Mars Retrograde in Aries

Jorge Camacho

by Jorge Camacho

“Cruelty has a Human Heart,  /  And jealousy a Human Face;  /  Terror the Human Form Divine,  /  And Secrecy the Human Dress.  /  The Human Dress is forged Iron, /  The Human Form a fiery Forge,  /  The Human Face a Furnace seal’d,  /  The Human Heart its hungry Gorge.”

— William Blake, “A Divine Image” from Songs of Experience

Mars Retrograde in Aries

Mars has long been associated with division and separation, catalyzing action, movement, and conflict through eruptions of fiery heat. Mars enters a phase of extreme heat when retrograde, and this will especially be the case in the next few months as Mars will be retrograde in its fiery home of Aries where it operates with directness and strength. For those who are not smiths with a working forge, we can imagine the transformative capacities when working with a forge, transmuting materials into a new, useful creation. As the flames of Mars intensify, we may also light a torch to be carried into the expanses of inner depths to illuminate not only what we desire to create from our forge, but what materials we need to gather for our operation.

Mars stations retrograde on September 9, 2020 at 28°09′ Aries and will station direct on November 13, 2020 at 15°14′ Aries. Ultimately Mars will move back and forth from fifteen to twenty-eight degrees of Aries three times from July 25, 2020 until January 2, 2021. However, the stretch of time from the stationing retrograde of Mars in September until the stationing direct of Mars in November is distinctly different than the other two periods of time that Mars traverses these degrees. As a result, whatever significance the second half of Aries has in your natal chart will be the subject of internal and external confrontations that can lead to vital renovations.

Mars moves through the midpoint of its synodic cycle with the Sun during its retrograde, and so it can be helpful to consider whatever was being set in motion at the root of the current cycle. The present cycle of Mars was seeded by its conjunction with the Sun on September 2, 2019 at 9°40′ Virgo, and became visible in its heliacal rise as a Morning Star around October 16, 2019 at approximately eight degrees of Libra.  In the past year we have gone through many experiences exploring the meaning of the current Mars cycle, and as Mars slows down to station retrograde we are invited to pause in consideration.

During its retrograde phase, Mars transitions from being a Morning Star visible in all its scarlet glory before dawn into becoming a bright red star glowing all through the night. As Mars deepens into its retrograde, it will rise in the east into visibility closer and closer to the liminal transition of twilight. Mars is part of the nocturnal team in astrology, and so delights when it is shining down brightly from the heavens while the Sun is journeying through the darkness of the underworld. Mars also comes closest to us in orbit during its retrograde phase, altogether making it an extremely potent period for Mars.

As a result we need to come into relationship with an intensification of Mars in the coming months, which means working with volatility, change, and the relentless passion that can overcome us when working hard and taking action as well as the ensuing burnout. Mars brings awareness of instinctual drive, emerging desires, and how they align with our purpose through action and making things happen.  Mars wants freedom of movement and expression, and when it is moving direct it enjoys the hunt of going after goals and competing for whatever we view as the treasured prize. Yet when Mars stations to shift retrograde it isn’t moving, and so there is increased potential to feel frustrated or blocked.

The typical feelings of infuriation over being restrained when Mars stations retrograde will be extremely exacerbated due to it stationing in a square aspect with Saturn in Capricorn. In fact from August 15 until the beginning of October, Mars and Saturn will remain in a colossal conflict with each other within three degrees of a waxing square aspect. The fiery force of Mars that can melt down solidified structures and bonds will be confronting the supremely solid presence of Saturn in its earthy home of Capricorn. It will be necessary to monitor energy levels, resting for regeneration as needed and letting go of goals meeting so much resistance that they are exhausting us and inhibiting our capacity to optimally respond to life.

Ideally we can sustain a slow burn approach that allows for periods of recuperation so that we can take advantage of the opportunities to initiate productive growth. There is similar symbolism in Saturn sealing off an alchemical vessel, with the fires of Mars separating the constituent elements contained within so they may be recombined in new forms. As James Hillman wrote in Alchemical Psychology:

“Nature subdues nature by means of fire. Heat dissolves the cohesion of a substance; that natural desire to hold to itself as it is. Heat separates the metal from the ore body and can calcine the metal into a more workable condition. In the only-natural state, the substances resist change. They intend to stay as they are and have been for millions of eons, buried and hidden away. Yet the innate urge toward perfectibility welcomes the fire. Hence, they rejoice also in their submission, allowing themselves to be smelted, hammered, and extracted from their home ground. Resistance of any thing is given with its essential nature . . .

Nature does enjoy its natural state and resist change, yet it also struggles against its predilection for stasis, subduing itself and making change possible. Nature sophisticates itself, dividing its ambivalence into two aspects – the unchanging and the changing. It is therefore folly to attempt to change the unchanging . . .

What changes and what does not change? What stays the same and what becomes different? In philosophical terms, the existence changes, but the essence remains unalterable.”

— James Hillman, Alchemical Psychology, p. 35

As Mars stations retrograde it slowly turns the separating and dividing function of Mars inward, stoking our inner flames and initiating a process of realignment with our most deeply felt desire and purpose. By embracing the corresponding constriction upon external martial flow and the magnification of inner fire, during Mars retrograde we can make breakthroughs instead of suffering breakdowns. Like telling our stories to one another around a great collective bonfire,  we enter a liminal phase of changing the way we tell our own life narrative, shifting the trajectory of cyclic patterns at work. You may begin to notice the meaning of past experiences transfiguring in the flames, releasing you from ways you have been restricting or confining yourself to a particular story about yourself.

