Man in the fog

In Pursuit of Grace – Mars in Aspect to Neptune

by Frank Clifford

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in The Mountain Astrologer August 2014 issue and has been republished with permission.

As with many challenging planetary pairings, Mars and Neptune have very different gifts. Mars represents the principle of individual action and swift force — its nature is self-motivated, unambiguous, direct, and purposeful. Neptune rules over collective dreams and selfless yearnings — it is ethereal, intangible, soothing, undefined, and diffuse.

Before we look at the combination in natal charts, we should ask ourselves what we, as consultant astrologers, can learn from this duo. Mars and Neptune in aspect remind us that we can’t impose our agenda onto our clients. We must find a way of inspiring them to follow and connect to (Neptune) what they truly want for themselves (Mars).

We can encourage (literally, “to make strong, to hearten”) them with compassion, knowing that everyone has his or her own timing, rhythm, and cross to bear. Neptune refines the attributes of Mars, softening the competitive edge, the will to assert one’s desires, and the instinct to win. This can result in a number of difficulties as well as positive manifestations.

Some Mars–Neptune fears and circumstances:

  • A fear of impotence; losing our individuality; feeling ineffectual, unfocused, goal-less, or being unable to assert ourselves; lethargy, inertia, or passivity; finding ourselves in a situation where we are unable to fight back or express our will.
  • Being a doormat, a pushover; feeling easily seduced; a lack of discernment; an inability to say “no” or to resist hard-luck stories; staying in jobs or relationships where we feel put upon; avoiding conflict and leaving a wake of confusion and loose ends.
  • Being emotionally drawn into messy, symbiotic relationships or handing over power to others — then, as a result, feeling used and abused; getting caught up in others’ fantasies (“projective identification”).
  • Being victimized by verbal or physical aggression; playing the self- saboteur, masochist, or blameless victim (one form of passive aggression).
  • The burden of unwanted commitments and mundane responsibilities; psychosomatic illness or depression born out of anxiety or feeling unqualified for the job at hand.

Positive responses and manifestations:

  • Pursuing endeavors that utilize our creative, perceptive, and imaginative gifts; pinpointing our dreams and manifesting our own desires; trusting our instincts on when to act.
  • Acts of courage, compassion, and service towards the underdog or dis- enfranchised; meaningful charity work; directing energy towards a greater good or to alleviate suffering; helping others to help themselves (rather than rescuing them).
  • Being clear with others about our needs; recognizing how we engage in games of manipulation; seeking resolution in certain relationships that no longer serve us; co-creating a relationship based on acceptance rather than expectation.
  • Taking care of our energy levels; being conscious of addiction or violent, self-destructive behavior; treating the body like a temple; going with the flow and channeling energy into rhythm, e.g., dance, swimming, working with audiences, or tai chi (which blends well the yin–yang of Mars and Neptune’s opposing types of energy).
  • Devotion to a mystical path or spiritual discipline; transcendence to a higher realm of creative expression; finding peace in acceptance, letting go, and forgiveness; trusting in a (or our) higher power; knowing how energy affects everything around us and how inner beliefs can manifest to shape our lives (thoughts > words > actions > habits > character > destiny).

Heroes and Hustlers

In The Contemporary Astrologer’s Handbook, Sue Tompkins reminds us that with Mars–Neptune contacts: “There can be an idealization of the masculine principle and, for men, an anxiety that they are not masculine enough.” (1) Some men feel a compulsion to demonstrate their virility, while others idealize strength and search for a dragon- slaying alpha male (who, ironically, may be more in need of rescuing than the person looking to be saved).

When Mars meets Neptune, the Martial energy feels questioned or in doubt, so there may be displays of bravado, machismo, or other over- compensatory behavior. This reaction is quite unlike the process of Saturn, which over time turns a fear or “handicap” into a strength through mastery. The Mars reaction, however, is “I’ll show you!” and there is danger in this impetuosity.

Elvis on Wheels

Legendary motorcyclist Evel Knievel had a Mars–Neptune con- junction in Virgo in the 8th house. (See Chart 1, below.) The ultimate sporting idol, his story is Mars–Neptune incarnate: the excitement and euphoria of death-defying stunts and the glamorous image of masculinity. Knievel was exalted and idolized by fans, especially young boys (Mars) who dreamed of emulating the bravery of their hero, a patriotic figure dressed in red, white, and blue. (2)

Born at the United States’ (July 4, 1776) exact Neptune return, Knievel created the illusion that he was immortal (Neptune) — a daredevil who thrived on risk and danger (Mars). Yet, he paid great attention to preparation (Virgo), and when he did injure himself (more than 430 broken bones in his career), he was able to anesthetize (Neptune) the pain he endured. Neptune is in close quincunx to Midheaven (MC) ruler Jupiter in the 1st house: The phrase “lucky escapes” seems to encapsulate this aspect. And as joint rulers of the 2nd house, these planets also describe his marketable image that allowed him to earn millions through merchandising.

