Transforming the Brave Heart
Mars goes retrograde about every two years, making it a fairly rare event. During this time, our approach to conflict, hostility, anger, assertiveness and taking action often requires rethinking, regrouping and reintegrating.
While Mars is retrograde, you may be required to draw on your strengths to assert yourself in some area where you've been reserved, cautious or inexperienced. The weakest links in your life may break apart or need to be repaired. You might need to find new ways to become empowered.
Whatever your current situation, Mars retrograde offers a chance to withdraw, regroup and try a new "attack" on the challenges in your life. It's a time to examine and rework the way you express, experience and integrate Mars energy in your life.
As a rule, the most intense times during the Mars retrograde cycle are when Mars makes the retrograde station and the direct station, since any stationary planet becomes extra powerful and potent. (Find out more about stations in my article: Retrograde Shadow and Station.)
Mars and Aggression
So, what is Mars energy? A big part of Mars' territory is populated by anger and aggression. Under Mars retrograde, we may be confronted by issues involving these emotions, either within ourselves or through others. During the retrograde phase, we may be unusually sensitive to disagreement, conflict and power dynamics in the world around us. We might encounter a need to examine how we deal with aggression, and then integrate the powerful forces of human nature into our lives in some new way.
Anger, hostility, force, threat, displays of power, and other forms of aggression, naturally invoke a certain degree of fear, both in the person on the receiving end and possibly in the person expressing it. The primary instinctive responses to fear are: Fight, Flight or Freeze. (My thanks to a non-astrological friend for identifying and explaining this third fear reaction dynamic. You know who you are. ;-)
To Fight is to meet the challenge and move forward to defeat the threat; or alternatively, to impulsively lash out in rage or self-defence. The Flight response is to turn around and remove oneself from danger, either backing away carefully or running at a gallop. To Freeze is to be the proverbial "deer in the headlights" that is paralyzed and overwhelmed by danger, although this response can also buy time to gather information, courage and adrenaline before instinct chooses a more proactive response.
We all have our preferred or automatic ways of responding to fear. Mars retrograde may challenge us to explore our less-used ways of dealing with anger and conflict. If we tend to freeze or take flight, for example, we may find the opportunity (and the courage) to mobilise our assertive and proactive nature. If we tend to launch an attack at the first sign of danger or competition, we might need to learn a more restrained or balanced way of protecting ourselves and defending our priorities.
Mars retrograde is a wonderful opportunity to explore the deeper dynamics and issues that trigger intense reactions in us. Mind you, it will help if we can do this without turning everything and everyone around us into burning marshmallows! Having someone to talk to about what we're feeling can really help: therapist, clergy, spiritual advisor, mentor, friend, etc.
If this sounds like a "sweetness-and-light" approach to something potentially dangerous and primal, that's not the intention! Rather, the intention is to point out that if/when Mars throws a tantrum and turns your nice, reasonably stable life into a firestorm, there are resources and options to help you deal with the fallout.
It is said that the Chinese word for "crisis" contains the combined elements of "danger" and "opportunity." Obviously the Mars version of "crisis" may not necessarily feel comfortable (unless you're a bored Aries or Sagittarius looking for adventure!) And the "opportunity" part is probably going to take a mental counterbalancing act to keep from feeling overwhelmed.
Anger and its alter-egos—depression, fear, resentment and cynicism—are all common reactions to feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable. Learn to deal with these anger-reactions better and you'll be able to deal with Mars better.
Even if the anger is coming at you from someone else, if you look closely you will probably find that there is some part of you that is acting as a balance point for the other person's attitude. That's not to say that if you are getting an angry response from someone, you therefore deserve it. It's simply to say that we typically play a role in whatever dynamic we encounter with others. Learn what your role is and you'll have a powerful grip on taking control of the Mars energy in your life, by choosing a different response than your usual one.
The idea here is to ultimately learn a healthy way to integrate and respond to aggression and fear—not simply to feed the fire and scorch everything in sight; but neither to short-circuit the healing process by running away or avoiding the triggers to the point that you throw away the healing they can bring. In other words, the healing lies in expanding your repertoire of responses by learning to own the anger-reactions you usually avoid. Only through this can you strengthen your power of choice, so that you decide how to deal with a difficult situation, rather than emotion-driven knee-jerk impulse deciding for you. And don't feel impatient if you can't do it all at once—this is an unfolding process that takes time.
Mars and Passion
Besides anger issues, Mars retrograde can also bring out desires, sexuality, passion, ambition and drive that have been suppressed, forgotten or undeveloped. Circumstances and interactions with others may tease or trigger these impulses to the surface. Although this may or may not be a comfortable experience, it is an opportunity to work with these areas in a new way that helps you develop, heal and integrate buried feelings and desires. This can be done by releasing them from their inner prison and learning to experience and express them in a healthy way.
However, there is always something a little dangerous and risky about Mars. If a fired-up Mars is let out "without a leash," or without a way to maintain some degree of control over it, the results can sometimes be damaging and destructive. If we release pent up feelings too suddenly or too abruptly, without a way to support them within the whole of who we are, this can create more problems than it solves. This is what grounding is all about, and it is essential when handling the electric fire of Mars. The forceful power of Mars needs to be balanced with awareness and integrity in order to function in a healing and constructive way.
While the transiting Mars is retrograde, we have access to all this Mars energy—in all its potential and danger—in ways that we may not ordinarily allow into our lives. The results may be startling, disturbing, thrilling, frightening, inspiring, liberating and/or overwhelming, but always challenging and bringing a potential for healing.