Mars moves retrograde less frequently than the other planets, so the relative novelty of its retrograde phase is an additional signifier of major changes that arrive in correspondence. Some people seem to be more profoundly impacted by Mars retrograde periods than others, and some people also seem to be more strongly impacted by Mars retrograde in certain signs than in other signs. Mars moves retrograde in Aries less frequently than some of the other signs- the last two times we experienced Mars retrograde in Aries were in 1988 and 1941. One way to sense how Mars retrograde periods impact you is to reflect upon your experiences during the past Mars retrograde periods.  Below is a list of the Mars retrogrades periods that have happened since 1999:

  • June 26 – August 27, 2018: stationed retrograde at 9º13′ Aquarius, stationed direct at 28º37′ Capricorn.
  • April 17 – June 29, 2016: stationed retrograde at 8°54′ Sagittarius, stationed direct at 23°4′ Scorpio.
  • March 1 – May 19, 2014: stationed retrograde at 28° Libra, stationed direct at 10° Libra.
  • January 24 – April 14, 2012: stationed retrograde at 24° Virgo, stationed direct at 4° Virgo.
  • December 20, 2009 – March 10, 2010: stationed retrograde at 20° Leo, stationed direct at 1° Leo.
  • November 15, 2007 – January 30, 2008: stationed retrograde at 13° Cancer, stationed direct at 25° Gemini.
  • October 1 – December 10, 2005: stationed retrograde at 24° Taurus, stationed direct at 9° Taurus.
  • July 29 – September 27, 2003: stationed retrograde at 11° Pisces, stationed direct at 1° Pisces.
  • May 11 – July 19, 2001: stationed retrograde at 30° Sagittarius, stationed direct at 16° Sagittarius.
  • March 18 – June 4, 1999: stationed retrograde at 13° Scorpio, stationed direct at 25° Libra.
Mars

Mars from The Gods Who Preside Over the Planet (1528) by Master I.B.

“Astrologically, Mars characterizes the instinctual and affective nature of man. The subjugation and transformation of this nature seems to be the theme of the alchemical opus.”

— Carl Jung, Alchemical Studies

Carl Jung in Alchemical Studies referenced the writing of the 16th century Paracelsian alchemist Adam von Bodenstein who conceived “Ares” (or Mars) to be the “prime nature of things” that determines “their form and species,” with Jung declaring that as a result Ares or Mars can be considered to “be taken as the principle of individuation in the strict sense.” Jung further described Ares as the “preconscious, creative, and formative principle” that gives life, purifies, and transforms. In Jung’s Liber Novus or The Red Book, a pivotal chapter involves Jung meeting “The Red One” whose garments “shine like glowing iron,” and clearly embodies attributes of Mars. Liz Greene aptly summarized the impact of the Red One as bringing Jung into contact with a “vitally important yet previously neglected unconscious potency necessary for the fulfillment of Jung’s personality.”

Jung’s meeting with the Red One in Liber Novus follows a period in which Jung’s narrator was feeling stuck and unsure of what he wants and where  to go. The Red One shatters and brings new life not unlike the Tower card of tarot that is also associated with Mars; in fact, Jung’s narrator is standing guard on a high tower when he observes the Red One approaching from a distance. Similarly, the stationing of Mars in Aries may feel like a call to change course or the approach of vivifying presence that can penetrate our defenses and make us vulnerable to an infusion of new desires from a contrary source.

Aries is the diurnal home of Mars and the exaltation of the Sun. The fiery cardinal sign, Aries is the optimal zodiac sign for pioneering new territory and initiating decisive movement, but it is not known for its staying power. The tension, friction, and contraction that will be felt as Mars engages in its fraught aspect with Saturn will make the first month of Mars being retrograde a time for taking considered action that takes account of external variables and internal energy levels. If we make sure to look before we leap and cultivate patience and resolve in enduring difficulties, we will be able to make some steady progress but may need to oscillate between periods of action and contemplative inaction. It will be a period for work that leads to long-term rewards rather than short-term results and gratification.

In world events, Mars retrograde in Aries will amplify the polarized conflicts already set in motion, shaking and shattering structures and systems of the status quo as it collides with Saturn, Pluto, and Jupiter in Capricorn. The astrology of 2020 has involved the ending and beginning of cycles between Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto that has forced confrontations with underlying issues of systemic oppression and inequity that have been festering across society. In particular, the cycle between Jupiter and Saturn that is ending is drawing to a close a two hundred year era of conjunctions between Jupiter and Saturn in earth signs that began in 1802, and so part of the martial conflict will center on societal issues that have plagued the past couple of centuries such as colonialism, racism, sexism, and the impact of the industrial revolution on economic and environmental systems.

The first month of Mars retrograde will be especially incendiary in relation to Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn, as Mars will form a square with Saturn on September 29 and with Pluto on October 9, with Saturn and Pluto within three degrees of one another in Capricorn. These jarring aspects will be inescapably striking due to Saturn and Pluto stationing at the same time, with Saturn stationing direct on September 29 and Pluto stationing direct on October 4. With Saturn and Pluto ending their retrograde phases and stationing direct, we will be coming to terms with however we have been questioning external systems of power and the way we wish to operate within society.

