September 9 - November 13, 2020
28° Aries - 15° Aries
The Red Planet is here, and waiting at the threshold. You might have noticed, if you’ve seen the night sky lately. He is unmistakable—a ruddy, penetrating apparition—and is now the closest to Earth that he will come before going retrograde over the next two months. Since late June, Mars has been on the march though Aries, dogged and determined on his own personal odyssey to…where and what remains to be seen. In his haste to grab life by the balls, however, he has been burning rapidly through his fuel, and is now grinding to a halt. This is frustrating to the mindset of Arian Mars, who hates to slow down. But the universe, in all its wisdom, had other plans for him.
One keyword for Mars, in addition to action and initiation, is separation. Astrologically and archetypally, the planetary energy signifies moving apart and moving ahead, from the biological to the psycho-social: from cell division, to birth, to taking our first steps, to breaking up, to leaving the nest, and so on. Mars makes these things possible, and in the best case scenarios, they lead us toward freedom and individuation. But every two years, the warrior planet must interrupt his forward momentum, retrace his steps, and survey the inner, rather than the outer, landscape. It’s a different test of his courage than he is used to, a different sort of confrontation, a different kind of separation, a different kind of initiation. But required nonetheless before he can continue on his path, and before he can earn his stripes. The same goes for us.
For most of human history, people have used rites of passage to demarcate the passing of one phase of life into another, as well as recognized the value of periodic separation for purposes of initiation and self-discovery. Rite and ritual were enacted to prepare one for life, and to maintain one’s personal relationship to the gods. We in modern secular society have drifted away from most rites of passage, for better or for worse, but retrograde planets still put our self-awareness to the test: how well do you know your Mars? How do you process anger, channel your sexual and creative energy, or exercise your will—on your best day? How about on your worst day? In this case, Aries is the terrain of initiation. Which means some of us will be going on a metaphorical vision quest, sent into the wilds alone, to hone our survival skills, and await the visitation of our guides. For others, it will be the sweat lodge, the cave, or the red tent, to pray, purify, prepare and do penance. When we come back out, we will have learned something about our relationship to courage and self-determination, and about our role in society. Hopefully, it will make us rather than break us.
While it is undergoing all of this, Mars will also have to endure pressure from the Sun and further challenges from the stellium of elders in Capricorn. Depending on the way these energies interact with your chart, it could manifest as personal transformation or existential crisis; as resistance to change or the welcome of a new chapter. The build-up of energy could express itself as frustration, impulsiveness, or explosiveness. It could also look like learning a new skill, or taking on a new passion project, for the sake of growth and experience. This retrograde is likely to bring up the shadow side of power, leadership and dominance, and expose unhealthy dynamics of jealousy, possessiveness, violence and control. Over the next two months, it’s worth taking the time to think over your earliest experiences of Mars and how they map onto your current life; to look at the ways in which you are a participant in your community and the ways in which you prefer to go it alone; and to ask yourself, what are you fighting for? Retrogrades are reminders that there are times when, in order to move forward, we have to slow down, sit still and look back.