Today the Sun enters Aries, heralding the Spring Equinox in the western hemisphere. Meditating upon this turn of the symbolic wheel, I was drawn to an image I particularly adore.
Aries is ruled by Mars, the god of war-lust and belligerence, who personifies the archetypal principles of action, ambition, drive and will power. The qualities of an Aries consciousness include impulsivity, rushing forth into things (hastily), enthusiasm and life-zest. Also, aggression and rebellion.
This web of qualities is connected to the archetypal nature of beginnings. Aries marks the spring point in the zodiac where new life emerges from the primal sea of being (Pisces and the 12th house). New life of any form needs fierce energy to burst forth and break through. Chicks pecking their way out of shells, tender shoots pushing up from beneath fecund soil exemplify this moment. So Aries, the fierce ram, rushes in supplying the necessary energy to ensure the new emerges.
But like all things in life, the Mars energy, so exquisitely expressed in Aries, has a lot of room to mature. Mars in its raw expression is force for the sake of action. A more sophisticated Martial energy can be found in Athena, who the Romans renamed Minerva.
This is what I understand this fresco depicting. Athena, the goddess for whom action is taken when it ensures victory. She is a war goddess, not because she loves the brutality and rush of the fight, but because battles require strategy.
Athena personifies the clear sighted action necessary for strategic thinking. She is the shrewd calculator of possibilities. You have to have a cool head and clear vision. So it is no wonder that Athena’s Homeric epithet was Glaukopis meaning bright eyes. Her animal familiar the owl likewise has large eyes and an intelligent countenance that connotes clarity of perception.
Athena’s triumph is the “Perfection in the living present, untrammelled and victorious action, not in the service of some remote and infinite idea but for mastery of the moment”[i].
Mastery of the moment is the genius of a refined Mars. This is what the fresco seems to be revealing. Athena’s earthy-red cape flutters as she hovers on the back of Aries Ram. Despite his leaping vigor, she is calm and her posture is serenely attentive. Unhurried and without agitation, Athena rides this instinctive force of life with ease. Her finely wrought hands suggest mastery and precision. A golden sun shines below.
Mars’ current transit through Capricorn amplifies these Athenian themes. Key phrases that come to mind are strategic action, the cultivation of strong foundations, and acting deliberately rather than impulsively. There is also the Renaissance maxim festina lente, make haste slowly.
Imagining Athena within the astrological Mars brings forth brilliant, clever, and strategic capacities. She who, “is the spirited immediacy, redeeming spiritual presence, swift action”[ii] gives us a feminine face to this part of our nature.
What is it you want to accomplish at this time? What are the deliberate actions you need to take to get there? These are the sorts of questions that pay homage to Athenian consciousness and the current transit of Mars in Capricorn. Clarity, shrewd perception, measured steps and patience – this is Athena’s triumph over Aries.
May these images open up some imaginal possibilities as you begin again, entering this new zodiacal year with a spirited and well measured leap.
PS: If you want to explore more about Athena, check out the newest translation of The Odyssey by Emily Wilson, whose lucid language is wonder-full. Athena is everywhere.
[i] Walter Otto, The Homeric Gods, 55
[ii] Ibid, 60