Once in every two-year period, we have a two-month backtrack of the planet of action, Mars. Usually Mars wants to propel us forward but when it goes backward itself, it signals a time to step back and repeat a prior activity or do a reversal in the ways you’ve been doing something. You will experience its tug strongly if it connects to a planet in your birth chart. In that case, whatever that planet represents shows the area in which you want a turn-around.
Mars and the Sun are exactly opposite on July 27, marking the halfway point of Mars’s retrograde June 26 to August 27. If you take into account the time frame during which Mars moves forward through the range of degrees of its backtrack before it’s in backward motion (called the entry “shadow” of the retrograde) from May 12 to June 26, and the time when Mars proceeds forward again through that range after backing up (called the exit “shadow”) from August 27 to October 8, there are about five months when it hangs out in the same 11-degree part of the zodiac, and thus the same portion of a chart. That’s plenty of time to figure of what you want to do differently! It also seems like a long time to be stuck in one place.
The back-up sector is between 28 degrees of Capricorn and 9 degrees of Aquarius. Mars’s sign change gives us a hint of its effects and how to use this energy. Capricorn represents the old guard and established, tried-and-true methods while Aquarius leans toward experimentation, individualism and all that’s modern. Mars was in Capricorn March 17 to May 16. The retrograde began in Aquarius, showing we were heading for something new, but as it returns to Capricorn (August 12 to September 10), we need to go back to old ways and see either what we can glean from them or what about them we want to reject. When Mars returns to Aquarius September 10 (until November 15), we can take the best of the old and blend it with the best of the new.
A key interaction in Mars’s back-and-forth dance is a 90-degree link (called a “square,” known for friction) with unpredictable Uranus, the ruling planet of Aquarius, where Mars is located as it connects to Uranus. This combination gives rise to temper flare-ups and sudden motions (because of which, it signals increased accident potential). The three times this contact is exact are May 16, August 1 and September 18. Exercise extra caution around these dates, perhaps especially when exercising since Mars rules muscles and athletics. Uranus rules ankles and shins, possibly a weak area at these times.
From July 7 to September 24, Mars is in a condition called “out of bounds,” meaning it’s off the “regular playing field” defined by the Sun’s apparent path around the earth. It’s riding particularly low in the night sky. This strengthens, or leads to extremes in, Mars’s traits of impatience, anger, impulsiveness, solo action and confidence. It’s not all bad – Mars can help you be brave.
If you think Mars is looking particularly large, bright and red lately, you’re right. It’s closer to earth than it’s been in 15 years. (Its next close approach is in October 2020 – see this article from NASA.) The 2003 approach was the closest in 60,000 years! That year, the US began the Iraq War. I’m hopeful we won’t get into a new war this time around. Aggression seems to be greater in years of high sunspot activity (which 2003 was close to) and we’re currently at a low point in the sunspot cycle. Fortunately, our President’s natal Mars (named for the god of war) is not contacted by Mars in this retrograde cycle.