If he can’t find a crisis, he’ll make one.
Let’s begin our description of Aries with a little scenario, which will illustrate some of the qualities of this first of the fiery signs. The scenario might be entitled the Knight in Shining Armour Syndrome. It can be found in both male and female Ariens – although in the case of Aries women, it might be subtitled the Joan of Arc syndrome.
ARIES: (to friend) I notice you’re smoking. I suppose you realize that it would kill you? Give you lung cancer, heart disease, arteriosclerosis, emphysema…
FRIEND: Thanks, I’ve read all the literature. But I still think I prefer to smoke. Now about those books you were talking about….
ARIES: Wait a minute. Have you really read the literature? Look, I don’t mean to sound pushy, but really, it’s for your own good. I mean, I’m really concerned about this smoking issue. Every time I take a train or ride in a tube, and I see all these people smoking…I’ve started a group in my area called Death to Smoking committee. We’re doing a quiet little street demonstration in front of all the local tobacco shops. I figure if we put enough pressure on maybe they’ll get some sense in their heads.
FRIEND: (Lighting up a cigarette in annoyance) Did it ever occur to you that people may like to choose whether they smoke or not? We’re adults, you know.
ARIES: But I know what’s best for everybody. You say you’re adult, you can choose, but have you really read the literature?
The subject might be smoking, or anything small or great which concerns the public weal. Give him a mission, a cause, a battle in which he can trounce the enemy, an evil which he can challenge, and out comes that old suit of armour, kept clean and polished in case of emergency. We don’t know whether Joan of Arc was really an Aries or not. The date of her birth is lost. But her absolute conviction, her courage, her bravery, her fanaticism, her vision, her devotion to the cause of the French nation, and her defense of the underdog – an important point, that last one – make her pretty Arien. You may notice the emphasis on championing the underdog. Aries just doesn’t feel really right unless there’s an underdog to take care of. If we ever really enter a truly utopian society, Aries will be in a sorry state, because he lives and breathes for the great battle. And the great battle must have an ideal. Remember that Aries is a fire sign, and all fire signs tend to mythologize life. The ideal justifies the battle, brings out his courage, draws forth his genius at quick action. And the ideal, ideally should be the protection or defence of the weak, the downtrodden, the abandoned. Joan of Arc could hardly have become the mythological figure she did without having a poor neglected wreck of a disinherited king to defend. That was what gave her cause pathos and meaning. The restoration of the lost king to his kingdom, the return of justice. Does it all sound a little fast and furious for ordinary life? Never mind. Aries doesn’t really believe in ordinary life. There may not be anymore lost kinds to restore to their kingdoms (although one never knows), but Aries can find a cause in social welfare, in any form of life or human expression which is overlooked, underestimated, or neglected, or hasn’t a chance. Aries is the natural enemy of collectivization, because collectivization destroys myths and takes away the whole drama of the oppressor and the oppressed.
There is definitely a chivalric quality about Aries. Not that he’s unsophisticated; some of the most polished, brilliant, intellectually aware statesmen and thinkers are Ariens. But deep in the Aries soul, the age of Courtly Love isn’t over. He’s still looking around for the knightly order, the Round Table which can join to declare himself a True and Devoted Knight, and also for the damsel in distress that he can rescue. You might notice that Aries is very concerned for damsels in distress. Half the fun of a relationship for Aries is the whole chivalrous display of the rescue. Then the knight rides away again, of course. Knights never stay home and fix the fuses in their castles. They need adventure; otherwise they go pale and lifeless and distressed. And Aries needs adventure. It might be making money, or establishing a school, or developing any new idea which is bound to change or alter the world around him. But adventure he must have. Contentment and serenity and sameness give him psychic indigestion.
The ruler of Aries is the planet Mars, the mythological god of war and passion. All his qualities, when you read about them in such sources as the Iliad, sound like Aries exaggerated. He’s courageous to the point of foolhardiness, and his courage is mixed with the liberal dash of personal glamour. (Behind-the-scenes courage is more a Scorpio trait, the darker face of Mars). If you read history, you will come across some interesting descriptions of the age of chivalry, and one of the most interesting is the Hundred Years War. The flower of French knighthood lost some disastrous battles at Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt. They all behaved like Ariens. There was no discipline in the French ranks, largely because each knight was so committed to his own honour and prowess that he couldn’t receive orders from a superior. They fought constantly among themselves, because there was no real spirit of cooperation; every knight was a nobleman, and every nobleman an autocrat. They overweighed themselves with flamboyant armour and banners to the point where if a knight fell off his horse there was no way he could get up again without the help of a couple of squires – or a crane, which hadn’t been invented yet. Notice the Aries trait? Naturally the English armies, much better disciplined although far less colourful, mowed them down. Not all Ariens get mowed down, of course. But often this quality of foolhardiness takes a few years before it’s tempered by the realities of life. Ariens tend to grow up late. It takes a few hard knocks and a few confrontations with other people’s stubborn resistance to teach them that it can’t all happen right this minute according to their own unique creative vision.
