Love Conquers War: Mars in Libra

Friday January 10th 2014
Mars and Venus by Sandro Botticelli (c.1483)

The god of war –- naked, defenceless, vulnerable – sleeps with his mouth half open, exhausted by lovemaking (we suppose), while Venus, the goddess of love, with not a hair out of place, fully clothed, regards him quite coolly, stroking his ankle with just the tip of her pinkie finger.

The lovers of myth are shown in the territory of the goddess; they are surrounded by a grove of myrtle, her sacred tree. The devilish little satyrs are her creatures.

Mars is unmanned. His “lance” and his helmet are playthings. The god sleeps so deeply that even a conch shell blown in his ear cannot wake him up. His exposed neck invites kisses, or perhaps an assassin’s knife*. She has destroyed all his defences.

Spent passion.

Love conquers war.

But maybe Botticelli is saying more than that. He could be depicting an aspect between Venus and Mars Retrograde like the one coming up, because Mars is not just having a kip, he’s out cold. Venus does not look the slightest bit post-coital, she’s calculating as a Capricorn.

Readers of this blog will know that I think Botticelli — like any educated person in the court of Lorenzo de Medici — was well versed in astrological symbolism and used it in his painting sometimes. Click here to see how it works for Primavera.

Yoko Ono (Libra Rising) John Lennon (Sun, Mars, NN in Libra)

Mars, the planet of libido and vitality, will be in Venus’s sign Libra until July 26. Although Mars is said to be in “fall” here, you can also see why that’s not such a bad thing.  There is a time when every warrior should put down his arms, and maybe spend some time in the arms of his lover. Love needs passion.

When the planet of war goes into the sign of peace, we get peace talks. Wherever Mars transits, there is action. This could be action for justice, for peace, for love, for co-operation. There have been plenty of wars started under this transit too, notably Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, so it’s no panacea, but on a personal level we can use this energy for good.

On March 1, Mars will turn retrograde and he won’t go forward until May 20. Now Mars does not go retrograde in the sign of relationships often – 1982, 1999, 2014, 2029 — that is around every 17 years. At this point Mars may well take a complete rest and go to sleep, like the god in Botticelli’s painting.

Each time he does so, his interactions with the goddess of love are different. This month she is in cool, controlled Capricorn, so Mars and Venus are at odds, squaring each other by sign.

But the two planets are also doing an odd sort of cha cha cha. While Mars is in Libra an extra long time this year, Venus is also in Capricorn an extra long time too. That means the square aspect between them, and the dynamism it brings, is also unusually prolonged. But it gets a little more complicated still, because they are in retrograde motion at different times.

In January, Venus is Rx, while Mars is direct and in March, the motion is reversed: Venus is direct, but Mars is Rx. It’s as if when one of them is ready, the other runs away. The lovers square each other exactly on January 16 and then again on March 2.

This highly energetic square, opening and closing like a bellows, fits in with the on-going Uranus-Pluto square. Pluto is also in Capricorn, while Uranus is Libra’s opposite sign Aries. With Jupiter in Cancer also involved, the emotional volume is set to full blast, and you can see that Jupiter is in aspect to both Mars and Venus this week.

We may all have to practice our dance steps in order to keep up.

*Some historian believe that the model for Mars is Giuliano de Medici, who was  quattrocento Florence’s most eligible bachelor before being murdered by the Pazzi family in 1478 at the age of 25. If the date for this painting is approximately right, he would already have been dead for several years. Simonetta Vespucci, said to be the model for Venus and certainly an inspiration for Botticelli, would also have been long in her grave. They may, or may not, have been lovers. It was said that he was a great athlete and she was the most beautiful woman in Florence. Maybe Botticelli was imagining an afterlife as gods for them…


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  1. weaver says:

    appreciate the art history lesson here very much.

    very helpful your listing of past times mars has been rx in libra. 1999 is a year I will recast to help me move through the current transit re my relationship with my daughter.

    on another but equally important note for this transit, please have a look at this post which I just found this morning. I am telling all the bloggers I love about this:

  2. I do love your insights Christina, they are certainly revealing. Thank you once again for hitting the nail right on the head!, Yes, painful!. You wrote – “Venus is direct, but Mars is Rx. It’s as if when one of them is ready, the other runs away.” Of course at the moment Venus is retrograde – but that scenario exactly played out, much to my bitter disappointment – hadn’t seen that coming, I was so sure I would ride the crest of today’s sun-Venus conjunction in Capricorn. It has truly blown me off course in this pluto / Uranus struggle. Hoping there’s still hope, since these important, relationship blunders are truly damaging. Could there be a plus side to this years’ mars-venus’ hot-cold, on-off cha-cha-cha that doesn’t end in tragedy? Venus does look like she’s holding back a mountain of frustration. Is that a smile or the start of a grimace? I’m a Cappy sun with venus in the tenth natally so this has hit home.
    Love your posts

