Hapi, Egyptian deity of the inundation of the Nile
Myths of the Aquarius Constellation
I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Gary Caton on the Hermetic Astrology Podcast exploring various myths associated with the Aquarius constellation. For the most part we focused upon Ganymede in Greek culture, Enki in Mesopotamian culture, and Hapi in Egyptian culture, as well as the ancient association of a cataclysmic Great Flood with Aquarius. We also talk about some of the ideas linked to C.G. Jung’s conception of the Age of Aquarius, and how his idea of the union of opposites can also be connected to the mythology of Aquarius. I experienced a greater opening in understanding Aquarius through researching these myths and my conversation with Gary, and hope that you do too! If you haven’t listened to Gary’s Hermetic Astrology Podcast before, I recommend checking it out. Click here to listen.
Enki, second on the right with water flowing from shoulders, has ancient associations with the Aquarius constellation and its watery section of the night sky
“Just as all people have shadows, every society and nation, too, has shadows. If there are bright, shining aspects, there will definitely be a counterbalancing dark side.
“At times, we tend to avert our eyes from the shadow, those negative parts, or else, try to forcibly eliminate those aspects. No matter how high a wall we build to keep intruders out, no matter how strictly we exclude outsiders, no matter how much we rewrite history to suit us, we just end up damaging and hurting ourselves . . . You have to patiently learn to live together with your shadow and carefully observe the darkness that resides within you.”
— Haruki Murakami, novelist with Mars in Aquarius, in speech given after receiving the Hans Christian Andersen literature award
Born with Mars in Aquarius conjoining Mercury, author Haruki Murakami recently gave voice in an award ceremony to the dire need in these collective times to live with and explore one’s inner shadow. Mars in Aquarius has an ability to gain objective clarity regarding inner desires perhaps more so than any other placement for the red planet, bringing greater awareness of our shadow, or whatever aspects of our psyche our persona has cast off from consciousness. In evolutionary astrology, Jeff Green viewed the archetype of Aquarius as having the evolutionary intention of objectifying the nature of reality at any level one focuses upon through detaching from one’s subjective emotional reality. This doesn’t mean detached dissociation, but rather that Mars in Aquarius can penetrate into the nature and structure of any dynamic and gain understanding of how to catalyze necessary growth. Here, growth is separated from consensus, mainstream, culturally conditioned influences, and is rather rooted in the ineffable realm of soul.
When we think of Mars in astrology, the consensus mindset does not picture Aquarius, and yet there is a singular quality of Mars we can value and learn from in the sign of the Water Bearer. Aquarius is not known as a natural place for Mars through the essential dignity of traditional astrology, as Mars only has dignity in its Egyptian bounds between 20 and 25 degrees. This gives Mars the feel of an outsider in Aquarius, and a unique environment for Mars to operate within that brings a martial force like nowhere else. Mars in Aries and Scorpio are known as strong placements for Mars where the red planet can be its plain self, pure and simple. Mars can also be fierce, hot, courageous, and protective in Aquarius, yet also has a strange mix of objectivity, humanitarianism, experimentation, and determination we do not quite find in any other sign.
Aquarius is hot and moist in temperament in traditional astrology, meaning it disperses outwardly and seeks cohesion, has flexibility and strong capabilities in mutating. The fixed nature of Aquarius brings greater persistence and perseverance to Mars than it finds in the other Air signs, and so Mars may be slower to get going at the outset in Aquarius but can sustain itself over long periods of time and resiliently foster stability in the work it directs itself into. Since Saturn is the traditional ruler of Aquarius, Mars in Aquarius is able to set itself apart from mainstream thought and mutate in accordance with thinking, writing, philosophy, the arts and sciences, and other expressions of consciousness with kindred spirits of soulfulness.
While Aquarius is the outwardly directed home of Saturn in traditional astrology, many forms of modern astrology consider Uranus to be its ruler. In evolutionary astrology, Jeff Green wrote that Mars in Aquarius “reflects an instinct to experiment with different ways of being,” desires “to create an essential courage in other people to break free from the status quo,” and unpredictably “desires progressive transformation leading to an ever-increasing realization and definition of its individuality.” However, whether you use Saturn or Uranus as the ruler of Aquarius, in both systems Mars in Aquarius holds the desire of the Water Bearer to carry and share the enlivening water of consciousness that will nourish humanitarian impulses to cast off oppressive conditioning, opening desire to the alchemy bridging one’s heart and inner mind.
