Mars Retrograde's Alternate Current


As of today (Mon Jan 23), Mars will be retrograde for the next 2 months… not returning to direct motion until April 13. What the heck does that mean for us?

Well, for starters, the several days on either side of a planet's station (or seeming standstill, as it transitions from moving in one apparent direction to the other) puts a great emphasis on that planet. And with Mars now essentially standing still from our earthly view, his archetypal principles have been dominating our experience for the past week or so.

In short, a Mars station can make us physically edgy, abrupt, defensive and/or ready for conflict. Haven't you noticed? As much as we modern astrologers might attempt to spin our Mars interpretations away from a strictly one-sided view—'assertive' rather than merely 'aggressive', for instance—there's no totally escaping his reputation as the lesser malefic. In a world where our natural animal instincts spur an 'every man for himself' drive, to a greater or less degree, in all of us, it's hard to pursue our desires without periodically colliding with others' incompatible pursuits… and ending up in head-to-head competition for dominance.

We may not always notice this competition is happening, especially if we inaccurately identify our preferences with 'just what makes sense'—and theirs, therefore, with irrationality or nonsense. This inability to see a situation as the battle-of-wills it may be is, in fact, emphasized by stationary Mars's presence in the sign of Virgo, a placement where (1) disagreements often break out over the little shit and (2) we often rely on supposedly level-headed, fact-based strategies to push our case.

'The little shit', of course, isn't always that little when we want something done a very certain way… and someone who's been told our preference a hundred times over and still can't do it that certain way goes on to commit their 101st infraction. During the days ahead, as Mars is still returning to a more normal apparent speed, we must continue being aware of this potential to snip at those around us, due to a peculiarly exaggerated particularity when it comes to the details. Those prone to manic tendencies (which are often simply a combination of heightened physical energy and undue focus on minute details) should be especially cautious under this influence.

Mars retrograde itself (which occurs every couple years or so) is an astro-phenomenon I have noticed, from my personal experiences with it, defies easy predictive interpretation. Among all the astrological events I write about, I find Mars's retrogrades perhaps the most difficult to describe in clear, certain terms… maybe because I've seen widely variable manifestations of its energy, from one Mars-retrograde episode to the next. From reading other astrologers' work, one would assume it to either inhibit Mars's usual initiative-generating power or to turn it more inward in its focus. Yet, during different Mars retrogrades in the past, I have witnessed in myself, for instance, both decreased and increased physical energy. I have also not seen my assertive drives become any more internal or external than at other times. Presumably, each Mars retrograde affects an individual in a distinct way, based upon how its placement hits their own unique birthchart features.

One thing I can confidently declare about Mars retrograde, however, is that it does feel different on the bodily level. There is a subtle (or not-so-subtle) change in our physical rhythms, akin to flipping a switch from one type of flowing current to another… which could potentially make us more or less attentive or hyped-up, sleepier or more awake, hungrier or less hungrier, more introverted or extroverted. But I wouldn't go so far as to say for certain which way this change will flip you. During one Mars retrograde, I simply couldn't drag my ass to the gym no matter how I tried to coax myself into it; during the next, I couldn't stop exercising. I see the main significance of such retrograde reversals as an exposure to alternate manners of 'running our energy', revealing to us how our day-to-day beat might differ under other circumstances… either problematizing or reinforcing the choices we typically make with regards to physical self-care habits.

Mars retrograde will also often redirect our assertive energies away from areas they have most recently been pointed, pressuring us to concentrate our attentions elsewhere. The stereotypical 'delays' associated with a planet's retrograde phase can play out with Mars retrograde as a result of this unforeseen diverting: We thought we'd be able to continue making progress toward one purpose or goal, but then we find we must shift gears and tackle an altogether different item that perhaps hadn't even been on our recent radar, yet now urgently calls to us. If we are properly attuned to this Mars-retrograde call, we know this surprise item really is what needs our present focus. However, it can nonetheless be quite frustrating to interrupt our prior momentum and swallow the resultant delay in our original endeavor.

The Virgo effect on this particular Mars retrograde makes it especially useful in both these areas, for cleaning up our physical patterns and fixing errors or inefficiencies in our work methods. As I wrote in describing this lengthier-than-usual Mars-in-Virgo transit, this is the perfect time for being thorough when revisiting formerly insufficient resolutions or incomplete items. If we must go back, it's better to spend the extra effort to get it done right this time around—and create much improved habits that productively build upon themselves into the future. Once we accept the evident necessity of any delays, we might as well take them as an opportunity to be as impeccably precise and detail-oriented with what we're working on, while we've got the chance.

That Mars is additionally known as the planetary symbol of conflict is not without its consequences for this retrograde. Nobody should be surprised if they find they've returned to the middle of a disagreement or all-out fight they thought was already finished. Apparently, it wasn't. Should you find yourself in this circumstance, think about what it'll take to bring the unfinished business to a more final conclusion—even if it's not a total win. Instead of picking back up right where you left off, use the Virgo influence to embrace pragmatic solutions over an ideological victory of will. It's more important to successfully tie up the loose strings and remove that contentious vibe from your life than to triumph on every last point.

One particularly ripe high-point of this retrograde phase occurs around March 12-14, when Mars moves into a grand trine with Jupiter and Pluto at 9 degrees of the earth signs. This is a beautifully potent aspect for reestablishing a sound material foundation for whatever longer-term projects we are devoting ourselves to. Falling more than halfway through this Mars retrograde, the grand earth trine of mid-March allows to work more powerfully with whatever 'clean-up' has arisen… to build the improvements into the fabric of our daily lives, for far-lasting results.

See also:
Mega Mars-in-Virgo Marathon (11.7.11)