Rick Tarnas in Cosmos and Psyche highlighted the tendency of Saturn Pluto alignments to constellate mass projections of subversive elements within the populace upon an other or scapegoat, projecting whatever is deemed heretical or inferior, whatever we are in denial about ourselves. Tarnas stressed the shadowy complex of Saturn-Pluto is further matched by a compensatory empowerment of repressive and reactionary forces that utilize authoritarian methods. Rather than enacting cruelty on a scapegoat with all of the insidiousness you are projecting upon the other, be curious about whatever aspects of your inner multiplicity are being stirred up. Explore the deeper meaning of the stories you are drawn toward, the people you are attracted as well as repulsed by. Discern how the volatility can lead you toward considered and constructive action rather than reactionary impulsiveness.

We can use the catalyzing influence of Mars to claim more of our inner authority to make the changes we wish to see happen. There will be a need to be protective of others and to forge resiliency and courageousness out of whatever conflict emerges, yet it will also be important to not become stuck and rigid with defensiveness.  Allow whatever aspects of yourself are being shed to fully putrefy and provide compost to nurture whatever wants to emerge from within. Mars retrograde in Aries will provide the burning fires of Eros needed to forge bonds of fellowship as well as motivate a honing of whatever skills we need to cultivate to perform the role we need to play within the great changes taking place.

michael_maier_atalanta_fugiens_emblem_22

Emblem XXII by Michael Maier from Atalanta Fugiens

“Do not act out; do not hold in. A paradox. And a double negative that suggests a via negative, a de-literalizing cancellation of both commandments. A mercurial escape from the exhausting oscillation between them. Instead of holding in or acting out, act in. Cook in the rotundum as one vessel was called, referring both to a container and to the roundness of the skull. Hold the heat inside the head by warming the mind’s reveries. Imagine, project, fantasize, think.”

— James Hillman, Alchemical Psychology, p. 37

An extremely inflammatory Full Moon in Aries on the first day of October will demarcate the transition of Mars from completing its square aspect with Saturn into engaging fully with its square aspect with Pluto. Mars will bring a more energizing and activating impact at this point due to it increasing in speed and movement as well as leaving the bounds of Saturn (25° – 30° Aries) to enter its own bounds (20º – 25° Aries). From the Full Moon on October 1 until Mars completes its aspect with Pluto on October 9, there will be an intensification of desire and ambition as Pluto stokes the flames of Mars.

Yet it’s also wise to invite consideration of the dwarf planet Eris, as Mars will unite with Eris at 24°07′ Aries on October 3. Astrologers are still researching and coming to terms with the meaning of Eris in astrology, but there does seem to be resonance with her mythology which has connection with the Strife that Empedocles stated was at the root of creation along with Love. Homer in the Illiad said that Eris is the wrathful sister and companion of Ares, while Hesiod in Theogony said that Eris is the daughter of Nyx (Night) and the mother of kakodaimones (evil spirits) who plague humanity. Hesiod also said that while there is one kind of wholly blameworthy Strife, there is another who is praiseworthy in her capacity for stirring up hard work and productive competitiveness that leads to important creations.

Peter Kingsley in Reality noted that the force of Love is idealized without question, but that the force of Strife described by Empedocles can bring awareness of the illusions and deceptions brought by Love. Kingsley wrote that Strife can lead one toward ultimate freedom despite all of its associated difficulties:

The situation is starkly simple. If we let it have its way without cooperating, then Strife will manifest as violence and destruction all around us. But if we are willing to cooperate, we can consciously channel its energy instead into destroying ourselves- our beliefs and illusion, our attachments, our clinging to the ways things are. For what can be so difficult to realize is that the very act of becoming conscious is, itself, a process of destruction; of separation; of learning to die before we die.

–Peter Kingsley, Reality

The strife stirred up between Mars and Eris will have a direct impact on the ruptures emanating from Mars and Pluto. Mars clashing with Pluto can stir up potent ambition that can lead to extreme frustration and anger when facing restrictions or obstacles that impact your ability to manifest aspirations. There will be a need to be cautious of becoming so strongly driven and competitive that you become enmeshed within destructive power dynamics with others. Yet Mars and Pluto can also bring an indomitable tenaciousness in pursuing goals against all odds. By patiently building toward your goal and accepting the circumstances of your current stage of development, you will cultivate the flexibility needed to release yourself from repressive influences, adjust to changes of necessity, and draw from the depths of Mars and Pluto in ways that weld together your desire, purpose, and resolve.

Both Pluto and Mars have ancient associations with the underworld. Pluto is named for the Roman lord of the underworld, and similarly in astrology signifies our inner subterranean realm of circulating unconscious patterns that drive our instinctive reactions. In contrast, the planet Mars was known as the underworld deity Nergal in ancient Mesopotamian astrology. Michael Baigent in From the Omens of Babylon: Astrology and Ancient Mesopotamia wrote that Nergal was “lord of both the fires of hell and the heat of the fierce summers which destroyed both man and crops.” Nergal was the god of plague, fevers, and pestilence who forced his way into co-rulership of the underworld with Ereshkigal, becoming a god of the grave and judge of the dead.

We may feel dragged down into the chthonic and volcanic fires of Mars and Pluto in moments, yet the intensity of their heat will be capable of simultaneously reforging your will force. There may be tests of your ability to claim your personal power and a need to release yourself from dynamics that have been excessively repressing or restricting you.  When we resist the cathartic change brought by Pluto for security reasons we often experience breakdown, but when we surrender to its process of regenerative decay there can be a fiery purification of old restrictive patterns that sets the stage for us to give birth to a more potent vitality.

