This spring brings the rarest of retrogrades into full play. Mars’ complete retrograde cycle occupies the middle half of the year, though its period in retrograde is from May 12th through July 20th this year. Remaining in the last 15° of the sign Sagittarius for six months, it traverses forward, backward and forward again over those degrees. It first reaches 15° Sagittarius on March 18th (the degree at which it will station direct in July); then stations retrograde at 29° Sagittarius on May 12th; then stations direct on July 20th (at 15°) – and, finally, on to complete the full cycle on September 8th, when it crosses back over the twenty-ninth degree (it’s station retrograde point in July).

Retrograde Cycles and Mars:

All retrograde motion – both stations direct and retrograde – is triggered by the transit of the Sun against the backdrop of the zodiac and its position relative to the superior planet itself. From our geocentric viewpoint there are precise periods for each planet wherein it appears to stop, track back against the zodiac, stop again, and begin to move forward once again. Of the superior planets, Mars is unique in the timing and aspect pattern of retrogression.

Whereas all the other planets have an annual, rhythmic pattern – from Mars through Pluto – Mars retrograde cycles occur only every two years and two months. Both collectively and individually we become accustomed to Mars’ straightforward direct transits as it marks its two-year two month return cycles, spending approximately two months in each sign. The whole of the retrograde cycle itself (not only the period of actual retrogression) The full cycle begins when Mars transits the degree at which it will station direct, four months later, and ends only when Mars passes over the degree at which it stationed retrograde (again, four months later) – as mentioned above, this cycle covers one-half of a year. Because of this incredible duration, Mars dominates half of 2001.

Why does it do that?

Due to the eccentricity of its orbit, and earth’s relationship to it, the stations of Mars occur most frequently in the area of Cancer, Leo and Virgo, and least frequently in Sagittarius, Capricorn and Aquarius. The other superior planets, Jupiter through Pluto, have annual cycles, thus becoming infused into our unconscious, which readily adapts to regular, ritualistic and cyclic activity. Although the other superior planets too have their ‘shock points’ and destabilising effects at the stations, they are more harmonically ingrained into the psyche.

Mars is like a ‘double twin’ of our earth. It’s axial tilt is virtually the same, and it has a similar four season year, but while its seasons are six-month seasons, earth’s are three-months long. The earth orbits the Sun in one year and Mars in two, so earth finally catches up with Mars in its orbit about every two years and two months – then, after a retrograde period of about two months (average of sixty days), it resumes its direct motion for another two years and two months.

Another significant difference between Mars and the other superior planets is its relationship to the Sun around the times it is stationing – both retrograde and direct: Whereas all other superior planets are already retrograde when in a trine to the Sun, Mars is not. In turn, this sixteen degree span will focus on a specific area of one’s natal horoscope, and spend at least half the year in one house, or transit retrograde back into the previous one for part of that time! Thus, from mid March to early September Mars will slowly, thoroughly transit a small sector of the horoscope.

Mars Retrograde: Lust for Life

In the retrograde pattern of superior planets, there are only three Ptolemaic aspects made by a superior retrograde planet to the Sun – a trine, a quincunx, and an opposition. Those three aspects are the retrograde aspects formed in the retrograde zone. However, when Mars is retrograde, it makes only the quincunxes and an opposition. No trine. Mars has its own period and cycle, differing radically from all other superior planets and its physics generate its nature — rebellious, assertive, proactive, aggressive, filled with a lust for life and projects self expression. Mars rules thumos, the ancient Greek concept for ‘life force’, the ‘libido’. When Mars begins its lengthy, maverick wandering back over degrees already touched, and back over again, the cycles of Mars retrograde, are useful to work with.

The slow burn that the transit of Mars retrograde engenders can be both corrosive and psychologically depleting and it can free up frustrated energy – simultaneously. The opposition from the Sun in mid cycle can detonate anger, frustration or hostility, while at the same time, illuminate issues that may have lain dormant or unspecified. Over time, people often ignore or suppress frustration, which inevitably becomes aggression, easily misplaced or displaced. This state of ‘unrealized Mars’ is the origin of all discord and conflict – often which is difficult to name.

