The Cycle of Mars Retrograde: In relation to the Sun:
1. April 14th – Sun trine decelerating Mars from 24° Aries to 24° Sagittarius:
The next celestial event after Mars passes the degree at which is will station direct is the trine from the Sun to Mars – which, in this phase, heralds its station retrograde. The Sun-Mars trine occurs between fourteen to twenty days before Mars stations retrograde, and about fifteen to twenty days after it stations direct, depending upon its eccentric orbit. In a natal chart, if someone has Sun trine Mars, then Mars is moving very slowly – it is either slowing down to turn retrograde within about two weeks, or it has just gone direct about two weeks prior.
This alters the quality of Mars’ station retrograde in comparison to the other superior planets, in that the excitement of potential just prior to its retrogression is often over inflated, resulting in the shocking ‘surprise factor’ and sudden withdrawal of direct energy at the station itself. Conversely, the Sun-Mars trine following the station direction of Mars supports a quick recovery and a re establishment of the equilibrium which may have become chaotic during the retrograde time itself.
The Sun-Mars trine highlights the deepest resources we have at our disposal, as well as the energy we have to enact and use our resources – energy which will be needed in the ensuing months. The Sun in Aries trine Mars in Sagittarius can bring a sense of false power – we all need to cease overextending our resources. This aspect affects us both individually and collectively. Where you have Aries and Sagittarius in your chart, this is where you will need to examine your reserves of energy and strength, as well as your curiosity, adventurousness, entrepreneurial skills and above all, personal honesty.
This trine can be deceptive – a complacent attitude will not serve the needs or the intent of Mars retrograde. Think of this next period as a time when to look seriously at the areas in which you have been wasting time and energy. One can become exhausted under its backward trek, and depleted – especially if the cycle is entered on a false high. Therefore, martial all forces – assets, health, money, love, time – and be aware that self awareness and honesty is the best defense.
2. May 11th (16:09 GMT) – Mars stations retrograde at 29° 03´ Sagittarius, while the Sun is at 21° Taurus:
All externalized drive and focused energy reverses its direction. The daily progress we take for granted suddenly becomes effort filled. Look to the house the Sun is transiting in your chart at the station for illumination about areas you need to explore for success in the coming autumn.
The station itself can be an abrupt phenomenon, creating a cessation of interest, drive, energy and focus on what might have been an important project or relationship prior to that station. This liminal phase could very well last through the entire retrograde period, past the station direction of Mars right up till it reaches the degree at which it stationed and turned retrograde. (Around September 8th). Clearly this can create practical problems especially if you have a deadline, or limited time or funds in which to achieve a chosen direction or goal. Living in a threshold is not comfortable, however, one must press on regardless of retrogrades, so a change of perspective is in order. Mars retrograde seems to arrive unexpectedly, and, consistent with Mars’ behavior, this cycle is disruptive of routine, established energy patterns, habits and feelings of drive and ambition. The station retrograde does not cause all activity to cease, obviously, but the change of direction often precipitates a period of reactive rather than active experiences. Depending on the natal house in which it stations, you are likely to find that there is a quantity of unresolved anger or rage that could date back years.
Check to see what the most recent transits have brought out, and what you might reflect upon that could clear up any unresolved issues. In specific, those pertaining to self direction, ambition, self-assertion, personal worth, fairness, and feelings of health and well being. Too, the position of the transiting Sun in the natal chart at the station of Mars will illuminate the true ‘intent’ of the Mars activity (or lack of as the case may be).
I have found that people who are close to burn-out, having been under duress for a long time, and also have had stressful transits over a period of years, actually do burn out at the station retrograde. This is nature’s way of forcing visceral truths into a reluctant consciousness. Thus, Mars retrograde can coincide with lowered immunity defenses in the body – only if there is a vast dissonance between the inner truth and the outer actions.
If we lived in a world in which natural cycles were acknowledged, this time would be when more days off work, ‘mental health’ days, and holidays were established. Since many people cannot regulate their working schedules to astrological cycles, they can compensate for this by realizing that they need to shift their priorities during this time to incorporate more rest time, more review time, more inner reflections and, yes, if there is a huge well of anger within, find the source and work through it. If one is in therapy and working on self development, then this time is most productive.
