When Mars is in retrograde, it visually appears to be moving opposite its usual direction across the sky. While the direction of its orbit doesn’t actually change, retrograde Mars can have a very real impact on some of the most critical areas of our lives.
The Planets In Astrology
The astrological planets are closely aligned with, but not identical to, the planets of mainstream astronomy. First, because astrology is studied from the perspective of Earth, you won’t ever see it on an astrological chart.
However, the Moon and Sun are powerful astrological planets because of their prominent place in Earth’s sky. While many astronomers no longer consider it an official planet, Pluto is still an intensely powerful astrological entity.
In astrology, each planet rules over a particular area or theme of life. In natal astrology, the position of the planets in a person’s chart tells a lot about who they are and how the story of their life might unfold. The positions and movements of the planets also impact the universal consciousness, causing changes on a cosmic scale as well.
Their Areas of Influence
Each planet represents a particular area or theme in a person’s life. The planets and their areas of influence are as follows:
- Sun. The center of the Solar System also represents the center of a person’s being ‒ their ego. The Sun rules over the things that make a person who they are at their core.
- Moon. The position and movements of the Moon govern a person’s inner life. The Moon impacts their emotions, moods, and shadow self.
- Mercury. The planet Mercury governs intellect, communication, and travel in a physical sense and in the sense of one’s life journey. This planet’s movements affect things such as reason, writing, and knowledge.
- Venus. Venus is the astrological planet of love ‒ romantic, platonic, familial, and self. Its position and movements reveal the things that are attractive to and about a person.
- Mars. Often mislabeled as merely the planet of war, Mars represents our basic animal needs and instincts. From food and shelter to reproduction and conquest, our most primal motivations are driven by the movements of Mars.
- Jupiter. The most giant planet is responsible for growth in every area of a person’s life. Jupiter’s areas of influence include financial abundance, personal growth, and philosophical and spiritual exploration.
- Saturn. Saturn is a no-nonsense planet, governing boundaries, discipline, and ambition. In a person’s astrological chart, Saturn typically offers insight into their career.
- Uranus. If you’ve ever experienced a sudden flash of understanding about yourself or the world around you, that was the energy of Uranus at work. Sudden and often dramatic changes happen when Uranus is in play.
- Neptune. Neptune inspires deep spiritual motivation and exploration, with flashes of intuition of the things that are just beyond human perception. The movements of Neptune offer waves of cosmic, universal wisdom.
- Pluto. This dwarf planet is every bit as important as it ever was in astrology. The long, slow orbits of Pluto allow it to have generational impacts. This planet shapes the overall consciousness of an era, and its shifts can be dramatic.
The astrological planets, except for the Moon, orbit the Sun at different distances. Viewed from a distance, you can see that all planets move in the same direction around a fixed center point at different speeds.
In literal terms, the planets never change direction. On Earth, however, we can only see the planets’ movements relative to our position in the Solar System. The Earth is also orbiting the Sun, and the combined movements of Earth and the other planets can cause some fascinating optical illusions.
Direct and Retrograde Movement
Every night, the planets appear at different points in the sky. They might be visible to the naked eye, or you might need a telescope to see them. Typically, from one night to the next, they appear to be traveling in the same direction. This is called prograde or direct motion.
However, from time to time, because of the different speeds of the planets’ orbits, one or more planets might appear to slow down and reverse direction in the sky. This is called retrograde motion. Depending on the planet, this might happen rarely or frequently, and the retrograde period can be brief or very long.
What Causes Retrogrades?
Imagine you’re a passenger in a car on a highway, traveling at a constant rate of speed. In the lane next to you, several car lengths ahead, is a bus traveling just a little bit slower than the car in which you’re riding. From your perspective, it’s clear that the bus is traveling in the same direction as you.
Over time, because it’s traveling faster, your car begins to overtake the bus. Where you sit in the passenger seat, the bus appears to stand still for a brief moment, and then it falls behind you. Because of your position relative to the bus, it appears to be moving backward, though you know it’s actually still traveling in the same direction.
This is how retrogrades occur. The planets are like vehicles on the highway, traveling in the same direction at different speeds. From time to time, Earth will overtake one or more of these planets. For some time after this happens, the planet will be in retrograde, appearing to move backward across the sky.
Planetary Retrograde Periods
How often and how long each planet’s retrograde period lasts depends on the speed of their orbits and position relative to Earth. Every planet retrogrades at some time or another, except for Earth.
Because their relative positions are in constant change, every planet’s retrograde period varies. The inner planets ‒ those closer to the Sun than Earth ‒ retrograde more frequently than the outer planets ‒ those further from the Sun. Even on the same planet, some retrograde periods can be longer or shorter than others.