Ganymede by Michelangelo
Eagles resonate with Mars in Aquarius in part because of their capacity to soar beyond barriers with focused and penetrating vision, matching the loyal, persistent, persevering, and stabilizing qualities Mars can discover in a Fixed Air sign. Eagles like Mars in Aquarius also value interdependence in relationship, as the eagle’s nest is a home in which both partners pull equal weight while having the freedom to independently take action within committed bonds of relationship. The eagle is also a crucial figure in the myth of Ganymede associated with Aquarius. Ganymede to some sources is the Water Bearer of the sign of Aquarius, a beautiful young man with whom Zeus was so enamored that he swooped down in the form of an eagle in order to seize for his own. In contrast to the myth of Persephone in which Hades pulls the goddess into the underworld, in the myth of Ganymede the coveted youth is pulled upward with ascension into the heavens.
Zeus gives Ganymede the role of cup bearer, the one who serves the nectar that keeps the gods and goddesses immortal, until Hera’s complaints lead to Ganymede being placed in the stars as the constellation of Aquarius. Among other meanings, since ancient times this myth has been seen as representing the phenomenon of Spirit ascending from the body. Astrologer Jason Holley presented material on the Ganymede myth in relation to the polarity between Aquarius and Leo at the 2015 Northwest Astrological Conference (NORWAC). His talk “Aquarius/Leo – The Journey from Fragmentation to Wholeness” explored themes associated with the myth of Ganymedes such as the split between innocence and experience, the split between the ordinary and the extraordinary, and disruptions of psycho-spiritual development that can occur as a result. In terms of bringing Aquarius into greater wholeness, Holley stressed the importance of activating the polarity of Leo to create a growth cycle of rupture and repair.
To Holley, the stable system of self brought into coherence by Leo becomes decentered by triggering material associated with Aquarius and Uranus that activates the nonlinear field of multiplicity and leads to either: (1) achieving the challenge of expressing and integrating the new insights into self, expanding our self-concept while we continue to embody our self-identity, or (2) a shattering or splitting off from our psyche parts of our self that we feel like our environment and culture are not receptive to us embodying and integrating fully into our self-concept. If we experience the second path of feeling so ruptured that we can not embody our new sense of consciousness, we can experience difficulty experiencing full connection with others. Along these lines we can feel great anger at the world for not accepting us, and engage in patterns of avoidance and escape. However, if we are instead able to integrate and embody how we feel different from the surrounding consensus, we can re-enter the world with an openness to possibility that leads to fulfilling experiences that expand beyond the norms of consensus reality. The task for Mars in Aquarius is to integrate and embody its far-flung and extraordinary insights into its mundane, ordinary life and relationships with full presence.
Aquarius by Johra Bosschart
“If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg. Why? Because each of us is an egg, a unique soul enclosed in a fragile egg. Each of us is confronting a high wall. The high wall is the system which forces us to do the things we would not ordinarily see fit to do as individuals.
“We have no hope against the wall: it’s too high, too dark, too cold. To fight the wall, we must join our souls together for warmth, strength. We must not let the system control us – create who we are. It is we who created the system.”
–Haruki Murakami, novelist with Mars in Aquarius
Haruki Murakami is as a perfect example of a writer with Mars in Aquarius who has created fictional worlds illuminating the complex undercurrents of individuals within the collective, drawing upon influences from writers of many diverse cultures. In his personal life he has enjoyed marathon running befitting the fixed nature of Aquarius, and his creative output took time to development yet has been sustained at a deep level for a long period of time. Murakami has described a crucial shift in his work from being “detached” to being “committed,” moving from early worked focused upon individual darkness to the darkness found in the collective society.
As I searched for other examples of celebrities with Mars in Aquarius in preparation for this article, time and time again I was struck by the unorthodox, powerful, martial force of each individual. It is a mistake to take the fact Mars is an outsider in Aquarius with no essential dignity to mean that Mars here will struggle to manifest desire; in fact, it could be argued that the unique atmosphere of Aquarius brings out an important aspect of Mars we cannot find anywhere else. For example, is it really that strange that the individual many associate most with the idea of a masculine genius, Leonardo da Vinci, was born with Mars in Aquarius? In addition to the visionary da Vinci, the individual who forever altered our conception of our solar system, Nicolaus Copernicus, was also born with Mars in Aquarius.
In terms of creative output, one of the most ideal manifestations of Mars in Aquarius is the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who was also born with Saturn and the Moon in Aquarius. Rilke resiliently worked hard on his writing over long periods of time, being willing to go into isolation in order to contain his lucid insights within word choice and rhythm that expands the consciousness of anyone who reads his work. Rilke not only travelled extensively beyond his native land to find his muse, he drew upon diverse mythic and spiritual influences in order to weave a unique tapestry of meaning that continues to bring sustenance and comfort to individuals within modern culture. Rilke also lived in a time before the internet, yet sustained numerous intense, intimate relationships through letter writing all around the world. This speaks to the capacity of Mars in Aquarius to transmit eros across all barriers of time and space, tuning into the frequency and vibration of resonant souls at great distances.
