Close Encounters: Earth, Sun, Moon, and Mars

 Photo by  Georg Slickers  via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Georg Slickers via Wikimedia Commons

Mars is nearing an intimate flyby with our home planet soon. Intimacy in astronomical terms is about 35 million miles, but if you've been paying attention to Mars lately, via the night sky, you've seen that's quite a statement. On July 26/27 (depending on your time zone), Mars will make its exact perihelic opposition to the Sun. 

If you looked down from above the solar system, you would see a straight line formed between the Sun, Earth, and Mars. If you could somehow perceive the orbital paths of these objects, you'd notice that both Earth and Mars run along an ellipse and that both planets were at their closest points relative to one another. 

This opposition of Mars and Sun is one of three rare and significant events at the close of this month, and all of them involve the infamous, red planet. Following the Sun and Mars' exact opposition, a total lunar eclipse occurs July 27/28, entirely or partially visible for much of the globe except North America and Greenland. 

This eclipse occurs in conjunction with Mars, as the red planet emits its orangish-red beams just beneath the eclipsed Moon. This eclipse will also be the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century, lasting about an hour and 42 minutes for those on the direct path, such as Eastern Africa and the Middle East. 

And finally, on July 31/Aug 1, Mars will make its closest approach to the Earth, crossing that roughly 35 million mile mark. Mars hasn't been this close to Earth since 2003, and before that, nearly 60,000 years. We are speaking of a few million miles difference for some other Sun/Mars perihelic oppositions, but when it comes to astronomy, numbers seem to count. 

In astrology, Mars is a challenging planet to integrate. It's not a "bad" planet, that is, it doesn't always portend tragedy or crisis, but its emergence into both the personal and collective field is often uncomfortable. I believe that's because Mars is a catalyst, and whether we're responding to pain, anger, or fear, something is prodding us into action. 

Mars' perihelic opposition to the Sun always occurs during Mars' retrograde cycle, every two years. When Mars is retrograde, it's a chance to make adjustments to our aggressive, sexual, and passionate nature. But this cycle, Mars is a little bigger and brighter than usual, and perhaps that physical closeness relates symbolically to a heightened sense of passion, lustiness, aggression, or a willingness to fight. 

As an astrologer, I think that the archetype of Mars exists within us all, but that everyone's response to it is different. Mars has a "primal" vibe, in that it relates to thoughts, feelings, or compulsions which are seemingly beyond rational control. As Mars makes its opposition to the Sun, that primal wave will take over the ego momentarily, and we are given a window into that unfiltered, and untamable void. 

It's what we do with our passion, rage, or fear that matters most. Some things are beyond our control. People may trigger us, a health issue can arise, or an accident. Perhaps nothing so serious shows up for you, but you're feeling fed up with the way things presently are. Catalysts can arrive both inwardly and externally, but what we do with them, how we let our experiences define us, is indeed the most critical work. 

The synchronicity of a historical lunar eclipse and Mars' closest terrestrial encounter is both beautiful and intimidating. Always, on the global stage of political/cultural changes, we see the most cartooned version of astrology, such as a building aggression surging out of control. But with Mars retrograde, something different might show up, a critical adjustment or shift in the tide of war. 

With Mars on the lunar South Node, we know that some karma has ripened, some past, unresolved or unexpressed frustration seeks closure and release. With the Sun now in Leo, nearing the lunar North Node, we can only do our best to take the higher road, to stand confidently and courageously in our power while acknowledging the heart. 

Leo's positive face is that of generosity but also humor. Taking things too seriously could blow up in our faces. The higher road might also suggest the lighter path, where laughter is good medicine and reminds us of our humanity. Beware of the pitfalls of extreme alienation or "higher than thou" attitudes. Remember that a unique feature of humanity is the necessity of community. 

The negative face of Aquarius, the tropical zodiac sign both Mars and the lunar eclipse will reside, is anti-social-like apathy or the rebel without a cause. A Mars-like field as potent as this reminds me of Carl Jung's hypothetical enantiodromia, which warns us that when we polarize against an evil other, we risk eventual assimilation of that which we fight.

In looking at the astrological clock, it's evident that we could all use a catalyst, so let us be thankful for the reminder that life is worth living and that there are things worth fighting. Mars is the warrior after all, but a warrior defends what is sacred and vulnerable. There are harshness and injustices in the world, but Mars inspires us to protect what matters. 

In our fighting, let's not lose sight of compassion, or fall into the trap of making our enemy a literal embodiment of evil. There are profound lessons in a moment of terror, and immense strength acquired through every battle, no matter how small. And when you look out into the world, realize that everyone is in the midst of a personal crusade, even if you can't see it. Use that insight to connect yourself to the greater whole, and perhaps not feel so alone. 

Life feels overwhelming when faced with things outside of your control. Understanding yourself is key to finding your power and place in the world. While you can't control fate or the chaos of life, your destiny belongs to you, something you can always strive for to gain command of your life path

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