Rob Tillett has been an astrologer for more than three decades. In previous incarnations a poet, musician, magician, healer, dramatist & composer, he is the editor and publisher of Astrology on the Web and has written many articles on this website.
Rob lives in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, on the east coast of Australia.
On January 24th, 2012, Mars reaches his retrograde station at 23°06' Virgo just after the New Moon in Aquarius, in preparation for a period of retrograde motion in Virgo that will last until April 14th, 2010. The effects of the retrograde period will continue to be felt until he returns in direct motion on June 19th, 2012 to the degree where he first made his station (23° Virgo 06). The first beginnings of the effect take place from November 16, 2011, as Mars begins to slow, so prepare for issues to cloud in the Mars Shadow, especially if you have strong Mutable Sign placements in your chart. The Mutable Signs are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces.
Mars turns retrograde only once every two years and two months, but the effects of each period differ, according to the sign in which it happens (see box for Mars Retrograde 2012).
A planet is described as retrograde when it appears to be moving backwards through the zodiac. This traditional concept arises in the illusory planetary motion created by the orbital movement of the Earth, with relation to other planets in our solar system. It's a bit like travelling on the road watching another car beside you: when the other car slows down, or you speed up, it looks as though the other car is moving backwards. Click here for some neat graphics and more on the science of retrograde planetary motion. Planets are never actually retrograde or stationary, they just seem that way, due to this illusion. Retrograde periods, although often problematic for us earthlings, are not particularly uncommon. Each planet retrogrades, except the Sun and Moon.
As a rule, retrograde planets presage a period of seemingly inevitable or fated events, which relate to their sphere of influence. The retrograde phase is when the planet concerned pushes itself into our consciousness, overshadowing the energies of the other planets and so affecting our personalities (each planet symbolizes and affects specific parts of our makeup). It presents us with a series of events over which we seem to have little or no control, relating especially to the sign in which the retrogradation occurs. For example, Mars retrograde in 2007 in emotional, home-oriented Cancer presented quite different sets of circumstances from those generated when he retreated into gossipy, intellectual Gemini.
The retrograde period is best seen as a cycle, beginning when Mars begins to slow to a halt before travelling backwards through the zodiac, and ending when he returns to the point where he first paused. However, during the cycle, the planetary energy is most powerful – and more likely to generate critical events of universal importance – when Mars makes a station, appearing motionless in the sky. These stationary periods occur at the beginning of the cycle (when Mars first halts as he prepares to move backwards) and midway through the cycle when Mars slows to a stop before moving forward again. It is worth noting that retrograde periods only occur when Mars is physically closest to the Earth, glowing balefully in the sky! With Mars so close, no wonder we are so affected!
What does Mars affect?
In general, Mars, the god of warriors, rules physical energy and efforts. His placement in your chart expresses the strength and direction of the physical force that drives your ego, your will to achieve. Mars fires your emotions and energizes your passions, but also powers your mental endeavours and communicative skills.
Mars describes male relationships and associations, risk-taking inclinations, and the physical challenges you are likely to encounter. Well-placed, Mars endows powerful energy and an indomitable will to succeed, but when poorly placed can mean accidents, injuries, fits of anger, rage, warfare or other forms of violence, according to the inclinations of the sign and house concerned.
Mars loves to rush forward. The grass is always greener on the other side of that hill, so Mars does not react well to being held back, or... (gasp!) going backwards! Mars retrograde therefore gives rise to irrational action; introspection; depression and self-assessment; sexual issues and relationship conflicts. Major rethinks and reorientation of current projects are also often required.
Click your sign to see how Mars Retrograde affects you!
Mars Retrograde in Virgo
On January 24th, 2012, Mars reaches his retrograde station at 23°06' Virgo, just after the New Moon, in preparation for a period of retrograde motion in Virgo that will last until April 14th, 2012. In addition, the effects of the retrograde period will continue to be felt until he returns in direct motion on June 19th, 2012 to the degree where he first made his station (23° Leo 06'). When Mars is retrograde, everyone's thought patterns are more introspective and we tend to think about ways of acting on issues and concerns which relate to the sign involved. With Mars retrograde in Virgo, people with Sun or Moon in Virgo, or Virgo rising, will be especially prone to such introspection. There is little choice but to reconsider personal views and opinions about life, for it presents an opportunity to gain insight into unconscious motivations, the hidden motivations that cause us to act without thinking. Since Virgo is a Mutable Sign, the other Mutable Signs, Sagittarius, Pisces and Gemini, will also feel the effects most keenly.
