Mars Retrograde: Projection and Perception

By Eric Francis

Sign art by Liz Webb.

Sign art by Liz Webb.

Mars will be retrograde in your sign — this is a personal message for you, mostly about a topic dear to your heart — relationships. Yet the most interesting thing about the ruling planet of your relationship house (Aries, ruled by Mars) in your own sign or ascendant is that the relationship you’re now focusing on is the one to yourself. You’ve heard this before — it’s the most important point of contact that you have. Now, that truth is about to manifest for you. As you get more comfortable with yourself, it will be ever easier for you to relate to others, especially the unusual people who have started to come into your life in recent years.

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Libra Part One

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Libra is the central focus of the astrology of 2014. Before I get into the background, a long setup to this event that I’ve covered extensively in the past two annual editions, I want to lay out my main theory about your astrology, so you’ve got the idea running in the background while reading this whole essay.

Your astrology calls into question the nature of how we perceive reality, including our relationships, and the extent to which projection plays a role. Projection is what the adage “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” is trying to describe. It has deeper psychological implications, such as seeing in others what we cannot face in ourselves, most often shadow material.

Image by RAEchel Running.

Image by RAEchel Running.

It includes the ways in which we relate to others that serve to appropriate them and see them as extensions of ourselves; to see in them what we choose to see; to experience ourselves in polarities, where all supposedly feminine traits are put onto women and supposedly masculine traits are put onto men.

It covers that bit about falling in love with oneself through another person, or loving someone in a way that does not originate from a self-loving place — all the love is therefore seen outside of oneself.

Projection is such a powerful phenomenon that it may dominate what we think of as reality. In the words of A Course in Miracles, “projection makes perception.” Said another way, this idea holds that the senses perceive not what is ‘out there’ but rather what is within, which it then projects onto what we witness.

Of course, when we consider this, we get into some deep water about the fine points of how this might happen, and the occasions when it might not. However, we could say that generally it’s true that people in conflict perceive a lot of conflict and often get caught in it, while friendly people live in a mellower world where there’s less competition and more cooperation.

Mars in your sign will reveal many things to you — about how you experience your relationships, how you see people, how you see the world, and most significantly, about your relationship to yourself. Indeed, if I had just 100 words to write this reading, I would say something like: Your astrology this year will reveal to you that you really have just one relationship, to yourself. Every other relationship stems from how you relate to yourself; their growth follows your own; your environment is an extension of your state of mind. It’s difficult to see this most of the time, but in the coming months it will become so obvious as to be undeniable. (That was 65 words. I’ll save the other 35 words for another topic.)

The Mars Effect: It’s Happening in Libra

The reason that Libra is the central focus is because of the Mars retrograde event that happens in your sign between March and May, and which has influences actually reaching back to early December 2013 and all the way out to the end of July 2014. Mars is the leading actor of 2014’s astrology, and this happens in a way that is intimately personal to you.

Mars is the traditional ruling planet of the sign Aries. The way the zodiac is oriented, Aries is the sign opposite Libra, and is therefore the sign that is associated with your relationships and your environment. Mars will be in your sign for most of the year, making a series of fancy maneuvers, which is to say, having many contacts to other planets. So this is a story with many offshoots.

But the central plot is your exploration of your primary relationship — the one you have with yourself.

Now, I’m experienced enough in working with people to know that this idea does not come across to everyone. One must be somewhat self-aware to perceive any kind of inner relationship. There are people who don’t experience a sense of their own presence within themselves, nor do they have the observer or inner witness cultivated, such that they could experience themselves reflexively.

I assume that since you’re reading astrology, you’re curious about psychology and relationships and have cultivated a relationship to yourself. This astrology, however, will work in a similar way with anyone, no matter what their spiritual or psychological state. Those who lack any or most experience with an inner relationship will start to feel that open up.

To you who have been developing your inner relationship for some time, you will get a chance to deepen your experience of that relationship, and start to see some of the ways that it manifests in everything you experience.

Part of the Mars Effect is how this experience of ‘projection makes perception’ will manifest for everyone, since everyone has Libra in their chart. But for you who have it in the first position — your 1st house, your Sun sign or your ascendant — the message is distinctly personal and individual.

It will influence you in many ways, including having the effect of stripping off your veneer and insisting that you present yourself to the world in an authentic way, all the time. This may entail bringing more of your inner questing, ambivalence or conflict to the surface, where people can see it and relate to you through it, rather than your usual impeccable presentation that you show the world.

You are aware that many forces have been moving and shifting within you, going back at least five years. It’s as if the very ground of your being is shifting. It’s challenging to find anything or anyone that is truly stable, and it’s difficult to know who and what to trust.

There are astrological significators suggesting that you’re digging deep into your past and may even be letting loose the ghosts of ancient history, sifting through ancestral material on what seems to be a huge archeological dig that is at the center of your emotional world.

Let’s briefly go over the other planets that are involved in the pattern with Mars.

