And let me qualify the title by explaining that I do not believe in an uncontrollable destiny, or that people have fate and no free will. But, astrologically speaking, the world isn’t full of would-be rock stars whom everyone is too stupid to recognize. Not every person is born with an insatiable hunger, raw talent, and the luck or circumstances to become wildly successful. Not everyone is wild stallion meant to forge a new path. Not every person who has potential will fulfill it. The world is full of people who are average, no matter how their social media looks, no matter what they were told in grade school. Not everyone is driven to greatness. Most will not go for the brass ring. Fewer still will keep going after they have reached up and failed to grasp it.
Cosmically, this is fine. There is no need to have anxiety over how much we lack fame and fortune. Greatness and recognition are two different things, though we often confuse the two. In fact, the people who will have the most impact on the world, for better or for worse, are not celebrities. No one ever heard of the Koch brothers until 2008, even though they have been fueling American conservatives with money for decades. Most people didn’t know who Elon Musk was until Tesla Motors hit the news; he co-founded Paypal. Most people don’t know the name of one scientist who has helped to sequence the human genome. On the other hand, we have celebutantes who are famous for doing fuck-all.
But not everyone will sequence the human genome, or find the cure for cancer. Some of us will do a kind thing that really helps someone turn their life around, or is instrumental in saving the life of others. Perhaps it is part of someone’s purpose to be born and die so their organs can be donated and allow someone else to live. We are all on earth to do many things, and many of those things fulfill us, and the only two things that get in our way is ourselves and other people.
It can be difficult to tell from a natal chart whether or not a person is living up to their potential. Even if you look at a lifetime of progressions and transits, it can be hard to tell if a person seized the day. Planets on the Aries Points, planets conjunct the Midheaven and in the 10th house may mean someone more easily ends up in the public eye for whatever that planet represents, whether they like it or not. Fame is not actualization, and it is not living up to one’s soul potential. However, there are a few indicators or whether or not a person has both the motivation and the courage to realize as an individual as well as the perseverance to keep moving toward their individual fulfillment.
Mars is retrograde right now and will be until June 29th, and will go direct on July 1st. We are all probably feeling a little less courageous, a little less vital, a little less go-getting. However, the stuff of success – grit and courage – are with us naturally or something we develop because we have to. In simplest terms, Mars retrograde is a time where grit becomes the most important thing, because the mindset one has toward success and failure will be tested when we hit brick walls and don’t get what we want when we put forth the effort.
Grit doesn’t always manifest the way we think it will. Not everyone will keep running into a brick wall in the hopes that with every successive blow, the wall weakens and they will eventually go through it. Some go over the wall. Some go around it. Some build a ladder. Some use a cannon and blow a hole in it. Some chip away at it a little at a time. Some convince others to help them get over the wall. Some go a little out of their way and find a path with a wall they can get through and then go back on their original path. Some take what they have learned by trying to get over this wall and apply it to a different one. But in all of these cases, everyone who eventually defeats the wall accepts that there is a wall, that it must be dealt with, and that they cannot simply pass through it as if they were a hologram (except Pisces. Weirdly enough, they seem to do this sometimes, largely because they are unaware that there is a wall in front of them).
Grit comes from Mars and Saturn. It can be cultivated, and whether or not a person has it naturally or cultivates it depends on the strengths and weaknesses of the planets, but particularly if those planets are challenged. Those who have it easy aren’t motivated to rock the boat. Astrologers often note that those with T-squares in their charts are often successful, because they are born with the itch to correct what is wrong, since there is something missing in their lives and they are highly aware of it. If either Mars or Saturn is involved in a T-square, it is necessary that the native develop grit or they simply will not make it in the world.
Grit requires an ability to go at things alone, and the planet that rules solitude is Saturn. Sometimes you simply must do something yourself, and the things that are most important often require doing things yourself and forging a new path. Moving far away. Going to university. Starting a new career. While you may have the core people in your life that
However: a hard aspect, such as a square, opposition, or conjunction, between Mars and Saturn or Chiron not in a T-square, and usually as stand-alone aspects in any sign, or in Capricorn, or in the 12th house, is a sign of innate cowardice, or a desire to punish the self by not cultivating courage. This is by no means permanent; a person who meets their cosmic challenges and overcomes them becomes more powerful than even they could have imagined. This is not the only aspect that shows cowardice, as a weakened sun and Neptunian aspects can show signs of retreat. With these aspects, the individual punishes themselves by not trying, by being an underachiever or by seeking out men or masculine types who will tell them what to do, or they may find people who become overly dependent on them so they feel that their energy (Mars) must be directed toward this responsibility (Saturn).