Mars retro in Virgo generates a pervasively hypercritical, perfectionist mood, inclining those most affected toward obsession with minor points, minutiae and overblown trivialities, particularly with regard to healthcare, nutrition and the military. Worry and brooding over more or less trivial concerns will be prevalent. Anxieties particularly develop around the meaning and application of science, pharmaceuticals, chemistry and medicine. Because Mars in Virgo is usually quiet, original and resourceful—and keen to work with others over a wide range of activities—we can expect co-workers and supervisors to be critical toward others and easily dissatisfied with their work during the retro phase. This will be especially noticeable with regard to issues from the past where small but key errors have led to major problems in the present. People in positions of responsibility, trust, or authority will need to watch their backs. Subordinates, employees and organised hierarchical associations such as hospital staff, nurses, union labour and the military are likely to experience significant unrest.
Our efforts to perfect our skills and abilities to impossible levels will confront the imperfections of reality. We need to develop tolerance for such imperfect situations, or we can lapse into an idle and unproductive mode. A proper sense of detail can be lost in disorganisation and sloppiness. Aggressive action, especially stimulated by an inability to see the forest for the trees, will produce loss through speculation and risky business ventures, loss of children, and disappointment or sorrow in love. There is also danger of accident, or violence, usually thanks to carelessness, aggression, or foolishness.
Nervousness and bowel complaints can be brought on by gluttony and over-indulgence during this phase. As a result, the blood sugar tends to be unstable, resulting in a tendency to put on weight. Those affected would benefit by drinking a glass of water with a splash of lemon prior to meals to offset the tendency to overeat. Mars in Virgo also subjects the mind to worry and irritability, giving a tendency to brood over any troubles.
Talk versus Action
Mars in Virgo is in a favourable trine aspect to Mercury in Capricorn in the figure. These are both Earth Signs, so more stability than usual might be expected. Ideas can be turned into physical realities under this aspect. Words cause actions to flow smoothly and actions give greater meaning to words. It is normally an excellent time to prepare, present, or receive travel plans, travel brochures, instructions related to physical tasks or goals, and written or verbal descriptions of physical events, but as Mars is stationary and inconjunct Pallas Athene, actions are likely to be blocked, primarily where an imbalance of power must be righted, especially between powerful men and determined women. Pallas, the wise female warrior, gives meaning and direction to the struggles of women to be free from the oppressive domination of the masculine forces.
It is apposite that in Greek myth, Mars (as Ares) was the embodiment of slaughter and bloodlust, while Pallas Athene (as Athena, his half-sister) was also considered a war deity. Her stance was that of strategic warfare, but Ares leant to unpredictable violence. Athena and Ares were enemies. This awakens an holistic view of conflicting or opposite elements (the Masculine and the Feminine). It is time to defend, or fight for the underdog. Pallas Athene is associated with fighting for causes. She represents the application of practical skill and creative intelligence in order best to be of service, a very Virgoan trait.
Under this influence surgical procedures, especially those that involve the head, nerves, or sensory organs, should be postponed if possible. Business transactions, manufacturing, sports events, military manouvres, building, engineering, and mechanical projects are apt to be turned to military ends. Get a haircut instead!
Demeter Mourning Persephone by Evelyn Pickering deMorgan
Too much talk and not enough action is the real threat to success. This aspect also presents a form of mutual reception, because Mercury rules and is exalted in Virgo (thus governing Mars in the figure) and Mars is exalted in Capricorn, where Mercury is located. This tends to being out the best side of each planet, helping to counteract the tendency towards violence through faulty intelligence.
Axis of Fate
Mars turns in a wide T-square with the Moon's nodes, the Dragon's Head and Tail, which are the axis of fate currently transiting Sagittarius (Dragon's Head, the north node governing life development) and Gemini (Dragon's Tail, the south node, marking karmic obligations and loss). The nodes travel retrograde and are always opposed to each other, being an axis. Mars reaches the exact T-square with the nodes in the 10th degree of Virgo on Thursday, March 15, staying in the aspect to one degree or another until the second week of May 2012. This is a seriously difficult aspect, which will see much violence and conflict in the world, and in the personal lives of those whose charts are directly affected.