With respect to time sensitive projects. . . unfortunately, the gods do not care much for man-made law. Natural law states that time is relative, and if you have something on the go which must be done, do not be disappointed if all the timing changes during this whole period. The timing of a project is mysterious, like an infant in utero, it has its own time, and its own cycle, and the project will finish or it was not mature enough. You may be able to pick it up and run with it when the station direct occurs.
If a valued idea or project terminates during the Mars retrograde period, let it go. Sudden reversals of interest (passion) and drive (ambition) are likely to occur during the retrograde phase – an internal battle ensues between the ego, which wants things done, and the deeper self which wants thing so be. Listen to the Self.
Mars stationary retrograde conjunct, or in tight aspect to a planet (2°-3°) or an angle in the natal chart will be marked, and may bring suppressed feelings of hostility or frustration to the surface, which occupy your energy and delay forward progress temporarily. Your recognition of what levels of unresolved conflict have been incubating is liberating, allowing you to marshal your forces more appropriately. You may be surprised what hostility you or others have been harboring, having been suppressed, lost, forgotten or deliberately repressed because of their disruptive qualities.
Old wounds, hurts or frustrations might arise but the reason this is occurring in context with your houses and planets, is to heal – bringing these old festering sores to the surface, cleansing and purging them, will serve you in the long run, giving you vast amounts of energy and reserves you did not know you had.
3. May 18th – Sun at accelerating quincunx to Mars from 27° Taurus to 27° Sagittarius:
Mars is beginning to move more quickly in retrograde motion, and assumes a quasi normal acceleration. By this time, we have assimilated the retrograde motion, and the quincunx marks a few days in which we find ways of adjusting to the new patterns and rhythms of energy. This marks a time in which political circumstances require huge amounts of diplomacy to accommodate problematic relations. It is a time of financial instability which is acute, creating great stress in the collective resources.
But, the adjustments that are made, the changes that we can accommodate in this new phase of Mars retrograde, will show returns at the next major phase – at the opposition point of the Sun to Mars. It is essential that we try to adjust and accommodate without seriously compromising our ‘truth’ and ethics and deepest beliefs. No good comes from closing off and benefits arise from recognition and acceptance of the inevitable. There are good times to beat your head against a brick wall, but this is not one of them!
If it is simply too hard to put up a fight, then don’t. Let go… and prepare to take up ‘arms’ later, much later, when the stress of the change is done – after the decelerating quincunx, which heralds the upcoming station direct.
Transiting Mars retrograde shows us where we must lose control of a degree of personal power – it is reflected in the house that Mars is traversing to and fro. In this case, loss of command establishes an equilibrium, creating psychic ‘fairness’. Ranting and raving does not seem to be effective, whereas relinquishing what is meant to be free is!
Inspiration often goes underground around this aspect, to resurface upon the direction of Mars with a new and more realistic passion., It is as if the battle between conscious will and unconscious intent needs to take place in extreme privacy and secrecy, revealing itself only when the victor is assured of its supremacy. In this case the battle is been the instincts and the conscious mind, and in the meeting of those psychic functions, a new way is found.
4. June 13th – Sun opposite Mars from 23° Gemini to 23° Sagittarius: The Confrontation: Purpose versus Drive:
Mars is moving at its greatest speed in retrograde motion at this aspect, as well as being its closest to earth. And, from this point on, it will begin slowing down again, toward the decelerating quincunx and the eventual stopping and station direct.
The opposition of the Sun to a retrograde planet marks the mid-point of the entire retrograde cycle, and is the illumination point. When the Sun opposes Mars, it externalises interior energy which has been gestating and ‘cooking’ in the unconsciously. The Sun-Mars opposition is particularly dramatic and highlights the two houses in the natal horoscope in which this opposition occurs (see the latter part of this article for delineation of the opposition in the six house polarities). That this cycle occurs from Gemini to Sagittarius amplifies the Big Truths – ideals in politics, ethics, religious expression, law, global values and the tentative balance between those Platonic affinities. Gemini is what we know and Sagittarius is what we have learned and learned to believe.
