This now fully revised and updated article has previously been published in the German Meridian (2013), the Italian Linguaggio astrale (2014) and on (2018).

We are used to consider Mars mainly in a negative way, specially those of us who practice traditional astrology. He is associated with war, pestilence, epidemics and accidents. Nevertheless, in nature nothing is just “bad”. Everything that exists has its dimension of Hades and Paradise, of condemnation and redemption.

In this article I will point out how we can recognize the Martian principle in the pushing strength which makes athletes archive their most ambitious goals, in the adrenaline behind so many emotions either of fear or joy, in the courage we need to affront daily life but also when he afflicts the human body and in the diseases Mars which the red planet describes.  We know the mythological Mars, the worrier and aggressor with the sword in his hands. The invincible superhero.

But Mars also cures and prevents. Nettles, for example, are typical Martian plant which can help to get rid of a number of discomforting diseases.  This article deals with the four humours, Mars’ virtue and function in the human body, his changing significations through the quadruplicities, signs and houses. At the end I will show how he afflicts in a decumbiture and which principles can be used to cure the disease he has caused.


The four humours

In the classical texts we find Mars described as hot and dry. His heat is not the gentile temperate hot of a nice sunny day but that kind of unbearable heat which takes one’s breath away in full summer.

Mars is also extremely dry. The human body is made for more then 70% of water and needs continuously water supply which is impossible in a completely dry environment. This is why Mars, referred to the needs of human life is always considered as hostile. William Lilly describes this planet further as fiery and choleric.[1]

The word choleric refers to Galen’s’ [2] theory of the 4 humours, also known as humoral pathology.

While all humours are present in a body, each person corresponds to a different temperament type.

In a birth chart we can recognise the basic constitution of a person, considering principally in which elements are positioned the AC, the AC ruler and the Moon. The purpose of the classical medicine was it to keep the four elements in balance, since they may vary with the age, the seasons and personnel lifestyle. A person might be of a fiery temperament and in his youth be very dynamic with a dog hunger, but when growing old, the digestion suffers alterations and does not permit anymore to behave as before.

Those natural changes of the proper constitution are identifiable in the transits and progressions.

  • Heat and moisture was the most suitable for the preservation of health. The union of both elements creates the sanguine humour. Astrologically, this signature is associated with the air-element and its ruler Jupiter. If this humour prevails in a native, the person is rather extroverted and enjoys social meetings, makes easily new friends and tends to be thoughtful, sometimes noisy and forgetful. Sanguine people love fun but have difficulties following tasks all the way through. They are often creative and sensitive. Sanguine personalities are chronically late.
  • Heat and dryness give rise to acute diseases, originating choleric humour which is associated with the fiery element and its ruler Mars. A person who is choleric is a doer. These people have a lot of ambition, passion and energy, and are excellent motivators. They like to be leaders and tend to dominate or even manipulate people of other temperaments, especially phlegmatic types.
  • Cold and moisture produce phlegmatic afflictions, described by the water-element and its ruler Moon. The temperament is called phlegmatic. Phlegmatics are self-content and kind. They are consistent, relaxed, calm, rational curious, and observant. tend to be receptive and shy, often preferring stability to uncertainty and change. They can be very accepting and affectionate on the one hand but also passive-aggressive on the other.
  • Cold and dryness give rise to melancholy which is associated with the earth-element and its ruler Saturn. This temperament is called melancholic. Melancholiacs are profound thinkers, quiet, serious and introverted and always on time. They can easily concentrate, often in highly creative areas such as poetry and art. They are perfectionists. Often self-reliant and independent; they sometimes get so involved in what they are doing that they forget about others.

The following table shows the characteristics of each element:[3]

As we see, the choleric temperament is ruled by Mars and the organ associated is the yellow bile. In order to maintain the body in balance, the substance by which Martian toxins are eliminated is the urine.

In every body, the four humours are designed to work together harmoniously. The illustration on the right shows that the hot and dry choleric humour is balanced by a cold and wet phlegmatic temperament which lubricates a sore throat or which creates with their mucus a protective film on an angry ulcer.[4] An excess of melancholic element is cured by increasing the sanguine humour. Phlegmatic people may need sometimes to stir the fiery (choleric) temperament. These principles have been well-known in the medicine of the past and Culpeper used them largely in order to prescribe the appropriate remedy for the illness and an adequate diet to follow.

