The upcoming Mars retrograde beginning March 1, 2014 promises to be one of the more intense in decades, principally due to Mars’ double contact during the period with the defining aspect of our times, the ongoing Uranus/Pluto square. Uranus, now in Aries, and Pluto, in Capricorn, are coming together in major aspect for the first time since their conjunction, which defined the turbulent ‘60s. Uranus’ volatility, restiveness, and need for change and self-expression is clashing in a crisis of action with Pluto’s desire to destroy, revision and regenerate, putting aggressive, headstrong Aries in direct conflict with cautious, conservative Capricorn; the individual pitted against the establishment.
Into this explosive situation struts Mars, naturally aligned with Aries, attempting to bring some balance to the situation with equilibrium-seeking Libra. But Mars in Libra is at a decided disadvantage, classically considered in detriment, which is a weakened state where its functioning is impaired. And given Mars’ natural affinity with violence and aggression, conflict and struggle, we can expect little reprieve from that quarter, but rather a heightening of the tensions we’ve all been feeling the past few years, brought down to the very immediate level of the personal planets. Add to this the fact that Mars joins the mix just as the square incorporates America’s natal Sun/Saturn square, and it’s likely to be a bumpy ride for the US in 2014.
It’s this sense of wheels within wheels which the station retrograde reflects, as Mars makes major dynamic aspects to various levels of cosmic energy, from the intimately personal square to Venus, Mars’ polar opposite, to a plethora of contacts to minor planets, centaurs and TNOs, and beyond, to the far-flung reaches of deep space and the galactic points. All these cosmic gears in the celestial clockwork have a role to play in the retrograde period as the music of the spheres is cranked out on the hurdy-gurdy of our lives.
With any Mars retrograde phase, it’s important not to act precipitously. We might consider the guiding dictum of the period to be the reversal of the old adage—“don’t just do something, stand there!” Better to watch and wait, as action under a retrograde of the planet governing initiative and drive can lead to very unexpected and unwanted results indeed.
The square to Venus is the only aspect most astrologers would note, and while that’s of some interest, implying as it does a conflict or clash between what we want and how we go about getting it, and a basic level of friction between love, romance or intimacy issues and sexual desires or needs, it doesn’t begin to tell the full story of the retrograde period.
Let’s begin with Mars’ close conjunction to TNO (Trans-Neptunian Object) Rhadamanthus, still fresh from its own retrograde station at 24 Libra just weeks before. Rhadamanthus’ orbital period is 245 years, similar to Pluto’s (it hails from the same region of the solar system), so it covers only a few degrees of the zodiac per year, and will still be at its station degree when the Mars retrograde kicks in.
As a conjunction, this pairing tells us a lot about Mars’ focus for this retrograde. Their two energies are blended, aligned, “on the same page” as it were. Rhadamanthus’ focus is on judgment. Named for a Greek judge of the dead in Hades, Rhadamanthus the mythic figure was noted for his scrupulous honesty, integrity, and meticulous attention to the facts of the case, as well as the harsh punishments he meted out when he found the offender guilty as charged. Rhadamanthus the TNO has much the same style, rooting out whatever he finds unacceptable or “illegal” (whether officially or as a matter of fair play) as he thoroughly scours the zodiac one degree at a time. It’s a very discerning, discriminating energy, paying attention to detail and not swayed by emotion or excuse, desiring, Dragnet-style, “the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”
It’s also of note that Rhadamanthus’ involvement begins only after it’s too late to course-correct. Mythically, this is represented by his status as judge of the dead—no more action can be taken, it’s time to look at the sum total of your life and own it. You’ve made your choices, now you have to live with them, and their ramifications; what’s done cannot be undone, it’s time to pay the piper and reap the consequences.
Rhadamanthus was exactly conjunct Egypt’s Saturn, symbol of its chief executive and government, when Mubarak fell (it also opposed his natal Jupiter—politics—at the time), judged unworthy by the populace he ruled. At its recent station in January, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was indicted on federal corruption charges with Rhadamanthus exactly on his natal asteroid McDonnell (and his natal Rhadamanthus embroiled in the Uranus/Pluto square), and Justin Bieber was arrested for DUI and drag-racing with Rhadamanthus exactly on his natal Moon, the first time he has been called to account for his increasingly bad behavior.
