December 2013 – July 2014
The following is an excerpt from my 2014 Astrological Almanac. The 2015 edition of the Astrological Almanac is now available. This handy tome contains descriptions of every day, monthly summaries, an ephemeris, a yearly walk-through, and more.
Mars is due to spend a truly unreasonable amount of time in Libra in 2014. The red planet enters Libra in December, 2013 and will not leave until July 2014. Mars usually stays in a sign for a mere month and a half, but due to his retrogradation, he’ll jostle the scales for nearly eight and a half months.
Mars is not considered to be well placed in Libra. In fact, he is traditionally considered to be in his “detriment” there. The planet has less dignity in Libra than in any other sign of the zodiac. In Taurus, the other detriment of Mars, the planet is considered to at least have triplicity or trigonal rulership, and the same can be said of Cancer.
“Detriment” is one of the negative dignities in astrology, meaning that the planet in such a condition is greatly impeded from expression. The conditions of the sign are contrary to the will of the planet, and from this contradiction a stagnation emerges.
Libra is the proper domicile of Venus, whose power is to join and reconcile. If one gazes at the Scales long enough, visions of diplomatic cocktails parties, first dates and courtrooms emerge. In Libra, relationships are assessed and brought to a state of greater balance.
The planet Mars was named for the ravenous god of war, and rightly so. His field of power is populated with wolves and soldiers, great generals and fierce fires. The game of attack and defense, hunter and prey take place here. One attempts to defend against, destroy or devour the Other. It is a far cry from the movement toward reconciliation and harmony that Libra represents.
Thus as Mars travels Libra, we confront a situation wherein the forge-hot God of War strides uncomfortably into a polite Libran soiree. He looks here and there for actionable objectives, missions upon which to focus his potent energies and foes to engage and decimate. Yet his rough demeanor offends the other party goers, and before long he is isolated, relegated to brooding by the hors de ovre table.
Mars’ journey through Libra will see the red planet learn to make do in this awkward situation. After some time Mars will learns the rules of the game and apply himself to the task of bringing sword and shield to bear on the art of diplomacy and peace making. He is delighted to learn that there are in fact thrusts and parries, battle formations and counter-strategies. In fact, at their essence these games share a common root, for as Sun Tzu said, “All warfare is based on deception,” and much the same can be said of seduction.
Sturdy Mars begins to categorize the other attendees, dividing them into allies, neutrals and enemies. He realizes now that the rules of this war are to never admit that one is at war, or that any of the party goers harbor any hostile intentions whatsoever. The deception which plays a role in military affairs is the very heart of these games. He learns to take others territory through charm, to defend himself by the pose of innocence. “There are rules of engagement in this war,” he smiles, “and I have become their master.”
Yet between these realizations and victories, there will be upsets. We, like Mars, may grow tired of the hate hidden beneath pleasant smiles and the malice disguised in passive aggressive remarks. At times, we may long for the truthful brutality of war, the honest trajectory of spears seeking heart’s blood.
Practiced imperfectly, diplomacy yields only a mounting list of small injustices- cold wars iced over with chill politics. There may come some moments when we, like Mars, declare war on passive aggression, abandoning all pretense.
In our personal lives, as well as our collective one, peace sometimes requires the threat of real conflict. Lessons on the inter-relations between the conjoined arts of love and war line the corridor of sky Mars travels for much of 2014.
Mars retrograde cycle can be meaningfully sub-divided until three sections. The first begins when Mars enters the degrees he will retrograde through, December 25th, 2013. The second is the period of actual retrograde motion, March 1st, until the direct station, May 19th. The third is the span of time which it takes Mars to get back to the degree of his initial retrograde station, which takes us all the way to July 21st.
The first of these begins when Mars enters the degrees which he will later retrograde through. These degrees and the events that they contain are complicated, and this period is thus called the “shadow,” for the future presses uncertainly on what occurs here.
Mars enters Libra on December 7th, and then strides into the shadow on December 25th. During the shadow period we begin a slow detachment from our understanding of power. Intimations of new games emerge, as well as a growing sense that we are unready to play them. People often experience increasingly erratic spikes and dips in their energy levels. The reasons for action become uncertain, and levels of activity begin to waver drunkenly. People, especially those who express themselves in a masculine manner, experience strange insecurities. Their own patterns seem not good enough, and their confidence wanes. This continues throughout the shadow, becoming more and more intense as Mars’ approaches his actual retrograde station on March 1st.
The second phase begins with Mars’ retrograde station on March 1st. Mars’ retrograde phase sees the frameworks for harnessing and directing personal power dissolve, cold steel melted back down into molten iron.
Martial energies retreat from the surface, seeking the invisible heart of power, the principle behind action. The gods of war throw down their weapons in disgust, and seek monastic retreats. We are left without arms or armor.
During this time, many people, especially particularly active people, may find themselves adrift, unable to settle on or achieve the goals that often come so easily. Though it may be difficult, the best strategy during this time is often not to push action, but to drift and observe, learning the landscape of the new arena as it slowly takes shape.
The battlefield forming here is a cocktail party, full of friends, allies, enemies and diplomats from cold-warring countries.
Mars direct station on May 19th signals the beginning of the third and final phase of this cycle. Insights coagulate into actionable objectives. Energies rise back to the surface, ready to mobilize the various game-pieces once again. Still, the strategies are untried, the moves still unfamiliar.
Alliances which have survived the bardo of the red planet’s retrogradation emerge strengthened, as do the new patterns of cooperation forged by Mars’ backward motion. Mars exits the boundaries of his retrograde cycle on July 21st, and leaves Libra behind on July 25th.