In 1947, a reputed astrologer named C.E.O. Carter wrote a compact book titled “Essays on the Foundation of Astrology”, packing it with a great deal of insight. In this post I want to highlight his particularly unusual takes on the functioning of Mercury, Venus, and Mars.
It is true that a well-placed Mercury points to a quick brain, ready self-expression, fluency and mental agility, but it is a matter of expression of intelligence rather than intelligence itself. Very learned persons may have Mercury by no means particularly well placed, as for example Einstein (Mercury in close conjunction with Saturn, in Aries, otherwise no strong contacts).
There is emphasis here that Mercury is not about intelligence but the expression of intelligence. As an aside, Carter’s definition of a “well-placed” planet here appears to be a function of how many aspects it forms to other planets. I am not sure if I would agree with the term “well-placed” for such a strongly networked planet–modern astrologers (especially those who are psychologically oriented) might say that such a planet is strongly integrated into the psyche of the individual (steering away from the value-judgmental feel of “well-placed”), so its expression can find a distinct form in everyday life, colored by the qualities of the planets it aspects. For example, Carter says this a couple of paragraphs down:
Saturn is steady and often profound, so in Einstein’s chart the close conjunction of Mercury with Saturn could indicate a profound expression of intelligence.
So the contact of Mercury with Saturn colors it with Saturn’s gravitas, and its expression turns profound.
Contrast such a networked planet with an unaspected planet, one that makes no major aspect (conjunction, opposition, square, trine, sextile) with any other planet. Such a planet is left to its own devices, is not properly integrated into the psyche, and finds uneven expression.
Repeatedly we see in astrology that planets are neither benefic or malefic; it is a question of their being good in their own fields but useless or troublesome in others. This fact can be applied very deliberately in everyday life, and each planetary value can be cultivated so that it is ready to be used when the appropriate circumstances confront us.
Here Carter is taking a modern stance in saying that planets are neither benefic or malefic, good or bad in themselves. Planets express energies, and it is up to the individual to figure out how best to apply them. In other words, there is that central “I”, a conscious being that says “I will use this energy with full awareness of its force and its consequence.”
Carter precedes the above quoted words by saying that Venus becomes powerless when others will not collaborate, because the
self-expression of Venus works hand-in-hand with that of others and operates through them
In order to win helpmates, she will often become an appeaser and compromise her principles, or evince other signs of moral weakness.
These are insights into Venus that are not necessarily brand new but are made powerful (a) by their very presence in a collection that is sparse (and therefore accorded high importance), and (b) by how clearly they are stated.
The last quote in particular is a stand-out: moral weakness seen as a tendency to sacrifice principle for expediency in relationships is clearly laid at the feet of Venus, without any qualification that it is because of this or that aspect to some other planet.
Mars is said to rule the animal kingdom and the passions and appetites in man… Mars rules the signs of Aries–fire and Scorpio–water. It is possible that the more mysterious side of Scorpio is to be related rather to Pluto.
The book’s publication in 1947 was just a few years after Pluto’s discovery. Before Pluto, Mars ruled Scorpio without qualification. Now, most astrologers use Pluto as the exclusive ruler of Scorpio, so Mars is left to rule just Aries. However, I agree with Carter that Mars and Pluto co-rule Scorpio: the passionate side of Scorpio is Mars-ruled, while the mystery, intrigue, and fears of Scorpio is in the domain of Pluto.
Sexual life is often placed under this planet, partly because of his general affinity with our animal nature and partly because of the rulership over Scorpio, which in turn relates to the generative organs. Probably this is partly correct… Sexual activity in its pleasurable and also its progenitive aspect comes under the Sun. Possibly the sexual act per se, apart from biological or social accompaniments, is Martian.
This is a finely drawn distinction that is worth mulling over. For instance, Mars in the 5th house (natural house of Leo ruled by the Sun) would incline it to find pleasure in sex, or pursue sex for pleasure, and if the Mars were in Aries the sex would tend to be rough and quick.
Though essentially a non-mental planet, Mars in common signs or cadent houses has a strong effect upon the mind, and this is very true of its sextile aspects. Especially in the negative mutables it inclines to studies of an abstruse and arcane kind, whereas in positives it turns the mind to more open and usual pursuits, making it aggressive, disputative, and dogmatic, quick and incisive.
This is a unique and surprising take on Mars, that it has such an effect upon the mind. I haven’t come across this particular perspective in any modern astrological writing or school of thought. “Common signs” is traditional usage for the mutable signs of Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces. Of these, Gemini and Sagittarius are the “positive” mutables, while Virgo and Sagittarius are the “negative” mutables. This categorization comes about from assigning alternating signs as positive and negative starting with Aries being positive.
Astrologer Noel Tyl has called Mars in Sagittarius as being “opinionated”, which jells with Carter’s take on Mars’s effect on the mind, and Mars in positive mutables as being aggressive.
Cadent houses are the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th – these are the last of the houses in each quadrant of the horoscope wheel. Astrologer Dane Rudhyar’s horoscope shows Mars in the cadent 6th house, in the positive mutable sign of Gemini. His writings were particularly opaque, highly abstract and hard to understand. Astrology may be seen as an arcane study, but even within astrology, Rudhyar’s work was about as arcane as it could get. But he was quite assertive in his work, unafraid to repeatedly put forth views that weren’t immediately relatable.
Next up is definitely a contrarian opinion about the connection of Mars and Venus to war, but when you read Carter’s explanation, it makes a good bit of sense:
Traditionally Mars is the planet of war, but, as with sex, this problem is not so quickly disposed of… This may be explained thus. Mars is a disputative, and, under distortion, a quarrelsome planet. But modern wars are seldom of this character. In medieval times they may often have arisen as the result of personal feuds and enmities between magnates, but nowadays they are more often planned by the assailant in a quite un-Martian spirit; they are coldly and deliberately undertaken as expressions of the will to power pure and simple, or of power as embodied in possessions.
Venus at War
Now the will to power is no simple phenomenon… it may be suggested that in any consideration of the question, Taurus, the negative sign of Venus, should be given much attention. The second house does not only denote one’s financial strength; it has a relation to one’s moral and physical resources and stamina. Taurus is a great exerciser of power; it is acknowledged to be the sign of the policeman and your Taurean parent rules his household kindly perhaps but certainly firmly…Here is then perhaps one reason why Venus enters so largely in modern war-maps… Again, it takes two to quarrel and the simplest form of warfare–the duel–is obviously a matter of personal relationships and to that extent Venusian. It is so common to find military commanders with the Sun in Libra that it is strange that few astrologers have noticed the fact.
For instance, General Dwight Eisenhower had the Sun in Libra.
Mars, Not So Much
Mars, it is suggested wishes to have and go its own way. It fights only when others attempt to check or baffle its effort to express itself, but it does not seek battles. It is not interested in other people and would prefer to ignore them… His failing does not lie in his seeking a fight, but in his inability, when thwarted, to deal with the situation in any other way but violence.
These last insights into Venus and Mars are particularly striking for their reasoning, and are well worth remembering when analyzing a person’s tendency for provoking conflicts. Such provocation is Venusian, while the actual fight that might result is Martian.