I have to call it as I see it, and the truth is the stars that wander (more commonly known as planets) keep on wandering backwards.

Or at least they appear to – from our earthling centered perspective.

Last issue, we focused on the backwards dance of Venus and Mercury. Now, it’s Mars. You may just have noticed the mysterious red star rising after sunset earlier and earlier…

The five visible planets (Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars) go retrograde, that is appear to travel backwards against the background of the fixed stars that form the constellations, at regular intervals:

  • Mercury – three to for times per year
  • Venus – every 18 months
  • Jupiter and Saturn – every year
  • Mars – every two years

A planet is said to have entered the shadow of its retrograde when it reaches the patch of zodiacal territory it will traverse three times: first time direct, second time retrograde, and third and final time direct. Mars reached the shadow of its retrograde midway through the sign of Aries on July 24-25, just as the Venus-Mercury retrograde shadows were ending.

The pre-Mars retrograde shadow ended when Mars started to travel retrograde on September 9th.

One passageway inward closes just as another door inward opens! The red planet is brighter and more noticeable in the evening sky during its retrograde dance.

If in general Mercury retrograde asks us to re-think our connections, and Venus retrograde asks to re-evaluate what’s valuable to us (most especially in our relationships with others), then Mars retrograde asks us to re-direct our activities to alternative paths, which reflect the needs of our inner landscapes.

Many find this uncomfortable, for Western culture favors extroverted action rather than going within. We prefer everything to proceed in a straight line and eschew detours to our will, even when they can be good for us. Furthermore, when things go wrong, taking an honest look inside is often condemned as navel gazing, but as the good book says, there’s a time for every purpose under heaven.

It may even be vital. Psychiatrist and Analytical Psychologist Carl G. Jung felt that it was in the darkness where the work was to be done, not by envisioning figures of light. Like all symbols, Mars has a fair bit of darkness that includes the ominous reputation of being an ancient war deity.

The ancients saw Mars’ redness as equivalent to blood and there is much about the planet that is fierce and beastly. Mars is about the animal instincts for survival when under threat: fight or flight. In our civilized existence, these responses are significantly attenuated – it’s not a normal experience to be facing literally existential threats every day. Nevertheless, deep down these passions are just as real as they always have been in the human consciousness. Mars retrograde are periods when these “frustrations” may bubble over in response to its re-directing or blocking influence. Equally possible is depression because it can be a form of anger turned inward.

When given lemons, make lemonade: seek alternative avenues for where you need to go. Even a sailing ship attempting to sail against the wind can do so if the sailor is willing to put in the effort to tack.

Another way to see Mars is at the cutting edge of psychic growth. It is the rootlet mighty enough to split its seed casing. It is the stem that fuels the flower. Mars retrograde presents an opportunity to perhaps return to a place in ourselves that needs pruning and re-growth.

Mars is retrograde from Sep 9 until Nov 13-14, but the post-retrograde shadow lasts until early January 2021. Find out what this “season” means in general for your sign below.

Or view them all on one page here.