The Cardinal Grand Cross

Libra is a cardinal sign, meaning that it’s a sign where the Sun’s presence indicates a solstice or an equinox. The three other cardinal signs are Aries, Cancer and Capricorn. This year there will be a grand cross aspect involving all of the cardinal signs.

There has been a long setup to this event, which began with the arrival of Pluto in Capricorn, your 4th house (that is, 4th solar house if you have Libra Sun, 4th by whole sign houses for Libra rising). Pluto phased into Capricorn between 2008 and 2009, and it came with the message that you needed to begin a process of separating from past influences, sources of security, family structures and family baggage.

Pluto in the 4th house is one of those transits that is about radical autonomy. It’s possible as well that you could experience this transit and cling to the past, or become obsessed by it, but that won’t work for long. You might grieve the loss of the past, and live in a world of nostalgia, but other growth priorities will intervene. You might feel the past torn from you, only to figure out that you really did not want to be so over-immersed in it.

Pluto in your 4th is compelling you to put down deep roots, and to define your concept of security your own way. Initially, you may have observed that there really is no such thing as ‘secure’ — that everything is transient. Yet after a while you may have begun to deduce that the concept of security, as with safety, is a relative term, and that within the limits of the world (such as vulnerability to being hit by an asteroid, or some old freaks who run the economy pulling out the rug) there is such a thing as modest confidence in your position.

For your purposes, this will be more about emotional grounding than it will be about financial security, though for several reasons the financial piece has been active the past 15 months or so.

Digressing from the grand cross for a moment, this is an appropriate time to mention Saturn in Scorpio, your 2nd house (your finances), which is directly related to Pluto in Capricorn. The relationship is that Saturn rules Capricorn, which is suggesting that Saturn’s presence in your 2nd house is a direct expression of what Pluto is doing.

Said in plain English, Pluto is driving you toward emotional independence and waking you up to how essential that is. As an extension of that, Saturn is now awakening you to how important financial independence is to the process of emotional independence. For your purposes they are one and the same.

You would be wise therefore to focus on money as a crucial piece of your emotional well-being. I don’t mean false security: I mean the real confidence that comes when you know you can pay your rent and your bills, eat well, have some fun and take care of the people in your life without any fuss.

Money is not as difficult a game as many people make it out to be, but it requires persistence, and doing the emotional work that surrounds the many screwed-up perspectives we were exposed to as children, particularly from our early caregivers, and the many messed-up perspectives we are confronted with today. Anyone with a shred of sensitivity is aware that society is suffering from a disease with an obsession over money as one of its main symptoms. In many places greed is out of control, whether we’re talking about the halls of power at ExxonMobil or the local deli where poor people ‘invest’ all of their excess money obsessing over lottery tickets. What these both have in common is that they are uncreative associations with money.

To go beyond this, it’s necessary to associate money with what is inherently creative and helpful, rather than greedy or unclean. There is a difference between greed and taking care of yourself, though the world in the midst of its ‘money issues’ often fails to make that distinction.

Saturn is suggesting that discipline is part of the equation, to which end I will suggest as I often do that if you’re having any trouble staying organized, or saving money, get the assistance of a bookkeeper or an accountant. Make a program of financial responsibility the first order of business in your personal healing plan, and your first order of healing in your business plan.

Let’s move on.

The second planet to arrive on what is now a grand cross was Uranus in Aries. This phased in between 2010 and 2011, taking hold with a big bang on March 11, 2011 — the great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. Aries is your 7th house, the one associated with relationships, partnerships and your environment.

Uranus in your 7th is another one of those influences that makes you wonder if there is any stability at all — this time in your relationships. What Uranus in your 7th is doing is making sure that you don’t get to live in any sense of false confidence or false security in your partnerships. While one could interpret this placement as ‘bad for relationships’, it’s actually very good for connecting with innovative, interesting and inventive people, and terrible for getting stuck in situations that don’t serve you and that you don’t belong in.

This is a transit that you will be getting used to until it’s over in about four more years. Indeed, its whole purpose seems to be to make sure you are grounded in yourself before you try to ground into a relationship. It’s insisting that your security really come from you. It’s the reminder that your stability is about your inner state of mind rather than what anyone else offers you or makes possible for you.

There is no ‘resting on your laurels’ with the positions of Saturn, Uranus or Pluto at this time. This is not a time of settling down, or of avoiding the instability of the planet at the moment. If that is your goal, you may be struggling. If you set a goal of ongoing adaptation to an ever-changing adventure, you will be a lot happier.

This would include established long-term relationships that you’re in. If you’re in one of those, it would be wise to discuss with your partner the nature of change, and how you as individuals will handle your individual growth within the relationship.

Embracing change is truly challenging for many people, mainly because it threatens stability — yet change is the most dependable environmental factor in our reality. And change is necessary for there to be any improvement. I suggest you not make a habit of clinging to anything, but rather, that you choose to experience the world in an open-minded and easygoing way, taking the adventure as it comes.

The third element of the grand cross is Jupiter in Cancer, your 10th house. This is helping you refine your career plans. You may be starting to get the idea that you can do something both lucrative and beneficial to everyone. You may be sensing your talent and your potential.

