The King and the Knight


June 26, 2018 at 2:04 pm PDT / 9:04 pm UT

Station Retrograde at 9°13' Aquarius

marsWe are just a couple of days away from Mars' station retrograde. The God of War is moving at a snail's pace, inching its way to a stationary halt. By now, you are probably feeling the slowdown in yourself: a definite drop in energy, motivation, get-up-and-go.

As I mentioned in a previous post, during Mars retrograde cycles, we often see, not just a drop in energy, but a rise in misplaced hostility and anger, cowardice, wishy-washy behavior, passive-aggression, and many other manipulative and devious maneuvers. The weaker one's personal power — the ability to assert opinion and needs, to push back when others have stepped over the line, the courage to deal directly and honestly in life, to not let the bullies lead one around by the nose — the more these issues will come to a crisis point over the course of this summer. Especially so this year with the retrograde cycle dovetailing powerfully with sweeping-change, crisis-producing eclipses, AND (God help us) a Mercury retrograde cycle.

When planets retrograde, we are meant to take honest inventory of how we are using (abusing or neglecting) the actions and impulses symbolized by that planet. With Mars, the retrograde assessment is primarily a re-evaluation of what it is we truly want in life along with an examination of how we go about fulfilling those desires. But it's more than just that, so let's review what Mars represents, for "all things Mars" will be under intense scrutiny over the next few months.

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The Chariot, Reversed

"The self uses the individual psyche as a means of conveyance. Man is propelled, as it were, along the road to individuation."

— Jung

"The psyche is not an object, a thing; it is a process. Motion is its essence. Just as the outer landscape flows by when we travel, so before the inward eye images succeed one another in a constant motion picture. It is these which we tune in on when we shut our eyes to outer things and step into our chariots for a voyage within."

— Sallie Nichols

Applying the symbolism of the Tarot to astrological cycles provides a useful focal point and visual aid for contemplation and meditation on the issues involved. And Mars issues are very much relative to the Chariot, and of course, with Mars retrograde, the reversal.

chariot tarot cardIn its upright position, the Chariot represents all those positive Mars attributes: the ability to know what you want and how to go about getting it, without stepping all over the toes of others around you. Sufficient determination, self-assurance, self-discipline and self-mastery are key qualities to this end. The Chariot and Mars both represent the ability to forge ahead effectively to achieve our objectives. Positive assertion, self-protection, and above all, knowing who you are and what is really important are all critical factors in moving forward in the right direction, and in the right way. All issues up for review, reflection and repair with Mars retrograde.

In her book on Tarot reversals, Joan Bunning notes that the Chariot reversed indicates a need to examine a lack of determination, willpower and resolve. Adequate clarification on one's priorities, focus and concentration may also be issues that arise. Do you have a chronic problem spreading yourself too thin in life? Do you allow distractions to derail and delay your efforts over and over again? Leadership and self-confidence — being the hero in your own life story — are also extremely important Mars/Chariot issues. How is that lacking in your life? How is courage and the conviction to stand for and defend what you believe is right a problem for you? What fears stop you from speaking out when you need to? Are you able to sufficiently look out for your own interests? or do you have the opposite problem: too centered in the self and concerned with your own needs and desires?

We have all collectively pulled the Chariot card in its reversed position and over the next few months these issues will be paramount in lessons, challenges and other course-correcting instruction that will come our way. And it is highly likely this year, these lessons will be especially challenging and possibly life-disrupting, turbo-charged as Mars is this year by concurrent eclipses.

Mars in His Celestial Chariot, Septem Planetæ (1581)

The Astrological Sun and Mars, an Important Team

Symbolizing the central self, the natal Sun in astrology represents our essence, personality, and life force — the Sun, its sign, house placement and aspects, reveals the qualities we are developing in ourselves during the course of our lives, the direction we are headed, as well as the challenges along the way. The natal Sun represents our highest creative potential. The natal Sun can also be thought of as the divine aspect of the self, the solar hero, while Mars is the mortal self. One is king, the other gallant knight in service, as the late great astrologer Alice O. Howell aptly noted. This King-Knight analogy also works well for the personal ego, for when it is working in healthy ways, it is in service to the higher self, not working in fearful, petty, and underhanded ways that undermine spirit and those around us as well.

