In medieval astrology, there are two benefics, or fortunes, and two malefics, or infortunes. The benefics are Jupiter and Venus; the malefics are Saturn, as previously mentioned, and Mars. When you look at them all lined up, they seem to go together, unless it's just that I've been looking at planetary symbols all my life. Each of them is a curved thing tacked on to an angular thing. The greaters are open and asymmetrical; the lessers are closed and symmetrical along one axis. And each of them contains a cross. Except Mars.
The Lesser Malefic is a funny one. Instead of the cross, which symbolizes, generally, the earth, it has an arrow -- movement, focus, and aggression. Mars has no time for anyone else's candy ass; Mars is individuality, action, and the desire to subjugate and control. Broadly, it is the desire to distinguish one thing from another, the desire that is the necessary foundation of violence.
If I separate your heart from the rest of you, say, or cut you in half, you die. But while separation is a form of violence, violence is also a form of separation, an assertion of individuality. If I hurt you, I demonstrate that our interests are fundamentally different. If I kill you, I prove that I do not need you in order to live.
Remember the Greater Malefic? The Greater Malefic is vast, slow, and relentless. Its thing is limitation and deprivation. Like a monolith it sits there, passively fucking your shit up. The Lesser Malefic, though, is all about activity. Rather than limiting, it destroys limitation, taking away what you already had. The Greater Malefic is the dead end you can't escape from, and the Lesser Malefic is the serial killer who chases you into it.
But as is typical in the morally ambiguous, laugh-a-minute world of medieval astrology, the Lesser Malefic isn't always such a bad guy. It's true that his association with knives and cutting makes him a murderer, and that his rampant egotism makes him a despot and a slave-owner; he is also the obsession with self that prevents us from wholly loving others, because love is a kind of dissolution of self, the merging of separate entities into one entity, and the Lesser Malefic doesn't like that at all.
But the knife, whether literal or figurative, has its uses. Without it, a tree could not have been cut down and turned into my desk. Without it, I could not improve manuscripts by excising inferior portions. Without it, my father could not have surgery today, on the last day of the month named after the Lesser Malefic.
It's routine surgery. My worry is routine worry. The surgeon is young and handsome and confident, the perfect incarnation of Mars. He's done this hundreds of times. As necessary evils go, he's not so bad.
Everyone needs the Lesser Malefic sometimes. But it's smart to stay nervous for as long as he's around. He'll cut you.
Total word count (revised): 14,036