After this general analysis of the humours and the prevailing constitution, we need to understand which administering virtues are represented by the planets in a chart.[5]

  • Sun/Mars rule the attractive virtue which operates through hunger and appetite to maintain health. This faculty explains the Martian dog’s hunger or his great thirst: it is the body’s need for food supply. But also the necessary exposition to sunlight as a source of life and cell production.
  • Saturn rules the retentive virtue which stores and accumulates necessary substances. When supply is interrupted, this virtue opens its storage and guarantees temporary survival.
  • Jupiter describes the digestive faculty which brings the nutritional elements to the cells.
  • Venus/Moon rule the expulsive faculty. It produces phlegm, slippery secretions which facilitate the binding and expulsion of toxins. Phlegm is a relevant component of mucus, menstruation and faeces.

We know now that Mars rules the attractive virtue. However, the element he’s in, provides additional information:  Mars in a

  • fire sign describes hectic fevers as a result from too much bile, over-acidification, infection, inflammations and clinical pictures which heat and dry out.
  • earth sign describes melancholic symptoms, long and tedious fevers, TBC and other difficult illnesses.
  • air sign describe a corruption of some component of the blood: In the old texts, this is described as “bad blood”, or in modern terms some deficit in the blood count, referring e.g. to the leukocytes or erythrocytes, blood clotting or the cholesterol level.
  • water sign refers to diseases which produce lots of mucus, such as cough and colds.


The quadruplicity of Mars helps to understand if the illness is easily identifiable[6]:

If Mars is the ruler of the 6th house and he is in a

  • mutable sign, the origin of the illness is not easily diagnosable an
  • d the problem might come and go or there are different points where it has attacked the body.
  • fix sign, the illness is localized but will be rather long and difficult
  • cardinal sign, the illness is breaks in suddenly possibly short but extremely acute with high fever.

However, we need to bear in mind that

  • Every sign is associated with specific parts of the body
  • Every planet naturally rules certain organs
  • Every planet describes specific organs according to the sign it is in


Parts of the body associated with the houses

The houses mirror the human body starting from the 1. house (head) going counter-clockwise down to the feet, represented by the 12th house, as shown in the graph. The same principle applies to the planets in the signs as we will see below.[7]


Bodily organs associated with Mars

Every planet is the natural ruler of certain organs. Mars rules the gall bladder, where a potent acid is produced which helps in the digestion of food, and in particular of fat and cholesterol (ruled by the opposite sign, viz. Venus). The gall bladder helps to disintegrate the food present in the stomach by an aggressive reaction. The deficit or lack of gall causes indigestion and related problems while an excess of gall damages the stomach and the intestines.

Mars also governs the left ear. The ears are linked to our sense of equilibrium. Saturn, who rules the right ear is a diurnal planet. He gives weight. Mars, on the other side is a nocturnal planet and rules action and movement. Equilibrium is needed in order to move (Mars) in space within certain boundaries (Saturn). The lack of equilibrium is experienced as extremely difficult to handle as it results lack of orientation and finally in falling down.

Many astrologers also associate the male genitals with Mars, while for others those are rules by Venus. 17th century astrologer and naturopath Nicolas Culpeper for example gives venereal diseases to Mars but not the sexual organs.[8] This is because Mars is the antagonist to Venus, who rules the sexual organs.

It’s interesting to note that in classical literature, blood is not associated with Mars but with Jupiter. This might find its logical explication that blood transports nourishment in every part of the body, it’s hot, moist, not aggressive but vital while Mars is dry and considered a malefic. This is why Mars might be associated with the blood which is LEAVING the body after some injury and immediately dries outside of the body.

Mars is also associated with the olfactory sense, hints of that we can find in the Greek mythology:

among the animals associated with Ares (Mars) are wolfs and dogs, both famous for their excellent nose.

Saunders also associates the veins and the right nostril with Mars, an opinion which is not shared by Lilly or Culpeper.[9]

Mars in the signs

Besides the organs naturally ruled by Mars we have seen before, the planet also describes other organs depending on the sign he is in.

