Most students of astrology are a little scared of retrograde planets. They’re super hard to read, and there’s a lot of conflicting information out there. What do retrograde planets actually do in the birth chart?
You’ve probably been told that when a planet is retrograde, the energy is turned inward. While this is true, it will work differently for each planet and depend on the sign that it’s in.
Mars is one of the tricker planets to read when it’s retrograde. How can a planet all about drive, aggression, and anger show inwardly instead of outwardly? Keep reading to find out!
What is Mars Retrograde?
A planet is considered “retrograde” when it appears to move backwards in the sky. This only happens from our perspective on earth, as planets don’t actually move backwards in their orbits. Mars goes retrograde every 26 months for 58-81 days.
Retrogrades are basically just illusions due to all of the planets moving at different speeds, but they’re very important in astrology. Retrogrades usually mean that the energy is turned inward, and this is true for Mars, but there are many more specifics involved.
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Mars in Retrograde: Natal
In the natal chart, Mars in retrograde has much greater significance than it does while transiting a natal chart. If you have Mars retrograde, you’ll see a little Rx symbol next to Mars in your chart.
Mars is all about action and outward, masculine energy, but Mars retrograde is turned inward. There might be a lot of inward rage that is expressed in small bursts instead of typical anger that is shown at appropriate times. There might also be a mix of passive, vengeful energy that comes out sideways. However, those with Mars in retrograde can also be much more tolerant, laid-back, and receptive.
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Connections to Past Lives and Childhood
When any planet is retrograde, it means that the energy of the planet will be influenced by serious karmic connections to the past. This can include past lives, childhood, or (most likely) both.
With the Mars in retrograde placement, you might find that you have trouble asserting yourself due to a prior lifetime (or multiple lifetimes) where aggression was misused in some form. This could mean that you were unnecessarily aggressive towards others and/or experienced this aggression towards you.
Because of this misplaced aggression, you learned that personal initiative is bad, and that it’s always better to be passive. There are many ways this could play out. You may have seen others being aggressive and felt scared, so you learned to be passive yourself. You may have been the aggressor, and you were shunned by society or placed in jail due to your destructive nature. Somehow, through some bad experience, you discovered that aggression and self-assertion are bad.
Often with this placement, you had a forceful parent that greatly impacted your childhood. Most commonly, I see those with Mars in retrograde as having parents (usually the father but not always) or caregivers who were abusive or who were extremely strict and unaffectionate. In both cases, they were usually intolerant of outbursts, anger, and any form of self-assertion. You learned not to express healthy anger.
Now, you have the Mars in retrograde placement due to this. You might struggle to stand up for yourself due to fear. You might want to deny this (retrograde energy can be especially difficult and painful to face), but there is no mistaking how you turn all of your anger inwards. Implosive anger is the current psychological term for Mars in retrograde.
Do Those With Mars in Retrograde Have Drive?
Your father, or whoever you considered to be your father figure, might have had a strange drive. This could mean that he was up and down with his emotions, or didn’t understand how to effectively use his Martian energy to make forward progress in some way. This can show up in work, in friendships, within the family, in religion, etc.
For example, one client of mine grew up in a home where his father was always doing favors for other people. His father was an extremely angry man at home (so the boy could never show his own healthy anger due to the risk of making his father mad) but out in the world, he was giving away free work to acquaintances and people he barely knew. The family was very poor, so this drive was clearly misplaced, as he could not always afford food for his family but was doing free work for others. He did not have a clear and direct drive to work, make money, and provide.
You may have learned confusing lessons about drive as a child. This doesn’t mean that you personally don’t have a drive (some people with Mars in retrograde are extremely driven!) but it does mean that those confusing messages exist in your subconscious.
Your drive will be affected in some area, but not in all. You might have a lot of trouble standing up for yourself, especially in the house where your Mars sits, whether this is in relationships, at home, at work, etc.
You will want things equally as much as others, but you usually have a roundabout way of trying to get what you want. It doesn’t always make sense to others looking in, but it all stems from your fear of being punished should you try to assert yourself. Subconsciously, you don’t believe that you deserve to have what you want, or are afraid of showing that you want it, so you act in a counter-intuitive manner.
With Mars in retrograde, you might feel like your timing is always off. You could easily come on too strong, then come off as flightly – it might be hard for others to pinpoint exactly what you’re feeling.
You probably express your anger in sharp bursts that seem to come out of nowhere, then you feel guilty and bad for showing your anger at all. You hold your feelings and desires in until you quite literally explode. Most of the time, you probably have a pretty peaceful nature, until you can no longer bottle up your feelings. After the explosion, the cycle begins again.
