When beginning astrologers discover that the signs are defined as masculine or feminine in quality, they encounter a paradox which sets the tone for all future study. The fire and air signs, we are told, are masculine, positive, expressive, etc., while the earth and water signs are feminine, negative, and receptive. These misleading tenets label the signs at the outset, inculcating beliefs which pervade our culture and which stigmatize the potential of archetypal expression as 'good' or 'bad,' positive or negative.
The positive, constructive expression of Aries has been portrayed as the energy of the pioneer, the goal-setter, the Mars type human being. The go-getters in our culture are encouraged to push their way to success, to the exclusion of so-called soft feminine expression of the seminal (another masculine tenet) sign. The single-minded, incisive qualities are applauded in our culture, while the broad-minded, inclusive approach is misunderstood as vagueness or non-directedness.
Such a one-sided view of Aries energy leads to one-sided development for individuals, focused as it is on a specific set of qualities which deny our wholeness of being. Astrologers can be instrumental in changing this outdated view.
A more generic definition of the sign of Aries shows how the dynamic growth potential of a seed can be used as a metaphor for personal development. The seed grows in two directions - the shoot reaching upward to the air and light (fire) while the roots reach downward to earth and water. The seed prospers only when all four elements are present, just as the psyche grows best in a balanced environment.
Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, placed at the vernal equinox. It represents the time of year when the seed germinates, when the Sun moves toward the Northern Hemisphere and begin the annual growth cycle. Thus we see that Aries contains an image of all the potential for life within the seed, as well as inspiration and spontaneity of the entire life cycle.
Aries is expressive in the sense that it represents reaching out to all that is new and healthful. It does not discriminate in this process, but grows both upward and downward. As unique beings we repeat this process from birth. We continually reach upward toward the spiritual and downward into the depths of the psyche. We reach outward to others for sustenance and we also reach inward to the Self. Movement in opposite directions leads us to wholeness, a wholeness that is seen in the fulfilled growth of the seed as a mature tree. We know that the roots of a healthy tree extend as far as the visible portion of the plant, and their structure is surprisingly like the branches; at the same time we are aware that the function of the root is vastly different drawing life from the earth and water while the leaves draw life from the air and sun.
Each of us draws the fullest measure of life when we are aware of both masculine and feminine energies at work within us. The work of discovering these energies and learning to use them fully is our life's goal; astrology is but one model for us to follow in determining our unique expression of the masculine and feminine.
Beginning from the seed of the natal chart we have a tool to explore our outer and inner potential to become whole. We take our cue from the seed, seeking outward and at the same time exploring our hidden being in the depths of the psyche. We find the best of the masculine and feminine uniquely represented in Aries, without distinguishing that sign as either masculine or feminine, but rather as the fullness of a particular archetype - the archetype of beginning.
In addition, Astrology deals with this theme through the Ascendant and the conjunction aspect. The Ascendant or rising sign is indicative of the individual starting point, unique to each of us. It reflects the connection between the outer personality and the inner, more private being. The conjunction marks the ending of one cycle of being and the emergence of the new within us, and defines an area of prominence in the natal chart or by transit or direction.
Aries symbolizes the unfolding of all our energies, then. We can see this energy as a starting point for human enterprise, embodying the promise of the entire life cycle. This unfolding is not either masculine or feminine, but rather can be seen as a process.
If you have experiences concerning Aries and the expression of the masculine, please offer them in the Astrology Circle bulletin board in this forum area.
This article first appeared in Today's Astrologer, the bulletin of the American Federation of Astrologers.