New Moon in Sagittarius

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Bed 1 (1990) by Fernando D. Guibert

Sagittarius New Moon

The New Moon in Sagittarius on November 29 weaves transitions between the astrological dynamics that have dominated 2016 and the coming themes of 2017.  The New Moon is square to both Neptune and the transiting lunar nodes, in the same degrees of Sagittarius that Mars previously stationed retrograde in April 2016.  The Sagittarius New Moon also forms a square to the Solar Eclipse in Virgo that occurred in September 2016, and the Solar Eclipse in Pisces that will occur in February 2017.  The blackness of the Sagittarius Moon draws us inward to accept the circumstances of our life and everything that has correspondingly been stirred up from within during this past year.  Many unexpected things have happened during a year of incredible mutable activation in astrology, and as we let go of what we had expected and open to what has now arisen, a new perspective will begin to coalesce and clarify the meaning of all the changes that have come about in 2016 so far.  The intuitive capacities inherent in Sagittarius support witnessing and observing all of our inner feelings and coming to a sense of fresh vision and meaning that will bring inspiration in the coming months.  There is a whirlwind of transpersonal, outer planet activation in tandem with the Sagittarius New Moon that makes exploration of our unconscious and everything we have been keeping out of conscious awareness imperative.

The New Moon in Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter in Libra as Jupiter has initiated its first square with Pluto in Capricorn and is en route to form an opposition with Uranus in Aries.  Jupiter in Libra is also in trine with Mars in Aquarius, and both Mars and Jupiter are in sextile with Saturn in Sagittarius.  These are incredibly potent and catalyzing surrounding transits for Jupiter that not only taps Jupiter into subconscious motivations and soulful desires, but also presents Jupiter with harmonious aspects to ground and manifest vision into tangible projects and results.  These aspects support opening awareness and communication, being willing to accept nonlinear perceptions and insights that transcend the normal confines we limit our consciousness to.  Instead of merely projecting the contents of our psyche being activated, it will be helpful to sit with, embrace and live with all of our desires, taking the responsibility to be accountable for our own feelings.  There is potent power available within these transits that can be utilized to bring one’s creative gifts into the surrounding world as well as support and protect the livelihood of others we care about.

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Frida Kahlo (1939) The Two Fridas

Heart of the Scorpion

The New Moon in Sagittarius is conjoining the royal star Antares, known as the Heart of the Scorpion.  Antares has been a vital astrological factor in 2016, as Mars stationed retrograde at the same degree as Antares in April 2016, and in August 2016 both Mars and Saturn conjoined in our night sky near Antares.  In combination with the recent Full Moon in Taurus that was aligned with the degrees of Scorpio that Mars stationed direct in June 2016, the transition from the previous Taurus Full Moon into the Sagittarius New Moon has reawakened the meaning of the Mars retrograde of 2016 that was aligned with Antares, introducing important new information and events that reshape what we have learned from our experience.  Antares brings an intensity that will make the lessons we need to accept and learn from impossible to resist at this New Moon.

Bernadette Brady in her book on fixed stars wrote that Antares was associated with Yima (aka Yama), the god of the dead, by the Persians.  Correspondingly, Brady wrote that Antares naturally catalyzes purification through “a cleansing life-and-death experience,” and evokes desire to seek the deepest depths of intensity in life.  The Sagittarius New Moon aligned with Antares opens potential to purge and burn off past issues and complexes that have been weighing us down over the course of the past year.  Feeling within our body and inner recesses, there is healing to be found in receiving the truth of what life is now offering us instead of struggling to change what has already come to pass. The asteroid Juno is also conjoining Antares and the Sagittarius New Moon, signifying that important realizations are available through our relationships into what we need and want in the relationships we make lasting commitments within.

Antares has had a long association with Mars and Jupiter in astrology going back to the time of Ptolemy, and has also been associated with a fierce fighting spirit.  All four of the Royal Stars of Persia warn against hubris, and in Antares the downfall traditionally has been seen as obstinate attachment to headstrong martial force that leads ultimately to unnecessary destruction.    Yet since Antares also signifies strong mental sharpness and strategizing, the resiliently tough correspondences of Antares can also be used to strengthen the resolve of one’s inner warrior, as long as consideration is taken to not be overly self righteous, stubborn, and egotistical.