- Mercury. The closest planet to the Sun completes its orbit four times for every one Earth year. Mercury retrogrades are frequent and usually brief. Next Retrograde: January 14, 2022 – February 4, 2022
- Venus. The second planet from the Sun makes nearly two complete orbits for every one Earth year. Next Retrograde: December 19, 2021 – January 29, 2022
- Mars. The proximity of this planet to Earth makes its retrograde rare and often long. Next Retrograde: October 30, 2022 – January 12, 2023
- Jupiter. This giant planet only orbits the Sun once every 12 Earth years. Next Retrograde: July 28, 2022 – November 23, 2022
- Saturn. One year on Saturn is equivalent to almost 30 years on Earth. Next Retrograde: June 4, 2022 – October 23, 2022
- Uranus. Uranus takes 84 Earth years to make a single trip around the Sun. Next Retrograde: August 20, 2021 – January 18, 2022
- Neptune. A year on Neptune lasts for 165 Earth years. Next Retrograde: June 25, 2021 – December 1, 2021
- Pluto. While not considered a planet in mainstream astronomy, Pluto is still a powerful planet in astrology. Its orbit takes 248 Earth years to complete. Next Retrograde: April 29, 2022 – October 8, 2022
The Impact of Retrogrades
While the backward movement of the planets in the sky is an optical illusion based on our perspective on Earth, its astrological effects are very real. If prograde or direct movement indicates the steady, regular flow of life, retrograde movement indicates its opposite.
Retrogrades allow us to pause and re-evaluate our trajectory in a particular area of our lives. Depending on the planet in retrograde, it could be time to revisit the strategies we use in our careers, personal lives, or spiritual journeys.
A planet in retrograde often also allows us to revisit the past, heal old wounds, or test our growth. For example, standard advice during Mercury retrograde is to resist any temptation to communicate with an ex-lover. Things that resurface during retrogrades are meant to challenge us to act differently from before.
Unfortunately, navigating a planet’s backward motion in retrograde is like swimming against the current. Everything is a little bit harder, and we often have to find new strategies out of necessity rather than by choice.
Mars in Astrology
The energies of Mars, often attributed to violence and war, are often misunderstood among novice astrologers. Mars is more than just aggressive ‒ its energies are primal, touching on all of our basic animal instincts.
When there’s something you really want, whether it’s a lifelong goal, career aspiration, or bucket list item, the energies of Mars are responsible for that desire. Mars is the planet that gets you out of bed in the morning, motivated to do the things that get you one step closer to achieving what you desire.
Mars Energies at Home
At home, Mars influences an individual’s motivation to find a mate and reproduce, a biological imperative. Mars influences sexual desire and drive, but this planet is more than sexual passion. It’s also about the urge to build and maintain a safe home and fortress.
Mars Energies at Work
How a person hunts and gathers ‒ their career and financial motivations ‒ are also influenced by the energies of Mars. Classic Martian influence is the spark of inspiration that ignites a relentless desire to pursue a new project at work.
Mars in Retrograde
The retrograde motion of the planets triggers events that cause you to change something about the way you act or think. They’ll typically call you to do this in one of three ways ‒ by re-evaluating your current situation or strategy, revisiting past situations and emotions, or facing resistance in your usual ways of thinking and being.
With Mars in retrograde, you might be faced with a chance to look at your overarching life goals with a more critical eye. It could be time to reconsider what you want your career to look like and think about alternate strategies for achieving the professional life you desire.
You might also see your home and family in a new light during Mars retrograde. What do you want your legacy to be? Are you acting in alignment with your values, or are you being influenced by what other people want from you?
While the direct motion of Mars is responsible for concrete, motivated action, retrograde motion turns Martian energy inward. You might struggle to find the motivation to act on your goals, but you’ll probably spend a lot of time thinking about them.
If there ever was a time where the more aggressive Martian energies got the better of you, whether in your immediate or ancestral past, you might feel a little bit of deja vu with Mars in retrograde. Struggles and shortcomings from your past tend to resurface during retrogrades, and for Mars, that means learning better strategies for dealing with your aggressive side.
Note that we’re not saying to suppress the aggressive energies of Mars. Retrograde is a time to integrate your shadow side, not resist it. When Mars retrograde invites you to revisit your anger, jealousy, or aggression, work with those energies, not against them.
When life is going smoothly, and you’re chugging along at achieving all your dreams, Mars retrograde can slow your progress to a crawl. Maybe your old strategies stop working as well as they used to, or you just have a hard time motivating yourself to get to work at all.
Going from direct to retrograde motion is like going with the flow downriver, then suddenly turning around and swimming upstream instead. The projects that used to consume your every thought no longer hold much interest. Work might lose all of its appeal. Your sex drive might be low, or it could be out of control.
Mars retrograde will call you to find new strategies to motivate yourself, to get yourself out of the retrograde rut. When you’re feeling low on energy or drive, look for ways to make your responsibilities more fun so you’re not tempted to ignore them.