Mars in Scorpio & the Instinctual Self

I love to read as much as I love to write, and I’m constantly collecting new information… in a very gemini-esque fashion. Meaning, when I’m at my computer I have 20+ browser tabs open with various articles – none of which I can read beginning to end without switching to several more articles while reading. I sometimes do it without noticing. I read a paragraph of one article, switch to the next, and do the same, and then again… finally circling back to the article at which I started reading.

Similarly, I have numerous books on the go at once in multiple forms – hard-copy books, Kindle books, library books, and audio books.

But to be perfectly honest, especially now that I am no longer in University, I rarely actually finish any of them. I read a chapter there, another chapter somewhere else… I spend my life hauling library books back and forth and maxing out on the number of books I’m allowed, and paying fines… and yet I’m lucky if I make a dent in the stack.

Ha, it feels like an addiction sometimes. Damn you Amazon, with your easy e-books and that 1-click purchase button!

I have a Gemini Moon, and my Mercury (in Pisces) squares an Uranus-Mars conjunction in Sag. I suppose I come by this erratic, ineffective and overly-ambitious reading habit naturally… (can any other Gemini-types relate to this??)

HOWEVER. I made a commitment this year to tackle a significantly big book, and read it cover to cover – sustaining the journey without getting distracted.

Last December 2016, I purchased the long-standing bestseller: “Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype”, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

500+ pages, small print and meaningful, multi-layered stories that required my full engagement… It was a daunting choice for my cover-to-cover goal, but it has crossed my path continuously since I first heard of it. I gradually worked my way through it, picking up speed slightly as I incorporated it into my morning routine along with my coffee, but I was still only reading a few pages at a time.

This slow, consistent approach worked out well. It is a book so rich with delicious flavour and meaning, that it is best digested and savoured in small morsels.

I finished the book last Sunday, December 10th, a year later – appropriate timing for this Mercury Retrograde/ Saturn in Sag wrap-up period. It has become my much-underlined bible and it has supported me well this year.

In a broader, more general sense, this endeavor has reminded me that solid progress can be made with patient, consistent, step-by-step (Saturnian) effort, rather than my typical, overly-ambitious, aim sky-high and then crash/burn-out approach.

I share this story to: 1) share/brag about this personal achievement of which I am very proud, 2) to offer a glowing recommendation of this gorgeous book (which I suspect many of you have heard of or read already), 3) to offer encouragement to other gemini-esque readers that it is possible to persevere with reading books cover-to-cover, and 4) to bring up the concept of “instincts”, which Estes writes quite a bit about.

Instincts always remind me of Mars in Scorpio. Mars recently entered Scorpio last Saturday and will be there until January 26th. Mars was last in Scorpio 2 years ago: January 3rd – March 5th, 2016, if you want to make any comparisons.


What are they, really?! I’ve come across a number of definitions, a number of arguments for where instincts originate from within the body, and I’ve seen the word “instinct” used interchangeably with “reflexes”, “intuition”, “soul”, and to reference Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ term, our “wildish nature”.

Wikipedia tells me that “any behavior is instinctive if it is performed without being based upon prior experience (that is, in the absence of learning), and is therefore an expression of innate biological factors”.

How does a spider know to start spinning a web? How does a caterpillar know how to make a cocoon? How does a beaver know to make a beaver dam? How do birds figure out how to build a nest, or when and why to fly south?

They certainly never went to school for it.

Instincts. Magical instincts.

Other words that are used to describe instincts include: primal actions, hardwired impulses, inborn tendencies and inclinations, compulsions, gut feelings, biologically-based needs and automatic physical responses to external stimuli…

Some have argued that humans don’t have instincts in the same way that animals  do – that most of our behavior is “learned behavior” (with the addition of some bodily “reflexes”).

However, Estes would argue that we are instinctual creatures through and through. She indicates that the aim of her writing is to “de-pathologize the integral instinctual nature, and to demonstrate its soulful and essential psychic ties to the natural world.”

The entire book of hers, is a summoning to return to our natural innate instincts – our wildish selves. To remember who we truly are.

She suggests readers ask themselves the following questions:

“What has happened to my soul-voice? What are the buried bones of my life? In what condition is my relationship to the instinctual Self? When was the last time I ran free? How do I make life come alive again?

These strike me as Mars in Scorpio questions.

Mars symbolizes our will, our primal desires, how we assert ourselves, protect ourselves, and get what we need and want. Perhaps one could say that astrologically, Mars symbolizes our instinctual selves…

In Scorpio, Mars’ power is amplified. Its appetite is voracious. Its methods are cunningly strategic, stealthy, and determined. Its expression sizzles with intensity and passion… and sometimes pain.

Scorpio is, after all, a doorway to our deepest vulnerabilities.

Will we use this transit to peel back the layers to awaken our sacred instincts, our birthright? Or will we respond by running and hiding, and redirecting that relentless, pulsating, yearning for liberation toward cheap fulfillment?

Assuming that as human beings, members of the Animal Kingdom, we do indeed possess instinctual drives, what purpose do our instincts serve?

• Instincts seek to ensure our survival – individually, and arguably collectively – by getting our basic needs met.

• Instincts keep us safe by prompting protective and defensive action.

• Instincts warn us of danger and propel us away from pain and suffering.

• Instincts direct us toward pleasure, love and connection.

And according to Estes, instincts beckon us forward toward freedom, truth, wholeness, and fulfillment.

However, in our complicated society, which no longer resembles the Stone Age, how do these instincts express themselves?

The problem is that for many of us, we’ve inherited and absorbed stories from our environments that have rerouted our instincts and rewired our neurobiology. We have been traumatized, imprinted, and conditioned, to associate certain stimuli with pain, pleasure, love and fulfillment based on past experiences that may no longer be relevant or beneficial.

The voice of our instinctive, wildish selves, often reaches us like a faint whisper over a static phone line.

What is a genuine “gut feeling”, an intuitive knowing… and what feels like an intuitive instinctual response, but is actually a response based on warped messages we have learned, inherited, and absorbed throughout our life? Sometimes we have to untangle crossed wires before the voice of our instinct comes through loud and clear.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes believes that we are “born with all instinct intact.” She writes for those seeking to recover the trail of the instinctual self in order to retrieve their vital essence that has been domesticated, captured, or injured.

“The repair of injured instinct begins with acknowledging that a capture has taken place, that a soul-famine has followed, that usual boundaries of insight and protection have been disturbed… When the instincts are injured, humans will “normalize” assault after assault, acts of injustice and destruction toward themselves, their offspring, their loved ones, their lands, and even their Gods.” (~Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

What would it mean to recover our instinctual selves?

“Within us is the old one who collects bones. Within us there are the soul-bones of this wild Self. Within us is the potential to be fleshed out again as the creature we once were. Within us are the bones to change ourselves and our world. Within us is the breath and our truths and our longings – together they are the song, the creation hymn we have been yearning to sing.” (~Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

And how might we find our wildish selves?

I’ll tell you right now, the doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.” (~Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

Lilith (and her “rebellion” from captivity) is an archetypal figure of the instinctual self. For me, Lilith, as an astrological point in my chart and the mythic narrative and symbolism it references, has been a door.

Perhaps Mars’ transit through the dark waters of Scorpio is another door to the wild Self?

I’ll conclude with the advice of Friedrich Nietzsche…

“Being human is a complicated gig. So give that ol’ dark night of the soul a hug. Howl the eternal yes!

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