One of the things about astrology, as with life, is that if you pay attention long enough, eventually it is just the same stuff over and over again. Despite buzzwords like “portals” and “lion’s gate” and evolutionary language, astrology is essentially the study of cycles that repeat themselves.
Much in the same way that seasons repeat in definite order, though they are never quite the same, planetary alignments recalibrate at regular intervals, donning new forms while maintaining a similar archetypal core. Without this repetition, prediction would be impossible. We cannot recognize something we have never seen before and we can never know exactly what form it will take this time around.
Astrologer and cultural historian Richard Tarnas wrote, “astrology is not concretely predictive, but archetypally predictive.” By this he means that astrology can reveal core patterns of the psyche and the type of experiences it is likely to be drawn to, but not that marriage will happen on such and such a date, or that you will lose a job here, or eat the perfect taco on a specific Saturday in 2043.
I am reflecting on this as I sit down to write about the Mars retrograde that begins next week, and on the column I wrote about the previous Mars retrograde in the fall of 2020. Like then, tensions are running high and the state of our democracy feels a little perilous. Like then, we were headed into an election. Like many election seasons and previous falls, despite what the alarmist news anchors might say, archetypally speaking, we have been here many times before.
Planetary retrogrades are essentially a time of reset for that particular planet, a break in the normally scheduled programming. As the planets are metaphorical correlates for aspects of our own lives, these resets often begin as breakdowns and failures, a snag in the plan or method. If we can soften our pride and approach the issues with curiosity, eventually these delays reveal themselves as invitations into other ways of being.
From Oct. 30 to Jan. 12, 2023, Mars will appear to move backward through the zodiac, and the martial principle will enter a state of insecurity, personally and collectively.
Mars at his core is about decision and action. To say this principle is a double-edged sword is perhaps a little on the nose, but I would be remiss to not emphasize that every tool can be used constructively or destructively. While Mars is retrograde, we have a chance to reevaluate how we are using our power and to what end. A hammer without enough force or coordination is ineffective, too much and it destroys what it aims to construct.
The entirety of the retrograde will take place in the sign of Gemini, an air sign that represents the creative force of the mind, the flurry of ideas and ideologies, and the power of language to create reality. It is a cerebral space, and Mars in Gemini can weaponize ideas and words alike. Gemini is the sign of multiplicities, and when our decision-maker (Mars) inhabits this sign, he can become paralyzed by the number of choices, or burnt out by trying to accomplish too many disparate things.
To navigate the tricky weeks ahead, I am meditating these three mantras: 1) things might not be what they seem, 2) the answer is in plain sight, if I change how I am looking, and 3) when I am feeling overwhelmed, rest instead of quit. Gemini is especially good at creative problem-solving, so when things hit a roadblock, lean into innovative solutions rather than applying more force.
While Mars seeks to make things happen, he is not particularly diplomatic, and so wherever Mars is in the zodiac signifies areas of particular conflict. In the labyrinth of political and social ideologies in fierce competition right now, accusations of inaccuracy, false evidence, and imperfect logic abound. If we seek to change anyone’s mind by intellectual overpowerment, we will probably fail. Mars retrograde is a far better time to change our own minds by approaching alternative views with curiosity, active listening, and a sense of playfulness.
The road is long, and like I said, we have all been here before.
Whitney Will is an astrologer and psychotherapist who grew up in Carbondale. You can find her work, including classes and personal readings, at www.starhearthastrology.com