With Mars stationing in conjunction, we can expect a period of scrupulous attention to the ways we express our anger and aggression, how we manage our tempers, how we react to stress, and of course any sexual indiscretions or peccadilloes will be brought under his watchful eye. Any transgression in these areas will be assessed, judgments made, and punishments exacted. It’s a time for contrition, making amends where possible, and resolving to do better going forward, lest Rhadamanthus’ patience wears thin and we find ourselves in dire straits indeed.
Particularly in the sexual sphere, we’ll be judged and judging, and don’t expect a sympathetic jury! All prior bad acts will come to the fore once again for review, old scores will be settled, and very little slack cut for those whose track records in this area aren’t squeaky clean. Things you thought you got away with, long past and buried, will have a tendency to come to the surface now; Rhadamanthus knows no statute of limitations.
Also in conjunction is the Black Hole at 29 Libra; in fact, the station sets off a T-Square of Black Hole energies, with an exact opposition to a second Black Hole at 27 Aries, and a square to a third at 28 Cancer. Mars combined with Black Hole energies signals major disruption and turmoil in Mars-related areas, such as sexuality, regulation of physical energy, and self-expression along the assertiveness-aggression-anger spectrum.
Black Holes tend toward extremes, and sexually this can translate into either the celibate ascetic or the debauched libertine, so we may find ourselves tested or tempted, depending on our normal modes of operation. Opportunities to expand our sexual horizons will arise, usually in unforeseen ways, and the attraction for practices or persons considered unsuitable, taboo, or even dangerous, is heightened. We can explore our fantasies, released by the Black Hole from the parallel universes of alternate realities and brought into manifestation in this one, but much of what we experience now will be ephemeral and fleeting, though the effects and ramifications of our actions may be enduring and life-altering.
Erratic fluctuations in energy levels are a frequent byproduct of Mars interacting with Black Holes, so expect a great deal of this instability during the period of the retrograde. Frequent bursts of vitality alternate with bouts of lassitude and a need to withdraw and recharge, and we can’t be certain the follow-through will be there when we embark on new projects or endeavors, particularly in such areas as diet, exercise or weight loss regimens, anything having to do with the physicality that Mars represents. Mars is also our will, our drive, and this is likely to wax and wane with alarming intensity over the next few months.
Tying to the Black Hole T-Square is another TNO, Varuna, squaring Mars from 24 Cancer. Varuna is named for a Vedic deity, a god of terrestrial waters and the celestial ocean both. Focused on law, morality and societal interactions, he is similar to Rhadamanthus in that his concentration and attention are brought to bear on keeping order, and he particularly disdains liars. The stars of the heavens are said to be his spies, carefully watching and recording the deeds of men, to offer reward or exact punishment as appropriate. Varuna the deity has the ability to grant immortality, and the TNO is noted for providing this through worldly fame, as the great equalizer who mediates the gain or loss of reputation and is focused on one’s legacy, the impact one leaves behind after death.
With Mars in square to Varuna, cheaters beware! As with Rhadamanthus, any sexual indiscretions are likely to be revealed now, as Varuna’s watchful agents report bad behavior and the ramifications for one’s reputation can be severe. Consequences follow actions, and Varuna’s role is to ensure that these balance perfectly in cosmic perfection. Fame or notoriety can follow our actions, which may be remembered long after the retrograde has passed, and continue to affect how others see us. This is also true of how we react to negative stimulus, how aggressive or overtly antagonistic we become when frustrated in our goals, the ways we treat or mistreat others.
TNO energies abound with this station, with Mars also opposed Eris at 22 Aries, fleshing out the region of the third Black Hole involved in the T-Square. A word about these energies in general might be appropriate here. As far distant objects of our solar systems, minor planets in the Kuiper Belt, some 30-50 AUs (an AU, or “astronomical unit”, is the distance from the earth to the sun, approximately 93 million miles) away, represent points so far beyond our normal experience as to be completely out of our control. We can comprehend them, but not interact directly. They act upon us, intruding into our lives as major agents of massive change and transformation, upsetting the apple cart, as it were.