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Remedios Varo (1942) Magic Grotto

Venus square Uranus

Venus in Capricorn takes center stage at the Sagittarius New Moon, tightly applying to a square with Uranus after having initiated a new phase with Pluto during the waning of the Moon that led into the New Moon.  Venus in Capricorn formed a conjunction with Pluto at the same time that Jupiter in Libra formed a square with Pluto, dredging up deep relational patterns while uncovering liberating insights regarding what we want and need in relationship.  To fully embody and realize the meaning from contact between Venus and Uranus, we need to allow ourselves to become catalyzed by contact within our relationships as well as create space for ourselves to observe what has been stirred up within in order to receive the corresponding inner knowing.

There is support within all of the surrounding astrological transits to expand the parameters of Venus in our life, not only gaining awareness for what we value and what will bring us pleasure, but also sensing how we can move beyond previous limitations to find outlets for its expression and manifestation.  With Uranus impacting Venus so strongly, there is an unexpected quality in which we will discover Venusian meaning from unlikely sources.  Instead of judging where our sense of Venus is coming from, be open to embrace the message because there is likely to be a significant unconscious quality that had been previously barred from conscious awareness.

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Georgia O’Keeffe (1944) Black Place II

Saturn and Neptune

As the Moon begins to wax at the initial stages of the forthcoming lunation cycle, it will pass over a conjunction with Saturn in Sagittarius.  Each subsequent day the Sun will get closer and closer to a conjunction with Saturn, eventually forming a conjunction on December 10.   The Sun will form a square to Neptune the day after the New Moon, and so the Sagittarius New Moon re-activates the square between Neptune and Saturn that has been a dominant theme of 2016.  While there has been extraordinary disillusionment on collective and personal levels in correlation with the square between Neptune and Saturn, the resulting dissolving and dislodging of formerly solid structures is opening new pathways and potentials with which to reorient and restructure.

The Sagittarius New Moon is best utilized by honestly accepting our present circumstances and allowing ourselves to observe and learn from what the present moment of our life story is teaching us.  Being in denial will be even more toxic than normal at this New Moon.  The Sagittarius Sun approaching Saturn is an opportunity to make a thorough review of our life and what is working well versus what needs modification.  Aiding an ability to grasp a far reaching overview of our present circumstances is Mercury in Sagittarius having recently separated from a trine with Uranus and Ceres in Aries at the New Moon.

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8 of Wands by Pamela Colman Smith

Sagittarius 1 Decan

The first face of Sagittarius holds the New Moon and is associated with the 8 of Wands card illustrated above by Pamela Colman Smith.  The 8 of Wands card contains an abstract image of velocity found in angularly jutting wands, and the associated meaning of the card involves the speed of thought and imagination applied to a passionate goal.   Austin Coppock in his book on the decans 36 Faces ascribed the image of “The Poisoned Arrow” to the first face of Sagittarius, writing that “the essence of this decan entails the swift emergence of a motivating vision and the attainment of a vehicle to move one toward the pictured goal,” as the “fire that enters the mind enflames it, purging the grosser levels of being as it descends” (p. 193-4).   Coppock wrote that the Moon in the first decan of Sagittarius desires a philosophical and spiritual quest that will bring personal meaning, and accordingly requires goals and targets that will unify energy in alignment with one’s vision for life.

Fittingly, the first face of Sagittarius is ruled by Mercury, signifying its rapid pace. During the coming lunation cycle Mercury will become one of the most significant astrological factors, as Mercury will enter Capricorn and approach a conjunction with Pluto before stationing retrograde on December 19.  Until then, Mercury will be available as a discerning Evening Star capable of digesting meaning from the experiences of each day.  Evening Star Mercury in Sagittarius and Capricorn will be able to perceive insights from within our bodies, our dreams, and by grounding our perception into the surrounding forms of our material world, synthesizing important realization.  As Mercury slows down to a standstill as it approaches Pluto, our perception will be able to delve into the depths of our desires, and yet whatever careful plans we have made will need to become open to the shifting that Mercury retrograde brings.   Align intention at the New Moon in Sagittarius with whatever brings you the greatest meaning in life, with understanding that the coming lunar cycle will be bringing numerous unexpected events and experiences not capable of being planned for at the moment.