Saturn, although in the last degree of Libra, is rising conjunct the ascendant in the UT chart, in a dissociate (out-of-sign) opposition to Jupiter setting in the second degree of Taurus. As overconfident Jupiter is in a stressful square with the Sun in the figure (and inconjunct the point of last month's solar eclipse), this is a very significant aspect. Saturn (restriction; sorrow) and Jupiter (expansion; fortune) are not only in opposition, but are also opposites by nature. The T-square to the Sun aggravates the differences between them and opens out the more negative potential. Any major aspect between these two Great Chronocrators (time-lords) marks big developments in the world. This aspect does not quite culminate, but it is well within orb, being part of a vast transformation from the Earth Sign phase to the Air Sign phase that will take full effect from December 2020, when both Jupiter and Saturn stride into Aquarius, forming their first conjunction at the Equinox, Dec 22, 2020. It's a long way off, but they are not called Time Lords for nothing..!
Responsibilities, restrictions and regulations are in direct conflict with freedom under this aspect, a key factor blocking our progress, happiness and success. We cannot count on maturity or experience, and when we do our authority is challenged. Religious and philosophical values tend to be rigid, orthodox—or too materialistic. A promising situation may tempt us to circumvent the rules or get around restrictions, but without success. Alternatively, if we refuse to bend the rules or relax our attentiveness to responsibilities, we could easily miss a valuable opportunity. That's a Catch 22! Resist the promise of something new and hang on to what you have, at least for the time being. It is hard to formulate important decisions, perhaps due to a distrust of others. Legal difficulties and lawsuits arise, due to societal pressures and conformity. This aspect declares that we will probably not be able to remove the forces that oppose us, which only leaves us the option of finding a constructive way to work around them, or with them.
A Moderating Factor
Saturn and Venus are in parallel, which is a moderating factor. Saturn and Venus are friends (Saturn is exalted in Libra and Venus rules Libra). The parallel aspect tends to bring out the best in Saturn over an extended period, so the factors of beauty and structure, attraction and determination, desire and continence work together to give a beneficial underlying flavour that will express itself over the longer term. Saturn is also in a partile trine to Neptune (delusion; fantasy; spiritual illumination), so if the power of Mars can help us break down the ossified structures of religious and political orthodoxy, progress is possible.
America Needs You
Mars makes no other significant planetary aspects on the 20th, but does turn retrograde in conjunction with the fixed star, Denebola, a massive blue star in the tail of the Lion. Denebola, a Behenian starof Saturn and Venus, is known to portend misfortune and disgrace. When in conjunction with Mars it is said to be bitter, vindictive and cruel, producing unpopularity, loss of position and public disgrace. Naturally enough, the station of Mars is likely to bring out its mean streak! Denebola is part of the Hindu Lunar Mansion of Uttara Phalguni, which is associated with the Warrior caste. How martial! It is cabalistically associated with the Hebrew letter Kaph (the crown, symbolizing self-realization by means of willpower and faith) and the 11th Tarot Trump, "Strength". Strength was called by Aleister Crowley "Lust", for it also brings out passion and desire.
The US and Wall Street
Mars (warfare; violence; primeval drives) turns retrograde in tight conjunction with the US natal Neptune (delusion; deception; spiritual development), close to the US mid-heaven (public image; governance). Therefore during this phase the US would be well-advised to keep a low profile and to concentrate on thinking things through before taking action, as Mars in the figure is in a tight sextile to US Mercury. Home concerns will be better managed than those abroad. Though it is possible for actions to be truly inspired, the potential for making unwise decisions and taking equally unwise actions is very high. Others will quickly become confused or misunderstand the motives for their actions; moreover the US leadership is likely to misunderstand the actions and motives of others, especially its opponents. Trying to discover and sort out who did what, and where, when, or why may be virtually impossible. Activities may be purposefully secretive, or simply go undetected or unrecognized. Physical energy and efforts can quickly become dissipated or undermined. US forces should use extreme caution around or in the water, and when dealing with drugs, chemicals, or gas.
