The circle with an arrow positioned
diagonally upwards is one of the most common
ideograms in our Western culture. It stands for the planet
Mars, which in ancient
Greece was drawn . In Greece, the planet and god
were known as Ares. In
the Roman Empire, however,
Ares became Mars.
Quite early a relation arose between this sign and the metal for weapons, iron.
For those who know where to look the planet Mars can be observed as a reddish star in the zodiac. Space probes from the earth have shown that Mars is a stone desert, its atmosphere being very thin. No life, in earthly terms, has been found, but from the space probe Viking in 1976 photographs were taken showing three pyramids, each of roughly three times the size of the Cheops pyramid in Egypt. Two of them lay in ruins.
The planet Venus, , was in earlier times associated with fertility, war, sex, beauty and serenity. This was true for nearly all known ancient cultures around the Mediterranean. But from about 2400 B.C. until 250 B.C. the worship of the Venus goddesses was gradually replaced by the worship of the masculine Mars divinity. Mars is the ruler of Aries, the sign of the Ram. As stated in the section on esoterical astrology in the Appendices the mythology of, for instance, ancient Egypt changed in the middle of the third millennium B.C. to give sculptured rams a dominant place in temples.
In astrology the planet Mars is referred to as the lesser malefic, i.e. an evil planet, whereas Saturn, , is the great malefic.
In psychological astrology, Mars represents such traits of character as self-assertion, aggressivity, and ego, i.e. the urge to distinguish oneself as a unique individual. As all religions ultimately urge their belivers to strive for a union with the universe, yoga, a return to unity, to God, it is no wonder that has been looked upon as something evil. Its function as a psychological drive in the human being is in direct opposition to the objective of religion. It is to separate oneself from the rest of the creation, to individualize oneself.
Mars is the earth's closest neighbour outward from the sun in the planetary system. Mars has many similarities with, , the earth. The days of both planets are approximately 24 hours long. The inclination of their axes of rotation is almost the same, which means that also has four seasons. These seasons, however, are longer, as Mars' orbit around the sun takes nearly double the time of an earth year, 687 days, to complete.
As the planet Venus, , the moon's daughter, symbolizes the female principle, , the sun's son, symbolizes the masculine principle. In the biological sciences this sign has been, and is used to represent the male of plants and animals.
The two signs ruled by Venus, and , lie directly opposite those ruled by Mars, and . In the birth chart is not well placed in and . It is, on the other hand, a positive attribute when appearing in and , and also in and . The planet is associated with the astrological element of fire, . In its fiery aspect symbolizes the zest for life. A human being needs an adequate amount of to have courage, physical energy, and enough independence of mind and action to be able to meet life's difficulties and trials. When appears in such signs as Pisces, , and Taurus, , in the birth chart of the individual, it is considered to correlate with problems in this area. When, on the other hand, its influence is too strong, for instance, when there are too many planets in , , or , the fire signs, the worst characteristics of the Martian principle are embodied: cruelty, selfishness, lust for war, and a desire for total dominance. This planet, however, is not only a symbol for the warrior, the murderer, and the slave owner but also for the surgeon who heals and the hunter who brings home food. The professions ruled by Mars are the military ones and those that have to do with cutting or piercing, such as butcher, surgeon, and carpenter.
On the physiological level Mars represents the blood, the outer sex organs, the adrenal glands, the muscle tissue and the nose.
In early astrology Mars ruled both and , but after the discovery of the three outer planets it became related primarily to the first. Mars was replaced with Pluto as the ruler of .
Among the weekdays Mars represents Tuesday, the day of Mars in Latin countries. Refer to the weekday heptagram, , in Group 29.
In alchemy Mars has always been related to the metal iron. As a result this sign is often used on maps to indicate iron mines.
As Mars takes a little less than two years to circle the sun, in botany the Mars sign has come to represent plants with a two-year growing cycle (together with the ideograms , , and ). The Mars sign has also been used in early chemistry to represent zinc, although this metal is more often found represented with one of the symbols for Jupiter, , , or .
The sign has also been used as a time sign to signify morning. In the US system of hobo signs, and in the boy-scout signal systems of certain countries, it means go this way. With the circle filled, , it is used in military contexts to denote a grenade thrower or mortar.