The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
Mars is currently in Taurus, the sign of its detriment. Mars doesn’t like being here, and it’s easy to understand why. Taurus is slow and solid, more concerned with pleasure and stability than war and glory. Taurus is ruled by Venus, forcing Mars to accomplish his goals using Venusian tools.
But in a natal chart, planets in detriment can be a great thing if developed over time. You’re forced to come up with creative ways to achieve your goals. And there’s no better example of this than Roy Cohn.
Roy Cohn was an American attorney who was the chief counsel during the McCarthy hearings in the 1950’s. He was one of the chief architects of both the Red Scare and the Lavender Scare. He’s no hero. He was a complicated and difficult man who left an even more complicated and difficult legacy. He was also one of the most successful attorneys who ever lived, and much of it can be attributed to his 29 degree Taurus Mars.
Cohn, the son of a prominent judge, grew up surrounded by New York politicians and socialites. Here he learned that power wasn’t gained on the battlefield, but rather behind closed doors with cigars and brandy. Being liked was better armor than being strong.
This is something he took to heart as he grew his legal reputation. He made quick work of ingratiating himself with every judge in New York City. He did favors, he bought dinners, and he kept secrets. He was dead-loyal, and this made him very valuable. And it was all deliberate. He was known for saying that, when taking a case, he didn’t care one whit about the merits, evidence, or anything else. All that mattered was the judge. As long as the judge liked him and as long as he knew the right things to say to appeal to that particular judge, he was unstoppable.
Not that he had to go into court much. He also learned that a strongly worded letter, a well-placed threat, or a phone call to the right people could make just about any problem go away. For this reason, Cohn became the personal “fixer” of many of the most powerful people in New York.
But when he did enter a courtroom, he was terrifying. No one in the world wanted to go up against Roy Cohn. In true Taurus fashion, he was indefatigable. He could hammer at a witness for hours and hours without breaking a sweat, all while the witness wilted beneath his fixed glare. He kept going and going, and eventually everyone broke under the strain. It was this style during the McCarthy hearings that eventually led the opposing counsel to utter the famous words, “Have you no sense of decency?”
While his career eventually turned sour, partly as a result of the catastrophic failure of the red and lavender scares, he never lost his allies. Even when he was later tried for crimes such as witness tampering and perjury, people swarmed to his aid. Public figures from Barbara Walters to William F. Buckley all came to testify to Cohn’s character. And because of their influence, he was acquitted on all charges.
While his story is far too complex to cover in a single blog post, one overarching theme stands out. Roy Cohn used his likability, loyalty, and relationship-building skills to get ahead in the world. He remains one of the fiercest and most feared lawyers to have ever lived, and he did it without the benefit of a strong Mars. Instead, he used what many would consider a debilitated Mars to do great things. Because he had to use unconventional tools, he was able to win in unconventional ways. No one knew quite how to handle him because no one had ever done things in quite the same way before. He kept everyone off balance, using his wonky Mars as an asset all the while.
So if you’re ever looking at your chart and lamenting a debilitated planet, or even if you’re just frustrated by this current Mars in Taurus transit, remember Roy Cohn. If nothing else, he taught us that what we consider a liability may turn out to be our greatest asset in the end.
Do you have any planets in detriment or fall? Can you think of ways they have served you? How have you learned to use them?