In high school, I was a complete and utter coward. Overweight, brainy, too sensitive for my own good, I was a scared and vulnerable creature. Naturally, bullies lined up to take their shots. Physical education class in particular was a nightmare. One such class set the stage for what I remember as one of my bravest moments.
We were playing volleyball that day, and — not to put too fine a point on it — I sucked. Observing me in action as I shielded my head in terror to avoid getting hit by the ball was surely either excruciating or hilarious, depending on your level of compassion. The captain of our team noted my lack of coordination with frank disdain, maintaining a running commentary of insults and wisecracks loudly enough so that I (and everyone else) would be sure to hear them. Finally, completely fed up and with nothing to lose, I stopped the action by walking up to her and hissing: “If you have a problem with me, then talk to me about it. Otherwise, shut up.” Then I turned and walked, shaking with adrenaline, into the locker room.
I was still trembling when I came to class the next day. My heart was in my throat as my tormentor walked up to me, gave me a long, appraising look – and began chatting to me as though we were old friends. The rest of the semester was a snap.
It was a small victory, but many years later, I remember it vividly, even fondly. Courage is what was needed — simple, old-fashioned, garden variety spunk — and I didn’t think I had it in me. But that final indignity finally pushed me over the precipice of good manners, and righteous anger took the reigns!
In astrology, Aries and its ruling planet, Mars, symbolize the people and situations that excite our fear or anger. Even those of us who are fortunate enough to lead relatively protected lives still find ourselves in situations — at work, in relationship, or even on the volleyball court — that require us to draw upon primal reserves of self-preservation and courage. It’s not always easy to access these impulses, though; they are mostly overridden by the polite, well-mannered Libran behavioral guidelines instilled in us from childhood by conscientious parents. And speaking as a member of society, I must say that’s generally a very good thing indeed. But it’s also a reality that the world can be unkind, and a good relationship with warrior energy is necessary for survival, confidence, and self-respect.
When a rude driver cuts me off in traffic, or the 20-something behind the counter at my neighborhood cafe serves up attitude with my espresso, the old fight-or-flight response kicks up, right on cue. Yet even at middle age, armed with the experience and confidence of my years, I don’t always stand up for myself; the clever rejoinder occurs to me too late to be any help, or I’m intimidated by the power of my own temper, or cowed by the pressure to “make nice.” And each time I back down, I feel a little more afraid, and like myself a little less. I’m not a little kid anymore; who will take care of me if I don’t take care of myself?
I am not alone in my fear. We’re all afraid of something, and most of us are afraid of many things. Fear can be a true friend, warning us of danger or potential injury. But just like other friends, such as food or sex, fear can become the enemy if it comes to dominate rather than defend us.
And so, too, can anger and cruelty, Aries’ shadow side, if our Mars impulses are allowed to run roughshod over the rights and feelings of others. The bully who tormented me on the playground is just one example; the guy in the Hummer who was tailgating me on the freeway yesterday is another. Being a good steward of Aries and Mars energy relies on the balancing civility of Libra – the good manners learned at our mothers’ knees, and the good judgment to know which battles need to be fought and which are better handled with gentler tactics.
How do you defend yourself when you feel threatened? Do you punch your enemy right in the kisser (Mars in Aries)? Do you kill him with kindness (Mars in Pisces) or annihilate him with a devastating verbal attack (Mars in Gemini)? Most of us could stand to improve our relationship with our inner warrior and learn to handle his energy with more finesse. But this Full Moon in Aries is a fitting moment to pay homage to Mars’ fierce spirit of protectiveness and bravery. You, too, have memories to savor, stories of courage and pluck when you stood up for yourself or defended others. Look in the mirror at this Full Moon, bow to your warrior self, and give thanks for your brave, Aries heart. The world can sometimes be harsh for gentle people; isn’t it good to know you’ve got a warrior looking out for you?
© April Elliott Kent
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