The mysterious meaning of the plate from the Gundestrup Cauldron above has been interpreted in many ways by scholars, including as an ancestralization ritual. Michael Enright proposed it depicts an initiation rite in which the large, divine smith on the left is quenching the warriors on the lower level in a vat so that they transition from being  “hot blooded adolescents into the cooler and more relentless realm of responsible adulthood” shown in the regal figures on the upper level. Just like a blacksmith dips spear and sword blades into quenching liquid so they become harder and more durable, so the initiate’s “nature undergoes a metamorphosis in the vat such that he can then be accepted as a rightly made adult.” There are echoes of the legendary Cú Chulainn whose battle frenzy burned so hot he had to be quenched three times in order for him to operate within society.

Mars will plunge us into the initiation that comes at the midpoint of its retrograde journey on October 13 when it forms an opposition with the Sun in Libra, with Mars at 21º04′ Aries. Mars at this point of its retrograde phase will be as close to us in orbit as it gets within its entire cycle, and it will also be glowing as bright red as possible in the night sky. As the Sun sets in the west, Mars will rise in the east; as the Sun rises in the east, Mars will set in the west. Adam Gainsburg has described the solar opposition phase of Mars as being a period for making a radical commitment to one’s authentic vision, as well as reframing the meaningful motivation of Mars from being all about one’s own needs into serving societal needs.

The same day that Mars forms an opposition with the Sun, Mercury will station retrograde in Scorpio under rulership of the star of Ares. Since Mercury will be stationing retrograde within range of an opposition with Uranus in Taurus, the middle of October will be exceedingly volatile and ripe with potential for sudden revelations, breakthroughs, and breakdowns. Mercury will remain retrograde in Scorpio until October 27 when it returns to Libra. With Mercury retrograde being ruled by Mars retrograde, let the tricks of Hermes guide you toward whatever needs to be released or reevaluated. While the delays and disagreements in communication that can come with Mercury retrograde periods will be activated, it can also be an extremely potent time for shedding what needs to be laid to rest while more deeply refining your purpose.

As Mercury in Scorpio takes on its chthonic psychopomp role in the middle of October, Mars will finally complete its square aspect with Jupiter on October 18 with Mars retrograde at 19°27′ Aries and Jupiter at 19°27′ Capricorn. Jupiter being in a superior square to Mars will amplify the potency of the Mercury retrograde phase in Scorpio happening simultaneously, with intimations of new visions erupting from the cracks of the tectonic shifts that will be happening in world events. As Jupiter in Capricorn will be entering its final stretch of bringing to a close the old era with Saturn, the square between Jupiter and Mars can help in separating the inessential from the past that needs to be left behind while centering within the essential we need to cultivate and carry forward.

Venus in Vulcan's forge

Venus in Vulcan’s Forge (1546-47) by Leon Davent

“There is a certain kind of peace that is not merely the absence of war. It is larger than that. The peace I am thinking of is not at the mercy of history’s rule, nor is it a passive surrender to the status quo. The peace I am thinking of is the dance of an open mind when it engages another equally open one–an activity that occurs most naturally, most often in the reading/writing world we live in. Accessible as it is, this particular kind of peace warrants vigilance. The peril it faces comes not from the computers and information highways that raise alarm among book readers, but from unrecognized, more sinister quarters.”

– Toni Morrison, The Dancing Mind speech when accepting the 1996 medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

Before Mars stations direct on November 13, it will form an opposition with Venus in Libra on November 9, with Venus at 15°21′ Libra and Mars at 15°21′ Aries.  The tension between Venus in Libra and Mars in Aries as Mars is beginning to station direct will bring to fruition something that was catalyzed on September 4 when Venus in Cancer formed a square aspect with Mars in Aries when Mars was beginning to station retrograde. With both Venus and Mars empowered within each of their own domiciles, there will be an amplification of whatever volatile tension has been building within relational dynamics.

Furthermore, once Mars stations direct on November 13 at 15º14′ Aries, Venus in Libra will begin engaging in a series of square aspects with Pluto, Jupiter, and Saturn in Capricorn. Venus will square Pluto and Jupiter on November 15 and then Saturn on November 19. Combined with Mars stationing direct, we will have opportunities for aligning whatever purpose and meaning we have forged from the fires of Mars with the needs of society so that our efforts will make a worthwhile, effective impact in our wider community.

The hard aspects between Venus and Mars that bookend the retrograde movement of Mars points to the role each of us will be playing as active creative agents during this key three month period of 2020. As we come to an end of the earth era of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions in order to firmly establish ourselves in an era of air at the end of December, our capacity to wield technological innovation to empower our agency will be key. Yet the influence of Venus in Libra at the finale of Mars retrograde illuminates the need for actively deep listening within the agency we cultivate, as well as using our creativity courageously in the face of systemic oppression. Rather than insistence on the self serving, we will need to align with what will serve society for the greater good.

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References

Baigent, Michael. (1994). From the Omens of Babylon: Astrology and Ancient Mesopotamia. Penguin Arkana.

Enright, Michael. (2007). “Ritual and Technology in the Iron Age: An Initiation Scene on the Gundestrup Cauldron.” Myth in Early Northwest Europe. Edited by Stephen O. Glosecki. ACMRS.

Greene, Liz. (2018). The Astrological World of Jung’s Liber Novus: Daimons, Gods, and the Planetary Journey. Routledge.

