Aries and the Courage To Be
The Zodiac sign of Aries is a symbol of vitality. The Vernal Equinox launches the Sun into the tropical sign of Aries each year around March 21st through April 20th. The Sun is exalted (strong) in a sign that is characterized by verve and the tremendous push of the Day-force, which is gradually gaining in strength over the collective Night-force. Sunnier, longer days are coming and Aries is a Cardinal sign characterized by action, initiative, and an impatience to get on with life. The rulership of this sign has always gone to the planet Mars, the red planet, giving Aries its hot, dry fiery qualities.
The image of the Ram is an apt one, especially in the spring when there is boundless energy to romp, play, and butt heads with other rams. The horns, which protrude from the head so strongly, are symbolic of the need to allow the intellect to guide the instinctual, even as they also convey the ‘head-strong’ more fiercely aggressive quality that Aries is known for.
Aries the ram, was known to the Egyptians as their sacred God, Amun-Ra, very much a Sun god. The Greeks called the constellation of stars Aries, the ram, while the Romans named it Krios. Further east it was known as Mesha in India, al-Kabs to the Arabs, and Tala (lamb) to the Hebrews.
Looking at the glyph of Aries all sorts of interpretations can emerge in addition to the horns of a ram. It could be a seedling shooting out of the earth representing new life and a striving for the light. It could also represent the outstretched hands as a symbol of the adult human being, or even the line of the nose and eyebrows on the human face, which lead to the fore brain, seat of the higher mind and will. Aries is said to rule (have jurisdiction over) the head. Development of the intellect as well as the emerging ego is of central concern to Aries.
Aries strengths are its energetic vitality, its youthful spirit and assertive enthusiasm, and its honesty and courage in taking on the most daunting of tasks, where nothing is impossible. This inexhaustible optimism rises up, in spite of fear, which often haunts Aries, thus it is to the incisive intellect that Aries moves to cut through the non-essentials in its quest for adventure and new experiences. Passion melds with the innovative mind in this bold, quick-thinking, maverick sign.
The weakness of Aries can be the extreme of too much activity where impulse and impatience thoughtlessly rush into experience without taking the consequences into account. Leaping, like the fool in haste, can create much destruction. The other major weakness is lack of sensitivity towards others due to a naive type of self-centeredness that just isn’t aware or considerate of the spoken or unspoken needs of those close by. The Aries one-track mind can miss the nuances and thus invite antagonism rather than cooperation.
Integration comes when the opposite sign, Libra, and its qualities are made conscious and cultivated by Aries. Those qualities are the ability to listen, think of others as well as oneself, share, and cooperate with others in mutually satisfying experiences that enrich everyone. The creed of the golden rule, which encourages doing unto others as one would do for oneself, is certainly a higher law for the evolved Aries to practice.
There are various heroic myths that illustrate the themes of Aries as the Courageous Warrior in search of his true solar, golden Self. The myth of the Golden Fleece and Jason’s quest to find it is one such tale. The King of Colchis kept the Golden Fleece. He had been given it by Phrixus, the son of King Athamas, who had been rescued by a magical winged, golden fleeced ram as he and his sister, Helle, were about to become the sacrificial victims of their wicked step-mother who wanted her own children to become the heirs to their father’s kingdom. Unfortunately, as the winged ram carried the children high in the air, Helle fell into the sea, and only Phrixus survived. Here we see the feminine aspect drop into the ‘collective sea of the unconscious’, which is part of Aries dilemma and shadow-side. This dilemma is simply that the masculine cannot necessarily do everything alone. The masculine needs the feminine. Every sign must be balanced by its polar opposite, and Aries must develop more of the Libran qualities of Eros, of love and social graces, to balance the Martian aggressive instincts.
Reaching safety, Phrixus sacrifices the magical ram to Zeus. Perhaps here is the Equinox myth repeated where the ram replaces the man as sacrifice. (See my Vernal Equinox article)
Years later Jason is called to recover the Golden Fleece. He, too, is the son of a king whose throne has been usurped. This ancient theme of rightful inheritance stolen by deception or violence is one that Aries must often face in various ways throughout life. The courage to fight for that, which is rightfully ones own, is often necessary. Like a good many of the mythic heroes, Jason has been raised and taught by the wise centaur, Chiron, far from civilization in isolation. The usurper, Pelias, now feeling threatened by this young, virile male, sends Jason on a seemingly impossible quest to retrieve the Fleece. This begins his adventurous and dangerous mission. The Greek Myths by Robert Graves has probably one of the more thorough accounts of this mythic tale.
What is notable in this story is his need for an ally in female form. Enter Medea. She is the daughter of the King of Colchis who is a sorceress. She and Jason are both shot by the arrow of Eros and fall instantly in love. Medea then gives her all to Jason, even to the point of defying her father and murdering her own brother. With her magic she enables him to accomplish all three of the impossible tasks assigned by Pelias. Together they pit themselves against the powers that be, the Father Kings, just as Aries must constantly battle with the status quo, which attempts to control, thwart, or hold back the Aries Solar birthright.
Once the Golden Fleece is recovered and all obstacles are overcome, Jason abandons his powerful accomplice, Medea, for seemingly greener pastures with another. This restless, easily distracted quality proves his undoing and the wrath of his abandoned Medea turns terribly vengeful and ultimately destructive for her, their children, and Jason. The lesson here is that Aries must acknowledge the power of the anima, the deeper feminine power that dwells within, and learn to take commitments more seriously. There needs to be thoughtfulness connected with action before the mature Aries can emerge.
When Aries evolves away from naive self-centeredness and truly allows idealism to guide rather than just instinct, the more refined qualities of the heroic emerges. Aries can champion causes like no other sign. Aries can lead people towards a higher ideal. The inspiration that an Aries type can bring to rally the group towards collective action can be awesome to behold.
Pallas Athene characterizes a more integrated archetype for Aries. She emerges fully developed and in full armor out of the head of Zeus. Aries rules the head, and she represents the melding of the feminine with the masculine as intelligence for right action and leadership. Perhaps this is also symbolic of the integration of the right brain (intuition) with the left brain (rational thought). She is a fighter for high standards and principles and later a very wise ruler who patronizes the arts. Aries are incredibly creative once they leave behind the need to constantly change for stimulus sake. Craftsmanship becomes a joy and Aries can lead in all manner of artistic endeavors.
One of the great actors of the 20th century in films, that quintessential Aries, was Marlon Brando. He exuded the raw power, the instinctual grace, and the intelligence of Aries, as well as the sensitive qualities of feeling that Aries ‘anima’ can bring to enrich the fiery masculine persona. In the movie On the Waterfront he delivered the classic and poignant message for every Aries when he said to his brother, Charlie, “I could have been somebody.” Aries is here to truly Be, and that takes a great deal of courage.