The following table shows this concept more clearly.[10]

The table shows that Mars in Aries, his diurnal domicile, represents the head. In the following sign (as here in Taurus), Mars rules the neck and the throat. In Gemini he rules the shoulders and arms. This sequence proceeds downwards, as mirrored in the zodiac man on the right, until the feet which Mars rules when he is in Pisces.

In the third column we see the parts of the body which Mars represents when counted from his nocturnal domicile which is Scorpio, where Mars, as its lord, represents once again the head. Every planet always rules the head in both of his domiciles. After this, the third column follows the same sequence as the second. In the last sign of this sequence, Libra (the 12th sign from his domicile in Scorpio), Mars rules the feet. The same principle also applies to the other planets, starting always with their domicile=head.

This principle exactly mirrors the association between signs and organs (graph 1):  1st house (domicile)=head, 12th house from domicile= feet.


Illnesses associated with Mars

The body falls ill principally for four reasons: deficit, exaggeration, indulgence or aggression.

Astrologically, deficits are associated with Saturn, exaggeration with Jupiter,[11] indulgence with Venus while aggressions are the domain of Mars.  Indeed, Culpeper states that[12]

Truly in the nativity of some people, Jupiter is the killing planet and in the sickness of such sick persons Jupiter will as soon kill as Saturn and Mars. Every planet must do his office.

However, the red planet was considered the one who brought plagues, epidemics and disasters, that’s why finding Mars in a prominent position in a decumbiture was generally interpreted as a bad augury. [13]

Culpeper affirms that[14]

 The bodies and aspects of Saturn and Mars are like mill stones to weight [the ill] to his grave.

In other words, Mars and Saturn weaken and leach out the body. In fact, the diseases described by Mars are short but extremely acute, [15] due to the hot and dry nature of this planet as described before.

The afflictions symbolized by Mars are of his same nature. Since he rules metals and is considered violent, he generally describes open wounds from cuttings, gunshots or similar. On the other hand, given his hot nature, he rules fevers and inflammations. At this regards it is interesting to notice, that a synonym for the word “inflamed”, at least in (US) English is angry[16].

The planet is associated with the bile which comes up to the mouth when we become angry or the stomach hurts. All expressions of rage are Martian. This includes the process of acidification in the body.

If we consume junk or frozen food or food otherwise denatured or eat habitually on the run, drink lots of coffee or are crazy for sweets, the body overacidificates, which means that the natural acid-base balance of the body is out of balance. If the toxins are not correctly eliminated from the body, they accumulate and can cause problems inherent to digestion because too much gastric acids damage the stomach.

Gastrointestinal diseases, ulcers, tumours of the stomach or the acidosis are phenomena easily associable with the Martian principle since this planet rules the attractive faculty and in particular the astringent one.

Important nutritional factors are absorbed and the waste is prepared to be eliminated. When the attractive virtue is disturbed, the body either eliminates erroneously precious substances or doesn’t absorb enough of it.

Table 4 shows that the Marsian principle is always the same: an epidemic, a wound or abscess and thus an inflammation of the tissue underneath. The gout for example is a kind of acute and painful inflammatory arthritis—a red, tender, hot, swollen joints,[17] caused by crystal deposits of uric acid.

The association of Mars with burns is rather obvious, perhaps it is less for migraine. As we have seen, Aries as the first sign of the zodiac rules the head. Since it is the domicile of Mars, headache is attributed to Mars. He describes an acute, deafening and pulsing pain. Since he both rules Aries (head) and Scorpio (uterus), menstruation goes often hand in hand with migraine.[18]

 Mars in nutrition

The Mars’ principle can be found everywhere in our daily life, but particularly in the kitchen: many foods need to be cooked before they can be eaten, and this is already a Martian process, since Mars rules the fire/ heat which with the products are prepared. But there are many vegetables directly associated with Mars which we can use to stimulate the properties he rules.

On the one hand he is generally associated with vegetables which make other food more digestible such as garlic or ginger but also with vegetables which are difficult to digest, if not passed over the fire first, such as peppers. [19]

We further find everything which is spicy, such as chillies and horse radish. If we suffer from absence of appetite or slow digestion, we can help ourselves stimulating the Martian principle, just consuming associated vegetables as listed in the table below.