There are numerous other consciousness expanding individuals born with Mars in Aquarius, such as George Gurdjieff and numerous groundbreaking psychologists able to objectify human nature such as James Hillman, Rollo May, Alfred Adler, and Carl Rogers. James Hillman in particular is a strong example of the passion and heated intensity that Mars in Aquarius can bring to philosophical discourse and abstract conceptualization. Individuals with Mars in Aquarius sense the underlying importance of the philosophical worldview one embodies and its impact upon humanity, the natural world, and our world soul, and are willing to fight about it intellectually.
Among current famous figures, one of the most striking examples of Mars in Aquarius is Michelle Obama, the current First Lady of the United States of America. Michelle Obama has an energy that lights up a room with clear energetic bravado that also emits a friendliness that has made her an extremely popular figure. Michelle Obama is also known to become passionate about social justice causes, and at key points has delivered speeches addressed at uplifting women, racial minorities, and others facing oppression in modern culture. During the most recent presidential election her mantra of “they go low, we go high” that became so widely quoted is also fitting for the nature of Mars in Aquarius.
Hip Hop culture contains numerous famous figures with Mars in Aquarius that displays the distinct and unusual energy found in the signature: Tupac Shakur, Missy Elliot, will.i.am, Jay-Z, and Snoop Dogg all have Mars in Aquarius. One of Tupac Shakur’s most famous songs, “Keep Ya Head Up,” is a perfect Mars in Aquarius anthem that ingeniously deconstructs the misogyny and racism of culture through the purposely designed aesthetic of infectious pop music. Shakur’s lyrics are absolutely brilliant and his delivery smooth, every single word penetrating further into the complex dynamics of cultural oppression and their impact on the individual:
Actors with Mars in Aquarius possess a masculinity difficult to describe and uniquely their own, such as Gary Oldman and Adrien Brody. Cary Grant created an otherworldly acting persona that seemed as natural playing an Angel in The Bishop’s Wife as when he was playing human beings. Other actors and actresses with Mars in Aquarius include Ian McKellen, Winona Ryder, Scarlet Johansen, Jane Fonda, Jamie Foxx, Emma Watson, Lauren Bacall, Christopher Walken, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Justin Theroux, and Mae West. There is a clear erotic quality involved in all of these individuals that also involves an intelligent edge of sharpness. Two former musical stars turned successful actors, Mark Wahlberg and Justin Timberlake, also project a masculine star power that is idiosyncratic and makes them continue to remain singular, compelling personalities within popular culture.
In sports, it is quite compelling that perhaps the greatest boxer of all time, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., was born with Mars in Aquarius as well as one of the greatest figure skaters Kristi Yamaguchi who also cooly destroyed all competition. An interesting sport that contains numerous all-time greats with Mars in Aquarius is tennis, which combines the fitting attributes of stamina while attacking with abstract strategizing: Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl, and Stefan Edberg all were born with Mars in Aquarius.
In the realm of film, directors with Mars in Aquarius fittingly have brought some of the most distinctly avant garde expression and experimentation to cinema: Sofia Coppola, Francois Truffaut, Lars Von Trier, Ridley Scott, Joel Coen, Luis Bunuel, David Cronenberg, and Ang Lee were all born with Mars in Aquarius. In comedy, we again find a list of some of the most unorthodox talents such as John Cleese, Andy Kauffman, Chris Farley, Eddie Ezzard, and Eric Idle. Writers with Mars in Aquarius include Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Kurt Vonnegut, Tennessee Williams, Victor Hugo, David Foster Wallace, Thomas Merton, and William Wordsworth. There is also famous children’s television personality Fred Rogers, whose role as Mr. Rogers and once again, incredibly unique expression, nurtured the development of countless childhoods.
Two current figures that illuminate not only the visionary, future-oriented qualities of Mars in Aquarius but also its shadow of becoming overly fixated upon a philosophical worldview at all costs are Julian Assange and Elon Musk. In both of these individuals we find the capacity of Mars in Aquarius to work at the leading edge of technology and push the envelope with driving force aimed with future-oriented vision. Yet at the same time, both individuals possess a hubris that has led to public downfalls at times due to an unwillingness to make compromises or let go of their fixation upon their belief in what they are doing is serving a purpose for the greater good.
Astrologer Jeffrey Wolf Green has written that Mars in Aquarius “will gradually create an entire lifestyle reflective of its instinctual feeling of uniqueness,” and this same capacity held by natives with Mars in Aquarius may be seized by all of us when Mars transits through Aquarius. Not only can we take steps to creatively actualize our inherently unique gifts while Mars is in Aquarius, we can also encourage others to express their distinctive inner qualities that defy societal norms and conventions. Currently the transit of Mars in Aquarius is forming numerous harmonious aspects: a trine to Jupiter in Libra, sextile to Mercury and Saturn in Sagittarius, and a sextile with Uranus in Aries. There is no time like the present to not only express your essential gifts within the world but also to band together with others of shared passion in order to create positive shifts within systematic structures of our global collective.