Mars is a Fire planet (it rules Aries, a Fire sign). And just like real-life fire, Mars can be harmful and destructive when out of control or used without discretion. It is best to handle Mars energy carefully, respectfully and mindfully, with lots of safety mechanisms in place. But also, just like fire, when Mars is used wisely it can fuel great achievements and transform whatever it touches.
Working With the Retrograde Mars
During Mars retrograde, if you find yourself overwhelmed by feelings, passion, aggression or anger, it can be important to have a trusted person that you can call on and confide in. It's easy to feel consumed in the fires of Mars, when your objective judgment can be skewed or absent. It can be very helpful to be able to process and understand what's happening to you, and this can be difficult to do in isolation. Don't let your pride, embarrassment or guilt get in the way of reaching out for help and support if you're having a hard time.
It will also help to have a constructive or harmless outlet for any frustration, anger, aggression or other Mars emotions that feel overwhelming. Physical exercise is a great way to use up Mars energy. Channeling your passion or ambition into a project can also help to transform that energy in a constructive way. Just be careful you don't overindulge in whatever you choose to do, to the point where you become obsessed and burnt out.
If you find yourself newly inspired and motivated, don't let yourself be held back by inhibitions, expectations or past history. That Mars motivation is a gift! However, don't expect immediate results either. Mars loves to move fast and can get frustrated easily if it feels limited by delay or boredom. Find ways to keep your Mars occupied—multi-tasking if necessary.
Plot a course from where you are now to where you want to be, and then start to move toward it when you're ready. For new or long-term projects this is often best done after Mars goes direct, but your Mars instinct will usually tell you when it is ready to act. During Mars retrograde, you'll probably find it works better to research, plan and delve under the surface of whatever your situation is, before you actually take steps in your new direction.
You will likely find that your best approach takes you on a route that you hadn't anticipated, or else you may need to gather resources first. It is wise to look before you leap! Despite Mars' love of leaping, understanding the potentials and pitfalls of what you are planning will increase your chance of success in the long run.
Above all, Mars is physical and instinctual, even though it helps to maintain an awareness of its energy and impulses from a mental perspective. It can really help to work off your passion, anger, frustration or inspiration at a physical level. Work out, have sex, take a walk, clean the house. (Not necessarily in that order. <grin>)
However, if you start becoming accident prone, that could be a classic communication from your Higher Self to slow down and pay attention to what's in front of you, instead of rushing around trying to focus on something, somewhere or some-when else. Alternatively, Mars retrograde might also pull the plug on your physical energy and turn your body into something resembling a slug that won't move. It may be trying to tell you something, like: slow down, take a break, be gentle with yourself (and others), recharge your batteries.
Low physical energy could also be a symptom of psychological depression, in which case it may help to check in with your deep, hidden or secret feelings to see what's lurking underneath the surface. In this case, you might be burying your anger or discouragement beneath hopelessness, cynicism, boredom or depression. Or, you could be experiencing grief, even from a loss long ago that was never fully resolved.
In the end, whatever you're "hearing" from your body, it's a good idea to listen to it and your intuition. If you find you're resisting or fighting against what it seems to be saying, then that's a really good place to start exploring what retrograde Mars is trying to show you.
The Healing Crisis
Mars is the planetary ruler of Aries, as well as the traditional planetary ruler of Scorpio. As much as the Aries side of Mars prefers to be straightforward and get where it's going quickly, the workings and effects of Mars in the human body and psyche can be very complex and multi-faceted. This is perhaps more of the Scorpio side of Mars, which may become more pronounced under Mars retrograde. Scorpio Mars seeks to transform and heal a problem by "lancing the boil," digging under the surface, and getting rid of the hidden toxins.
This can become a "healing crisis," where it feels like things get worse before they get better. It can take time and hard work before you start to see the healing benefits, so don't just automatically assume that worsening circumstances means you're "doing something wrong." At the same time, it can be tricky to tell a "healing crisis" from just a "crisis," so don't be afraid to reach out for help and support to assist the process along.
Mars retrograde often requires exploration of the deeper issues underneath the surface of the situation before you can move forward. As a result, progress can sometimes stall or go into hibernation during the retrograde period. Perhaps you've hit a roadblock or an impasse and you have to figure out the best way around it or through it. Maybe you're having doubts about a goal you've been trying to accomplish and you need to listen for a while to buried feelings, fears, drives and priorities that should be taken into account.
You might find yourself having a delayed reaction to something that happened a while ago—perhaps triggered during the two months before the retrograde began (in the pre-retrograde Shadow), or even rooted in other Mars retrograde times in the past. It pays to use the Mars retrograde period to "listen" to what those inner feelings, impulses, passions and motives are trying to tell us before we act on them.
This special time in the Mars cycle gives us a chance to discover and explore uncharted territory in ourselves and in our lives. We may not understand that territory or find our way to the other side until after Mars turns direct. But Mars honours our courage, drive, movement and willingness to try new things. Where will Mars lead you?
All serious daring starts from within. - Harriet Beecher Stowe
Courage is often lack of insight, whereas cowardice in many cases is based on good information. - Peter Ustinov
Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow. - Mary Anne Radmacher
Courage is the price life exacts for peace. - Amelia Earhart
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. - The Serenity Prayer (origin: Reinhold Niebuhr)
COWARDLY LION: Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got? DOROTHY, SCARECROW, TIN WOODSMAN: Courage! COWARDLY LION: You can say that again! Hunh! - from the film "The Wizard of Oz " (1939)
I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. - from "To Kill a Mockingbird ," by Harper Lee
Quotes from WikiQuote.
Mars Retrograde Calendar
© 2005, 2007 Wendy Guy, All rights reserved. This content may not be copied or used without the expressed permission of the author. Picture of Mars courtesy of NASA.