Astrology and Statistical Significance
(c) Julie Loar 2016
“The universe is fantastic; don’t you realize that?”
Michel Gauquelin, Planetary Heredity
Mars was named for the Roman god of war, and he has a long list of associations ranging from lightning to agriculture, which linked him with other gods. His name was likely derived from the earlier Etruscan god Maris. In ancient times the archetype of Mars was a sacrificial god of spring, born of a celestial virgin without the aid of a sky god. In Babylon the month of atonement for this yearly sacrifice was Marcheshvan.
In Greek mythology Ares was unpopular; even his parents disliked him. His sister, Athena, called him “a thing of rage, made of evil, a two-faced liar.” Unlike Athena, who was a cool-headed and clever strategist, Ares lost his temper easily and rushed head first into battle. However, the conquering Romans held Mars in high esteem, and he was the most prominent of the military gods worshipped by the Roman legions. Mars, portrayed in full armor, wearing a crested helmet and carrying a shield, was a familiar Roman omen, a symbol of war and aggression—linked to his red color. Mars was also the tutelary god of Rome. Since he was regarded as the legendary father of Rome’s founder, Romulus, the Romans believed they were descendants of Mars.
The symbol for Mars is a circle with an arrow projecting outward to the right, acting to pierce through whatever barrier seems to block the way, and being ready to do battle if necessary. Some envision this symbol as a shield and spear. This is also the biological symbol for a male, and the alchemical symbol for iron, the metal alchemically connected to Mars. While Venus holds a mirror and represents the principle of attraction, Mars wields a sword and embodies the idea of separation and cleaving apart. Venus magnetically draws things to her while Mars sets out to capture and conquer.
In astrological symbolism Mars is energy in action, embodying the principles of projection, heat, activation, and muscular tone. Symbolically Mars thrusts himself into the world, and when this happens constructively there is vigor and positive expression of energy. Mars can be connected to the qualities of valor and courage. When Mars expresses in a less than constructive way there is aggression and even violence. An example would have been the Roman gladiators.
Mars is the energy of initiation, willfulness, and combativeness and reveals how we go after what we want. Mars in a horoscope shows how we focus energy and turn our desires into action and accomplishment. Earth’s orbital path is between Venus and Mars, pulled inward on the one hand, longing to merge and return to the source, and outward on the other, forging a quest to conquer the physical world. As the energy of Mars is channeled through a horoscope this archetypal energy drives certain qualities and behaviors. If Mars is strong in a horoscope, he engenders the ability to risk and gives us the courage to move forward with our ideals through directed power. Exertion, and the applied force of will through conscious choice, are required to make our way in the world. Mars is a potential leader but needs to learn tact, diplomacy, and cooperation. Mars energy can be pioneering, blazing a new trail and leading the way. His action is initiating and incisive, forceful and inclined to be impulsive and quick acting, boldly rushing in where angels fear to tread.
In the modern period what has been called the “Mars Effect” is a statistical correlation been athletic prowess, and the position of the planet Mars relative to the time of birth, based on four decades of research by Michel Gauquelin and his wife Francoise, who was his research partner. M. Gauquelin held degrees in psychology and statistics from the University of Paris (Sorbonne). He conducted his research at the Psychophysiological Laboratory at Strasbourg University in France where he studied the relationship between cosmic and biological phenomena. The term “Mars Effect” was coined by researchers who later investigated the evidence compiled by the Gauquelins.
By age seven Michel Gauquelin knew all the Sun Signs and was called Nostradamus at school for his unusual ability to construct astrological charts. He said of himself that at age twenty he was fascinated by all things astrological. In his own words, “In The Influence of the Stars I published numerous works regarding my discovery of a series of highly significant statistical correlations between planetary positions and the birth times of eminently successful people. One of the strongest correlations I observed is that sports champions tend to be born when the planet Mars is either rising or culminating in the sky, much more often than it does for ordinary people.” Since success in sports is easier to quantify it is this aspect of the Gauquelins’ work that gained the most notoriety.
The strength of his own research came as a surprise to Gauquelin since he actually began by attempting to disprove astrological influence. By 1969 he had lost his earlier enthusiasm for astrology and become doubtful. He remarked at that juncture, “The signs in the sky that presided over our births have no power whatever to decide our fates or to affect our hereditary characteristics.”
At first his work caused him to reject the conventions of natal astrology as it is practiced in the modern world, especially the West. He focused on “highly significant statistical correlations between planetary positions and the birth times of eminently successful people.” In spite of his own skepticism, the research data led Gauquelin to observe a strong correlation between “athletic eminence” and the position of Mars relative to the horizon and the mid-heaven based on time of birth. Gauquelin divided the plane of the ecliptic, the Sun’s apparent path, into twelve sectors that astrologers call houses, identifying two “key” sectors to be of statistical significance. These sectors are two of the “angles” in a horoscope–the eastern horizon and the zenith.
