Mars & Aries
Both Mars and Ares most obviously carry the title God of War, although Mars seemed to be known previously as the god of agriculture. It seems strange that the two ideas, war and agriculture, should be connected, and while it is not very well known how the god of agriculture became a war god, there are some theories. One theory is that many wars were begun in the spring (March, which is named after Mars), since an army would need food to eat—something not plentiful in the ground in winter. Agricultural festivals were held in spring, so the two ‘events’ often coincided. Also, the temple Mars Gradivus was a place where the Roman army gathered before war to prepare.
Mars, while the god of war, was well loved and very popular in Roman culture. It is said that his sons, Romulus and Remus founded Rome, so he is a sort of ‘father’ to Rome. The traits associated with Mars tend to be far more favorable than Ares. While Mars is associated with warfare, he is often looked at as a leader and even a protector. Festivals were held in his honor.
Ares, the Greek god of war, seems to have always been associated with war-like behavior, even savagery, bloodlust, and the chaos of war. He was not well liked and didn’t seem to be widely worshipped in the Greek culture. In fact, he was seen to be kind of cowardly and treacherous. In the Trojan battle, he is said to have originally promised to side against the Trojans, but then later switched sides. The actual planet Mars has two moons: Deimos and Phobos, which are the names for the Greek gods who embody terror/dread and fear/horror, respectively. These two were the sons of Ares, and were always part of the entourage that accompanied Ares onto the field of battle, which also included Eris, his sister & companion, the goddess of discord.
Astrologically speaking, the planet of Mars is associated with our source of passion— what we want, and how we go after it. Where Mars is in your chart indicates where you have lessons involving how you handle your passion, as well as the territory of life in which you must learn to properly defend yourself as well as when to take action and confront something. The wisdom of Mars is about, as Kenny Rogers has said, knowing ‘when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.’ The wise warrior knows that there are times when going to war (literally or metaphorically) is a necessity, such as to protect those who need defense, and when it’s vanity, cowardice, or just plain wasteful and one should refrain. We all have a warrior in us, and it’s the location of Mars in our chart that will be our battlefield, to learn how to use our power wisely, even if it’s not always to turn the other cheek.
The sign of Aries is about cultivating the characteristics of the wise warrior, such as courage, strength, passion, a desire to challenge ourselves, and to overcome fear. It is not about fighting others as often as it is about fighting and besting ourselves, whatever mountain we are conquering. Some of the unhealthy expressions of Aries or Mars energy stem from abusing our power, such as being too confrontational or argumentative just for the sake of loving a battle, especially if the real confrontation is being masked by petty arguments. One can also under utilize one’s power, but not taking up the courage to own and develop our strength.