I don’t want you to freak out, but Mars — the planet of energy, action, and desire — goes retrograde today, and won’t go direct again until August 27. Maybe you’ve heard that Mars retrograde is a time when your plans will go a little haywire, or that it’s a time of unsatisfying sex, or that you won’t be able to get anything done. The question with any retrograde planet is always, How much is this going to mess up my life? The short answer is moderately.
Mars goes retrograde about once every two years. Physically, what this means is that during this time Mars appears to slow down and then reverse course, moving backward through the sky. (It’s not, of course, actually moving backward, but because the Earth and Mars travel on different paths, at different speeds, it appears that way.)
Mercury retrograde — an infamous planetary transit that happens three or four times a year — gets the most attention, but all the planets experience periods of retrograde motion. (In fact, Mars is joining four other retrograde planets right now: Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto.) Mercury retrograde’s reputation for sowing chaos and frustration in our communication and messing up technology can give the impression that all retrograde periods are times of unfettered, anarchic destruction. But that’s not entirely true.
Each planet carries its own kind of energy, and retrograde just turns that energy inward or slows it down. You can think of a retrograde as a time when the planet enters a dormant stage — it’s like the fields lying fallow so the soil can rebuild, so that you’ll be better equipped for growth later on. The area of our lives ruled by the retrograde planet thus becomes unsupervised for a time: a little unruly, or softer, or looser than usual.
This retrograde takes place in Aquarius, a sign associated with freedom, independence, and revolution, so it might feel particularly maddening to be held back by the barriers that’ll arise while Mars appears to move backward through the sky.
Since Mars controls action, aggression, and desire, its retrograde period can leave everyone feeling frustrated and adrift. Your certainty, your control, and your bright, assertive confidence might suddenly be refracted, scattered, or interrupted. Particularly when your sense of assurance and conviction has been hard-won, it can feel unpleasant and unfair when it morphs into something less straightforward and less clear-cut. You might find yourself feeling less passionate, too. Since Mars rules sexual desire, a retrograde period can mean that your desire loses its fierce, blazing heat and becomes something quieter or more unsure.
Even if it doesn’t feel good, Mars retrograde can be a useful time for introspection, for slowing down, for reassessing your desires and your methods. You might second-guess your entire approach. You might start to have doubts about the goals you’ve been working toward, or your own instincts, or your single-minded drive. And because it’s happening in Aquarius, it can be a particularly good time to rethink and reassess the ways you strive for freedom, and your plans for changing the world.
Mars retrograde can be frustrating, and it can result in an impulse to push wildly forward and strong-arm your way through these doubts — but brute force won’t save you from a planet’s retrograde powers. The strategies you normally rely on might break down. Work with the retrograde’s energy by engaging in some serious thought and reflection. It requires a real change of pace — otherwise you’ll find yourself frustrated, running into endless unforeseen obstacles, tripping over your own feet.
Out in the broader world, does this Mars retrograde mean that everyone will be acting less impulsively, less cruelly, less vindictively? Will it cause those in power to engage in real introspection, to rethink their desires, to slow or soften their approach?
I wish. Just because thoughtfulness is the best way to approach Mars retrograde, it doesn’t mean everyone does it. If anything, the frustrations associated with this Mars retrograde in Aquarius and Capricorn can sometimes render people more stubborn than ever, pushing back hard, but not particularly wisely, against any resistance they encounter.
Still, if you find yourself hampered by doubts over the next two months, you can know you’re not alone. With any luck, the people up high are feeling it, too, frustrated or thwarted in their aggression. And even if they’re not, you can still use this time to consider your own plans and strategies and desires. By letting yourself slow down right now, you’ll be ready for a new and better plan of action once Mars stations direct again in August.