Aries will always behave with honour toward both friend and enemy alike; he will be generous and loyal to his friends, and, although scathingly contemptuous, will rarely stoop to revenge or petty behaviour toward his enemies. He does tend to make a few enemies, though, and not just because he’s inclined to be rash and impulsive. He also inspires a kind of mean jealousy in other people, because in one way or another he’s just a little larger than life. He tends to mythologize himself, and act accordingly. There is also a strong streak of impatience bordering on arrogance in Aries; he doesn’t suffer fools gladly, or insubordination, or slowness, or stupidity, or indirectness. In fact, he just doesn’t suffer gladly at all, unless it’s noble suffering.
Like all the fiery signs, Aries is a child at heart. This sometimes means he can be childish; at other times it means he’s childlike in the most spirited, warm-hearted way. He can get wildly excited and heated up over things which other, more jaded souls simply miss or overlook; no matter how old he is, from six to eighty, he can still throw himself into his work or his special projects with enthusiasm and energy. Many Ariens are so infuriatingly energetic that you get tired just watching them. They rush about with eighteen irons in the fire, all heating, as though they had some kind of invisible pill which made it unnecessary to eat, sleep, rest or contemplate. This quality of dynamic energy is one of the most noticeable things about Aries. That, and the fact that he’s usually in a hurry from the living room to the kitchen. He must have movement and colour and life around him, because he gets bored easily. Then you get the notorious Aries querulousness, the irritability and edginess and bad temper which often flare up. Now, the Aries temper can be a little frightening. Have you ever tried confronting Mars on the battlefield? But it helps to remember that for Aries, gestures are stylized and often dramatized. All that fire and smoke and explosion is like a child throwing a tantrum. If he’s really, really angry he won’t explode so much; he’ll just quietly move to destroy what’s in his way. But the temper is just that – temper. And once it blows over, Aries hold no grudges. He’s too chivalrous for one thing, and too absent-minded for another. It just isn’t that important.
I had an Aries client who once told me about his behaviour in childhood. He said that when he wanted his mother to buy him something – a coveted toy, or a sweet – and she had the bad manners to refuse, he had a simple tactic that always worked wonders. He would throw a tantrum right on the street in front of the shop. Not a yelling tantrum, either – all kids do that, and Aries isn’t all kids. He would announce in his most heraldic voice, ‘I’m going to hold my breath until I turn blue.’ And he would do just that – prone on the sidewalk, where everyone would have to stop and crowd around to see what had happened to the poor child. His mother, naturally, never waited to see whether he really turned blue. Also, she obviously didn’t know anatomy, or the fact that if he did fall unconscious he would, of course, begin to breathe again. She simply bought the toy or the sweet. Cowed by the god of war, every time.
Naturally one thinks these things end with childhood. But my Aries client made it painfully obvious that although the nature of the tantrum had changed – after all, who would fall for a forty-five-year-old man saying he was going to hold his breath until he turned blue? – the tactics were the same. He had everyone in his household benignly terrorized. But usually Ariens contrive to get everyone else to do what they want. And their approach isn’t subtle. No emotional blackmail like Cancer, or long strategic planning with deals and financial viable pressures, like Capricorn. Or gentle, diplomatic statesmanship in the spirit of cooperation, like Libra. No, Aries has a simple approach. ‘Do it.’ If you don’t, you get the tantrum, in one form or another – maybe a slammed door and an evening of frosty silence, or a harangue, or a few smashed plates.
