Around October 17, Mars will make his first appearance in the morning sky, invigorated and revitalized after being invisible for three months. Mars has been behind the Sun and out of our view since mid July. Various factors (including atmospheric conditions, latitude, view of the horizon) are at play when a planet is first visible again after its time in the Underworld; however, the planet needs to be at least 15° from the Sun (which happens on October 16, with Mars at 8° Libra and the Sun at 23° Libra).
A planet’s heliacal rise — its first appearance in the morning sky — is seen as having special significance. For example, Demetra George looks back to the Babylonians, who saw the planets as manifestations of the gods: “When a planet made a heliacal morning appearance after a time of absence from the skies, it was as if the planetary god was coming out of seclusion to make an announcement to humanity concerning its intentions.” (1)
Although the concept of detriment was not clearly defined until much later in astrological tradition, this current heliacal rise of Mars is in tropical Libra, the sign of his detriment. (2) This would not be a cheerful indication of what announcement he may have for us regarding mundane affairs, but my thoughts are moving in a different direction.
I’m thinking about the notion of Mars in exile, another term for detriment. (3) A planet in its place of exile is far from home and in an unfamiliar land, without comfort or a sense of certainty. I think of a somewhat extreme example — someone I know with four natal planets in their signs of exile, whose (outer) life story is marked by isolation, awkwardness, and uneasy situations.
However, in my observation, a natal planet in exile can also (over time) become supremely resourceful and creative, born from the necessity to figure itself out under adverse conditions.
Mars in Libra as a sky marker suggests that we might engage the metaphor of exile now. When conditions are harsh or unfamiliar, it is possible to find new external routes (“Where am I going?”) or new passageways in the brain and nervous system, all jolting us away from the habitual diversions and distractions that overrun us.
Being profoundly uncomfortable can be an antidote to complacency or sleepiness. Mars can bring a jarring stimulus that awakens us to parts of ourselves heretofore unknown and replete with meaning. Each of the planets in each of the signs is part of the planetary sphere; each planetary combination may bring experiences that can be integrated into a deeper or broader sense of who we are and what we are capable of.
Mars signifies action — in Libra, the motivation behind actions may be more refined or more illusive than the usual, familiar way of operating.
Sometimes in life, we may choose a period of exile for a particular exercise or practice that cannot bring results without a quality of isolation. Sometimes, life events (which might be brutal or upsetting) require us to be enveloped in a certain starkness or solitude, before the magic inherent in retreat or exile can begin to unfold.
As someone with natal Mars in Libra (and a somewhat introverted disposition), I’ve tried to find words to describe Mars in exile from the inside out. Now, as the god is coming “out of seclusion,” I am keen to notice what messages he is bringing. (I’d love to hear from you, dear readers, if this blog has resonated with you.)
And for all of us, may Mars’s heliacal rise bring a message — which we can hear — to inspire and motivate our activities for this next chapter in time.
(1) Demetra George, Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice, Rubedo Press, 2019, p. 286.
(2) Chris Brennan, Hellenistic Astrology, Amor Fati Publications, 2017, p. 249.
(3) Either term refers to the planet being in the sign opposite to its ruler, or home. Libra, of course, is Venus’s sign.