Gemini is the data function and Sagittarius the capacity to render truth from information – synthesized they can balance each other well, but if the opposition illuminates a discrepancy therein, then the time for correction has begun now, and will continue over the next two months, and beyond, into the autumnal equinox. There are fluctuations in this syzygy inherently and cyclically. The Sun in Gemini says, “Gather facts, information, data, experiences”, while, Mars in Sagittarius says, “Uncover the truth, wisdom and ethical underpinnings in all ways of life”.
In the opposition, clarity emerges – one is be acutely aware of just exactly how in balance or out of kilter are values and actions at this time, and within that awareness comes the opportunity to correct the situation. The house in which the opposition occurs will precisely delineate where one’s self worth is reflected in others, and where, if at all, resources are being drained. (See below for the houses in opposition).
Since the Sun is the trigger, and now opposes the retrograde Mars, the aspect is reflected in the natal chart from one house to the opposite one. The position of the Sun is the place in which our unconscious ‘work’ has been done during the first half of the retrograde period, and Mars will show the external results of this inner development. In this aspect, the Sun is more important than is Mars. Since the station retrograde, it is likely a lot of work has been done to find solutions to a situation, and the eruption of the ‘truth,’ the solar ‘intent’, underlying the important inner war now emerges in the light of awareness.
Because it is an opposition aspect, it often brings in others to reflect back into our own psyche that which we cannot see; we need the ‘other’ to help us see our own projections and conversely, to see how we have received any harsh or sharp projections from others. This is the clarifying aspect, and being aware of its arrival will modify any surprises, and works civilize any potential outbreaks of ‘war’ in one’s life.
The Sun illuminates the house – therefore, the area in life – wherein latent needs and talents lurk. Often these dormant traits lie in the spheres of self-expression, such as: willful direction; ambition; drive; healthy rage; energy; primal instincts – passion, desire, lust; physical expression, whether that be sports, dance, activities that enliven our bodies defenses. The Sun illuminates the manner in which we have been undermining ourselves relative to the house from which it makes that opposition.
Occasionally, the Sun-Mars opposition will coincide with an explosive situation in the collective, we become very aware of those who are being oppressed, invaded, killed, politically suppressed, maltreated, isolated, hurt, and so on. Hence, the global and domestic political unrest will be uppermost in the media around this week.
The natal house in which Mars has been retrogressing is the house in which the conscious, external work is being done. There is a tendency to focus on the retrograde planet alone, thinking that it is the one doing all the work, but in this way we see that it is a dance, a collusion between the two fiery planets, both of which are fundamental in the development of an healthy ego. The ego is essential to carry out the soul and our deeper Self’s intent, and we need strong, healthy and large egos to further our destiny. Ideally the ego should be as big as the Self, as big as the universe, so it isn’t undermining our desires and inhibiting our productivity and creativity in the world around us. The Sun-Mars opposition is a time of enlightenment – a time period when we connect with inner levels of energy that want ‘out’. The energy is often raw, undeveloped and primal, thus may expose parts of our psyche that are more uncivilized than we care to acknowledge. Our life-force needs this periodic expulsion of repressed energy, and thus our more instinctual nature relishes such richness of expression, but remember, civilization of the unconscious requires effort and conscious awareness.
About a week or so after the opposition, there is a sensation of relief, a new way of functioning and problem solving has developed. This is a very productive time, when the ‘things’ that withdrew at the station, can be seen in the clarity of full knowledge. The secret maturation that occurs during retrograde will begin to become apparent, and a new form of energy source will find its way into your system. Should there have been no overt directional changes in the first half of the retrograde cycle, then the opposition is an explosion, and the release, with a radical change marked at this point.
