Every couple of years, Mars goes retrograde for a couple months and as a result, can spend half a year in one sign. Compare this to its normal forward motion through a sign in under two months. The sign where Mars backtracks this time is the one where it has its strongest expression, Aries. (Astrologers says Mars “rules” Aries.) The red planet entered Aries on June 27 and doesn’t leave it for Taurus until January 6, 2021. It moved into the degree range of its retrograde on July 25, remaining there until January 2, 2021, traveling in reverse from September 9 until November 13, from 28º Aries down to 15º.
You might think that each of the twelve signs would have about an equal number of Mars retrogrades over the years. However, Mars does not often regress entirely in its sign of rulership. (At times, it begins a retrograde in Taurus and recedes into Aries, other times, begins in Aries and recedes into Pisces.) The prior few times were in 1657, 1736, 1783, 1862 and 1941. The next times are in 2067 and 2146. So this is a big deal.
If you’ve been watching Mars in the night sky recently, you’ve noticed it getting bigger and brighter, showing off its red hue. This is because earth is getting closer to Mars and when it passes between Mars and the Sun, that’s when Mars appears to go backwards. The sign in which it’s retrograde will always, by definition, be opposite the sign where the Sun is moving. Mars can only be retrograde in Aries in the fall, when the Sun moves through the opposite sign, Libra. (The Mars retrograde begins before the Sun enters Libra and lasts until after the Sun leaves Libra.)
This sign and planet both are associated with a range of circumstances in which we can anticipate seeing an uptick during this retrograde: fires, weaponry, militia, motors, arguments, armed conflicts, selfish or survival-oriented actions. They correlate with the archetype of the pioneer, pathfinder or leader.
To get an idea of what we might expect during Mars retrograde in Aries, I looked back in history at prior occurrences. I expected to see a lot of war and was surprised to discover a number of treaties. I guess those are opposite ends of the same spectrum.
1657 (9/3 – 11/8) Treaties of Wehlau (9/19), Raalte (10/1) and Bromberg (11/6) brought peace among various warring factions in Europe.
1736 (9/7 – 11/12) In Edinburgh, Scotland on 9/7, a mob lynched a military officer who had led an attack on a crowd. In the “exit shadow” period following the retrograde of Mars, when it traveled forward over the degrees it had just backtracked across, Ben Franklin founded the first volunteer fire department in Philadelphia on 12/7.
1783 (8/29 – 10/31) Treaty of Paris on September 3 officially ends the Revolutionary War, setting national boundaries in North America.
1862 (9/2 – 11/5) The bloodiest day in U.S. history came at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862 when 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after 12 hours of fierce combat. At the autumn equinox (9/22), Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. On September 30, the famous “Blood and Iron” speech lauding the military and industry to plead the case for war over the value of diplomacy was delivered by Otto Leopold, Prince of Bismarck (an Aries Sun-sign born on 4/1/1815), who later became the first Chancellor of a united Germany.
1941 (9/6 – 11/10) As Mars finished its retrograde, Churchill promised if the U.S. got into a war with Japan, Britain would follow. In the exit shadow, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, pushing the U.S. into the war. Britain, Australia and New Zealand quickly joined with the U.S.
This year’s Mars retrograde in Aries has a dimension we haven’t seen before: it will join three times (8/17, 10/4 and 12/22) with the dwarf planet Eris. Named for Mars’s sister, Eris is known for chaos and discord. It’s under pressure from a series of squares from Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto slowly moving through Capricorn. Mars adds fuel to the flames. Big cultural changes are underway and occasional trigger points push the process along.
One of the most important points in the 2020 Mars retrograde comes at the New Moon on October 16 at 23º53’ Libra, when the Sun-Moon combo forms a T-square with Eris and the Capricorn trio. Mars is within 3-5º of being perfectly hooked into this pattern. The month that follows is likely to bring a turning point of some sort, whether that brings us into better harmony (Libra) or drags us further into conflict (Aries) remains to be seen. Capricorn is a “law and order” sign so this could be a time when law enforcement clashes with out of control fighters (Aries) for justice (Libra). In the U.S., the planetary power lines for the Moon, Sun and Mars run through southern California, a potential site for trouble. Another area to watch is along the Capricorn planets’ lines through Texas in a northeasterly arc through the middle of the country up into Minnesota and Wisconsin.
For the second Mars retrograde in a row, an entire Mercury retrograde (10/13 – 11/3) takes place while Mars is in reverse. This is a doubly difficult time! Both our actions and words or thoughts can go awry. On one tense day, September 24, these two will be exactly opposite at 26º36’ Aries/Libra. Over the course of less than a week, they form a T-square pattern with Saturn at 25º Capricorn: Mercury squares Saturn on Sept. 23 and Mars follows suit on Sept. 29. This formation is close enough to exact at the autumn equinox that its effects will stretch across the fall season. It’s especially important to think before you speak, maybe writing out your points and reviewing them before proceeding. Saturn is famous for slowing things down or putting up roadblocks. Allow more time to get to where you need to go because traffic may be even more snarled than during an ordinary Mercury retrograde or unanticipated circumstances arise. The U.S. elections fall during this time frame, with Election Day on the final day of Mercury Retrograde, as it was in 2000. Again, expect legal battles and a delayed and disputed outcome.
When the red planet travels in reverse, forward progress is impeded and patience is nearly impossible. Look for where the second half of Aries falls in your chart to see where you need to proceed very carefully, or perhaps stop, look and listen instead of acting, for now.
Thanks to astrologer Tony Howard of AstrologyUniversity.com for pointing out the Battle of Antietam incidence during the 1862 Mars retrograde in his webinar on Mars Retrograde on 9/5/20.