Hillman, James. (2014). Alchemical Psychology. Spring Publications.

Jung, CG. (1967).  Alchemical Studies. Translated by RFC Hull. Bollingen.

Kingsley, Peter. (2003). Reality. The Golden Sufi Center.

Tarnas, Richard. (2007). Cosmos and Psyche. Plume.

Mars Retrograde 2016

Hilma af Klint

by Hilma af Klint

Mars Retrograde in Sagittarius & Scorpio

The Mars retrograde that begins April 17 at 8°54′ Sagittarius and ends June 29 at 23°4′ Scorpio promises to generate intense, life altering events.  Mars retrograde periods correspond symbolically with extreme inner heat that amplifies the potential for complete transformation of life circumstances, and this particular Mars retrograde coincides with last quarter squares between Jupiter and Saturn as well as Saturn and Neptune, in addition to a Mercury retrograde phase and the superior conjunction of Venus with the Sun.  Mars goes retrograde the least often, only once every 26 months or so, for about a period of three months.  Mars is closest in its orbit to Earth when it is retrograde, signifying an intensification of all things Mars, while its apparent retrograde motion signifies an inward turn to the normally outwardly directed force of Mars.  In collective events, the ramping up of Mars through the constraint of its stationing will correspond with explosions of conflict and martial forces in need of mediating.

Traditionally, Mars has been associated for millennia with separating and dividing, catalyzing movement, conflict, and eruptions of symbolic and literal heat.  Mars also has a tradition of corresponding with courage and those who will protect, guard, defend, and serve others unconditionally, embodying the highest ideals of a warrior protector.  In the alchemical process of separation and union, Mars can be associated with the power and strength of the flame that effects change through separating and purifying component parts in its fiery heat.  During Mars retrograde our inner fire combusts and from a centered place of alchemical fire we melt the chains of our past and regenerate our sense of willful purpose in life. With the Mars retrograde turning the separating and dividing function of Mars inward, a core process ensues of realigning ourselves toward our most deeply felt desire and purpose in the moment. By embracing the corresponding constriction upon external martial flow and the magnification of inner fire, during Mars retrograde we enter a period of dramatic shifts, changes, endings, and beginnings occurring in our myriad relationships with the world around us.

Some people seem to be more profoundly impacted by Mars retrograde periods than others, and some people also seem to be more strongly impacted by Mars retrograde in certain signs than in other signs.  As a general rule, Mars retrograde periods can be one of those magical astrological vortexes in which significant encounters and experiences carry a destined feeling of gravity.  A great way to get a feel for how Mars retrograde periods impact you is to reflect upon your experiences during the past Mars retrograde periods.  Below is a list of the Mars retrogrades periods that have happened since 1999- note that from May through June of 2001 there was a Mars retrograde that also occurred in Sagittarius, though a completely different section of Sagittarius than the current one:

  • March 1 – May 19, 2014: stationed retrograde at 28 Libra, stationed direct at 10 Libra.
  • January 24 – April 14, 2012: stationed retrograde at 24 Virgo, stationed direct at 4 Virgo.
  • December 20, 2009 – March 10, 2010: stationed retrograde at 20 Leo, stationed direct at 1 Leo.
  • November 15, 2007 – January 30, 2008: stationed retrograde at 13 Cancer, stationed direct at 25 Gemini.
  • October 1 – December 10, 2005: stationed retrograde at 24 Taurus, stationed direct at 9 Taurus.
  • July 29 – September 27, 2003: stationed retrograde at 11 Pisces, stationed direct at 1 Pisces.
  • May 11 – July 19, 2001: stationed retrograde at 30 Sagittarius, stationed direct at 16 Sagittarius.
  • March 18 – June 4, 1999: stationed retrograde at 13 Scorpio, stationed direct at 25 Libra.
Ernst mundus est fabula

Mundus est Fabula (1959) by Max Ernst

Astrology like other meaning we discover in life is rooted in the personal story of our experiences.  In the interface between one’s personal narrative and the collective narrative, the complex web of interrelationships shifts and mutates across time.  The meaning of our past experiences and how it impacts our choices in the moment can change radically in the split second of an epiphany.  We tell our life story to others, and the narrative telling of our life changes:  how we describe our life story today is vastly different from how we would have told it in the past, or how we will tell it in the future.  Sagittarius where Mars is stationing is the home of outwardly directed Jupiter and an archetypal place of discovering personal truth in life experiences, a knowledge that goes beyond belief.  With Mars stationing in range of a square to Neptune in Pisces, as Pluto stations retrograde the following day, and Saturn is co-present with Mars in Sagittarius, a restructuring and regeneration of our meaning and purpose in life is underway.

In times of strife, demanding tasks and difficulties, we come to a deeper understanding of our personal truth as well as discover new sources of strength inside.  Since Pluto stations retrograde in Capricorn, the home of Saturn, a day after Mars stations retrograde, and since Mars is stationing for the entirety of April while being co-present with Saturn in Sagittarius, there is a strong element of Saturn bringing karmic tests or challenges requiring disciplined perseverance during this Mars retrograde.  In experiences of melancholy corresponding with Saturn, we can also tap into the vast suffering of the collective.  Most vitally, the binding of Saturn combined with the catalyzing of Mars can be put to the creation of great works if the necessary focused effort and determination is applied. While contemplating Mars retrograde recently, the theme of “the wand chooses the wizard” from the Harry Potter stories came to me.  By this I mean that a destined calling could arise in this period deeply bound to the fabric of one’s nature.  It will work best not to willfully demand certain choices but rather to accept and align with the mission, project, relationships, or journey that has chosen us to be a vital player in.

