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.
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.
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.
Chiron from Greek vase
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.
Antares in the heart of the Scorpion from Uranometria by Johannes Bayer
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.