On the psychological level, during the retrograde cycle we can heal distress caused by frustrated creativity and passion and unfulfilled desire and ambition. It is a time for civilizing the animal nature, and cultivating raw potential. However, all things, great and small require work and effort, and this cycle is all about that.

Because Mars focuses on a specific place in the natal chart, while the transiting Sun illuminates several distinct phases of development as it transits six signs throughout the entire cycle, one can work through a lot of issues that have gone unaddressed for over two years.

Shadowed Mars:

An unrealized or shadowed Mars leaves us open to happenstance aggression; if a person’s will is not personally engaged, often the predominant complaint is of “a bad fate or ill luck” or “other people” are doing things. Astrology tends not to put anything down to bad luck, but through it, we attempt to understand how a person acts within the context of his or her own natural flow of energy, personality and what the horoscope indicates. Since Mars is a highly projectable agent, that is, so very easily externalized and put “out there”, we simply must reconcile our own role within our eventful environment!

Low-grade anger and rage — a symptom of an unintegrated Mars — is the source of some of the most common complaints people have – bad timing; accidents; misdirected anger; guilt; introjected blame; self abuse; painful relationships; depression and health problems. And, within those maladies, lies the cure.

If we cannot acknowledge our own shadow, then it will appear in the form of an event, or as a projection because the outer world is an eventful mirror of the inner self. With Mars, particularly, projection is commonplace — it is so much more economical to have other people declare our wars, and behave badly because then we might not have to assume responsibility ourselves! A shadowed Mars might behave in a way which allows us to be a victim, a hapless recipient of other people’s anger; if this is the kind of experience you are having it might do to look at your own role in this during the Mars retrograde period.

In the management of personal energy, Mars cycles play a positive role. Some feelings uncovered during Mars retrograde may be uncomfortable, such as infantile rage, suppressed painful memories, old passions long dormant, infantile or knee-jerk reactions or fantasies of revenge. But, they are all to the good if healing and consciousness are at the forefront of the mind.

Depression, normally associated with Saturn, also is a Mars function. Melancholy is a ‘black anger’, from the Greek melan (black) and cholos – the bile which chemically activates anger. People with natal Mars retrograde often have to cope with an underlying depression of energy and operate in spurts of revolutionary activity.

Melancholy is an embodied psychic condition, and presents physical symptoms such as skin conditions and eruptions, bone/joint problems – arthritic conditions, dental problems, headache, kidney malfunction, exhaustion, immune-deficiency, poverty, lack of motivation, self-destructive acts and lastly, a clinical depression. All sound pretty dreadful, but in fact, all people experience various aspects of those symptoms to some degree. It is when one or more become dominant, autonomous if you will, that we are looking at a “Mars problem” – one that can be moderated, and especially during the Mars retrograde cycle. There are psychopathologies also associated with inverted Mars, such as unresolved anger (intimately related to arthritic conditions) accidents due to carelessness, lack of coordination, low motivation, irritability, arguing and ‘bad timing’ and, ultimately, profound melancholia, better known as depression.

It is no stretch of the imagination that all these difficult symptoms lie buried at the root of bad relationships as well. All these conditions can be exacerbated when Mars is retrograde. Hence, working on body/mind issues is a necessity during this time, in accord with natural rhythms in our system. Repressing rage is a false economy – it will erupt or be displaced, causing no end of problems that are difficult to source. Best to go to the origin of the feelings.

Coming to Our Senses:

When Mars is transiting retrograde, it is an excellent time to determine the difference between a depression of the senses, or psychic apathy, and a simple lack of interest in whatever has been going on. To press on in a situation which is fruitless is sheer bloody mindedness, not brave assertiveness nor reliability! Thus, a conscious ‘letting go’ can be a resolution, rather than soldiering on in the face of adversity. Projects and long-term plans will need to undergo a review, if not a total withdrawal for a while. Retrogression of a planet is a clear indication that it is time for an investigation into one’s motives. It may be appropriate to relinquish a once beloved goal, ideal, idea, attitude, project, relationship or plan, rather than persist in out-moded actions. If this is what you need to do, then do not fear it because the space you make will become a creative source for new, more appropriate ways of using your self and energy reserves.