Graves bird with void

Bird with Void by Morris Graves

Mars and Pluto

The simultaneous stationing retrograde of both Mars and Pluto is fascinating from the perspective of the Evolutionary Astrology system developed by Jeff Green, as here the relationship between Mars and Pluto reveals the leading edge of desires emanating from the Soul.  In Evolutionary Astrology, Mars moving direct corresponds with desire for unrestricted freedom that can be both impulsive and instinctual.  When Mars moves retrograde, however, the inward direction of Mars ignites our inner energy field and we become drawn into taking greater consideration of our Soul.  Astrologers view Mars retrograde periods as times in which Mars is untethered from conditioned constraints and more of a maverick force, yet Evolutionary Astrology points to the possibility of using Mars retrograde to access greater consideration in action and less impulsiveness.

There is an interesting connection between the meaning of Mars retrograde in Evolutionary Astrology and the heliocentric nodes of Mars, with the South Node of Mars being Scorpio and the North Node  of Mars being Taurus.  The South Node of Mars being Scorpio connects perfectly with Scorpio being the home of Mars, a sign where Mars is most comfortable and natural.  In Evolutionary Astrology, the South Node of Mars being Scorpio also connects with Pluto sourcing the desires set in motion through Mars.  The Scorpio South Node reveals the evolutionary arc of Mars coming from a desire to merge with external sources, whether that be sexual merging with a lover, spiritual merging with a belief system, or any other act of merging with any external source.  The North Node of Mars being Taurus reveals an evolution of Mars into the inner, self-reliant realm of Taurus that is centered within an inner source that is not dependent upon, or conditioned by external sources.

Though Mars retrograde is a completely different concept than the heliocentric nodes of Mars, the opportunity to utilize the Mars retrograde  for centering does have some resonance with the Taurus North Node meaning.  Since Pluto stations retrograde in Capricorn the day after Mars stations retrograde, in correspondence there is an opportunity to go deep within our inner recesses and explore what from within is informing our external action. As a result, the period of Mars retrograde can help our personality align to a greater extent with our Soul’s intention and purpose. To achieve this requires listening inwardly and reflecting before launching into impulsively egocentric action.

K15.1Kheiron

Chiron from Greek vase

Sagittarius Symbolism

The mutable, yang, and fiery nature of Sagittarius is paramount to take into account regarding this Mars retrograde.  Mars will spend all of April stationing in Sagittarius, and will continue to be retrograde in Sagittarius for all of May save about four days.  Sagittarius is a double-bodied sign symbolized in the image of the centaur, half human and half horse.  The half horse aspect of the centaur is connected to the instinctual, survival based realm of the lower torso, while the half human part contains the chest, heart, throat, mind, dexterous hands, and other instruments of human consciousness.  Sagittarius is a sign of creative manifestation, of mediating spiritual forces in the body through the mindful focus of an archer locked on a target.  Sagittarius feels the inexorable magnetism of the eternal horizon and the undiscovered, full of desire to experience adventure and the fullness of life.

With Mars stationing at a standstill in Sagittarius for so long, while we will no doubt feel a call to adventure of one sort or another, the astrological fact Mars is basically not moving for over a month creates great astrological constriction.  While we can experience expansion within this containment and associated experiences, the expansion is likely to come from inner pressure creating bursts of expression or release.   For example, I recently participated in a stimulating webinar entitled The Alchemy of Colour by Dr. Aaron Cheak, in which Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s color theory that a boundary is necessary to produce colors was explored.  Though creation does come from chaos, the co-presence of Saturn with Mars retrograde in Sagittarius will reveal how structure and containment leads to expansion of wisdom and creativity.  As Sagittarius is the home of Jupiter, this Mars retrograde will bring opportunities to discover a deepening of philosophical awareness and associated ethics to live from, rooted in visceral understanding through experience.

The intuitive knowing and self confidence of Sagittarius can also lead to dogmatism and a crusading mentality that creates violence and terrorism based around belief systems such as religion, politics, and philosophy.  Unfortunately in world events, as there are already innumerable conflicts rooted in these Sagittarius themes, greater violence, warfare, and human suffering is likely to occur during this Mars retrograde.  Activists also become crusaders around desire to end oppression and uphold principles of social justice, and so the timeless debate of how direct and violent this sort of actions needs to be to effect change will once again dominate.  There can also be a crusading mentality rooted in peace and nonviolence, that utilizes the creative visioning of Sagittarius to manifest complex acts of direct action and protest aimed at shutting down oppressive power structures without creating collateral casualties in the process.  With Uranus in Aries, the home of Mars, there is likely to be a great resurgence of protest movements arising with reinvigorated force.

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Antares in the heart of the Scorpion from Uranometria by Johannes Bayer

Antares

A crucial, unique aspect of this Mars retrograde is that Mars stations while conjoining the fixed star Antares.  Antares is named for being the “rival of Mars” because it is a giant binary star that glows red in our night sky.  Antares is one of the four ancient royal stars of Persia that were utilized in the past by sky watchers to anchor the seasons, with Antares holding down the season of Fall in the heart of the Scorpion constellation.  Though the four royal stars no longer line up with the seasons in the tropical zodiac utilized in western astrology, they still carry ancient symbolic significance: Aldebaran (opposite to Antares in Gemini now, and connected with Spring Equinox), Fomalhaut (located at about four degrees Pisces now and connected with Winter Solstice), and Regulus (located at the beginning of Virgo now and connected with Summer Solstice). If you remember, the Venus retrograde that occurred last July and August 2015 began with Venus stationing retrograde while conjoining Regulus, and so this further deepens the meaning of us now experiencing Mars stationing retrograde while conjoining Antares.