Evel Knievel and Richard Branson charts

Flights of Fancy

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin megacorporation and a role model for many aspiring entrepreneurs, channeled his Mars–Neptune conjunction into risky world-record attempts in hot air balloons. (See Chart 2.) He is seen as an adventurous, heroic buccaneer (Mars rules his Aries MC). Bran- son’s brand is everywhere (Neptune), but the man and his personal desires remain an enigma (Mars–Neptune).

With Mars–Neptune in Libra in the 3rd house, one of Branson’s initiatives has been to create The Elders: public figures who “use their collective skills to catalyze peaceful resolutions to long-standing conflicts, articulate new approaches to global issues that are causing or may cause immense human suffering, and share wisdom by helping to connect voices all over the world.” (3) We can also “hear” the conjunction in his fight for justice when a rival tried to taint his airline with a dirty-tricks campaign.


If the combination of Mars and Neptune is synonymous with personal charisma, it is also an aspect linked to sexual seduction, sex addiction, and sex scandal. It is found on both sides of the bed: in the charts of the seducer and the seduced.

Without personal discipline (Sat- urn), there may be few boundaries around desire, as seen in the sex addict unable to stop their urges; the sexual predator able to charm, entice, and seduce their prey; or the serial monogamist always looking for the perfect match in between the sheets.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton has this partile (exact) conjunction rising in Libra and squaring his Cancer MC (not shown). His presidency was sprinkled with suspicions of corruption, infidelity, and sexual insatiability; the damage to his reputation proved irrevocable. And in 1998, when that square had Solar Arc (SA) directed to Scorpio in aspect to his natal Sun in Leo (SA MC conjunct the Sun, and SA Mars–Neptune square the Sun), the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke.

Barak Obama astrology chartFour of the last six U.S. presidents — Carter, Bush Senior (both with the opposition), Clinton, and Obama — have Mars–Neptune aspects. In Barack Obama’s chart, Mars is semi-square Neptune and closely conjunct the U.S. Neptune at 22° Virgo. (See Chart 3, below.) Mars SA directed to conjoin his natal Neptune in 2008, when he was elected under a campaign of “hope.” Mars–Neptune suggests a leader whose hold is weakened and his support lost— a lame duck that has to bow to forces greater than himself.

When we ignore Neptune, it can undermine Mars and all that we seek from it. We can encounter the failure of personal ambition and the washing away of self-centered desires. The key to Mars–Neptune is to approach life from a spiritual motivation, to awaken more than the physical sensations or lust for status. We must prioritize heartfelt initiatives that are in pursuit of a greater good.

And in understanding that each of us can have an impact on our environment and yet still pale into insignificance in the larger scheme of things, I’m reminded of Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer”:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.

Want to learn more about Mars-Neptune? Check out Jessica Murray’s webinar Mars-Neptune Aspects.

Want to learn more about difficult aspects? Check out Frank’s webinar Making the Most of Awkward Planet Pairings.

Chart Data and Sources
(in alphabetical order)

  • Richard Branson, July 18, 1950; 7:00 a.m. GDT; Blackheath, London, England (51°N28′, 00°W00′);
    A: from his personal assistant Saskia Kitchen to Frank Clifford, quoting Branson’s mother.
  • Bill Clinton, August 19, 1946; 8:51 a.m. CST; Hope, AR, USA (33°N40′, 93°W35′);
    A: note from Clinton’s mother to Shelley Ackerman, copy on file.
  • Evel Knievel (Robert Craig Knievel), October 17, 1938; 2:40 p.m. MST; Butte, MT, USA (46°N00′, 112°W32′);
    AA: birth certificate quoted in The Gauquelin Book of American Charts by Michel and Françoise Gauquelin (ACS, 1982).
  • Barack Obama, August 4, 1961; 7:24 p.m. AHST; Honolulu, HI, USA (21°N18′, 157°W52′);
    AA: birth certificate published online, copy on file (supported by birth announcements in Hawaii).

All charts above use Equal houses and the Mean Node.

References and Notes

  1. Sue Tompkins, The Contemporary Astrologer’s Handbook, Flare, 2007, p. 240
  2. The thrill of danger, an instinct for excitement, and the entertaining showman who played to the crowd can all be seen in Kniev- el’s Venus–MC trine Pluto–Descendant, and his Moon in Leo in the 7th square Uranus.
  3. (page accessed in May 2014).

Frank Clifford© 2014 Frank C. Clifford – all rights reserved

Frank Clifford is the author of Getting to the Heart of Your Chart: Playing Astrological Detective (Flare, 2012) and Palmistry 4 Today (Random House, 2002; new edition: Flare, 2009). His book Horoscope Snapshots (Flare, 2014), is a collection of essays in modern astrology from TMA and other magazines. Frank’s website is

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