You can also come off as passive-aggressive because you don’t know how to (and are afraid to) properly express your anger in a direct manner. This will be especially apparent in the house and sign where your Mars falls.
Those with Mars retrograde will sometimes fall into a martyr-type relationship, especially when Mars is in the 7th house or has a strong aspect to relationship planets (Venus, the Moon, Saturn, Juno, etc.). They can’t stand up for themselves in relationships so it’s easy to walk all over them, but that rage is always building internally.
How to Learn From Mars in Retrograde
Sheer force will not work for you. Typically Martian energy will feel blocked (and actually is blocked due to your karma), so you will need to use your inner guidance instead of sheer will.
The first lesson here is to learn to listen to your intuition. In a past life, you ignored your intuition and acted aggressively, which you then had to face when someone else acted aggressively towards you. This scared you, but you now have an opportunity to move past this fear by developing your own inner voice instead of repeating the cycle.
Your inner voice will always tell you when and how to stand up for yourself. When you let others step on you, AND when you boil over and rage out at others, you are ignoring your inner voice. This will never lead to true peace.
Secondly, you will want to learn how to express your emotions in a healthy way. There are a variety of books, courses, and therapists that can help with this. A good place to start is looking into implosive anger.
It takes quite a bit of practice to be able to 1) read your inner voice correctly and 2) express what you’re feeling in a healthy, non-explosive way, but this is the lesson for those who have Mars retrograde. If handled properly, Mars retrograde in a birth chart can help you learn to be tolerant, expressive, kind, and persistent.
Mars in Retrograde: Transit
When Mars in retrograde is transiting, we all feel the effects of the energy.
This is a time when rage may come up within yourself that you didn’t know existed. Any residual anger that’s festering in your subconscious will suddenly feel much more conscious. Mars in retrograde transit will force you to work on your anger management and resolve issues that have been buried deep in your mind.
You might also feel a lack of forward movement and have trouble completing projects or getting things done, but that is because this is a time of reflection. It’s a period that will help us deal with our unresolved anger, which must be accomplished before we can move forward. Pay attention to those sudden flashes of anger that come up out of nowhere. This is often a sign that we’re moving in the wrong direction and need to reexamine something about our path.
When Mars in retrograde is transiting, sexual energy might also be repressed, but that’s because this is a time to work on our own emotions as individuals.
Mars in the 12th: Similarities
Mars in the 12th house has some similarities to Mars in retrograde, but the energy is not as strong. Because the 12th house is all about the subconscious and the past, someone with Mars in the 12th may have experienced a strict household or felt that they could not express their feelings, anger, and drive for some reason.
This karma does not run as deep as that of Mars in Retrograde. The person with Mars in the 12th won’t have the extreme ups and downs, but they will need to learn that their own anger is valid and that it’s safe to express anger in a constructive way.
These people can also benefit from learning about implosive anger and working on following their inner guidance. They may want to consider some self-therapy (or actual therapy, if that feels right) to learn about anger and how to properly express their feelings in a constructive way.
An Easy Exercise:
If you’re a student of astrology and want to practice with Mars in retrograde, then try this exercise out!
If you have Mars in Retrograde:
Pull up your own chart with aspects.
- Look at the sign Mars is in. How does this sign connect to your past life or childhood? All metaphors for the sign are welcome here! There are always some connections between the sign your Mars is in and people who influenced you in the past.
- How do you internalize this sign? Are the qualities of the sign more apparent inside your own head?
- Look at the house Mars is in. List 3 different ways that you can see your drive affected in this house.
- Look at the aspects you have to Mars. How has this retrograde planet influenced the other planets it aspects? For example, an aspect to Venus would mean that Mars rx influences your love life.
If you want to learn about Mars in Retrograde:
For those of you who don’t have the placement, look up charts of celebrities (who you know a lot about) who do have the placement. We typically Google “celebrities with Mars retrograde” and then look for people who we follow closely. You’ll need to at least recognize the basics about their character in order to validate the information.
Alternatively, you can plug in the charts of family and friends until you find someone who has Mars in retrograde and use that chart for this exercise.
- Look at the sign Mars is in. How does this sign connect to the person’s past life or childhood?
- Look at the house Mars is in. List 3 different ways that you can see the person’s drive affected in this house.
- Look at the aspects this person has to Mars. How has this retrograde planet influenced the other planets it aspects? For example, an aspect to Venus would mean that Mars rx influences his/her love life.