5. July 9th – Sun at decelerating quincunx to Mars from 16° Cancer to 16° Sagittarius:
Mars is slowing down . . . heralding its station direct. In this period, the adjustments needed are all centered around refinement of energy. This is the time in which we re-evaluate all that has transpired in our lives.
It is a time of quiet, a time in which one senses impending change, but no evidence is in sight. It is filled with intuitions, sensations, synchronicities and moods. We are all on animal sensor… our reptile brains are in full awareness. It is rather like being Br’er Rabbit in the briar patch, we know the fox is out there, and we sit quietly, watching and waiting for the ‘all clear’. Find a balance between being socially correct and instinctually truthful.
6. July 19th – (22:46 GMT) – Mars station direct at 15° 06´ Sagittarius:
The period between the station direct of Mars and the subsequent solar trine to it is marked by tension, a feeling of waiting – the psyche knows that a situation, circumstance, or condition is unsustainable in its old form, and that an overt, radical change must take place. A self regulatory device is triggered off in the psyche and the system will organize itself around an existing problem to protect itself, often solving the difficulty in the unconscious.
The station direct may not mark an event, but it not only registers in the unconscious of each of us individually according to our own charts and aspects, but also within the collective as it prepares to shift its energy outward again. Cautiously, we climb out of the protective chrysalis that formed after the decelerating quincunx, and find a refreshed perspective on all the issues that arose in the past 2-1/2 months.
Giving birth is painful and raw . . . nerves may be a bit frayed, and our step forward uncertain, but as Mars accelerates toward the Sun trine, we become more invigorated, revivified and filled with a new sense of direction. Symbolically it is ‘spring’. New shoots of ideas, plans and projects begin to poke their vulnerable heads out. It is best to wait for the Sun trine to Mars to enact any new ideas because they may still be weak and embryonic, needing further maturation.
If transiting Mars stations direct on a planet or angle or sensitive point in your horoscope, then there will be a show. Mars will trigger off the incubating situation and give it a push to emerge. The power point of 15° of Sagittarius (thus all the mutables) is highly sensitized because of the station of Pluto there, and also to Jupiter’s transit over that mutable degree.
7. August 9th – Sun trine accelerating direct Mars from 16° Leo to 16° Sagittarius:
Because Mars is moving so slowly at this early stage of direction, when the Sun makes its trine to the actual station degree, it will release the product of the last few months. Now is the time for forward action, new starts, new projects, ideas, relationship goals, health matters, goals and businesses can start to build anew.
With the Sun in Leo and Mars in Sagittarius, the most positive outcome heals betrayals and ethical rifts while communication systems – interpersonal or technical – are now progressing. Anger, if transmuted and processed, now can become healthy energy, a supportive life-force, bringing a renewed love of adventure.
The full cycle is complete on September 9th, when Mars leaves Sagittarius, and passes over the degree at which it stationed retrograde, six months ago! Now there are two more years of forward motion to work with the renewed energy of this past cycle.
The opposition point across the house axes:
The personal confrontation of Sun and Mars in the natal horoscope: It is likely that Mars remains in one house (or making a short span over two houses) in your chart for the entire cycle of six months. The house that Mars is does the overt work, and the house the Sun is in, brings to consciousness that which has been brewing in the unconscious. That is, illuminating the area where conscious change and redirection of energy can take place – with effort.
The opposition of Sun to Mars on June 14th will highlight and focus in the following areas for about two weeks:
First to Seventh house: This polarity emphasizes the need for deeper understanding of relationships, how to maintain appropriate boundaries within those relationships, and your personal truth in partnerships. The ascendant and the first house/seventh house axis relate to our origins and our earliest relationships, thus, how we were perceived by our family and how we bonded to individual family members forms the foundation for continuing adult relationships. This time is volatile but rich with awareness within the context of your own beliefs and needs and what you and your relationship need for healthy boundaries and communications. It is a difficult time to begin a new partnership, but not impossible; it will have a few tests ahead in the next two months, indeed all relationships will be tested for their authenticity.
