What does it mean when a planet is in retrograde?

From the earth, if we look up in the sky and watch the motion of the planets against the backdrop of the stars, we usually observe them moving in one direction. Occasionally, every celestial body except the Sun and the Moon will appear to slow down in its orbit, stop, and then go backwards, or retrograde, for a period of time.

Mars Retrograde happens every other year and lasts for approximately 70 to 80 days.

Planets in retrograde lose steam, clarity and direction. So with Mars turning retrograde, we feel like we are paddling upstream.

Mars is the planet of war, fighting, new beginnings, and the act of sex.

How does Mars retrograde affect us?

  • New projects and plans initiated now are likely to stall or not develop as expected.
  • Our energy level will be lower.
  • Accidents and arguments from impulsive actions and unrecognized anger will flare.
  • Health problems from stress that’s internalized are also much more likely during this time.

Think of capping a volcano and sending the energy back into the Earth— that’s what happens to each of us during this part of Mars’ cycle. That’s why some folks will explode with frustration and make very poor decisions and moves now, responding with violence and anger instead of patience and dialogue.

Things don’t go as fast as we want them to during Mars retrograde. The better use of this time is to wait, plan and accept compromises. Delays and detours may turn out to be valuable, as you discover something of worth along the way. This is an excellent time to go back over recent developments in your life with the aim of reviewing your goals and methods— significant adjustments made now can improve your chances in the future. This is the time to germinate seeds, and to work out the details and actions of something that will begin (be planted) after the retrograde period ends. Mars represents strength— and this is time to gather your strength, and reinforce your position, rather than burn up your reserves.

Anything new that is postponed during Mars retrograde is probably for the better. Everyone will have less energy to work with during this period of time; remember that when you demand service or conditions to change immediately.

Slow down and resist gambling on first time relationships and situations as the odds are poor that you will succeed or be satisfied from such in the long run. Aries and Scorpio birthsigns, ruled by Mars, especially. Keep your guns holstered and wait for Mars to resume direct motion. Times will change.

Bottom Line

Most of the conflicts and challenges that appear during Mars retrograde will be temporary— that’s why you need to keep focused on the big picture and the philosophy of what you are doing.

Mars retrograde is tremendously powerful, although the energy is not well-suited for forward motion. It is very well suited, however, for reinforcing or strengthening some aspect of your life.

Mars retrograde dates

January 23 – April 13, 2012 Virgo
March 1 – May 19, 2014 Libra
April 17 – June 29, 2016 Sagittarius and Scorpio


NASA’s page on Mars retrograde
Lynn Koiner on Mars retrograde
Joanne Wickenburg’s article, out of date but still good.
Myastrologybook.com has a great composite photo of Mars retrograde
Excerpt from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Astrology from Google Books.