Regarding the Sun and Mars, as astrologer Stephen Arroyo explains it so clearly, whatever the natal relationship between these two are, they ultimately need to be friends. For Mars, Arroyo tells us, "must offer the Sun its fighting power and the Sun must provide the meaning for Mars' battles." Arroyo elaborates:

If the Sun repudiates Mars (in other words, if we disown our own aggression because it challenges our self-image and our conscious goals), then we may have vision without any capacity to put it into action. Then it seems that "other people" (partner, parent, child, employer, government, society) reject our creative efforts, and obstruct us with their ruthless selfishness. I feel this is true for both men and women. If we try to be the Sun without Mars, we castrate ourselves and wind up inauthentic and powerless; and our projected Mars will come back at us from the world outside.

Fear, Insecurity and Envy = A Weakened Mars Principle

marsCompensating behaviors that mask deeper insecurities are the hallmark of an afflicted natal Mars. Bullies, gangs and other tyrants are among the more extreme examples, for domineering, hostile and abusive behaviors are not, as one might at first think, the result of a strong Mars, but a weak and challenged one. Those who enjoy "taking out" — eliminating — their competition are POOR sports, even though they may seem, on a superficial level to be competitive, strong, and powerful. Passive-aggressive behavior also stems from a weak Mars, seen in the individual who cannot deal directly, does not advocate for herself, and so works the Mars principle in emotionally manipulative, inappropriate and underhanded ways. If you have ever had to deal with someone like this, you know how exasperating it can be.

A healthy Mars is evident in the ability to develop and maintain sufficient boundaries, and here we see the knight analogy working quite well. If Mars expression is blocked, we cannot effectively push back in life when we must. When people are abusive, when they step over that line of appropriate conduct, we can have trouble asserting ourselves and speaking up on our behalf, fearful or unwilling to rock the boat, or perhaps we never learned that important art of assertion. Peace and harmony, while wonderful qualities to strive for in life, need not be achieved through unhealthy self-sacrifice and denial of one's true feelings and basic needs. Again Stephen Arroyo articulates this Mars dilemma so well:

If we have a friendly relationship with Mars, we know what we want and can ask for it from others. Different people have different ways of pursuing their objectives, depending on the sign and aspects of natal Mars; and of course we all want different things at different times in life. But the capacity to "know what we want and do what we have to do to get it" (as Jung once defined masculinity) is dependent on an individual being able to express Mars in a conscious way. [...] And one extremely common result of a disconnected or thwarted Mars is a chronic state of depression.

Yet, as Arroyo observed, the violent or controlling individual and the passive and impotent one suffers from the same Mars dilemma, People with an afflicted natal Mars can be some of the most dangerous, wounding people because they carry so much unresolved inner conflict, envy and resentment.although ironically they appear to be completely different. "The extreme of the 'macho man' thus mirrors the extreme of the 'wimp,' although neither is quick to acknowledge that they are hurting from the same wound."

Anger, a Mars emotion, is very important to honestly face and deal with in a responsible manner, which doesn't mean, contrary to popular belief and its mistaken notions of what real compromise means, to stuff it. Frustrations, irritations, and hatred even can come up in trying situations. Being honest about how we really feel and dealing with those feelings effectively is the work of a healthy Mars, not supressing or denying how we feel. People with an afflicted natal Mars can be some of the most dangerous, wounding people because they carry so much unresolved inner conflict, envy and resentment. You may very well meet one of these individuals over the next couple of months; and if you already have one in your life, issues may come to a head, requiring change.