References

Brady, Bernadette. (1998). Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars. Weiser.

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

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Sagittarius Full Moon

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Full Moon 21 April 2016 taken by Gray Crawford

Full Moon in Sagittarius

While Luna ablaze in light will take center stage the night of the Full Moon on May 21, the driving force of the cosmic theatre is Mars.  Mars arises at sunset along with the Full Moon, as resplendent in brightness as is possible for the red planet to appear.  Mars will be at its most vivid glimmer in our night sky because it is at the heart of its retrograde, exactly opposite our Sun with full reception of solar light.  With Mercury simultaneously stationing direct, the Sagittarius Full Moon is a crossroads at which Mars Retrograde, Mercury Retrograde, and the Lunar Cycle intersect.  Whatever has already sprung forth or been faced during the Mars retrograde in the last month, whatever realizations have been unearthed during Mercury’s retrograde, at the crossroads Hekate delivers a message of paramount importance.  With the Sun in Gemini while its ruler Mercury is stationing direct, there is integral guidance available regarding the path we have been following during the backward march of Mars.

Betwixt Gemini and Sagittarius lies the polarity of Mercury and Jupiter. Perhaps no other axis in astrology has as much to do with exploring the innumerable, ineffable levels of meaning found within our experience of reality.  While Gemini is a place of inexhaustible curiosity following as many connections and contrasts of meaning between cultures and perspectives as possible, Sagittarius is a place through which all of our learning and perceptions can be synthesized through fiery vision aimed at a target.  Sagittarius polarizes in Gemini the leap of desire, thought, and action needed to coalesce the meaning gathered from life into focused manifestation.  While Gemini as the home of Mercury is comfortable teasing out the depth found in between different viewpoints, Sagittarius as the home of Jupiter facilitates thought and action sourced from intuitive faculties found within.  Finding a center of inner guidance at the Sagittarius Full Moon is both vital and tricky, however, as there is a larger astrological context of tension between Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune, astrological factors which call us to question the nature of our reality.

The real trouble is this: every single idea we have about what truth is, is itself a deception.

All our attempts to discriminate between reality and deception or between truth and illusion are exactly what keeps on tricking us, because the things we take for reality happen to be the greatest illusion.

–Peter Kingsley, Reality, p. 211

There will be many examples in which the Full Moon aligned with Mars retrograde will manifest as overzealous righteousness in those convinced their perspective on a situation is the only way to be.  Challenging the amplified Sagittarius fire contained in the Full Moon are the often overlooked Vesta and Pallas Athena, with Vesta in Gemini opposite Mars retrograde and Pallas Athena in Pisces forming a square to Mars retrograde and the Full Moon.  Pallas Athena is holding the wisdom of everything being dismissed by a know-it-all perspective, acknowledging the consequences of actions taken in personal relationships as well as within the vast collective.  Vesta aligned with the Sun in opposition to Mars retrograde can foster focused devotion toward desires that deserve being one’s top priority, separating from the elements of life that create meddlesome distractions to the vision becoming clarified in the light of the Moon.  There is a tremendous catalytic charge in the Full Moon to provoke movement, and while no doubt there will be numerous surrounding conflicts to traverse as a result, with mindfulness one can center upon the most fruitful path to follow forward.

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Phases of the Moon by Bianca Daalder-van Iersel

Jupiter in Virgo

Jupiter in Virgo rules the Full Moon and is in the middle of potent, complex aspects.  Crucially, Neptune is opposite Jupiter while Saturn is locked into a square with Jupiter, aspects which bring disorienting, disillusioning experiences and require total presence in the moment in order to optimally navigate.  Simultaneously, Jupiter has been sustaining a Grand Earth Trine with Pluto in Capricorn and Mercury in Taurus over the past week, an arrangement of ease which encourages presence in one’s body and surroundings, yet can also lead to stagnation.  Since Jupiter is in the home of Mercury, their trine with Pluto in Capricorn has the potential to facilitate a release of resistance to the fundamental changes that have been signaling for acceptance through subtle and discordant experiences.  At the same time, the harmonious aspects between Mercury, Jupiter, and Pluto promote attachment to comforts that soothe anxiety yet keep us from breaking free into the potential growth available.  There is a threshold to cross between holding on to whatever we feel we must possess for security, and following the path that leads in a direction that feels enlivening yet also frightening due to the usual security needs not being guaranteed.

