Don't Let That Retrograde Mars Fool You


As Mars retrograde rages on, we mustn't be surprised to experience major discomfort within these flesh-comprised cartons we call our bodies.

I write this having just awakened from another night of strange, not-exactly-fitful-but-not-exactly-restful sleep, during which my extremities repeatedly go numb, regardless of which position—left side, right side, stomach, back, I try them all—I find myself in.

Sure, maybe it's a simple circulation problem… certainly not unrelated to the fact that I've only been to the gym two or three times total in the past six or eight weeks, leaving my poor metabolism to fester in its natural sluggishness (my natal Mars is in Taurus)… nor to the other fact that I haven't really stopped eating and eating and eating during this same time period. This has been a physical rollercoaster. I do not exaggerate in reporting: Over these past four months, I first lost 20something pounds and then regained them all.

This is not to say the exact symptoms I've described neatly align with the Mars-retrograde experience. I recall two Mars-retrogrades ago, in 2003, when I couldn't get enough of gym-going. I felt pulsing waves of crude forceful juice coursing through my body, making it hard to even sit still. These were also accompanied by a grumbling tummy. The only similarities between then and now were (1) the actual physical sensations came rather as a surprise and (2) they represented a 'flip of the switch' in how I'd been feeling up until the retrograde took over.

Ordinarily, Mars is all about how we confront the external world… how we mold or press it to our desires, how we individuate by identifying with or against its various elements, and how we fight its irritating obstructions. And as I've said before, the retrograde phase of a planet turns its focus inward. Thus, at its essence, a Mars retrograde can feel like we are fighting against ourselves—or if it's not an all-out fight, it's at least a confrontation or a contending-with.

No wonder it can often feel like a battle is being waged within our skins. The solace? That this is a periodic process, necessary to our continuing individuation and development of healthy self-assertion, of fighting our own internal obstructions. Of course, that we may not understand the terms and tactics of this battle (for Mars is neither thinker nor meaning-maker) only further frustrates us.

There's a certain irony inherent in this particular Mars retrograde, due to oppositions to both Jupiter (Dec 26) and Pluto (Jan 2 08) during its course. Jupiter and Pluto recently conjoined in the late degrees of Sagittarius, ushering in a dramatic start to a forthcoming period of turbulent evolution lasting through the middle of the next decade. Yet, for every life that was turned upside down in these past few weeks (and surely, if by nothing else than statistical likelihood, some indeed were), I'm sure many more continued along some seemingly unaltered trajectory, rattled far more by small odd physical inconveniences (Mars retrograde) than any supposedly life-transforming 'line in the sand' moment (Jupiter/Pluto). We must excuse the skeptics for wondering, Was this all there was? Will life really 'never be the same'?

If the kids are safe and the house is still standing, we might suspect the threatened funnel cloud has bypassed us altogether. The storm must've hit some other town, right? Following upon a Jupiter-Pluto conjunction hyped by this astrologer with a subtitle 'No Going Back from Here', we may instead have found little to no fanfare at all. No life-altering job offers, health crises, or relationship catastrophes. Not much of anything of any external-life significance, in fact. It's enough to make one stop and think… and maybe that's the point?

I stand by my remarks about the Jupiter-Pluto union, for as these two planetary lords (but especially Pluto) move into Capricorn this month and next, we will begin to witness some major heavy-duty transitions in our lives, amping up by the end of '08 and only getting more intense into '09 and '10. Just because this astro-event may not have shown up in garb that reflects the monumentality of what's going on, that doesn't mean it isn't still happening. There really is no going back from here.

The irony comes in when we totally miss which zone in our astro-charts—and thus in our lives—is due for the total Jupiter/Pluto makeover over the coming year and decade, simply because the immediacy of Mars retrograde's agitations and annoyances are more obvious. But yet, thanks to the Mars-Jupiter and Mars-Pluto oppositions, these are actually two sides of the same coin.

When planets oppose one another in a chart, they face off from opposing houses… and opposing houses always frame two complementary areas of life-experience that beg for integration and balance. So while we may become, for instance, overly irked by the day-to-day turmoil in our relationship life (e.g., Mars retrograde in one's natal 7th house), the larger overarching lesson is about coming to our own personal power as an individual (Jupiter/Pluto in the 1st). Though we may confront emotional disquiet at home, as we contend with our own variable need for self-nurturance and inner peace (Mars retrograde in the 4th), we may be fumbling with this private challenge ultimately so we'll have a securer foundation upon which to build our next great professional success (Jupiter/Pluto in the 10th).

And should we find ourselves at major odds with another person, we better face the root of whatever excess or extreme we cannot stand in them… for that is the quality we're being called on to reconcile in ourselves.

Don't let the easily identified Mars retrograde symptoms distract you from the real development going on. If anything, these symptoms are here to drive us friggin' crazy. Only at that point will we get flummoxed enough to demand the final line be resolutely drawn, once and for all.