Second to Eighth house: This polarity accents our own self value and any resources that we share intimately. The Sun-Mars opposition will illuminate how well you have balanced your own personal worth and your expenditure of time, love or money in relationships with others. Trusting and being trusted come up as issues for resolution because it is a time of checking and balancing the degree of honesty in the most enmeshed of our relationships. Re-balancing dependence/independence issues arises, as well as a balancing of one’s check-book (especially the joint checking account). An idea or project for the future can emerge that will begin to regulate one’s energy and drive for success. Keeping with an old theme is best, it is not a good time for new investments, but a time to let existing ‘accounts’ sort themselves out.
Third to Ninth house: The opposition occurring in this axis will demolish any trite assumptions and superficial ‘Band Aids’ you have applied to mask deeper issues attached to values, beliefs, moral codes, ethical matters and your relationship with the divine – with God. The disparity between what is spiritually correct, and socially acceptable becomes a strong issue in your mind. A war between your shallow side and your higher mind ensues, so you might dialogue with yourself about what you truly hold fast and valuable philosophically – and be encouraged to live those beliefs to the letter! Any feelings of inadequacy about education or true knowledge can come to a head, resulting in plans for study and intellectual/spiritual enrichment. Mundanely, it is not a great time for long travel excursions in the next few weeks.
Fourth to Tenth House: The opposition occurring along this axis dramatizes any insecurities around your bases of operation – home, office, city, culture or country. Established patterns of maintaining ‘security’ will need to be examined – are they based in truth or on habitual patterns. Work and privacy become an issue – balance, hard won, will return after a complete overhaul of priorities. This may come through a literal opposition from someone close to you, or you are the issuer of the ultimatum. Family, parental issues and your needs for balance in the family are very important to attend to and work on over the next couple of months. You need to explore your directives and beliefs to discover their origins – are your current biases and visions really current or are they received from the family, the culture or the status quo? Ideally, this is a confrontation between the deepest truth within and the conventional wisdom from without – resulting in renegotiating one’s life priorities.
Fifth to Eleventh House: The fundamental integration between the ability to give and receive love are the issues highlighted in this axis. But from Sun in Leo to Mars in Sagittarius, the revelation is about what you really expect from life, and how you experience your ‘rewards’. This opposition emphasizes a revolution in the area of what you consider to be creative and useful, and what your actual investment is. You may find a discrepancy has formed in the last two years between your expectations of life’s rewards and what you are actually getting. Thus, it is time to balance out what you do with what you get. Also, your relationships in the social sphere of your life are under scrutiny – you may find yourself necessarily impatient with non productive (or ambivalent) groups, societies, collectives. More time is needed to rebuild your creative core, the essence of your self before you can offer up your strongest ethical position. You may need to do one of either of these things: cut back on ‘volunteer’ energy output into the community or, conversely, put more into the community in your sphere, dwelling less on your own self – depending on where the imbalance lies.
Sixth to Twelfth House: Recognition that the body is the vehicle for the soul is the most important illumination this opposition can bring. The psyche/soma (soul/body) balance has been pushed to the limit and the emergence of a psychological or physical problem can alert you to the need to change your behavior emotionally and physically. Chronic physical or psychological conditions can become acute under this aspect, and point clearly to a method of repair or healing. Work can be very stressful, and the utmost of discretion needs to be exercised in dealing with colleagues… on both sides. Ideally, the happy soul living in truth brings a healthy functioning body. The apparent polarities of health and exhaustion, work and rest, body and soul are all fused along the sixth/twelfth house and we can do much work on all levels. Because often it takes a surprise to find out which aspect of the self is undernourished, this confrontation between purpose and drive can bring one much greater potential toward synthesizing inner needs and outer actions.
For an explanation of the astronomical reason that planets appear to retrograde, see Why Planets Retrograde.
About the author:
Erin Sullivan is Canadian born and has been a consultant astrologer and teacher since the late 1960s. She has lectured worldwide and led workshops and symposia on many aspects of human development using mythology, psychology and the rich language of astrology.
She has been called ‘the astrologer’s astrologer’ and is one of the world’s most eminent consulting, writing and lecturing astrologers.