And that apple imagery is particularly appropriate for Eris. The Greek goddess of strife and discord, Eris’ most well-known myth relates to her mischief-making at the marriage of Peleus and Thetis (later the parents of Achilles). Offended at not being invited, Eris crashed the reception and rolled a golden apple into the midst of the guests, inscribed “to the fairest.” Naturally several goddesses deemed themselves the rightful recipient of this gift, and Paris of Troy was deputed to determine who should gain the prize. The goddesses scrambled to ingratiate themselves with him, offering bribes for his official sanction of their loveliness; in the end he chose Aphrodite, who promised him the most beautiful woman in the world as his bride. That unfortunately turned out to be Helen, wife of the king of Sparta, and Paris’ elopement with her led directly to the Trojan War, of which Eris’ golden apple was the proximate cause.
So Eris is a pot-stirrer, a trouble-maker of the first water. She has a natural affinity with Mars, being the sister of this Roman god’s Greek counterpart, Ares. Known as “the nurse of war,” Eris accompanies her brother to the battlefield, delighting in the groans of the dying. Homer describes her wrath as relentless and her hatred, shameless; a goad whose size increases the more men pay attention to her. Virgil calls her “lunatic” and gives her an abode at the porch entrance to Hades, where her “viperine hair” is held back by a headband soaked in blood. Her sword is said to be two-edged, and she is often referred to as insensate or drunk with blood, always to be found where the battle was the fiercest and the bloodlust uncontrolled. Among the gods she is known as hard-hearted, and the last to end an argument.
Astrologically, the TNO is noted for sowing dissention, creating jealousy and conflict, and being supremely sensitive to perceived slights or disrespect. Opposed the Mars station, we can expect some level of disagreeableness, especially associated with sexual matters and the expression of anger or discontent. Watch your words carefully, lest a seemingly small transgression can mushroom into a full-blown battle. For Eris, it is not possible to disagree without being disagreeable—it is that which she craves, the dissent, the bickering, the strife and strain. She does not disagree on principle; she disagrees as principle—it is her raison d’etre. Be especially conscious of how you treat others, especially social “inferiors”; don’t be too quick to denigrate or disregard, remain mindful of the dignity of others and their ultimate humanity, whatever unlikable face they may be showing you in the moment.
Eris’ propensity for destabilizing a situation and provoking conflict became apparent from the get-go. It was her discovery that prompted the IAU (International Astronomer’s Union) to reconsider the definition of what a planet is, a reassessment which ultimately demoted Pluto to “dwarf planet” status, causing global consternation among astronomers and grade-school students alike.
A second major pattern formed by the retrograde station is a Yod, or “Finger of Destiny”, formed by inconjunct aspects to two more TNOs, with Mars at its apex. These are Salacia at 26 Pisces and Sedna at 23 Taurus.
Salacia is a Roman goddess, a wife of Neptune, noted for her initial virtuousness in spurning her future husband’s advances. Oddly, despite this, we derive our word “salacious” from her, meaning “undue, prurient sexual interest, causing titillation or arousal, often via explicit or crude sexual depictions.” Salacia the TNO appears regularly in the charts of sexual scandals and notorious libertines (Bill Clinton has his on the South Node, trine the Sun, sextile Jupiter and squared Chaos; his affair with Lewinsky began under a Salacia transiting Yod to natal Saturn and his Ascendant), and is very active in many events that draw the public’s voyeuristic interest.
The common ground with Mars here is obvious, and again we see an emphasis on being found out, displaying our sexuality too prominently, sensationally or scandalously. Most problematic here is the accent on public disclosure, or public opprobrium, based in moral lapses. We’re likely to see more than one prominent celebrity or politico dealing with conspicuous sexual indiscretions during this period, and this pattern will repeat itself with everyday mortals as well. The inclusion of Salacia in a Yod pattern implies that to some extent, this is a “fated” or karmic situation, something borne of prior bad behaviors and destined to be revealed eventually, however seemingly well buried in the dead past.
