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About Mars Date Published: 4/01/2001 by Clarke Fountain
Bio: Clarke Fountain

Clarke Fountain has been studying astrology with varying levels of intensity since the 1960s, is a U.S. Navy veteran, and gave his first professional reading in 1977 in San Francisco. After years of doing every kind of job under the sun, he earned an M.A. in Buddhist Studies from the Naropa Institute (as it was then called) in 1989 and at that time became involved with aspects of publishing. Astrology has been one of the few consistent threads in his otherwise extremely varied life, and he is delighted to have the opportunity to serve the astrological community as the Editor for "Astro Talk Online Astrological Magazine."

In Astronomy

As one of the seven "original" planets, Mars has been known astronomically ever since humans began observing the heavens. Records of Chinese, ancient Middle Eastern and Central American observations of the "Red Planet" exist going back for thousands of years. Mayan observations of the conjunction cycle of Mars and Venus form the basis for their unusually accurate calendar.


It wasn't until 1610 that Galileo first saw the planet with more detail than is possible for the naked eye, using a very simple telescope. Fifty years later, astronomer Christian Huygens was able to see the planet in enough detail to determine its rotation period (day), which is only a few minutes longer than an earth day. Other features were observed by telescope as time went by, including the infamous "canals," which were later shown to be optical illusions - though this was not conclusively demonstrated until 1965, when a NASA spacecraft flew past the planet.

Mars, the fourth planet out from the Sun, is the most earthlike of any of the planets, and it would not take nearly as much for an astronaut visiting Mars to survive the experience as it would for one visiting Venus or Mercury. Mars has a very thin atmosphere composed mostly of carbon dioxide, not breathable by any standard, but enough to keep the dust particles afloat that lend the daytime sky a pinkish cast when observed from the ground. There is now considerable evidence that Mars once had liquid water flowing on its surface. According to the information obtained during the 1971 Mariner 9 orbit of Mars, the ice-caps are composed mostly of water ice.

At one time Mars also had active volcanoes. In fact, it has some of the largest volcano cones anywhere in the Solar system - about 16 miles in height. The planet is no longer geologically active, according to the evidence currently in hand. Instead, its crust and mantle are thought to be solid (rather than molten) rock. Some very particularly huge peaks and valleys are to be found on Mars, including a mountain (Olympus Mons) whose base is the size of the U.S. state of Missouri, and a valley over 3,000 miles long and 300 miles wide.

Earlier NASA photos of Mars showed features that some interpreted as deliberately made or constructed, and a whole new wave of speculation about life on Mars fed off that impression. Even sober investigators have concluded that there is reason to believe either that there still is very simple life on Mars, or that it once was there. The evidence? Chains of magnetite crystals found in an Antarctic meteorite, chains that so far are only known to be created in that form by living organisms.

Mars has two moons, puny things now believed to be captured asteroids, with the mythologically appropriate names of Phobos (fear) and Deimos ("rout" or "panic"). The Martian year is slightly under two of Earth's years ( it is 687 earth days in duration).

In Music, Film and Literature

Our nearest planetary neighbor has inspired a lot of storytelling. Countless science fiction stories and novels have been written with Mars as their locale. Trips to Mars are often used as a metaphor for space-faring itself. Ray Bradbury's "Martian Chronicles" is one collection of such stories that is still read. The prolific "classic-period" science fiction author Robert Heinlein wrote several novels using Mars as a theme or a setting, from the delightful juvenile novel "Have Spacesuit Will Travel" to his genre-busting "Stranger in a Strange Land." Well-regarded writers such as Greg Bear are still writing Mars-themed books.

No discussion of Mars in the popular imagination would be complete without mentioning H.G. Wells' early science-fiction novel about an invasion from Mars, "War of the Worlds," which was made into a radio drama by Orson Welles that was broadcast in 1938 without it being made sufficiently clear it was fictional. Appropriately enough, the story caused a panic among many listeners, especially those tuning in after the disclaimers given at the beginning of the broadcast. The H.G. Wells story was later made into a "first-run" movie starring Gene Barry.

Silly and serious films exploring Martian themes continue to be made at the time of this writing. Some recent ones include "The Red Planet," "Total Recall," and "Mars Attacks!" Films with a Mars theme go back as far to the days of the early Flash Gordon serials and before. The composer Gustav Holst wrote a suite of music called "The Planets," and for many the most recognizable selection from it is "Mars: The Red Planet." Selections from "The Planets" have been included in too many films to mention here, notably "2001: A Space Odyssey."

My ignorance on the subject of recent art history is too great to permit me to speculate on what might be significant works relating to Martian themes, which is why "art" was not included in the subtitle above. As commercial art increases in respectability, the prolific work of pulp magazine illustrators and paperback book cover designers may achieve wider critical appreciation, so that artists like Frazetta, et al., could be discussed under this heading.

In Western Astrology

Mars is considered to rule the sign of Aries and is the ancient ruler of Scorpio, which many now believe is ruled by Pluto. Anciently, Mars was known as "the lesser infortune" or "the lesser malefic" (Saturn was "the greater malefic"). The affairs of Mars had to do with the expression of warlike qualities and aggression, and while these were not always considered to be unnecessary, they were not considered to have basically "good" nature. In earlier astrological thought, in order to produce good results in a chart, Mars' qualities had to be counteracted in some way.