The same is true if we suffer from phlegmatic excess, this is, when we accumulate too much water in the body or when there is an excess of mucus, in those cases we can stimulate the antipathetic principle: The choleric humour of Mars is opposite the phlegmatic humour of Moon/Venus and helps diminishing the latter. On the contrary, if we suffer from dog’ s hunger or other Martian afflictions, we can use the Venusian principle to calm them.

Mars often governs partially poisonous plants such as tomatoes; the fruits are edible, but a fabulous insecticide and fungicide can be obtained from the leaves.

Martian vegetables (as well as herbs which we’ll see later on), are generally recognizable by their pointed and sharp dark green and sometimes hairy leaves or by their pungent smell. They love sunny places.

Most fruits are associated either with Venus or Jupiter, while meat, which requires a long time for digestion, is ruled by Mars. Many diseases can be cured simply modifying the diet. Since thousands of years, traditional eastern medicine first detoxicates, then analyses the problem and finally re-arranges the diet. Medicine comes into play only afterwards.


Preparing to read a decumbiture

In a decumbiture, the chart drawn for the moment a person feels so ill to lay in the bed, or alternatively for the moment the astrologer/physician receives the urine of the sick,[20] the illness is described by

  • the Lord of the AC
  • the 6th house
  • the lord of the 6th house
  • the planets in the AC or 6th house
  • Saturn and Mars for they naturally hurt the body, whatsoever the matter is.


Mars as the last Moon aspect: the why of the illness

 Besides the significators of the illness analysed earlier in this article, the last separating Moon aspect provides information about how the patient has fallen ill. The next aspect of the Moon describes the evolution of the disease.

The 17th Century physician and astrologer Richard Saunders comes up with the concept of the “semen morbificum”:[21]

For the significators of the sick patient, take the Ascendant, his lord and the Moon and that planet or planets, which by conjunction, square or opposition afflicts those places shall be the true morbificant planets or significators of the disease, yet here it is to be noted that the principal effect herein is to be referred to the planets that afflict the Lord of the Ascendant, next the Moon and lastly the Ascendant, for a planet afflicting the Ascendant brings no notable detriment, except it be by conjunction (…) and although the sextile aspect of Saturn and Mars do also bring some distemperance to the sick, yet it is so small. That it is not equivalent to a square of Jupiter or Venus and therefore not much to be regarded, for overmuch scrupulosity in this art doth rather deviate a man from the true scope, than bring him ad Tramitem rectam.

If the Moon is separating from Mars, the reason of the illness comes either from some kind of rage which is now reversed on the body or from an external aggression, e.g. a virus.


Diseases are caused either by sympathy or antipathy. [22]

If the disease is in the gall bladder or in the left ear, Mars afflicts these organs by sympathy because he rules them. All the other organs, if their rulers are afflicted by Mars are said to be caused by him by antipathy. The same is true for all the other planets

Culpeper gives the example of Saturn in a disease linked to the bones or the spleen (which he both rules). If he afflicts the 6th house or its ruler, the disease is caused by sympathy.

If the disease is in the bones and Mars aspects Saturn by a hard aspect, the disease is caused by antipathy since Mars does not rule the bones. Another example is a problem with the uterus, ruled by Venus. If Mars afflicts Venus, the disease is ruled by Mars by antipathy.

The distinction between antipathy and sympathy is fundamental in the selection of the right medicine.

If the organ is ruled by Mars, the medicine must sympathise with Mars. Otherwise the remedy must sympathise with the organ afflicted and thus be antipathic to Mars.

This is what Hahnemann centuries later called similia similibus,[23] freely translated as “cure the disease with what is similar to it”.


Curing the illness

After having individuated the illness and the semen morbificum, the appropriate medicine needs to be found.

Culpeper’s rules for choosing it were simple: [24] (the bold is mine)

  • Fortify the body with herbs of the nature of the ascendant, “tis no matter whether he be a fortune or an unfortune in this case”
  • Let your medicine be something antipathetic to the lord of the 6th
  • Let your medicine be something of the sign ascending
  • If the lord of the 10th be strong, make use of his medicines
  • If this cannot well be, make use of the medicines of the light of the time (i.e. the Sun by day and the Moon by night)
  • Be sure always to fortify the grieved part of the body by sympathetic remedies
  • Regard the heart, keep that upon wheels, because the Sun is the fountain of Life and therefore, those universal remedies Aurum Potabile and the Philosophers Stone cure all diseases by only fortifying the heart.