This six-month period is the time in which to evaluate personal energy level; the quality of work/play time; personal ‘truth'; beliefs, ethics and relationships with learning and knowledge. Too, generally assessing health as an asset and all investments of time, love and money along with where ambitions and passions are really heading will bring positive results. If one is living a lie, a hypocrisy, then one becomes tired, dispassionate and ultimately soul sick.

The answers to the questions that arise during the retrograde cycle of Mars are deep within, in the most primal and gut instinctual place within yourself.

The Collective Picture, in the United States and the World:

The entire Mars Retrograde Cycle this year begins with a bang – on March 18th, Mars is at 15 degrees of Sagittarius conjunct Pluto which is stationing retrograde on that same day. This recalls the unfinished Gulf war scenario back in 1990, and may well initiate a new smart war. Certainly the international picture continues to escalate into tension and boundary crossing (read: invasion, pogrom, isolation, aggression) all through the year, and the United States will lose a tremendous amount of respect.

The election (so-called) of George Bush in November’s mess simply clarifies the United States’ already negative global image, and from a Jungian perspective, it means that the Shadow of America is no longer unconscious, hidden and underground, but now in full sight of all the world.

Certainly, the election of this man recalls his father and Reagan’s administrations, as George W. Is a clone of his father (see the StarIQ.com brief article on George W. Bush I wrote in the spring of 2000).

In America specifically, the issue of ecological conservation, help for the homeless and the indigent and all matters that pertain to the “people” will take not just a back seat, but will be relegated into the invisible realm of “they don’t exist”… The primary focus on military (Sagittarius) and religious (Sagittarius) matters in the U.S. will undermine humanitarian needs and goals. That president Bush has endorsed financial aid to “faith based” groups, is alarming. Not only does it remove a certain amount of religious power from the “faith based” groups themselves in that hey are not allowed to “convert” or preach to their people that they are helping – it is the right of the church to preach and convert, and that has been removed with this so-called gift of money.

Faith-based organizational funding also takes money away from ecological, bio-diversity and social services that are offered by non-profit organizations in the U.S. Already, in February 2001 as I write this addendum to the article, the funding for environmental projects has been cut hugely, and some highly important groups already have lost their status due to lack of funding — such groups that research nuclear sites and plume sites, that work in the communities that are affected by pollution and deadly effluvia, that aid homeless and ill and elderly, and in general, all the helpless in the country.

From this union of Church and State (something that the U.S. Constitution has not endorsed EVER), it is likely that civil unrest will become as incendiary as it was in the mid to late 1960’s, resulting in domestic ‘terrorism’ rising appreciably during the spring and summer of 2001.

The financial picture for this period is also highly volatile, and since we are also dealing with a repeat of the Venus Retrograde cycle of March/April 1993, the world is in for a total reevaluation of the global market. In specific, the potential for a revolution in the stock market is high this spring, and will likely result in chaos right through the end of this year, but specifically until the end of September, when the Mars Retrograde Cycle is completely finished.

Remodeling the financial, international and legal modes in each country in the world will take up much of the year itself, but the most intense period will be during the actual retrograde time itself – May 12th – July 20th, with the highlight being June 13 – 20 when the Sun in Gemini opposes Mars Retrograde in Sagittarius.

All Together Now

When Mars arrives at 15° of Sagittarius on March 18th, it will conjoin the stationary-retrograde position of Pluto – this powerful combination exacerbates the level of heat and passion in the collective – world events become increasingly chaotic and volatile. The mode of Sagittarius is toward a future perspective, a global concept of ideal unity. However, with Mars-Pluto conjunct at the station of Pluto, and at the trigger point of Mars station-direct on July 20th, we will find the year 2001 a major turning point in global affairs on high levels of politics, religion, law, and it may well mark the most critical period in the unity or disparity of cultural relations.

We are in an epoch of synchrony of time, space and event. Fused within much of our personal experience is the anxiety/elation level that the world experiences as an organic whole. We are no longer just ‘persons’, we are ‘persons in the world’. Thus, global events as they unfold during this time, will directly affect each of us as individuals – not only philosophically but with actual events which can be seen writ large in the global community.

Let’s look at the whole cycle of Mars retrograde, and then follow with its ‘hot point’ at the Sun-Mars opposition, as it appears through our own natal charts:

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