    • Christina says:

      I’m sorry to hear that Judith. Ouch. Actually, I don’t think this is necessarily a negative pattern. You know that with astrology so often things can work out either way depending on what has gone before. In short, I certainly feel there is a plus side. Whatever has happened now could be reversed when Mars goes retrograde. The main thing about this current set up, it seems to me, is that it’s not over til the fat lady sings. Don’t despair, Judith. I think a lot of patience needed.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I love the way you explain this painting. Mars really looks exhausted.
    But what is this device at the left fingertips of Mars, do you know Christina ?? I’m just curious, I don’t know what it is and does it have a meaning??


    • Anonymous says:

      just read the article you mentioned – I think mr. Bellingham could be very right ! Shows you,times never change ! They used drugs also in those ages.

      Very interesting how this painting can be read in different ways.


    • Christina says:

      Yes, I have been wondering about that too. It looks like a metal rod, maybe part of the armour that the little satyr is wearing, but what does it mean? It must be important.

      It also creates a frame that squares off that corner of the picture. So the satyr is a picture within a picture. There’s been a lot of discussion about the nature of the plant that the satyr is holding. This could be a thorn apple, a kind of hallucinogenic drug.

      Again Botticelli was a brilliant botanist – it’s obvious from Primavera – so any plant is there for a purpose. Here’s a link to a discussion of that:

      I believe that Botticelli meant his paintings to be multi-faceted, to stimulate imagination and conversation, and to have many layers of meaning and interpretation. So this is Venus and Mars, Simonetta and Giuliano, and maybe also Eve and Adam, just after the fall. The little satyrs are devilish for sure, and Venus’ usual companions are cupids. These little fellas are rather sinister.

  4. Jamma says:

    I find it interesting that Venus is not looking at Mars or the painter/viewer but off to the right … is she day-dreaming or perhaps gazing at another man? Maybe the landscape artist whom she’s hired to fix up her garden because she can never count on Mars to do anything but go to war or copulate? Actually, Mars looks almost dead … maybe Venus slipped him a mickey and the plant the satyr is holding is a soporific.
    But truly it’s a perfect depiction of Mars tamed in the sign of Libra!

  5. Jamma says:

    I wonder if Venus and Mars depicted real (live) people, contemporaries of Botticelli … a scandal at court?
    Could the satyrs depict the nature of Aries? They all seem playful, even the one in armor — does he think war is a game?… that look of self-satisfaction — maybe he’s reliving his victories.
    … the one hiding in helmet — headstrong? blind to his own faults?
    … the conch-blower — bombastic!
    … the one leering at Venus — lust! (I’ve seen that look — I was married to an Aries!) …
    Wonderful discussion, Christina … You should teach art appreciation!

    • Anonymous says:

      Amazing what you can read out of this picture – I think Mars has just used drugs and Venus has not – he fell asleep before performing his duties to her and now she is totally detached about the situation and just sits there, being very beautiful. The satyrs are aiming at Mars and playing out the wrong side of love (for druges ???).


    • Christina says:

      I’m sure the allusion to Simonetta and Giuliano would have been obvious to his contemporaries! It’s not certain they had an affair, though he had her portrait on his banner in a jousting match (also painted by Botticelli) a year before she died and she was called the most beautiful woman in Florence. Thousands of people turned out for her funeral when she died at the age of 22 (I think or maybe 23). They would have been the Brad and Angelina of their day except poignantly young and dead! How glamorous is that.

      I’m liking what you say about the satyrs. Yes, maybe they are each embodying an Arian quality.

  6. If that is the look of a post-coital Venus then Mars has lost his allure…There is a kind of sadness, nostalgia of something that was but is not anymore. And the devilish little satyrs seem her contorted thoughts coming to play in her mind.

    • Christina says:

      I’ve been thinking about this. You could see it that the satyrs are undressing him after he has been drugged so that when he wakes up he is disarmed. She certainly looks alert and as if she is waiting for him to wake up. But more as if she intends to interrogate him than ravish him.

      The satyrs could also represent the four senses: taste in the corner, hearing, sight, touch with the helmet on…

    • Christina says:

      That’s true. It’s more as if she has found him there, passed out, and she’s waiting for him to come round.

  7. Yes @Christina that is a very astute way of looking at the painting…The depiction of her thoughts through her senses…Nice one!