Thus, if the disease was in a Mars ruled organ, that organ had to be strengthened by sympathy, giving a Mars like medicine in agreement with the AC ruler and the sect light (Sun or Moon).


Official Plants

The official plants associated with Mars have an astringent, heating and detoxifying effect. The table on the right shows the most commonly known herbs.

Among the herbs shown in the table, basil is probably the most commonly known, although few people know that it is not only tasty bust also carminative, diuretic and used as a stomachic, this is, basil stimulates the appetite. Also, Estragon is well-known, perfect in a vinaigrette or to flavour meat, as well as chives in a salad.

The bitter wormwood liqueur can be drunken when the stomach hurts, rocket helps digestion, it’s sufficient to eat some of the small leaves. Garlic and onions stimulate the appetite. The onion juice mixed with some honey is a very helpful remedy for a running nose or slimy cough. This is a cure by antipathy: the onions help diminishing the phlegm, viz. the mucus in the bronchi. Try to believe! It’s not that bad.

Far less known in our days is the use of nettles, a plant which describes perfectly the Martian principle: the leaves are very aggressive when touched, they burn the skin and stimulate in this way the blood circulation, but the same are very healthy when eaten. The young leaves can be eaten either cooked, like spinach or fresh in a salad. This use has been practically forgotten in our countries, but in Greece nettles are still commonly sold in the supermarket. Nettles contain seven times more vitamin A than an orange and a great amount of magnesium. The plant is also an excellent source of proteins. But most of all, nettles make a very tasty tea. This is an old remedy for all problems linked to the urinary apparatus such as cystitis and stones. Furthermore it gives a both a strong insecticide and a fantastic fertilizer for plants which require a elevate support of nitrogen.

Nettles best describe the different qualities of Mars: it hurts, feeds and cures.


Information about the illness: Mars in the decumbiture

The following is a historical decumbiture concerning the state of health of a Gentlewoman, judged by 17th century astrologer/physician Richard Saunders for the moment he received her urine.[25]

Saunder’s chart analysis is very short and he doesn’t give any background information. Nevertheless, he does report what the woman was suffering from. I will use the chart to show briefly how to interpret a decumbiture, giving special attention to Mars’ rule in it.

Let’s first see how to identify the sick woman in the chart. Saunders states: .[26]

For the significators of the sick patient take the AC, his lord and the Moon and those planets which by conjunction, square or opposition afflict those places shall be the true morbificant planets or significators of the disease.

The woman here is described by the AC in Scorpio and its ruler Mars. He’s in Leo, in a cadent house, slow and peregrine. This describes the woman to be in a pretty bad shape: her health is seriously afflicted which is further confirmed by the square the AC is receiving from Mars.

The Sun as a general significator of life strength in opposition to Saturn in the 6th confirms this.

Her co significator is Mercury, placed directly on her AC. He’s the ruler of the 8th of death, accidentally strong but lacking dignities and thus seriously afflicting the woman. He’s received by the AC ruler which makes alarm bells ring, even if the aspect is already separating. The Moon is exalted in Taurus in the 7th house and leaving a non-received opposition with Mercury.

The fact that the aspect is separating and the Moon is exalted and angular, gives hope that she will survive her illness.

The illness is shown by the 6th house ruler Mars. Mars in Leo symbolizes the heart/belly/stomach as well as thighs/knees as shown in table 1.

He’s positioned in the 9th house, which rules the belly[27]. He’s in Leo, a fire sign and indicates a problem of the astringent faculty.

Saturn is the co-ruler of the illness being in the 6th. Saturn in this house describes long and tedious diseases.[28] He’s in Taurus and describes the heart, breast and belly. His position in the 6th indicates the lower belly and intestines.[29] He thus confirms that the illness will be long and difficult to cure.

The Moon is in Taurus, an earth sign. She’s opposed to Mercury in Scorpio, where this planet describes generally the bowels, but Scorpio is especially linked to the genitals and the uterus.[30] The retention faculty (Moon in earth) blocks the phlegmatic (Mercury in water). Something cannot be correctly expelled.

Hence what we can see, that all the planets indicate a problem in the belly and Scorpio specifies the uterus. But what is the matter?