Ptolemy famously linked Antares with Mars and Jupiter, and Vivian Robson portrayed Antares as causing “malevolence, destructiveness, liberality” and making “natives rash, ravenous, headstrong, and destructive to themselves by their own obstinacy” (p. 137).  Reinhold Ebertin deduced “Antares makes people tough, belligerent and pugnacious” and though could be connected with “mental alertness, strategic ability, and courage . . . If associated with Mars, courage is said to become foolhardiness, leading to increased dangers” (p. 70-1).  There is a long tradition of warning about the dangers of hubris yoked to headstrong martial force in connection to Antares, yet the clearly forceful and determined correspondences of Antares could also be put to thoughtful use.  It seems the positive interpretation of Antares bound to the beginning of this Mars retrograde is to strengthen the resolve of one’s inner warrior and resiliency, as long as consideration is taken to not be overly self righteous, stubborn, and egotistical. An aspect of Sagittarius that leads to difficulties comes from impulsive action lacking foresight, and so finding disciplined practices to utilize for centering and mindfulness will be especially helpful.

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8 of Wands by Pamela Colman Smith

Sagittarius 1 Decan

The first face of Sagittarius where Mars stations retrograde is ruled by Mercury and associated with speed of movement, as the image of the corresponding Eight of Wands card in tarot displays.  Austin Coppock in his book on the decans 36 Faces wrote this face “entails the swift emergence of a motivating vision and the attainment of a vehicle to move one toward the pictured goal” (p. 194).  Mercury connecting to this Mars retrograde bridges the swiftness of our mind and imagination to the martial transformation at hand. At the time Mars stations retrograde, Mercury will be in the middle of Taurus in its Evening Star phase.  Mars stationing in a face ruled by Mercury brings up interesting connections, as similar to Sagittarius, Mercury also is a lover of the road, finding its home in the “in between place” between the beginning of the journey and the destination.  As Mars is known for conflict, so is Mercury known for contrariness, and so this resonance further amplifies the level of heated exchanges that will commence.   From the flames of conflict the inessential will be burned off to reveal primal, authentic passion and purpose.

Mars entered Sagittarius on March 5, and will be retrograde in the first face of Sagittarius from April 17 – May 27, 2016.  After stationing direct in Scorpio at the end of June, Mars will return to the first decan of Sagittarius at the time of a New Moon in Leo on 2 August 2016, eventually entering the second decan of Sagittarius around August 22 when the Sun enters Virgo.  Mars will not leave Sagittarius and enter Capricorn until 27 September 2016, a day after Pluto stations direct in Capricorn.

As a result, from April through May we are introduced to the vision and goals that will be signified by Mars retrograde, yet associated challenges will limit the ability to fully accelerate to the finish line.  Vitally, the heart of the Mars retrograde phase when Mars becomes exactly opposite the Sun will occur on May 22 with Mars at two degrees of Sagittarius and the Sun at two degrees of Gemini- this binds the visionary meaning of the first face of Sagittarius even more strongly to this Mars retrograde phase.  Then later in August, during a crucial period in which Mars will be conjoining Saturn in Sagittarius, Mars will return to the first face of Sagittarius and we will have uncovered a deeper sense of purpose and emboldened will-force with which to act from and respond.  In between, Mars will retrograde and then station direct in its home of Scorpio where we will be dipped into a boiling cauldron of transformation.

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7 of Cups by Pamela Colman Smith

Scorpio 3 Decan

Mars will retrograde back into the third face of Scorpio on May 27, station direct on June 29, and eventually leave Scorpio to return to Sagittarius on August 2 during the darkest of a Dark Moon.  The 7 of Cups illustrated above by Pamela Colman Smith is associated with the third decan of Scorpio, and inside the image are seven chalices holding visions of human desires such as fame, wealth, and power. Yet the cynosure of this assembly is a veiled figure with open arms emerging from the center cup. The meaning includes being overcome by the illusions of our desires, with the possibility of discerning the one choice that will bring clarity and increased opportunities for true desires.  Austin Coppock in 36 Faces analyzed this decan as being “ultimately a face of wrestling with one’s own desire nature, for it leads one inevitably back to confrontation with the nature of desire itself” (p. 187).  Coppock suggested that the illusions surrounding our desires and the loss of being separated from the object of our desire takes us into a destruction and regeneration process that liberates us through “laying our desires to rest, returning them to pure energy” so that new desires can grow from their putrefaction (p. 188).

Venus is a fitting ruler of this decan as she could be interpreted as our inner source of desired visions emanating above our horizon.  Potently, Venus will be purified within the rays of the Sun at her superior conjunction while Mars is retrograde in Scorpio, creating a direct confrontation with one’s desire nature.  Mars is at home in Scorpio, and so this period of the retrograde from the end of May through the end of June will be full-on Mars, with the flames of surrounding conflicts and drama rising.  On personal levels, there is potential for some to lose control in a frenzy of fixation on desires on the one hand, while on the other hand there is also potential to purify and regenerate one’s  desire nature, shedding and then intensifying purposeful will-force.