Mars Stations in Aquarius

Each retrograde cycle is colored by the sign(s) Mars transits during its backward march, and Mars in Aquarius, in particular, presents us with an interesting dilemma. For Mars represents the survival and self-preservation instinct, self-gratification and the fulfillment of personal desires, all of which flies in the face of Aquarius with its focus on the greater good, the needs of the group, the wishes and well-being of others. With Mars stationing retrograde and performing the majority of its backward glide in Aquarius, conflicts around individual needs vs responsibility to society as a whole will be key challenges, With Mars stationing retrograde and performing the majority of its backward glide in Aquarius, conflicts around individual needs vs responsibility to society as a whole will be key challenges probably erupting, if not already, in some way in your neighborhood over the next few months. It certainly has in mine.

The slide back from Aquarius to Capricorn, where Mars will station direct next August, suggests the need to do a better job integrating these Aquarian ideals — to not just live for one's own sake, but take into serious account how our actions affect those around us: from our inner circle of close family and friends to neighborhood, community, and society in which we live.

In what ways do you see self-aggrandizement undermining responsibility to the larger group? self-preservation and personal profit justified at all costs? It is very easy to see this at a distance, in the corrupt and perverse actions of politicians and corporations, much more difficult to pick up on these same themes closer to home: in our own communities and especially within our own selves. If you can keep the ego in check over this next full season of eclipses and Mars retrograde, you will be able to make great progress in your ability to free yourself from old, negative ingrained habits that are adversely affecting your life. Neither erring on either side of this "Mars-in-Aquarius-and-Capricorn" challenge: no longer allowing others to take more than their fair share from you, nor continuing to do this in some way yourself, is the fundamental challenge.

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Mars Retrograde Survival Tips

Observing the effects of Mars retrograde for many years now, the following survival tips have helped me make the most of these challenging cycles.

  1. Keep up with your regular exercise, even if you are tired more often, and you will be.
  2. Keep a journal noting when difficult, Mars-related events occur and your response. The best use of this retrograde phase is to review how Mars is operating in your life, collect these deeper insights over the next two months. After Mars is direct, that is the best time to begin implementing change. For now observing, reviewing and reflecting are the most effective Mars activities, don't try to push yourself to institute major changes just yet, unless you absolutely must.
  3. Try to simplify your life over the next few months as much as you can in order to avoid overdoing it. You will have much less ambition, motivation and energy at your disposal, and you'll be drawn towards more internal reflection. This is normal, so follow your instincts and stay in touch with how your energy is flowing and make adjustments. Don't expect to keep up your normal pace. If you do, you will be setting yourself up for, at the very least, frustration, irritations, and more obstacles.
  4. If you feel like you are moving in slow motion, stuck in quicksand, you are not alone: we are all, to some degree, experiencing this slowdown. Try not to feel guilty about cutting back, it's actually what you need to do right now. Prioritize obligations and responsibilities over the next two months, reschedule what you can, give yourself extra time to finish projects, because you'll probably need it. Don't overbook yourself!

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Here are the dates again for this year's retrograde. As time allows, I'll be posting more information as we arrive at these key turning points: the Sun-Mars opposition marking the midpoint of the retrograde, which coincides with a total lunar eclipse and a stationary Mercury; the ingress back into Capricorn; the station direct in August. And before all is said and done, and Mars finally leaves the retrograde zone in early October, Venus will begin its own retrograde cycle in Pluto- and Mars-ruled Scorpio.

2018 Mars Retrograde Significant Dates (UT)


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The illustration of the tired Knight is the work of Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin, 20th-century Russian illustrator and stage designer, it is from a collection of Russian fairytales.

Nichols, Sallie. Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey. Weiser: York Beach, Maine, 1980.

The engravings of Mars are both from the Septem Planetæ, The Seven Planets, print by Adriaen Collaert after Marten de Vos, 1581

The illustration of the constellation of Aquarius is from the 19th century publication, Urania's Mirror, a set of 79 constellation cards. A book by Jehoshaphat Aspin entitled A Familiar Treatise on Astronomy came with the cards, both originally published by Samuel Leigh, London.