Sedna, Salacia’s partner in the Yod, is named for an Inuit goddess of creation who dwells in the deepest, most inaccessible part of the Arctic Ocean. Hers is a complex tale, but major themes revolve about abandonment and betrayal; a failure, or unwillingness, to grow up and accept adult responsibilities; and isolation. All these are prevalent in charts when TNO Sedna is active, but the latter is most prominent, as a sense of imperturbable separation, loneliness and seclusion, made all the more palpable by the facts of the planetary body’s stats. TNO Sedna is currently the record holder for longest orbital period, at a whopping 11,400 years! (Yes, I said “years”!) At perihelion, her closest approach to the sun, she’s still some 73 AUs out, half as far again as the outer reaches of the Kuiper Belt. Sedna hails from the outermost reaches of the Oort cloud, which extends to the heliopause, the line of demarcation of the sun’s gravitational influence, the very brink of our solar system. At aphelion, her greatest distance from the sun, Sedna is almost 1000 AUs away; now that’s isolation!
This extreme lack of connectivity is perhaps the astrological Sedna’s most defining feature. She’s square famed recluse Howard Hughes’ Sun/Uranus conjunction (which also speaks volumes for his eccentricities), and forms a T-Square with author/hermit JD Salinger’s Sun/Venus opposed Jupiter/Pluto. Given her involvement with Mars’ retrograde degree, this emphasis on isolation could coincide with a sexual “dry spell,” or, given the overall retributive nature of most of the points included, some form of social ostracism due to sexual activities deemed beyond the pale. Deriving from the subtler levels of her myth, this could also be a period when we recognize a need to grow up and accept both responsibility and blame as regards our sexual past. Issues of abandonment can arise, and we may find ourselves further isolated by overly aggressive behavior or angry responses.
All that remains to discuss are some peripheral aspects, primarily a sextile to a grouping of TNO Ixion and centaurs Pholus and Hylonome at 22, 24 and 27 Sagittarius, and a trine to Damocles conjunct centaur Nessus at 22 and 28 Aquarius. As “soft” or benefic aspects, these are unlikely to cause much comment or disarray, but their flavors are in the celestial mix of the retrograde period.
Ixion/Pholus/Hylonome is an intriguing combination, and we’ve been dealing with this grouping for some time now. Ixion and Pholus have been in conjunction, within 5 degrees, since 2008, and won’t pass out of this orb until 2043! (Hylonome entered the fray in 2010 but bows out in 2015.) Both relate to the seemingly ever-increasing spate of mass killings we’ve been enduring of late (Ixion was named for the first murderer in Greek mythology, and Pholus died in the aftermath of a massacre of centaurs by Heracles), but for our purposes, it’s their “softer side” which can shed light.
Ixion is also noted for an absolutely superhuman level of entitlement and ingratitude, and Pholus represents the small cause yielding a huge effect, a minor incident blowing up out of all proportion to its origins. Hylonome represents loss, regret and mourning or grief. Put it all together and we may see an explosion of what seems initially to be a minor infraction or slight, based in rude, boorish or thankless behavior, leading to remorse, anguish or sorrow. But as a sextile, this is likely to be not much more than a side note, an undertone in a much more complicated imbroglio that may nonetheless accelerate the issue or increase the damage.
The trine to Damocles and Nessus is much more in line with the overall flavor of what we’ve been exploring here. Nessus relates to sexually inappropriate conduct, ranging from sexual harassment or extracurricular activities to sexual battery or rape, and often refers to a cyclical context, as in familial patterns of incest or the abused child who becomes the abusive adult.
Damocles of course represents that doom hanging unseen overhead, so their union once again draws us back to the idea that there is something from the past which is coming back to haunt us now, seeking recognition, redress and reconciliation. The trine aspect suggests that whatever it is, it’s easily uncovered, though perhaps not so easily laid to rest.
All in all, it appears to be a rather tumultuous retrograde period we’re embarking on. Pay attention to details, but don’t sweat the small stuff; carefully consider your responses and delay action whenever possible. And be prepared to deal with any skeletons in your closet—they won’t stay hidden for long.