Gaia (or Earth) is about to send some of her children to Mars. The “wide-bosomed” goddess of Roman mythology breeds, contains and provides succour to the human race like a mother with an infinite womb. But she seems tired now. Not just because her children have grown more and more disrespectful of her and insensitive towards their own kin over the ages, but also because, perhaps, they themselves no longer believe her to be the only shelter that the universe can offer them.
At least 165,000 of her children positively prefer a foster parent — Mars, the god of war and fertility. That is the number of people from across the world who have applied to join the Martian colony that the Mars One Foundation aspires to set up by 2023. The deadline for applications has ended, and the screening procedure is about to begin. Between 28 and 40 candidates will be selected in the first round to be sent to Mars by 2015. The fact to be noted here is that this trip will be one-way — so far there is little chance that people sent to inhabit Mars will be coming back to Earth again.
So, these children of Gaia are preparing to say the final goodbye to their mother. The foster father they have chosen is primarily known as the “god of war” in ancient Roman mythology. In the religion followed by the Roman army, Mars was the most prominent military god. That the children of Gaia prefer Mars as their foster parent is significant in this respect.
It might seem that battle is the primary instinct of the human race. This perhaps made them prefer a masculine war god’s strictly disciplined regiment over the archetypal mother’s gentle care. Are the gender roles of planets in the mythological scheme also something to be thought about? Are humans naturally drawn to the patriarchal order, then? And, consequently, are they automatically uncaring towards the Mother?
Gaia’s role in mythology has been that of the archetypal mother. She is engaged in the endless cycle of procreation and nurturing. She and Uranus, therefore, are the conventional parents — bound by a community-driven sense of duty and responsibility. Mars, on the other hand, is far more colourful as a mythological figure. Not only is he a military leader but also an unconventional character in terms of his conjugal life. Even with Nerio as his consort, he has been in a much popularized passionate and ‘adulterous’ communion with Venus. It makes him the virile and fascinating leader wielding a lightning bolt, whose morality is self-defined.
Yet, Mars is not just a war god. He is also an agricultural guardian, whose essential nature is a combination of both force and virtue. Rather than being a destructive and destabilizing force, he represents constructive energy, which is why the month of sowing seeds, March, is named after him. He directs his prowess towards creating conditions to allow crops to grow. Seen from this perspective, the word ‘martial’, derived from the name of Mars, acquires a different connotation.
Mar’s war is said to be the “war for peace”. If humans choose him as their foster parent, they may do so for lasting growth and prosperity achieved through the use of force. But then again, they have tried to do that before, and failed. The “war on terror” may be remembered as an example. The constructive use of force requires an impartial judiciousness that humans will hopefully learn someday, whether on Earth or on Mars.