With Mars, the person is much more likely to not avoid actively pursuing a passion or may not fully cultivate one. In the charts I have, these people tend to look for assurance outside of themselves, usually in men who represent Saturn or Mars, or in wherever they came from. If they don’t have other reasons to want to go at life alone, or to make a dream a reality, many will fight the changing tides to avoid it.
With Chiron, the person tends to be born innately shy or insecure, and spends the rest of their lives either trying to get over it, or trying to cover it up. These people in particular are interesting, because if they fail to overcome it, they tend to portray themselves as strong and capable, and yet have no tangible evidence of it. With the charts I have, the people with Mars in hard aspect to Chiron and have not overcome it live life in a sort of sheltered desperation: they tend to marry the first one they can snag if they marry, they rarely hold down jobs, much less careers, and often have a serious addiction to something and when they marry, they become overly dependent on a spouse, who is also an underachiever, in a way that is nearly child-like. But if you were to ask them, they are intelligent, competent, talented, and the like. But if they overcome this, they are the most humble achievers you will ever meet, superheroes who insist they are merely Clark Kents.
It is true that those who did not grow up with successful role models also tend to not know how to complete things or stay the course, and this can show up as a negative Saturn aspect. However, not every person with a Mars-Saturn or Mars-Chiron square will be a lifelong coward if they do not want to be. We are all cowards in one way or another, and when they realize that, they begin to unfurl their wings. And those who have been born with these aspects do have to overcome a lot, because they usually grow up in a world in which they are kept from reaching high for one reason or another; I have noticed that often, one parent lets the child know that they would feel abandoned or invalidated if the child outshines the parent. Later on, they bring people into their lives, like friends or significant others, who reflect this need to not be left in the dust.
However, even this kind of cowardice is not unrelated to grit. One of the most interesting things about underachievers is their dedication to not living up to their potential. This takes a certain amount of perseverance. To make sure that you never go anywhere in life, even when life presents you with not just opportunities, but imperatives to change, takes a lot of grit! A true underachiever never tries to do anything as well as they can, and every aspect of their lives: love, friends, career, spirituality, creativity, etc., is unimpressive and unfulfilling.
One of the most interesting things about grit is that we tend to recognize it in hindsight. Currently, there are millions of people all over the world exercising their grit, and millions more who simply think those people are just too stupid to know when to quit or when to conform. And Mars is a stupid planet in that way. But truly, the most courageous thing a person can do is simply take the first step. You don’t have to tell anyone. And often, you will have to go at it alone.
So, look at your own chart. Do you have a struggle like this? Is there something you want to do or be that you cannot try? What are you afraid of? What will happen if you fail? And of those things that will happen, how many of them will actually hurt you?
At some point in high school, when Saturn had decided to hide in my 12th house and Mars moved into my 5th, I realized that no matter what I did, I wasn’t suddenly going to become popular. I would never, ever fit in, so there was no point in trying. I decided to be me, and I dressed oddly and said whatever I felt, and I didn’t care. Sure, the teasing and bullying got worse, but then it started to subside. I just wasn’t going to change or give in or validate anyone else’s opinion of me. Sure, there were those who always had an issue with me, but I had friends. I was suddenly a person who had a place and I created it for myself. And I have had successes and failures, and I have made mistakes and I have had to change my plans. And some people just never liked me, and I have had more than my fair share of frenemies. In the end, they were all alike: they never did anything with their lives. Never tried. Never created. Never put themselves out there. Never had a dream and followed it. What value does the opinion of a person like that have? Everything I do and try brings me closer to fulfillment.
Everything you do and try — even if you fail — brings you closer as well. And no one actually knows why you are on earth except for you. And perhaps a good astrologer. But even you may not know why, but even those whom you think are closest to you don’t know what you are meant for. Most of us cannot conceive of possibilities so expansive for ourselves, let alone for others. Saturn is also the ruler of fear imposed on us by others (the moon is our primal fear). When we are children, we have to live by the fears of our parents and our communities, but once we grow up, the fears of our parents and our communities are memories that we choose to revive and pretend are real. Saturn is also the planet ruling regret.
And Saturn is also the planet of denial. If you can learn to live with him, you can learn a lot about what you don’t need and can still get by, and I don’t mean just things like a shiny car and cable television and cosmopolitans with the girls on Ladies Night. I mean living without approval, without support, without fearing the opinions of others. And Saturn can teach Mars how to shake off the shackles of fear and blast off. Will you let him?
White Peacock photo courtesy of Katia_M.