His research was not limited to Mars. His research also correlated eminence in fields that are seen to be compatible with traditional planetary rulers of five planets: Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. In an article titled The Gauquelin Controversy, author John Anthony West (The Case For Astrology) reported “A study of a group of 576 birth charts revealed a correlation of Mars and Saturn with physicians at a chance level in the millions to one.”
Another study of 508 birth charts, with similar statistical results, showed correlations with professions and astrologically connected planets: artists and musicians with Venus, politicians and executives with Jupiter, writers with the Moon, military officers with Mars, and scientists with Saturn. These effects did not seem to be present for “ordinary” people but rather for those who rose to prominence in their fields. These results were upsetting to skeptics and confusing to astrologers, particularly the connection of writers with the Moon.
Gauquelin’s work was accepted by the notable psychologist and statistician Hans Eysenck, and others, but later attempts to validate the data and replicate the effects produced uneven results. These varied results sometimes stemmed from disagreements over methodology of sample selection and analysis of the data set. Replication was problematic. For astrologers the accuracy of information and ability to interpret the data depends having the exact time and place of birth. Likewise, the criterion of “eminence” has to be determined and defined. Gauquelin was also accused of bias in his samples, for example, he eliminated female athletes. His work has remained controversial.
Although his research was ultimately verified in subsequent tests, there was too much prejudice to allow general acceptance. Some critics tried to explain away the Mars effect by suggesting that the champions who were studied were chosen in advance based on being born in a key sector of Mars and rejecting those who were not from the sample. Other skeptics actually accused parents of reporting wrong birth times to justify results. Sadly, at the end, Gauquelin was so distraught that he ordered all of his numerous files destroyed and committed suicide at the age of sixty. His wife Francois continued the research for another decade on her own.
Although Gauquelin’s work remains the best known, recognized, and comprehensive statistical study of astrological significance, a relationship between athletic prowess and astrology has also been demonstrated by the Magi Society, an international association of astrologers. Magi Astrology is a system of astrology originated by the Magi Society and was introduced through its three books published from 1995-1999. The Magi astrological system is fundamentally based on planetary geometry, or aspects, the angular relationships between planets.
According to extensive research by the Magi society, all great athletes, without exception, have identifiable athletic signatures with specific planetary alignments in their natal charts. In a manner similar to Gauquelin’s of observing “eminence,” the Magi Society conducted research on every single contemporary professional baseball, basketball, football, and North American hockey player. Every all-time-great player for any era was added to the list, and the best tennis or golf players throughout history were included. The Magi research is said to be one of the largest and most comprehensive astrological studies ever attempted.
Kevin McCorry, a Magi Astrologer in Colorado (www.makeagreatchoice.com) says, “There are planetary aspects with precise athletic symbols that illuminate the specific type of skills an athlete possesses. Some sports require tremendous stamina. Most sports require speed and agility as well as superior coordination. All sports require the ability to rehabilitate quickly from injuries.”
Magi astrology has observed a hierarchy of sports aspects and divided them into the following three categories: Ultimate Sports Champion Aspects; Super Sports Champion Aspects; and Sports Champion Aspects. Each of these is demonstrated by geometric planetary relationships that correlate with the level of “stardom.” A professional athlete requires a combination of multiple Super Aspects and multiple Sports Aspects. Those who possess Ultimate and Super Sports Aspects as a part of the equation tend to be the superstar players.
This work is immensely gratifying for those of us who live with prejudice and criticism about astrology. However, the deeper and more mysterious question is not that astrology works but how and why. What mystical mechanism drives the process and arranges the timing? What quality of soul, karma, or destiny facilitates the moment of birth, or critical planetary geometry, that holds the unique potential for a sports champion, an artistic genius, or a famous surgeon? We still have to make the tough choices in life.
The ancient symbol for Mars showed the circle of spirit with the cross of matter directly above, an exact reversal of the symbol of Venus, which is a circle above a cross. Earth, poised between these two planets in the solar system, is symbolized by a cross inside a circle. Earthly incarnation is consciousness embodied in matter. Ultimately, our lessons are about choice, will, and discernment. The astrology we are born with does not determine our destiny, but it does provide the vehicle to help get us there.
The archetypal story of the hero’s journey is found in cultures around the world. If this tale encodes our own spiritual quest, then Mars is the energy that drives us into the unknown and gives us the courage to face the inherent tests, trials, and dragons. Mars teaches us the nature of heroism and the consequences of wielding power. Without conscious choice and focused will we remain only observers, never setting foot on the Path or reaching our goal. The archetype of Mars takes us out of our narrow concerns, and if we are brave enough, teaches what us would be willing to die for.
Originally published in Atlantis Rising Magazine