We love taking things easy- will even spend the greater part of our available time working ourselves into the ground just so that we can sit around in a little comfort and security right at the end. But this is a fool’s game. We will have the shock of our lives when, sooner or later, we realize that what had seemed so perfectly safe is in fact the perfect illusion.

Everything we look to for safety or comfort: this is Love’s trick. And by refusing to take any true risks we end up ironically taking the most dangerous course there is, of placing all our trust in our deceiver.

–Peter Kingsley, Reality, p. 409

Neptune in Pisces and Saturn in Sagittarius from a traditional perspective are both in homes of Jupiter, and so the catalytic energy of the Sagittarius Full Moon is ripe with potency to revivify visions of what can bring joy and fulfillment into one’s life.  While seizing the Full Moon in order to take hold of your life in the direction you feel compelled to follow is important, there also needs to be a willingness for patience and acceptance regarding whatever is not manifesting as one had hoped.  The tumultuous astrology contained in the Sagittarius Full Moon can readily erupt into personal conflicts, and so being impatient and frustrated will only add fuel to the fire.

It is essential to remember that Jupiter in Virgo is further aligned with the transiting North Node of the Moon, while Neptune in Pisces is aligned with the transiting South Node of the Moon.  This means that the ruler of the Full Moon is aligned with the North Node of the Moon, dramatically tilting the balance toward the direction and choices in life that feel fresh and unfamiliar and require the use of one’s skill set in new ways.  The North Node side of the Moon holds gifts accessed through letting go of habitual thoughts and reliance upon using our strengths and talents in the same way we always have because of the success it has brought in the past.  There is strong astrological support to shed the old identity or persona we created for ourselves and have become accustomed to, and to discover in the changing moment dynamic new ways to express our talents and gifts.

Hermes is here to help guide us through the crossroads before us, as Mercury in Taurus is the ruler of both Jupiter as well as the North Node of the Moon.  Mercury at the time of the Full Moon is stationing direct as a Morning Star, sharing its light with us during the shifting colors of sunrise.  As Mercury arises in the flames of Dawn, it shifts to a role focused upon goals, objectives, and connections that are found in the light of day.  All of the deep, ruminating realizations we have sensed during the retrograde of Mercury over the past several weeks will now begin to be able to be clarified with greater objectivity.  However, Mercury stationing direct can feel disruptive since the fleet footed messenger is standing still and sustaining focus on a degree of the zodiac- in this case the midpoint (15°) of Taurus and the midpoint of all the Fixed signs are especially impacted.  While Mercury’s stationing is a significant component of the jarring feel of this Full Moon, ultimately it is also a key component of the extraordinary change that can be manifested as the Moon enters the waning half of its cycle.

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The Fire Eating Bird by Joan Miro

Venus Sun opposite Mars

Though the opposition between the Gemini Sun with the Moon and Mars retrograde in Sagittarius is the most exact aspect of this Full Moon, there is also an opposition between Venus and Mars that is building to a climax and will culminate a few days later on May 24 at the first degree of Gemini and Sagittarius.  At the time of the Full Moon, however, Venus  remains in her own sign of Taurus at 27 degrees, roughly four degrees away from opposing Mars and the Full Moon.  While Mars at the heart of its retrograde is now as close in orbit to Earth as it ever gets, Venus is far away on the other side of the Sun from Earth en route to its Superior Conjunction with the Sun which will occur in the first week of June.  Venus is now at the most intense phase of her purifying process of going into the flames of the Sun, and so her opposition with Mars occurring now is made all the more volatile.  There is incredible energy found within Venus and the Sun opposing Mars retrograde that could play out in many directions:  in relationship it could be released through ecstatic merging, heart-to-heart conversations, as well as disastrous conflict.  If out of relationship, it could be felt through tremendous suffering over not being in relationship, or could be utilized through embracing the freedom and independence gained through not being in relationship in order to break free to a higher level of personal development and potential.