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Emblem 33 of Atalanta Fugiens by Michael Maier

Mercury Retrograde in Taurus

There is incredible synchronicity in the timing of this Mars retrograde and the Mercury retrograde in Taurus in April and May.  To begin with, on 28 April 2016 Mercury will station retrograde at 24 degrees of Taurus, which is exactly opposite the degree of Scorpio where Mars will eventually station direct on June 29, 2016.  Additionally, on 22 May 2016 when Mercury stations direct, Mars will be exactly opposite the Sun at the heart of its retrograde phase on the same day.  Mercury when retrograde corresponds with the Hermes Psychopomp of myth who guided Souls and had the ability to descend into the underworld and reascend into the upper world.  This means that our Mercurial functions and perceptions will be regenerated and reborn in the buildup to Mars reaching full opposition with our Solar Light.  While Mercury will be in between Earth and the Sun in orbit, Mars will be as close to Earth as it gets on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun and Mercury.  Fascinatingly, the degree at which Mercury stations direct is fairly close to the degree in Taurus of the heliocentric North Node of Mars.  There is a clear omen here of our Mercurial perception, discernment, and expression being recalibrated in synchronous timing with our Mars will-force and desire nature.

With Mercury still and stationing as Mars reaches the heart of its retrograde cycle, there is a clear message from the universe to create space and structure in life to quiet and center the mind during this Mars retrograde period.  Mercury stationing direct midway through Taurus also points toward cultivating patient and grounded processes as well as being self-reliant in terms of sourcing our motivation and action, instead of losing our sense of self in external relationship or trying to force issues that simply are not happening.  If you have significant astrological placements in the third decan of Fixed, Earth, or Water signs, it will be worth the time to contemplate the fact that Mercury will station retrograde at the end of April at 24 degrees of Taurus, and Mars will station direct at the end of June at 24 degrees of Scorpio.

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Emblem 34 of Atalanta Fugiens by Michael Maier

Mars and Venus

Mars retrograde periods often coincide with ruptures and new beginnings in relationship, and this particular Mars retrograde promises to be especially potent in the realm of relationship as Venus and Mars have compelling aspects in their cycle to consider.  As astrological tradition ascribes separation to Mars and union to Venus, the changing state of becoming that will coincide with this Mars retrograde will bring realization of the ancient idea of Heraclitus that separation is union, and that union is separation.  Venus will be under the beams of the Sun (using the orb of 15°) for the entirety of the time Mars is  retrograde, meaning that as we experience the inner heat of Mars retrograde we will also experience Venus in a process of being purified in the regenerative rays of the Sun.  As arguments and strife in relationship are likely to occur repeatedly during this Mars retrograde, patience will be required as well as focus on mediating and resolving conflict.

On June 6 Venus will merge into the heart of the Sun as enflamed passions seek effusion and emanation.  Leading up to this pivotal moment in the synodic cycle of Venus, Mars retrograde will form an exact opposition with Venus at the first degree of Sagittarius and Gemini on May 24, 2016.  Oppositions in astrology are known to create conflict and difficulties, but in the polarization of energies can also spark expansive growth.  In the case of Venus and Mars being opposite, there will be a fiery force within their polarity that can be expressed through artistic creation, sexuality, determined work, and innumerable other outlets that allow for an outpouring of passionate desire.  After Venus separates from her face-off with Mars, she will turn to chase after and unite with the Sun.  Mars retrograde will stoke the flames burning off Venusian dross, and as the old patterns of Venus combust we will simultaneously experience a rebirth of Venus on inner as well as outer levels.  While some relationships will end at this time, the relationships created or deepened will catalyze and nurture the essential elements of our nature being revealed.

The following quotes are all from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters on Life translated by Ulrich Baer and touch on some of the pertinent themes of this Mars retrograde:

Freedom should be recommended only to someone who knows what boundless responsibility is.

It is possible in art to stay always with “what one already knows,” and by staying within that sphere of knowledge and experience, it expands and always again leads beyond the self. The “ultimate premonitions and insights” become reachable only for the individual who resides in and remains at work, and whoever contemplates from a distance will not gain control over them.

To be close to another person who holds opposing views while being a deep, committed friend can be a wonderful, shaping influence. For as long as one remains forced to consider (as one is primarily in one’s relation to one’s parents and other older people) anything other as something false, bad, hostile instead of plainly other, one will not enter into an unforced and just relation with the world where all things are meant to have a place: part and counterpart; I and the one who is most different from me. And only when such a complete world is admitted to and considered possible will one succeed in arranging one’s own interiority with its internal contrasts and contradictions generously, spaciously, and with sufficient air to breathe.

For love is the actual climate of fate: no matter how far it stretches its path through the heavens along its milky way composed of millions of stars of blood, the land beneath those heavens lies pregnant with disaster. Not even the gods in the metamorphoses of their passion were sufficiently powerful to liberate from the entanglements of this fertile soil the startled, fleeing beloved on our earth.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Life translated by Ulrich Baer

References

Coppock, Austin. (2014). 36 Faces: The History, Astrology and Magic of the Decans. Three Hands Press.

Ebertin, Reinhold. (1971). Fixed Stars and their Interpretation. Ebertin-Verlag.

Robson, Vivian. (1969).  The Fixed Stars & Constellations in Astrology. The Aquarian Press.