Beliefnet
At the dawn of astrology nearly 4000 years ago, the planets were worshiped as deities. Each god or goddess represented a living image of reality. Venus was beauty; Jupiter power; Saturn necessity -- and the reddish planet Mars was the god of war, passion, and courage.

Though we may no longer regard the planets as gods, they still operate as invisible energies in our outer and inner lives. Today, Mars can be seen in the muscular prowess of the athlete; the hero emboldened with courage and conviction; the ambitious, hard-driving CEO; or lovers stirred with passion for one another. Mars, in other words, represents the life energy -- what some call chi or eros - running through all our lives.

Astrology is the art of working with the lessons of time. And the two-month period when Mars is moving retrograde -- as it is now from July 29th through September 28 -- is a cosmically-appointed cycle to work on all Mars-related issues. Are we blindly aggressive, for instance, flying into a rage at the slightest provocation? Or, do we repress our anger, stifling our feelings of conviction? Have we become overly fearful, lacking in that energy needed to address the battles in our everyday lives? Have we lost the courage it takes to manifest our dreams and ideals? Now is the time to reflect on these issues.

One way to reconnect with the Mars principle is to contemplate its expression as a mythic archetype. The following visualizations can help awaken such Mars -- related qualities as physical strength, victory, courage, and passion for life. By working with Mars in a conscious way, we can avoid the negative manifestations of the god of passion as misdirected anger or depression.

Get Physical With Mars

Mars is a male god traditionally associated with masculine pursuits such as war and conquest. The natural ruler of Aries in the Zodiac, Mars is the sign of iniative, risk-taking, and adventure. A true pioneer, Mars takes us to the edges of all that is known and secure. He endows physical strength, athletic ability, and in-your-face boldness. His color is red; his element fire; his quality courage; his animal the ram. He is fierce, warrior energy - something that we must all call upon at one point or another in the course of our lives.

Mars is the god to call upon when your fear looms larger than your courage, and threatens to render you paralyzed by shame and cowardice. At that moment, it helps to simply picture the god himself. You may imagine Mars outfitted in a royal red tunic, ornate breastplate strapped over his broad chest, leather sandals, and a brass helmet. His sword glitters at his side, its handle resplendant with jewels. His eyes flash fire and lightning; his body is all sinew and muscle.

Because Mars represents raw power and crude energy, however, his is not an energy to call upon while in a meeting, or even while meditating. Rather, Mars is a visceral god who is best experienced when exercising: running, fast walking, hiking, or in the midst of hard aerobic work-out. Then, the fear that has gripped your body, the anxiety that permeates your being, is melted away in the heat of Mars' burning energy. Those athletic highs are peak "Mars moments" when a person is imbued with raw, forceful energy and warrior-like strength - necessary qualities that support the flowering of courage in your life.

Another "courage ritual" is to dance or sing along to popular music. There is nothing like the hard beat of rock and roll to stir one's spirit alive. So, if you feel stuck or blocked, put on a favorite piece of music and dance your frustrations away.

Meditation on Nike Athena, Goddess of Victory

Victory is the crowning outcome of all our courageous efforts. Whether we have used our courage to overcome personal limitations in order to become accomplished in an art or skill, or whether we have called upon our courage to survive difficult circumstances, victory is that one, triumphal moment when we can celebrate the successful outcome of all our strivings.

Recognizing that courage was an energy that could be drawn forth from even the most reluctant hero by the promise of victory, the Greeks created a special goddess, Nike. The constant companion of Athena, Nike was at her side as she led armies into battle. Beautifully imaged in the 5th century B.C. marble statue of the Victory of Samothrace, Nike is a study in motion: though headless, enormous, feathered, graceful wings extend behind her; the whole of her body is a fluid stream of upward motion, as if she were running forward to leap into the sky. One can only imagine her head tilted backward, face turned heavenward in the joy that comes from the sweet taste of victory.

To meditate on Nike Athena, as she is sometimes called, imagine her at your side when you are facing your most difficult moments: when you are most afraid, dispirited, or lacking in courage. You may also want to summon her spirit when you are wondering why you are even trying to accomplish the task set forth before you - in other words, when life lacks meaning and all your efforts seem futile. Then is the time to feel the subtle, upward rush of her wings, the spirit of victory whirling around you, enlivening your energy and inspiring you with the courage you need to keep on going. She is your constant companion; she walks beside those whose fate in life is to be called upon to have great courage. And with her blessing, you can achieve your aim. Indeed, those who are the victors in life know that it is not the achievement of one's goal that is sweetest in the end - but the glorious feeling of satisfaction when, in spite of everything they have had to work to overcome, a person can say to themselves - "I did it."

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