One way to describe Aries is self-willed. He’s unquestionably unaware, a good deal of the time, of the fact that other people might wish to pull in a different direction. It’s hard for Aries to understand compromise and cooperation. When he’s fired up about something, nothing else seems as right, as true, or as relevant. He’s dogmatic. That means that he simply doesn’t notice conflicting opinions, unless you shout them at him. And then he’s often genuinely hurt that you think he’s being selfish or egocentric. In fact he’s no more selfish than anybody else, and frequently less so. Because he tends to be generous to a fault, he’s an easy prey for a sad story, and can be easily taken advantage of. He’s also not a particularly astute judge of character, since he’s not a suspicious type and will usually believe the best about people until unpleasantly surprised. Disloyalty, backstabbing, and meanness of any kind can really bewilder and wound him. It’s just that he tends to be a little oblivious to the facts of situations, since he lives in his world of ideals. What he sees isn’t how things are. It’s how they could and should be. And even if everybody else is too tired or too jaded or too apathetic to do anything about it, Aries will go out there alone if necessary (he prefers support, but can do without it) and fight the dragon. And doesn’t demand repayment for it either. A little applause, appreciation, perhaps. But no strings are attached to his gifts.
Trying to live with an Aries can often be difficult, if you’re the type who likes the status quo to remain the same and the partner unchanging. Aries needs action; he needs something to pour his splendid energies into, something that stimulates him and has open possibilities. Ariens do not work well as complacent employees for strong bosses. They need scope and challenge and plenty of personal freedom to follow their visions without interference.
Now, there is a type of Arien who suppresses all this, just as anyone can suppress the natural qualities of his nature. You might see a meek, mild, docile Arien led along by a powerful wife or husband, or kept in his place by a powerful employer. All that fire goes inside, and eats at him from within. Headaches are a common Arien symptom, when the anger goes inside. You can’t expect the god of war to be happy tending geraniums in the greenhouse. He’ll either tear himself apart, or make life miserable for everybody else instead.
Not all Ariens display the physical prowess of the mythological Mars, although a lot are fond of sports and physical competition. The spirit of competition and winning is there, but it may be on an intellectual level instead. Many Ariens seem to have this quality of dynamic energy in the mental realm, and whether they are scholars, philosophers, prophets, artists, religious leaders or one kind or another, you are immediately impressed by the vivid life of their minds. They love mental challenge, difficult problems, impenetrable texts which they can battle. Don’t think all Ariens wear armour and ride horses physically. Some do it very unobtrusively. But watch out for the glint of the steel cuirass someplace. You’ll always find it.
Like all the fire signs, Aries has a problem coping with the facts of the situation he finds himself in. Some Ariens are terribly impractical, about very mundane things – like food, money, taxes. Some are sufficiently protected by an army of secretaries, agents, cleaning ladies et al. so they appear to be models of efficiency when in fact, if left alone with their own resources, they would make a hopeless muddle of the material world. Some are a little better with the things of this world, but are oblivious to the limitations of things. For Aries, anything is possible. Of course, anything isn’t possible. But you can’t tell an Aries that; he’ll simply think you’re cowardly, unimaginative, frightened or weak, and walk away to prove that it can be done. And he gets himself into a lot of trouble as often as he wins honours and accomplishes the impossible at the same time.
One of Aries’ most dangerous problems is that he can be easily disillusioned and made bitter. Because his reality is so often tinted by the values of the chivalric code, he may be injured over and over again by other people who refuse to recognize the code themselves. Aries doesn’t compromise gracefully with either people of life. And if he’s unlucky, or pushes too hard, or has visions which are too wild or impossible, he can wind up in a very bitter state. He needs more than anything else, to learn to see people as they are and to let them remain as they are without crusading. Conquering the infidel didn’t work in the thirteenth century; it’s certainly not going to work in the twentieth. It’s important for Aries to learn balance, a happy medium between his noble visions of how the world might be and the limitations not only of himself but of the times he lives in. If he can find this balance, he sets his aims low enough to be achievable, without abandoning them to the kind of black despair which overwhelmed the knights when the Holy Land was lost.
A strange creature, our fiery Aries. He’s capable of profound thought and considerable tenderness; but without warning he’ll be leaping on his feet again to stir up another crusade. Life is certainly not boring with an Aries. If he can’t find a crisis, he’ll make one. There’s a certain mischievous streak in him too; he’ll poke and goad people and situations which are too staid, too prissy, too stagnant, until the whole thing burst into a conflagration. He, of course, is out the door first, so that he never gets burned – or almost never. But Aries can be a tease, a gadfly nibbling away at whatever has grown fat and complacent and too sure of itself. He likes to play the role of the Devil’s advocate, and doesn’t mind having everybody else thoroughly annoyed at him for doing it. At least it generates a little action; and action, for Aries, is synonymous with life.