The Sun and Moon in the figure are conjunct the US natal south node (fate; loss; karmic connection). This warns that the US will suffer significant losses, should it undertake reckless action during this phase. Mars turns in partile conjunction with President Obama's natal Mars, closely conjunct Wall Street's natal Mars. Warmongering and threats will therefore be par for the course, and financial matters will be at the bottom of it (Obama's Mars is in his 8th house of other people's money and in Wall Street's first house of self-image). The Sun in the figure is conjunct Obama's natal Jupiter, so the dice seem to roll his way and he might just get a little too pleased with himself, but the Moon exactly opposes his natal Sun, so whichever way he jumps in trying to shore up his flagging image, the public is likely to be against him. You may remember when we first looked at his chart he had only six months from his election to turn things around, otherwise opposing forces would be likely to pull him down as the populace turned back to a more conservative view. We now see this karma in fruition. Let's hope he can hold it together.
Dollar in Flames
The European Crisis
Even though recent analyses have been doom-laden for the Euro and the Eurozone, the figure is not so bad when we superimpose it on the birth chart of the Euro. The New Moon less than a day before Mars turns is right on the ascendant of the Euro, suggesting that it will pull itself together and make a completely new start. This is supported by the fact that as Mars turns it is applying to the trine with the Euro's natal Venus. Unfortunately, Mars is prevented from making this very favourable aspect until the first week of July 2012, thanks to the retro phase. When Mars awakens the T-square with the Moon's nodes on March 15, it will be in trine to the Euro's natal Sun, perhaps reducing the unfortunate impact of that nasty little aspect, at least on the fortunes of the Euro.
This said, when we look at the impact of the retro phase on the European Community, we see Mars turning in a stressful square aspect to the EC's natal Saturn. This is not so good. This point is already inflamed due to Mercury having turned retrograde in conjunction with natal Saturn on Nov 24 and is in itself connected with risky passions. The difficulties and delays during this period are likely to be caused by lack of preparation, planning, and organization—either on the part of the EU polity or that of others. The maddening thing is that despite all precautions, they are apt to be caught just when things are in disarray, or, just when they need something, it cannot be located in time. Bad timing is, in fact, one of the biggest obstacles to progress. Under this influence the public and others will physically resist or even threaten its seniority or position of authority; and with the Sun and Moon in the figure square the EU natal Moon and nodal axis, we cannot expect the EU leadership to take it graciously when they do. However, as we saw in the Euro chart, there is potential for success through the deployment of power and because maturity and experience dictates that they keep on going until everything goes as they hope.
Is this hope forlorn? Well, Saturn (restriction; sorrow; the working classes) is conjunct the EU natal Jupiter (fortune; expansion; government; rulers), so it could be a problem. Economic growth and general prosperity will be restricted. Cultural identities will be more clearly defined, as nationalistic drums beat ever more loudly. Our ideas and attitudes concerning these things will be more serious, a positive change. Tradition and authority rule against individual freedom, especially in any divergence from structure and form in the past. The Eurozone and its inhabitants can become more realistically based in many areas. Investors will have to accept a slower return during this period. Moreover, Uranus and Ceres—both destructive forces that are signally active—are conjunct in the second degree of Aries in the figure, just inside the EU seventh house of open enmity. This degree is occupied by the Fixed Star, Kerb, warning of the danger of being jilted by a lover! Haha. Quiet likely. Ambition, vanity, intuition, enthusiasm, caprice and bad judgment hang over the issues. No doubt delusion and self-deception will be a problem for the EU authorities as they see themselves quite differently from how others see them. This is shown by the awkward inconjunct aspect from Neptune in the figure to the EC ascendant, which is exact almost to the minute! Jupiter in the figure also opposes natal Neptune, and the Uranus/Ceres conjunction is inconjunct natal Neptune and Jupiter in the natal chart of the Community. A problematic combination indeed, one loaded with misunderstanding and deception.
Transiting Pluto in the figure is conjunct the EU Sun. This is a massively powerful aspect that will turn the European venture on its head, perhaps slowly drawing and quartering it in the four year process that the aspect will take to complete. This long-term phase brings intense self-awareness, a relentless need to make a transformative new start. It's inescapable. The past will have much to do with the present, especially if those concerned have allowed others (the banking cartels and their lackeys..?) to take control of their lives as a way of escaping the responsibility of doing it themselves. They and they alone must solve their own problems. The US should keep its distance. As should Russia and any other interested outside party. This aspect tempts the EU to become more and more isolated. Their pride is likely to take a severe beating as fear and loathing emerge in Brussels. However, the European Community should emerge from this four year phase a changed entity, hopefully stronger, more determined, and independent.
