Mars Retrograde and The Year of the Water Dragon

Today is Friday, Jan. 20, 2012. The Sun enters Aquarius today at 11:10 am. It joins three other points currently in that sign: Nessus, Pallas and the last moments of Neptune in Aquarius. Neptune joins Pisces on Feb. 3 after 14 years in Aquarius, so these are our parting and perhaps most conscious intervals of Neptune. However, there’s more immediate news on the event horizon.

Janapese dragon from a Chinese school, wood carving, 19th century.

Monday is a big day in both Western astrology and Eastern. For those of us who are fascinated by planets buzzing around the Sun, Mars turns retrograde in Virgo. You don’t hear the term “Mars retrograde” very often, but it happens. Virgo is already a sign known for its intensity and even obsession, though those who try to express masculine energy through Virgo can be a little insecure doing so. Imagine how Virgo herself feels, taking up Mars as a guest for longer than the average vacation, eight months. The peak of that time involves Mars making apparent retrograde motion between Monday and April 13.

Between April 13 and late June promises to be an interesting time in the story of the world, and Mr. Cock and Balls treading backwards through the sign of the Virgin sounds like she becomes a woman in the process. Retrogrades are often recovery missions, about claiming lost energy, forgotten personal assets, and aspects of ourselves that threatened others when we were little. Every kid does this — to some extent figure out how not to piss off the adults, however meek the insults.

Children thus embark on a self-pruning process that can leave them feeling neutered as adults. Then come retrogrades, which send us on a soul retrieval scavenger hunt. Mars in Virgo will be useful this way, helping us come to terms with what we think of as aggression (and might feel as self-aggression). I suggest being mindful of the pattern establishment quality of retrogrades. The last time anything like this happened was in early 1965, when the script was cast for the thing called The Sixties that ensued.

Everything that happened during that spell of retrograde Mars in Virgo became a thing; it was etched into the realm of potential in such a way that stuck. The music, the war, the protests — the pattern was set, as the energy crested. In personal psychological astrology, this phase is a systems check for all of the high-intensity astrology that arrives in the late spring. For some, Mars retrograde in Virgo represents a calling to impeccability. For others, it’s a deep self-inquiry. For still others, it’s about healing desire and unhooking the many hangups that make it so difficult to express desire without guilt.

You may feel a palpable calling to improve your life, your health and your wellbeing during the next few months — and it’s essential that you proceed with any such quest gently. Warm up before you stretch, and remember, it’s not how far you go or how good you look, it’s how consciously you lean into the tension. This goes for body or mind. Virgo is given to spells of harsh self-criticism without the help of Mars, or Mars retrograde. Given this it will be helpful to think of your feelings in terms of pleasure-guilt dynamics, and to consider any approach-avoid tendencies that you have in this light. On Monday, we also have a fine moment in Chinese astrology — the Year of the Dragon begins. Chinese New Year as we call it is the first New Moon after the first Full Moon after the Capricorn Solstice. That’s the formula, and the date comes up Monday — with the Aquarius New Moon. This is the Year of the Water Dragon.

Aquarius is an air sign, though its symbol is a container of water (or in early renditions, a ruler to measure the depth of the Nile). The Water Dragon is assertive and expressive in a way that comes from a feminine core. This is the year when fortune favors the bold. The Dragon of Chinese fame has none of the baggage that it has in Western mythology; in China, it’s the very essence of good fortune. Dragon is the sign related to Aries in Western astrology — cardinal (high energy) fire energy. So, be brash, bold and daring — in subtle ways too.