Jupiter never guarantees that you will manifest your potential, but it tips the odds in your favor. Its presence can point you in the right direction, give you a taste of success and remind you what is possible. You can think of Jupiter as showing you which way is up. You can also thank Jupiter for helping you focus your goals over the past six months or so; one condition you live with is that of having cyclical goals, never being able to settle on one.

By the time this grand cross is done, you will be entirely focused; you will know exactly what it is that you want and need to do, which I would propose will be focused into one distinct set of plans. You don’t have to rush this — give yourself time to make observations and to allow the right situation to gravitate to you, or vice versa.

You will not need to be patient for long, and meanwhile I suggest you use your time and energy to experiment with new things you have not tried before, new ideas you may have never considered, and allow yourself to encounter people you might have thought were too weird to associate with.

Uranus on the 7th house is a big lesson in not judging people by appearances. I know that matters to you — I am Italian, and I know how much presentation matters. You never see a big mobster wearing a shitty suit. However, that’s the point. Please don’t be dismissive of people who may have a slightly weird, eccentric or unkempt presentation. You may have to get past how certain people who might be profoundly influential in your life might not add up to your preconceived image. Then you can get to the creative content of the relationship.

The things to be careful about go deeper. For example, I suggest you not put up with dishonesty in any form, or with crazymaking in any form. A little eccentric does not allow for lying. A little unusual does not allow for people who are disruptive, or whose agenda is anything but supportive. You need to pay attention here. It’s easy for someone who is deceptive to create a cloud around their deception; it’s easy for someone who is crazymaking to claim they are being helpful. So I suggest you pay attention to what is actually happening and respond accordingly.

Note — your astrology suggests that crazymaking (that is, when people bring their madness into your life just so they can have fun, or because they’re a little nuts) is more of an issue than deception. However, I have noticed that people are way too tolerant of those who do both, so I thought I would point that out. These people can go a long way to undermining success.

The opposite of this is to be open to considering any idea or any person: consider, use your discernment, and make a decision that you’re open to reversing if you come into additional information.

Completing the Picture: The Mars Effect

This brings us to Mars in Libra, your solar 1st house or your rising sign. I’ve explained that Mars is a representative of your environment, taking residence in your inner world. Mars rules Aries; that is your relationship area, and the one that describes your outer world. Now you’re experiencing that as an internal phenomenon.

What I see here is a phase of time when it’s necessary to understand how your state of mind colors the world you see, and may totally bias your opinions.

Projection takes many forms. It includes classical psychological concepts of projection (homophobia manifesting as a result of one’s own fears of being gay, and thinking everyone else is gay) to various “I cannot live without you” scenarios.

It’s difficult to draw a line where projection ends and perception begins, but for our purposes, a good starting point would be to take responsibility for what you perceive. That starts with not taking your perceptions for granted — or you could say, actually noticing them. When you have an opinion about someone or something, investigate why you have that opinion; and also investigate when you notice your opinion about something seemingly external to you changing when your mood changes.

To understand how projection works, it’s necessary to be self-aware — more self-aware than we’re supposed to be in Western Civilization, which thrives and whose problems thrive on lack of self-awareness. The thing with Mars is that it’s pushing you with full strength to pay attention to your inner world.

What is interesting here is that Mars is also making aspects to planets in many other angles of your chart. The implication is that your awareness has the power to change the world around you. I don’t mean this in a magical way, which I think is dangerous. I mean that there is a relationship between what you see, how you feel about it and what you decide.

There is a relationship between you and how people respond to you. Again and again you will be sent the message that this relationship exists. The sooner you get the message the better — the sooner you will claim your personal power.

One theme here is the way that you project your personal power into relationships and onto partners, and how you would benefit from claiming it back. The whole business of giving away one’s power is huge in our society; it’s so large and so pervasive that it’s difficult to describe. Claiming back one’s power does not usually start with taking away the right of the local nuclear power plant to irradiate you, though that’s one manifestation of the problem.

Claiming your power from others to whom you’ve given it away, or projected it onto, usually happens one relationship at a time, one day at a time. It’s the first few steps that seem the most difficult — the ones where you have to take note of your observations, reverse the direction of events and make your initial statements of your intent.

There is something here about not blaming others for the relationships that you’re in — this is where you will benefit from taking full responsibility and from claiming your power to choose.

One of the fine lines involved here is about not taking on the full blame for what people do to you, but rather drawing the line at the decision to have them in your life. You know that you’ve drawn the line effectively when you feel yourself having some ability to choose whether you want to be in any given situation, on the basis of whether it’s actually working for you.

As you do this, you will gain what may be the single greatest gift of spiritual development, therapy or personal growth: the power of decision. Once you understand that, and claim that back, you will truly begin to feel that you have influence over the flow of your life.

You already do; this is merely a matter of recognizing that fact, and taking full ownership of your autonomy. When you do, you’ll be living a very different life.

Libra chart.

Libra chart.

Libra sketch.

Libra sketch.

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