In astrology, it is easy to link the polarity between Mars and Venus with the ancient philosophy of Empedocles that placed the waxing and waning of Love and Strife at the center of creation, since astrologers connect Mars with separation and Venus with union.  Peter Kingsley’s book Reality explored the life and work of Empedocles as well as fellow presocratic philosopher Parmenides from the perspective that these historical lions of rationalism were in fact engaged in the direct experience of reality  found in mystical traditions.  Kingsley noted in his book how there is a dominant perspective that idealizes Love and fears Strife, and how this makes sense to us without question.  In contrast to this viewpoint, Kingsley interpreted Empedocles to reveal that Love can lead one into a realm of great illusion and deception, while Strife can lead one toward ultimate freedom despite all of its associated difficulties:

So the one choice we are left with is to let Strife do its work either with our cooperation or without: either with our deliberate trust and awareness or in spite of us, dragging us along by the heels. But the more we try to run away from it and hide, the more trouble we will be creating for ourselves in future.

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, p. 435

In the week ahead we will have a lot of issues centered around associated themes of Venus and Mars to contend with.  The timing will result in the big boom of the Full Moon, Mars retrograde opposite the Sun, and Mercury stationing direct happening first, followed by Venus and Mars applying to an opposition in the following three days.  The gift found within all of these tumultuous aspects is Self-realization and clarification regarding the balance between our inner desires, needs, and values and the way in which they are being expressed, received, and fulfilled in our external relationships.

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8 of Wands by Pamela Colman Smith

Sagittarius 1 Decan

The first face of Sagittarius is ruled by Mercury, signifying its rapid pace.  However, Mercury in Taurus is stationing direct at the time of the Full Moon and so the protean nature of Mercury is shifted toward a standstill rather than a rush of movement.  The 8 of Wands card illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith that is associated with the first face of Sagittarius contains a rather abstract image of velocity found in angularly jutting wands, and the associated meaning of the card involves the speed of thought and imagination applied to a passionate goal.  With Mercury stationing direct at the Full Moon, the effect is more akin to the incredible potency of a master still in contemplative meditation, rather than the speed and dexterity of a master engaged in a martial art.  Whenever a planet stations it takes on greater prominence by transit, and this is especially the case with Mercury not only because it rules the first face of Sagittarius but also because Jupiter, the ruler of the Sagittarius Full Moon is also in the home of Mercury.

Austin Coppock in his book on the decans 36 Faces ascribed the image of “The Poisoned Arrow” to the first face of Sagittarius, writing that “the essence of this decan entails the swift emergence of a motivating vision and the attainment of a vehicle to move one toward the pictured goal” (p. 194).  Images linked to this decan found in ancient texts support this description as an armored man holding a sword appears in Three Books of Occult Philosophy, signifying “boldness, militancy and freedom,” while Ibn Ezra described the image of a shouting centaur holding a bow and arrows.  Similarly, the Yavanajataka described a man with drawn bow who “has a knowledge of chariots and weapons,” and is in possession of “speed as violent as a horse’s.”  In contrast, the Birhat Jakarta included an image of a centaur who is “residing in a hermitage, protecting sacred articles and Maharishis.”   In all of the images we find both the velocity and strength to get the desired job done, as well as the potential to create violence in the process.

As Mercury retrograde completes itself as the Moon is fully lit in our night sky, there is a corresponding illumination to be found in reflection of what has transpired during the past month of Mars and Mercury being simultaneously retrograde.  This is one Full Moon in which all of the astrological indicators point toward it carrying a tremendously important message to receive.  Allow whatever inspiration arises to help propel you forward, while aware that the propulsive force of this Full Moon can also coincide with conflicts erupting in need of mediation.  There is an inner fire to be found within to be consciously cultivated and directed.

References

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.