Sagittarius. (That’s only one of “your” signs, since you have a lot more than that.) For instance, if you were born while the Sun was in Sagittarius and you learn that your Mars is in Scorpio, then your Mars would be in your solar 12th house. For an idea on what your Mars return might be about, then read Mars in the 12th house.
If you’re fortunate enough to know your time of birth, then read the appropriate house below.
1st house: The 1st house sets the tone for how you make your journey through life. It represents your sense of identity, your body, and your ability to assert yourself. With bold Mars here, you’re more likely to seek out ways to prove yourself and show what you can do. At your Mars return, you’re inclined to look for ways to put yourself “out there” or be more self-determined. Be careful not to step on other people’s toes to pave your own way. Don’t be too foolhardy with unnecessary risks.
2nd house: The 2nd house draws our interest toward money, possessions, and material security. Mars in this house directs your attention to endeavors that build up your financial reserves. For you, what’s in your wallet or your bank account is what makes you feel powerful. You might also spend your money impulsively to acquire what you think will make you stronger. At your Mars return, you possibly initiate new ways to achieve greater financial security. Or you struggle with others to gain more financial security or to avoid losing any money.
3rd house: The 3rd house prompts a personal stake in who and what’s immediately around us, like siblings, neighbors, or colleagues. You may exert a lot of energy to connect or communicate with people and places near (and maybe dear) to you. In your pursuit to connect with others, there’s a tendency to spread yourself too thin. At your Mars return, a sibling, neighbor, or colleague could bring up sensitive issues or present a bone of contention. Similarly, you might struggle to figure out a way to rein in your diverse obligations, connections, or interests in order to conserve energy.
4th house: The 4th house concerns your sense of home, family, roots, and parents, especially your father or a father figure. In a word, Mars asserts itself to feel rooted, and you dig in your heels to be physically and emotionally secure. This house position for Mars goads you more to think and perhaps act defensively. You’re probably attached to your turf and will not easily suffer people stepping in where they’re not invited. At your Mars return, it’s possible that you must strive more to protect or support your family, more distant relatives, your home, and what makes you feel safe and grounded. It’s also probable that you might have challenges with your parents. Hold your ground, but don’t kick up too much dust to do it.
5th house: The 5th house reflects your ability to be creative and procreative. Your creative powers are not just limited to what we often call art. It’s the ability to project your confidence. You can infuse an essence of yourself into what you do. Call it flavor or swag. This is obviously what we do when we procreate, too. We’re able to project our essence into another. Mars expends a lot of energy and sometimes strife to wield swag. Mars in this house likes to be very physical in its expression, whether that’s through something athletic or an artistry that involves working with metals or hard physical labor. At your Mars return, you might have to push hard to “give birth” to a labor of love, to some aspect of yourself, or to another person.
6th house: The 6th house concerns the daily routines, people, and efforts that keep you healthy, efficient, and functioning. Mars cleans house here — perhaps even literally. You thrive in taking command of your schedule and relish the opportunity to bring energy and order to your life. You have to be careful with the energy part so that you don’t get overheated or overexert yourself. This could lead to feeling more exhausted than energized. At your Mars return, you’re more likely to feel like your routines or regular work are stagnant. You’re probably right. It’s also important to stay on top of any health concerns. You should take seriously any small agitations and unusual changes with your health. Don’t just push through those.
7th house: The 7th house describes how we encounter partners (business or romantic) and other one-on-one personal connections, like therapists, consultants, or even a familiar foe or rival. Mars brings zest into these kinds of relationships. But that zest is a two-edged sword. Love can, indeed, sometimes feel like a battlefield here. The need to be direct with significant others can become exhausting. Likewise, it’s possible that others feel the need to challenge and be direct with you. At your Mars return, you’re likely to experience more contention even in the most seasoned and usually calm relationships. It’s key to learn how to get back to the positive energy expressions of Mars rather than any desperate need to be right. Don’t fight back with your ego. Even if you win the battle, you’ll lose the war and perhaps the relationship.
8th house: The 8th house is where we face life’s trials, tribulations, and financial obligations. In this house, Mars has a “never surrender” mentality that has its profound strengths and weaknesses. You’ve likely had to endure some tough circumstances in life that endow you with a great deal of grit. But you might come to think that grit is necessary for everything. Perhaps you have become too concerned about what you stand to lose in nearly any encounter. Instead, you can trust that surviving your past endows you with the confidence to thrive in the future. At your Mars return, you might fear that you will get the wrong end of the stick in a deal or a relationship. Think deeply about whether it’s more your fear speaking or it’s the objective truth. Remember, you have choices. You can choose a win–win scenario or walk away.