Modern astrologers have assigned somewhat different effects to the planet and are not so drastic in their interpretations. According to a more modern understanding, Mars has to do with how one approaches issues of survival - the energy one expends in that direction. Survival is tied into (among other things) sexuality, aggression and assertiveness - quite a few areas of life. The ability to initiate new projects is one of the more positive attributes of a strong Mars. Martian energies tend to be those that are given physical expression. The Gauquelin studies encouraged future researchers to consider that Mars is likely to be prominent in the charts of athletes, to give one well-known instance. Fear and panic are "fight or flight" survival responses, in addition to being reasonable English translations of the names of Mars' moons. "Adrenaline-junkies" such as stock car racers, etc., would seem likely to have a strong Mars configuration in their charts. When exploring how a client responds in a crisis situation, Mars would be the first planet and ruler whose situation one would look to.

In Vedic Astrology

Mars governs passion rather than affection, and along with Ketu is a lesser malefic. It has to do with the projection of force and will in life; its malefic quality comes from the ease with which this projection turns violent or destructive. Vitality and virility are factors under Mars' influence, as are tools and weapons. Names of Mars in Hindu lore include Ku-ja or Bhumi-ja (born of earth), and Skanda or Karttikeya. The planet is also known by the name Mangala. Mythologically, the planet is identified with the war god Karttikeya, son of Parvati and (in some legends) Siva. Other stories attribute the birth of Karttikeya to a union between the fire god Agni and Ganga, goddess of the Ganges River. Appropriately enough, of the three main qualities (sattvic, rajic or tamasic) Mars' quality is Tamasic and it is associated with the element of fire.

In Classical Myth and Legend

Mars is the Roman deity most closely resembling the Greek god Ares. Juno, with a little help from the goddess Flora, arranged to conceive and give birth to Mars in much the same way that Jupiter (Juno's spouse) had earlier given birth to Minerva (from his head). Mars was supposed to have fathered Romulus and Remus, the twin founders of Rome, and was consequently said to favor Rome when the chips were really down.

The Greek god Ares was rarely worshipped and had no major "cults" associated with him for his qualities were repulsive to most, though he was worshipped (it is said) by the war-loving Thracians. He was an immensely vain individual whose main love was pure mayhem. Whenever he heard war horns sounding, he would wade into the thick of the fray, the bloodiest part of the battle, laying about with complete impartiality. He didn't care who won as long as the conflict was loud, painful, bloody and intense. Ares was the son of Zeus and Hera. His consort was Aphrodite, commonly called the goddess of love. He went into battle accompanied by his sister Eris (goddess of strife) and minor deities like Deimos and Phobos, as well as Enyo (an old war goddess). Whenever he was wounded, he would come back to his father Zeus to be healed.

Symbolic Associations [Liber 777]

The Path of Geburah (#5) is the Sphere of Mars on the Tree of Life, and is located on the Pillar of Severity. In the Sepher Yetzirah, Mars has the name "Radical Intelligence," and the planet is associated with all the Tarot suit cards bearing the number five. The Egyptian gods Horus and Nephthys are associated with Mars, as is the Greek god Hades. The animal association is the Basilisk, a mythological creature whose stare could turn one into stone. [In colorful speech, one sometimes refers to someone having a particularly stern and baleful expression as having "a basilisk stare." If looks could kill…"] The laurel tree is considered sacred to Mars, as are the oak, nux vomica and nettle. The ruby is the stone associated with the planet, and its magical weapons are swords spears and scourges, its "scent" is tobacco, and its magical "drugs" are nux vomica and nettle, and its magical power is "The Vision of Power."

On Path 27, the color scarlet is considered particularly Martian (King Scale), as are many kinds of red; the path's animals are the horse, bear and wolf; its perfumes are pepper and dragon's blood (an herbal resin occasionaly found in church incense mixtures). On that path, Mars' magical power is "Works of Wrath and Vengeance."

Mars Astronomical Data


Distance from Sun(approx.) 141,600,000 miles (1.52 A.U.)
Diameter at Equator4,217 miles (6,795 km)
Mass (Earth = 1)0.11 (or .64185 x 1024 kg)
Mean Density (water = 1)3.95
Angle/inclination of Orbit1.850
Tropical Orbit (days)686.973 (approx. 1 yr. 322 days)
Length of day (hours)24.6597
Obliquity to Orbit (“tilt”)25.19 (compare this with earth’s 23.45 degrees)
Number of Rings0
Number of Moons2



Moons of Neptune

NameDate DiscoveredDiscovered byDistance (000 km)Mass (1015 kg)Radius (km)
Phobos1877Asaph Hall937810.620 x 23 x 28
Deimos1877Asaph Hall234594.210 x 12 x 16



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Other articles by Clarke Fountain

Fountain, ClarkeNewspaper Horoscopes, Sun-Sign Guides, and Pure Bunkum

Fountain, ClarkeSymptoms of Virgo

Fountain, ClarkeInterview with Gloria Star

Fountain, ClarkeInterview with Linda C. Black

Fountain, ClarkeInterview with Ray Merriman

Fountain, ClarkeShantam Zohar Interview

Fountain, ClarkeInterview With Trish MacGregor - Part I

Fountain, ClarkeInterview With Trish MacGregor - Part II

Fountain, ClarkeGetting The Most from Your Computerized Astrology Program

Fountain, ClarkePluto Statistics

Fountain, ClarkeThe Encyclopedic Chiron

Fountain, ClarkeQuestion: Who Are Your Astrological Heroes?

Fountain, ClarkeAbout Jupiter

Fountain, ClarkeAbout Saturn

Fountain, ClarkeAbout Uranus

Fountain, ClarkeAbout Mars

Fountain, ClarkeAbout Venus

Fountain, ClarkeInterview with Steven Forrest and Jeffrey Wolf Green



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