We need to remember that Mars and Saturn are the semen morbificum, they cause the illness. Mars in a fire sign, but cadent and week, describes the attractive virtue as limited. Mars is ruler of the 5th which represents the liver. The liver produces hormones, but this function is now disturbed (ruler cadent and peregrine). The deficit of hormones causes too much phlegm in the uterus (Mercury in Scorpio), this is mucous membranes which are not expelled (opposition Moon in an earth sign, viz. retentive faculty). The woman has her terms stopped.

Furthermore, she might feel cold (Mercury in a water sign and her AC ruler afflicted by Saturn), and is full of mucus in her throat (Mercury) and head (1st house). We further find Venus in her exile and in exact opposition to Saturn. Venus describes the genitals and in Scorpio also the reins, Saturn describes obstructions, she might suffer from stones in the kidneys.

Saunders doesn’t mention which cure was given to the woman, but we can assume, that, since Mars (Life strength) is in the bounds of Saturn who is cold and Saturn is in the 6th house, the cure needs to be antipathetical to Saturn and thus be of a warm and moist nature. It also needs to agree with the 1st house ruler.

Jupiter is the planet who will help. He is in the woman’s 2nd house of (physical) resources, Mars is going to trine him and the Sun has just left a sextile to him

Culpeper’s thought at this regard is: [31]

Planets are inimical one to the other, when their temperatures or qualities are opposites, and so Jupiter is an enemy to Saturn, he being hot and moist and Saturn cold and dry.(…)



[1] See for example Lilly ,Christian Astrology, (CA) retyped and annotated by Deborah Houlding, Ascella Publications,    1999 p. 66

[2] Claudius or Aelius Galenus was born in 129 b.C at Pergamon, capital of the ancient region of Mysia, nowadays the Turkish Izmir province (Anatolya). Galen was a declared fellow of Hippocrates who lived in 460 B.C- 370 B.C, about 600 years earlier than him. Galen developed and expanded the humoral physiology and pathology of Hippocrates.

[3] See Richard Saunders, The Astrological Judgement and Practice of Physick, Astrology Classics (AJPP), p, 107

[4] See Nicolas Culpeper, Astrological Judgement of Diseases from the Decumbiture of the Sick, (AJD) Astrology Classics, 1.25

[5] Nicholas Culpeper The English Physitian and Family Dispensatory, 1653 (AJD) online at:

[6] Modified from Lilly, CA p. 262

[7] Compare with Lilly, CA, p. 93-99, 118 and Graeme Tobyn, Culpeper’s Medicine, p.144

[8] Culpeper, AJD, p.78

[9] Richard Saunders, The astrological judgement and Practice of Physick, Astrology Classics, p. 47

[8] Culpeper, AJD, p.78

[9] Richard Saunders, The astrological judgement and Practice of Physick, Astrology Classics, p. 47

[10] Image: The Zodiac Man printed in the 15th century illustrated book by Duc de Berry, Les Trés Riches Heures, Wikicommons

[11] This includes, in my experience, also the “exaggeration” of tissues, in other words cells growing as or where they should not, for example in tumours.

[12] Nicholas Culpeper, AJP, p. 58

[13] Every planet can be found as the ruler of the 6th house and thus describe an illness, not just the “malefics” Mars and Saturn.

[14] Culpeper, AJD, p. 69

[15] Culpeper, AJD, p.91

[16] adjective, an·gri·er, an·gri·est expressing, caused by, or characterized by anger; wrathful: angry words. 3. Chiefly New England and Midland U.S. inflamed, as a sore; exhibiting inflammation.


[18] Culpeper, AJD, p. 94

[19] In Italy we cook them over the fire to take away the indigestible peel

[20] Lilly, CA, p. 243

[21] Richard Saunders, APJJ, p. 45

[22] See Culpeper, AJP,  p. 36, 77, 111

[23] Samuel Hahnemann, Organon der Heilkunst, 6. Auflage, Haug Verlag, 1958

[24] Found in Graeme Tobyn, Culpeper’s Medicine, Appendix 2, Element Books 1997

[25] Richard Sunders,  AJPP

[26] Ibid, p. 45

[27] Richard Saunders, AJPP, p.121

[28] Lilly CA, p. 248

[29] Lilly, CA, p. 53

[30] Lilly CA, p. 97

[31] Culpeper, AJD, p. 36


The cover has been painted by Eliz Cura.



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