(warning for sexual assault/rape)
as an album, fetch the bolt cutters is cathartic. it is heavily percussive, and deemed "almost martial" (!). drums have a deep history in connection with military and martial arts, and of course, in dance music. there is a long association between heavy percussion and embodiment - it is instinctive to begin to move in response to percussive rhythm. it energises.
in thinking about mars in cancer, i take cues from alice sparkly kat and their ideas of essential dignities: rather than viewing debilitated planets as simply weak, we can look at how the tension and incompatibility, and their position of exclusion, are sources of creativity much like the creativity that emerges from oppressed people seeking to survive and liberate themselves.
they don't extend their theory to exalted and fallen planets, but i'm interested in seeing how it applies. and we can see it with extraordinary clarity with fetch the bolt cutters:
i was listening to the strology podcast's episode on mars, and my friend scarlet was talking about how you can think of mars as a kind of forge. mars creates the kind of heat and pressure that you can use to create a weapon, but it can also create suffering, separation, severing - the traditional function of mars is to cut, to separate, to break. it falls in cancer, a wet, cold sign that rules care, nurturance, closeness, attachment and bonds. the exact place we don't want separation, where it would cause us deep emotional pain.
i think, in this world, where the moon is subjugated (because as long as we live in a diurnal world, where people don't get the care and rest they need and deserve -- she is!!!), mars in cancer is a warrior for the moon. it's hard to find a person who hasn't experienced any kind of attachment disruption or emotional trauma, but people with mars in cancer internalise it in a way that deeply informs their motivation, and it becomes part of their forging fire. and out of that forge: the bolt cutters.
the title came from a quote from the tv show the fall, where gillian anderson's character says "fetch the bolt cutters", to free a girl who has been imprisoned and tortured. although bolt cutters perform the function of mars, cutting and breaking, here they are breaking in order to protect, to defend vulnerability.
fiona apple has mars in cancer conjunct jupiter, and as the ruler of her chart (she is a scorpio rising according to astrotheme). jupiter is exalted and mars is fallen, meaning that this point in her chart is full of spiritual hope, but also turbulence and conflict. she has a day chart, strengthening both jupiter as a benefic and mars as a malefic. in the lead up to the release, the north node in cancer would have passed across those points. the north node was one degree away from her mars during the cancer lunar eclipse on january 10th. there was a lot to let out in early 2020 for her.
to me, the percussion in fetch the bolt cutters feels like remediation for mars in cancer. if emotions become blocked or repressed, that cuts off a vital source of energy. i know on a core level (having mars in cancer conjunct my moon), i need to feel my feelings in order to feel alive, to have the juice, even as it might bring conflict and tension into my life. sometimes that's about giving myself space to cry as much as i need, sometimes it's about physical movement to release the emotions i can feel causing tension in my body. sometimes it's listening to music that speaks to my feelings, sometimes it's about watching a very emotional anime. whatever keeps things flowing.
here in list form are some of the ways i feel mars in cancer emanating from this album:
- shameika's pivotal encouragement to fiona, helping her psychically defend herself from bullies, was to tell her that she has potential, but not in a warm or fuzzy way ("shameika wasn't gentle and she wasn't my friend"). she thinks of this encouragement to defend herself now, and it helped fiona realise she was a "good man in a storm", an image of resilience in wild water
- "i was just so furious, but i couldn't show you 'cause i know you and i know what you can do"
- she made the album in her home, and the percussive sounds heard are often household objects, or her banging on walls
- she also used a box filled with her dead dog's bones as percussion
- the references to childhood bullies continue in fetch the bolt cutters: "the cool kids voted to get rid of me, i'm ashamed of what it did to me" "a girl can roll her eyes and kill, i got the idea i wasn't real". fiona speaks to how these early conflicts and complicated feelings can seep into the present, especially between girls, in spaces that we often wish for comfort, intimacy and being emotionally validated
- "evil is a relay sport, when the one who's burnt turns to pass the torch"
- a huge emphasis on resentment -- anger that builds without release (the bolt cutters - setting the internalised/repressed anger free?)
- the ambivalent relationship between women who have been with the same men, knowing the "truth" about particular men, often having similar trauma. the urge to form solidarity, but also contending with emotional denial, overidentification, protection: "i watch him let go of your hand, i wanna stand between you, but it's not what i'm supposed to do/i watch him walk over, talk over you, be mean to you, and it makes me feel close to you"
- "i wonder what lies he's told you about me to make sure that we'll never be friends"
- her sister's vocals are on this, and she was breastfeeding while she was recording
- "ladies": "this album is a lot of not letting men pit us against each other or keep us separate from each other so they can control the message"
- writing "for her" as a way of processing her own experiences with sexual assault, purposefully making the lyrics explicit and confrontational so other people could connect with it
- "the very sound of fetch the bolt cutters dismantles patriarchal ideas: professionalism, smoothness, competition, perfection—aesthetic standards that are tools of capitalism, used to warp our senses of self. where someone else might erase a mistake—“oh fuck it!” she chuckles on “on i go”—she leaves it in. where someone might put a bridge, she puts clatter."
mars in cancer as a fallen position makes sense logically, in the traditional system of astrology. but culturally, it has always made little sense to me. maybe the idea of mars being less troublesome in a night chart helps me reconcile what feels wrong to me. artemis, as a lunar archetype, feels very martian. shoot arrows first, ask later. being a separatist and disliking men, being more at home with animals, and ruling over the messy bloody work of childbirth: all kind of martian.
|(fiona apple LOVES her dogs. you can hear them barking at the end of the fetch the bolt cutters track)|
similarly, while we contend with many images of mother as all-loving, all-forgiving, placid, warm, "homely", motherhood/primary parenthood itself is often internally experienced as such a radical change in someone's life, a complete split from who they once were. there can be a lot of internal chaos, grief, anger, guilt, depression, that so many parents experience as part of reshaping their relationship to kinship and family. sometimes i wonder if part of mars in cancer being a difficult placement is in our collective reluctance to admit how complicated family and attachment is, how primal and tense it can be, especially for women who are socially expected to maintain bonds and connection.
this is a post for another time... but i have been wondering if the debilitated and fallen planets are showing us, are hidden aspects of those planets, kind of like shadows. half baked idea, but when we think about mars in cancer, we can think about who has been denied their anger, who has been silenced, who has been suppressed or coerced. and underneath that, the grief and vulnerability that mars in cancer fights to protect. another way i've been thinking about remediating mars in cancer is understanding it as not just a source of immediate, emotional reaction, but a relationship i can integrate into what i value and what i consciously choose. it becomes not just about my feelings, but protecting a greater, collective emotional truth. give your mars purpose! give it something to fight for! that's what i sense from fetch the bolt cutters – fiona is hitting those drums for us.