Martial Law

images-1The USA is aflame with Mars. News of explosions in Boston, Texas and Oklahoma are buzzing through the airwaves. Clips of blood-spattered victims from the marathon on Monday are playing on millions of television screens in an endless loop.

At this writing bomb squads in Boston are searching house-to-house, and citizens are being told to stay inside. I don’t know if the authorities there are calling it martial law, but astrologically that’s what this is.

The professional warriors are out full force on city streets, weapons drawn. The ersatz warriors of the NRA, in living rooms across the country, are cheering on their senators as the latest attempt at gun control submits to defeat. On Wednesday the 17th, the day the vote was cast, Mars and the Sun were conjunct to the minute of arc.

Spring Chart

Transit trackers were well aware that Mars (warriors, armaments) would be a major player this spring. Its signature was stamped on the chart of the Equinox, triggering the square between Uranus (explosions) and Pluto (destruction), discussed last month in Arms of Fire.

By mid-April the Sun and Mars had moved into conjunction. As this week began Mercury had just ingressed into Aries, the sign Mars rules (for background on the ignition effect of the Aries Point, see my lecture).


TV viewers are now watching swat-team-like personnel (are they police? soldiers? special-ops? The linesSwat between these categories seem to have blurred since I was a kid, back when the going stereotype was a friendly Irish flatfoot, like the cop in Make Way for Ducklings), being deployed round the clock, with what look like small missile defense systems hanging off their belts. I don’t know what they’re being paid, but they are making quite a showing for a country so broke that entire towns are going bankrupt.

With their space-suit-like uniforms and their cutting-edge technology, these fellows are part of a brave new world of soldiery collectively known as “security” forces. But when I see a squadron of them swarming out of a tank or helicopter, “secure” is not the word that  comes to mind.


The fact that little is known yet about the Boston bombers – except that one has probably been killed – is not keeping news programmers from playing over and over again whatever random factoids and video clips they have at their disposal.

There is something more going on here than is conveyed by the good-guys-vs.-bad-guys narrative. It revolves around the concept of terror, as opposed to “terror”. The first usage denotes the straight-up human feeling. The second usage, in quotation marks to distance ourselves from buying into it, is a propaganda concept. It was designed to serve both a policy-making function, e.g. justifying torture and extrajudicial assassination, and a psychological function: to foment fear.

imagesTerrorism is a relatively new coinage, but its root and driving juice are as old as time. In Greek mythology, Deimos (terror) was a son of Ares (i.e. Mars, the war god). Astronomers have given his name to one of Mars’s moons.

The modern picture of terror is a bomber’s rucksack full of sudden death, designed not just to destroy people, but to make those who survive afraid. The second part succeeds especially well these days because of echo-chamber media reportage, which exaggerates and dramatizes the fear, spreading it for miles beyond its point of origin. The original violence thus generates echoes of itself, far and wide, like the aural concentric circles of an air raid siren.

Neptune was setting on the Western horizon when the first marathon bomb went off (April 15th, 2:49 pm EDT). This put the planet of free-floating anxiety, fantasies and paranoia exactly on the Descendant.

A sentence from Dune, remembered from the 7th grade, has been coming back to me this week: “Fear is the mind-killer.”


Neptune is about the irrational workings of the human mind, which in its low-level expression takes leave of fact and dives head-first into illusion without knowing it has done so. When un-integrated, it makes us ideal hypnotic subjects.

Consider the endlessly repeated videos of those planes hitting the towers on 9/11, inducing in stunned viewers a sense of the trauma being reenacted again and again, a re-stabbing of the open wound. It should not surprise us that, thus psychologically primed, many Americans fully expected that highjacked airplanes would thereafter be a regular occurrence. Little wonder that so many of us submitted immediately and pliantly to rules we’d have judged preposterous before — like taking off our shoes in a crowded line at the airport — and to legal and military monstrosities to which our intelligence and sense of decency would never otherwise have consented, like The “Patriot” Act and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are better ways to use the image-making capacity of the mind (Neptune), and better ways to use the ferocious courage of Mars. Where will we invest our energy in the weeks ahead?