9th house: The 9th house shows how we venture far in mind and body to other ways of thinking, expressing our thoughts (as in publishing books), or traveling to distant lands or meeting people from those places. Mars highlights a true wanderlust when in this house. There’s a restlessness of mind, body, and spirit that might frequently frustrate those who would like to see you locked into one thing — or who’d like to keep you closer to home. You can’t help feeling that there’s a whole world out there to learn and discover. You could be more inclined to leapfrog between various interests, and that’s where you tend to land in trouble. You might start more things than you have time to finish. At your Mars return, you should think clearly before you leap into learning something or traveling somewhere. It’s okay if it all feels right. But it’s just as important that you do right by what you’re leaping into. For example, no sense bounding into an exotic, fascinating country if you’re not willing to learn the language or respect the customs there.
10th house: The 10th house is the highest point in a birth chart, like the Sun at high noon. It reflects how you establish your reputation and vocation in your community or the broader world. It has more to do with how you want to be seen or remembered best than just your career or job. Mars here perhaps mirrors a strong ambition to make your mark in life. It can incline you toward prominence, particularly in areas like sports, public service, medicine, or militaristic/defense-oriented fields where you must prove your mettle by defending yourself or others. At your Mars return, it’s time for more single-minded focus on a clearly defined mission or goal. Don’t shy away from conflict. Facing your fears or the obstacles set by others is how you build your confidence and competence.
11th house: The 11th house describes how you connect or rely on the help of others to achieve personal or collective goals. Mars must be more of a team player here and think more about other people, especially colleagues and friends. Often there is a challenge with this Mars position. A person with Mars here has to learn how to follow as well as lead. Sometimes it’s hard to know which to do. The wisdom to know this comes from thinking about what would serve the highest good, not your ego. At your Mars return, the challenge will be to figure out how to share your unique talents and abilities without alienating colleagues, teammates, and friends.
12th house: The 12th house conveys how you experience solitude and what activities you’ve set in motion that are beyond your control. Mars here signifies that some of your best work might happen off anyone’s radar. Or you prefer to work solo or without much fanfare. You might thrive with anonymity or where attention is focused more on the action than the actor. Perhaps you also do well in a controlled setting, like a sound or film studio or even a boxing ring. You’re prone to working hard, and perhaps that can be to your undoing if you overdo it. At your Mars return, it’s best to cut back on social obligations and focus on clear tasks that you want to achieve either for yourself or for charity.
To gain an even finer sense of how Mars works in your life, it’s important to look at how Mars connects with other planets and points in your chart. These connections or relationships are called “aspects” in Astrologese. Astrologers generally use five aspects to describe different relationships: the conjunction (0°), sextile (60°), square (90°), trine (120°), and opposition (180°). Often astrologers will divide these aspects into good or bad. But these aspects really do depend on the planets involved, the overall chart, and how a person finds the right context for expressing these energies. Plenty has been written about each of these and other aspects that you can find in astrology websites or books. But for our purposes here, I’ll just describe the possible ease or effort that comes with the pairing of Mars with the nine other planets that astrologers commonly use.
Mars–Sun: You might thrive on energy, boldness, power, and ambition with these two planets connected. Problem-solving and finding workarounds come easily for you. But there can also be so much effort put on winning that you will have to learn to wave the white flag to fight another day. At your Mars return, your boldness will serve you well in kick-starting projects that have been stalled.
Mars–Moon: There’s a restlessness that can make it hard for you to trust comfort or too much coziness. This agitation may lead to spikes of energy in your body where you’re either really high or really low. You’re fairly sensitive emotionally, but you can’t stand the thought of yourself as being vulnerable. You seem to thrive in a crisis, especially if other people are involved. Still, you must learn when not to create drama or crises of your own that leave you wasting energy and valuable time. At your Mars return, be mindful of how you react to others and to difficult life circumstances. You might overreact or act rashly.
