Not Letting Mars Retrograde Get the Best of Us


You've heard me talking about it for months. Now it's happening, one of the biggest pieces of astro-news this year. As of Sunday (Apr 17), Mars will be retrograde for ten weeks, not returning to direct motion until Jun 29.

If Mars is the planet of our physical initiative, courageous spirit, assertive advances, and forceful fights, then a retrograde Mars threatens to bring reversals, detours, and/or delays in where we're directing our will, how effectively it moves us forward, which battles we're waging, and what tactics we use.

Though this general summary correctly describes a range of expressions we can expect during these next 2 months, I freely confess I find Mars retrogrades trickier to interpretively pin down than almost any other astrological event. My lived experience of past Mars retrogrades has varied greatly. A sluggish, depleted energetic one time; a hyperactive, nervous-feeling vibe the next. Angrier than usual for no specific reason, or suddenly able to process a long-suffered resentment. Annoyingly stalled in progress, or productively able to finally overhaul a hindering process, with steady effort.

What I do know for sure about Mars retrograde: It feels as if the vital bodily currents which drive us are running at a different frequency, faster or slower, that way instead of this, spotty, spasmodic, clogged, cranky.

In order to put these alternative and/or alternating Mars-retrograde currents to good use, then, we must work with them… though, admittedly, we often won't know just what we're working with until we're in that moment, and can perceive the quality of its unique impulses and energy-levels. Mars is so very physical, we must be as present in the here-and-now as we possibly can, if we wish to sync up our actions and approaches with the most timely rhythms.

If we're unusually tired, we should probably take things a bit easier and rest up. If we're uncomfortably antsy, we might want to engage in some physical activity to release the extra juice. If we feel we aren't getting anywhere with a certain task or focal-point, we'd be smart to reroute our attentions elsewhere, until we hopefully notice we're able to generate a better momentum with this other undertaking. And if it seems like we're hitting our head against a pretty stubborn wall, it's on us to choose not to keep battering ourselves for no perceptible payoff.

More on this from 2007's 'Mars Retrograde Flips the Switch':

[T]he life issues, topics and projects to which you've been giving your high-priority attention may also morph into less-(or differently-)urgent concerns. Meanwhile, those that recently fell by the wayside or to the bottom of the pile could find their way to the top again. Been focused on work, at the expense of good health? Now, it may become much more appealing to ditch the office early and hit the trails for a long jog. Just barely getting the day-to-days done, while boxes of unsorted-through crap are filling your living room, waiting to be unpacked and put in place? This could be your time to get that long-postponed chore out of the way… and let the ordinary housework go for a few weeks.

This is a different twist to interpretations of Mars retrograde that might, instead, stress the appearance of obstructions to the usual manner in which we put forth our efforts, essentially blocking us from moving ahead as we'd typically anticipate from our self-assertive actions. Rather than focus on what we suddenly can't do as cleanly or easily, I prefer to see this as a switching of gears: If one thing's not flowing, simply try another… as opposed to continuing to fiddle with the same perturbing standstill situation and getting nowhere fast.

We've got to be ready to move with whatever energies are flowing in a given instance. Otherwise, we're feverishly paddling upstream, fighting tides, refusing to adjust our groove so it aligns with the broader celestial patterns… instead insisting on going it alone, pushing extra-hard, needlessly exhausting ourselves, getting fed up and pissed off in the process, any minute ready to blow.

This is how we fall victim to uncontrollable rage, make short-sighted decisions in impatience, overstep our bounds, damage relationships, and exhaust or injure ourselves… all because we weren't willing to pause, regroup, respect the moment's reality (not cling to what we wish was happening), and respond accordingly.

It's not that we can't or mustn't continue down the path we chose to take. We simply must accept that it could take longer than we might like (if we're not lurching ahead, risking tumult or harm), require repeated efforts on our part (to signal our interest is genuine, not breezy or fleeting), and test our mettle in the face of unforeseen interference or adversity (a trademark of Mars retrograde). Can we hang in without losing our focus—or totally losing our shit?

In Sagittarius (where it remains through May 27, before retrograding back into Scorpio), Mars is particularly susceptible to losing its patience, glossing over critical details, and skipping ahead too far too fast. The Sagittarian influence makes us that much likelier to carry out some 'screw-it'-style act that oversimplifies a complex situation, draws a too-sharp line in the sand, forces a judgment-call to be made, and/or altogether leaves something or someone behind… so exasperated by the apparent lack of movement or progress that any deed seems preferable to holding on a single second more. (Of course, we might in fact be moving—only just slowly enough that we might not even notice, as long as we're overzealously hungering for big bold actions.)

But as I discussed back in February, as Mars entered its pre-retrograde shadow, there are problems and dangers which loom as the potential result of not asserting ourselves with composed deliberateness and responsible self-control, as indicated by Saturn's adjacent position, also in Sagittarius. Saturn in Sagittarius wants us to keep moving in the direction we've established is most interesting, meaningful, and/or purpose-driven… but not too quickly or carelessly that we miss important steps, overlook worthy considerations, trample over others' concerns, and/or create collateral messes. Mars will not conjoin Saturn until late August, right as it finally leaves its post-retrograde shadow. We will face Saturn's consequences at that time and beyond if, during these months of Mars mischief, we overshoot our mark, rush into something without the requisite prep-work, or cut off a nose to spite our own face.

Still, the frustration or fury we often endure while navigating Mars retrograde's deferrals, deviations, and deterrents is not without its own function, provided we engage with it mindfully enough to grasp its deeper source and significance. As I wrote during the last Mars retrograde in 2014:

[When Mars is retrograde], those aggressive feelings which arise in us aren't entirely sure where to direct themselves. We may only now be noticing anger that was previously repressed, pent-up, and/or lobbed indiscriminately outward. We may suddenly find ourselves furious with someone who never made us mad before. Or we might point our inflamed temper inward because we aren't sure who or what really deserves it, or out of self-punishing habit (which, under the retrograde influence, becomes a now-blatantly-obvious problem instead of staying an unexamined norm). Though we're only apt to learn about where and how we ought to express our discontent through this process of having to sit with it longer than usual (thanks, retrograde 'stuckness'), we must deal with plenty of moments along the way during which we aren't so sure—and are instead left in suspended animation, unsettled yet unclear about whether this or that action will indeed 'settle' these stirrings or just stir them up further.

It's totally reasonable to expect to feel edgier through Mars's retrograde. What you do about those feelings, alas, could make all the difference between an ultimately fruitful and instructive experience… and one in which you create even more friction, conflict, and/or pain for yourself by pressing on, lashing out, or fucking off. Nothing wrong with venting that extra bit of steam (like I did in 2012's 'The Mars-Retrograde Complaint File'), provided you don't do it in a manner that jeopardizes your continued motion toward your chosen destination.

Remember: We're looking to the end of August (and beyond) before we're completely clear of this Mars-retrograde weirdness, and onto a patently different wavelength. By that time, we will have faced the fact that our desires have drifted to that other target—or we'll have distinctly demonstrated we're valiantly aiming ourselves at this right here for the long life-defining haul.

Check out last month's 'Reexamining the Outer-Planet Backdrop' to review the broader context within which Mars's retrograde occurs.

I took these photos at Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return, an amazing art complex in Santa Fe, NM. Highly recommended.