You may not be old enough to remember Maureen O’Hara, the strikingly beautiful Irish actress whose red hair, crystal-green eyes and porcelain white skin were so dazzling she was dubbed “The Queen of Technicolor” by Herbert Kalmus, the man who invented that color film process.
O’Hara’s full head of vibrantly menacing red hair wasn’t much of an asset in the many black and white films she made early in her career. But her hair was spectacularly on display on the head of Mary Kate Danaher in The Quiet Man, the film classic she co-starred in with Hollywood legend John Wayne.
In the storyline, Wayne’s character Sean Thornton returns from America to Ireland to reclaim his homestead and escape from his past. Sean’s eye is caught by Mary Kate, a beautiful but poor maiden who is the younger sister of ill-tempered Will “Red” Danaher, who did what he could to drive a wedge between them.
This sparks-flying love story won an Oscar for its director John Ford in 1952. And – in the movie role she often described as her favorite – O’Hara did nothing to damage the reputation or mystique of feisty, strong-willed redheads the world over. Reportedly, throughout her life, O’Hara strongly identified with the sassy, independent heroine she portrayed with such flare on the silver screen.
“I loved Mary Kate Danaher,” she once told a Hollywood beat reporter. “I loved the hell and fire in her. She was a terrific dame, tough and didn’t let herself get walked on.”
Fiery Archetypal Energy
Professional astrologers have long believed they know where this fiery archetypal energy is coming from. That would be the red planet Mars, a fiercely competitive and combative source of combustible celestial energy. Where Martian energy is working in the birth map is where astrologers invariably look for fireworks of one kind or another.
According to some explanations, the stereotypical redhead is supposed to be hot-headed, tempestuous, dramatic, high-strung and sensitive. In support of these claims the medical community has identified a genetic sensitivity to pain among redheads. This sensitivity to physical pain can affect temperament and could possibly tip over into volatility, they suggest.
This, no doubt, is true. But astrologers make an impressive case linking redheads with the fourth planet from the Sun. If the traits described for Mars are accurate, the planet must necessarily occupy a prominent position in the redhead’s birth chart.
In 1988, research astrologers Judith A. Hill and Jacalyn Thompson published the results of a statistical study simply titled Mars and Redheads. The authors noted that hair color is a feature of personal appearance, which astrologers traditionally link to the ascendant or rising sign on the birth chart’s Eastern horizon.
The ascendant is constantly changing with the rotation of the earth, traveling 360 degrees through the 12 astrological signs in 24 hours. So Mars (and every other planet) can be observed rising above or setting below the horizon at some point during any given 24-hour period. If Mars is indeed the energetic life force astrologers describe, and the rising sign influences personal appearance as astrologers say, it’s reasonable to assume the red planet might be found at or near the ascendant in the birth charts of redheads more frequently than expected by chance.
Astrology is a complex symbolical system and redheads are much too complicated to be captured by a single astrological signature or indicator. Not all redheads have Mars rising in their birth maps, and not everyone born with this planetary picture is a redhead. However, Hill and Thompson hypothesized that people with red hair should be born with Mars within 30 degrees of their rising sign or ascendant more frequently than others. Conversely, the red planet should be seen setting within 30 degrees of the descendant less frequently when compared with randomized control groups populated by non-redheads.
In their original study of 500 redheads, the astrologers found 136 redheads (or 27.2 percent) had Mars within 30 degrees of the ascendant, which was significantly higher than the percentage found for the randomized control groups. Among non- redheads, the percentage dropped off significantly to 16.9 percent and 19.4 percent. The researchers calculated the odds at a million to one against the likelihood this result occurred by chance.
Hill and Thompson also found that Mars was located within 30 degrees of the descendent only 9.8 percent of the time in the birth charts of redheads compared with 16.9 percent and 19.4 for non- redheads in the control groups. Significantly, the odds for Mars turning up less frequently at the descendant in the birth charts of redheads were calculated at 350,000 to one against chance. Both results were demonstrably higher than the 95 to one ratio needed to show statistical significance.
In a recent review of the Mars and Redheads study Canadian research astrologer Kenneth McRitchie says the Hill and Thompson study is particularly interesting because it associates implicit astrological properties with an explicit physical trait. Importantly, the result has been replicated by subsequent tests. And it has withstood various critical challenges, like the claim the result could be explained by the Mars-dawn factor.
McRitchie explains that this particular artifact arises from the slight demographic preference of babies to be born near sunrise, and the slight astronomical tendency of Mars to be situated near the Sun in the sky. In response to this criticism, Hill and Thompson submitted their experimental data for independent testing by Beverly Steffert, PhD, and research associate Michael O’Neil. The pair verified the accuracy of the experiment and was able to demonstrate that the Mars-dawn factor contributed a Mars variation of less than one percent, which did not explain the experimental findings.
In a paper published on the www.astrologicalreviewletters.org website, McRitchie describes various successful efforts to replicate Hill and Thompson’s results. What he finds especially intriguing about the research is that it suggests “the distinct possibility of experiments that fully leverage known biochemical and genetic factors.
“Red hair requires elevated levels of trichosiderin and this can be precisely quantified from hair samples. The scale of trichosiderin levels could hypothetically be correlated with Mars frequencies. Also, genetic factors for red hair are known and these factors can be explicitly evaluated from DNA samples provided by participants.
“In general, DNA indicators appear to have some of the same properties and complexities commonly attributed to astrological signatures in that the traits they carry are not always expressed in the same way, and there can also be numerous related contributing configurations. Consideration of both DNA and astrology together in a cross-disciplinary study of red hair could potentially begin to answer many as yet unresolved questions in both fields,” he said.