Mars–Mercury: You know how to add some sizzle and zing to the ways you communicate. You’re not likely to mince your words. You also probably enjoy staying on the move, especially if you drive. Your need for excitement can get you into trouble, though. You might kick up friction and a fracas with your impatience. It’s a good idea to wait for an invitation to offer criticism or feedback. Your sharp, quick mind might have only good intentions in picking something apart — but people must be prepared for your rough-and-ready style. At your Mars return, know that your words can penetrate deeply and sharply. That’s fine if you have a task that requires sharp and passionate communication but might be less appreciated in casual exchanges.
Mars–Venus: You have strong passions and interest in romance, perhaps from an early age. Love and lust might blend so effortlessly that it’s hard for you to tell the difference between the two. You’ll better understand the difference when you can shift your attention to what the other person truly wants and needs. Then you’ll convey your great passion and romance in a way that sustains you and the one you love. It’s also important to own your romantic and sexual nature. The more you attempt to repress it, the more it could come to own you. At your Mars return, infuse your current relationships with more passion and attention. If you’re single, flirt a little more. Or become more socially active to share your passion for life (and perhaps romantic affections) with others.
Mars–Jupiter: “Go big or go home” was probably first said by someone with this planetary lineup. The world is to be discovered, conquered, or promoted. You have a love of the chase. But there’s a difference between a chase to catch something and another chance just to enjoy the chase. At some point, you must enjoy what you catch as much as the hunt for it. There can be a tendency to run around like a chicken with its head cut off. At your Mars return, you must narrow your options but keep your enthusiasm high.
Mars–Saturn: There can often be too much restraint with this pairing. The get-up-and-go of Mars putters along with somber Saturn, like someone driving with the brakes on. But this connection does give a strong sense of discipline and perseverance. You just have to be careful not to confuse being paralyzed by fear with being patient. At your Mars return, you can regain a sense of purpose. This purpose holds its own wisdom to match courage with bone-hard grit for the long haul … until the job is done.
Mars–Uranus: Frank Sinatra’s signature song, “My Way,” could have been penned by you. You’re determined to live life on your own terms and perhaps even at your own speed. The only problem is that others might not be able to keep up. And you’re not inclined to care as much. Other people’s resistance can just seem like the motivation you need to defy them. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make it easy to gather allies. You might work so hard to stake your own territory that you end up alone in it. At your Mars return, you’re likely called to figure out how to break through someone’s resistance. But you must remember to make the break without burning too many bridges.
Mars–Neptune: Your feelings and idealism are more likely to motivate you, leaving you susceptible to deceit or cloudy choices. Respecting boundaries, including your own, could be challenging for you. You might drive yourself too hard, to the point of illness. Or you push through other people’s boundaries without recognizing social protocols or manners. Sometimes it’s difficult for you to know where your desires begin and end. This could lead to a need to “merge” with too much, indiscriminately. At your Mars return, it’s important to support your idealism or dreams with a solid foundation of specific, measurable, and timely actions or goals. Learn to listen carefully to your own limits and to what others express as their own boundaries.
Mars–Pluto: You don’t believe in a no-win scenario, and surrender is not a choice word in your vocabulary. This makes you an awesome foe in a war. But in regular life, it can make you relentless. You might not know when to stop doing something. Anything. You will have to find more constructive ways to channel your strong energy, usually by doing something physically demanding. It’s also important to learn how to manage your anger, which can cool and coalesce into a rage that doesn’t fade with time. It might come out in more passive-aggressive or subtle ways. At your Mars return, your best option would be to launch an endeavor that engrosses you. You can then feed it with your energy. In return, you can see your effort manifest into something tangible that makes you feel accomplished and proud.
By observing Mars by house or planetary aspect, you can keep a closer watch on your Mars return to launch yourself into your 20s with greater clarity, energy, and momentum. Our next installment will discuss how the lunar node return prepares you to make the connections and better manage the character-building resources you need to successfully board your journey to adulthood.
All images: CC0 Creative Commons license, via pixabay.com
First published in: The Mountain Astrologer, Feb 1994 / republished Oct 2009.
Samuel Reynolds, a former skeptic, had a life-changing visit to an astrologer and has since spent more than 25 years studying astrology and doing charts. Now Samuel consults and teaches astrology full time. He also serves on the boards of ISAR, the UAC 2018 planning committee, and the Astrology News Service. He publishes weekly horoscopes on his website and has written for Ebony.com, Tarot.com, Astrograph.com, New York Magazine, and Pride, a British black women’s magazine. His website is http://UnlockAstrology.com
© 2018 - Samuel F. Reynolds - published by The Mountain Astrologer
23-May-2018, 02:29 UT/GMT
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