The Arab Spring
As discussed in the recent Eclipse article, the focus of the world's attention has now turned to the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. In what has become known as the "Arab Spring", the governments of Muslim nations in the Middle East and North Africa have fallen one after another to purportedly democratic revolutions instigated by young, technologically aware individuals who are seeking to bring their countries into the 21st Century (beginning with Tunisia in December 2010/ January 2011). This Arab Spring has swept the Middle East like a tidal wave, or a desert storm, and a number of regimes have toppled before it, even including Egypt.
Mars travels through the constellation of Leo (traditionally known for expressing a fierce and bloodthirsty nature) during this retro phase, contacting several of the stars involved, notably Alioth, "the Black Horse" in Ursa Major, the Great Bear, on March 15 (as stated earlier), in forming the T-square with the Moon's nodes active since mid-December. This martial constellation is rarely good for nations and political leaders whose charts are affected, and Alioth itself is noted for signalling suicide among women and danger in pregnancy, though some authorities do not give it much power. The Moon's north node at this time is conjunct Antares, a Royal Star at the Heart of the Scorpion, with the south node conjunct Aldebaran, the Royal Star in the Head of the Bull, the Bull's south eye. Both of these are Behenian stars, anciently used in magical practice. So mid-March is a very risky period. Antares (in Sagittarius) is the Archangel Oriel, the Watcher of the West. It marks the spirit of adventure, combined with obstinacy, injuries to eyes, honours yet with sudden loss. It is stubborn, suspicious and violent. Aldebaran (in Gemini) is the archangel Michael, the Watcher of the East. It awakens eloquence, high honours, integrity, popularity, and courage, but also signals war mongering and agitation. In this aspect to Mars it signals danger, loss and violent death. Stay out of war zones in mid-March.
Clearly (and especially in light of the developments signalled by the eclipses) regimes are going to topple. But will what replaces them be what either their opponents, or the West, think will be a "flowering of democracy"? The stars say, unlikely. What is more likely is that the organised groups behind the revolutions, or at least making the most of the revolutions, will seize power, or perhaps be elected into power. The Muslim Brotherhood immediately comes to mind, a fundamentalist Sunni Muslim group which has been agitating in the Middle East for decades. The credo of the MB is, "God is our objective; the Quran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of God is the highest of our aspirations."
Mars turns retrograde conjunct the natal Sun of Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, whose chart has just been slammed by the Solar Eclipse of Nov 25 then double-whammied by the Lunar Eclipse of Dec 10. His Sun is conjunct Asterion, in the constellation of the same name, which signifies a love of hunting and a penetrating mind, making those born under it faithful, keen, clever and fond of speculation. So this cultured man, a doctor, educated in London, finds himself at the head of a despotic regime, a member of a despised minority religion, whose members have attained power, thanks to a deliberate infiltration of the military and government, by way of protecting themselves from the persecution of the Sunni majority—the front for which we can currently read the Muslim Brotherhood. We should also note that the Arab States have condemned him, and his only support now comes from the non-Arab Muslim state of Iran, whose Shia proclivities line up more closely with Bashar's Alawi sect. So Mars (violence; passion) afflicts his Sun (self; leadership) and Saturn (restriction; desolation; karma) in the last degree of Libra afflicts his natal Venus (culture; desire; money). I have examined his chart in detail in the eclipse article, so no more need be said, save that if he survives the eclipse, he might just survive this retro phase, but not without profound difficulty. My feeling is that he will take his family and flee to the West, but it is hard to be sure, as Ceres (loss of children) has already passed the square to his Moon. This will be a rough time for Syria and for its leader.
Enough of politics. The personal effects of the Mars retrograde phase will be long and difficult. Neil Giles has listed his ideas of how each sign will fare so if you click your sign in the table, you might get some clues.
Fortunately, Mars turns direct again on April 14, 2012, in the fourth degree of Virgo, remaining in that degree for a week either side of that date. Red is the colour of Mars and Mars stations in conjunction with the red star El Kophra, on the backside of the Great Bear and Alula Borealis, in the back foot of the Great Bear, associated with female infidelity and revenge. The Great Bear is known for great anger when roused. With Mars stationary, let's hope that the Bear stays sleeping.