Mercury and Mars Retrograde: The Underlying Question

Dear Friend and Reader:

Mars retrograde is about to make some interesting moves, among them, returning to Scorpio. And Aries, one of the home signs of Mars, has some enlightening activity going on, in particular the Uranus-Eris conjunction that will happen there on June 9, for the first time since 1928.

If you recall, Mars turned to retrograde motion in Sagittarius on April 17. The retrograde ends on June 29 in Scorpio, and along the way Mars has many stories to tell. Many people do as well, feeling the influence of this astrology, as the questions of Mars are emphasized by retrograde motion.

Photo by Eric Francis / Book of Blue.

When you’re trying to decipher a retrograde planet, especially an inner planet, think: a statement becomes a question. Something externally expressed becomes internally available. There is a review of the past.

There is the retrieval of something that was previously disowned or taken away. This is particularly true with retrograde natal planets, though it’s an effective mode of interpreting retrograde transiting planets as well. Think of the retrograde as being about claiming something that is rightly your own. Imagnie it stands for a kind of soul retrieval, describing the element of your innate being that you are seeking by boldly diving into yourself.

Keep in mind that Mars is the planet of desire. Desire is one of those elements at the core of the human emotional engine. It’s true that religions and spiritual philosophies line up one after the next attempting to prove to people that desire is the worst thing in the world. Yet nobody would seek being happier, or seek knowledge, or crack open a book about Buddhism, if they didn’t want something.

The deeper question of Mars is what you do with the propulsion that it offers. Do you resist? Do you deny, or feel guilt? Do you let it run wild and therefore run your life? Do you harness its power and put it to work for you?

At the same time that we have Mars retrograde, Mercury is also retrograde. This is happening in Taurus, a sign associated with desire, so it’s asking a similar set of questions, which I’ll come back to once I’ve laid out a picture of what I think Mars is describing.

Uranus-Eris Conjunct in Aries

We might be noticing this one, except that it’s difficult for anything to get noticed these days. This rare conjunction (it happened last in early Aries in 1927 and 1928) is describing the very chaos in society, and in our minds, that’s coating the world in the haze and glaze of glamour and making many relevant things difficult to see. I could hardly think of two more potent factors to put together to create mental turmoil and confusion. We can take this on the level of toxic chaos, or fertile chaos. Fertile chaos requires applying awareness and discernment.

Uranus in Aries (2010-2018) is the era of the smartphone and the selfie: of unmitigated self-obsession, and obsession with image. Pluto in Capricorn (2008-2024), a corresponding transit, is about equally unmitigated greed. Together these make up the Uranus-Pluto square (most potent effects from 2011-2015). A few years back, we interviewed Martha Lang-Wescott about that aspect, which is still lurking in the background of everything we’re experiencing.

Photo by Eric Francis / Book of Blue.

“It sounds like this unbidden empty narcissism surging from the depths of Pluto and all of its psychological scars. People can get distracted by the twinkles and the erratic behavior of Uranus and overlook Pluto,” she said.

Pluto addresses deeper material and is a more urgently necessary agent of growth.

The erratic behavior Lang-Wescott is describing includes the conduct of various political movements which we are now seeing come to a head: the TEA Party has taken over the Republican Party, for example. We might ask why Donald Trump is so popular, and for a real answer we would then have to ask why abusive people, in general, are so popular among sensitive, educated people. What is that really about?

Uranus and its effects being more visible, it’s serving to mask a whole layer of awareness. Lang-Wescott continued, “There is the show and the excitement of Uranus [in Aries], and then there’s this underbelly of the concealed drives of Pluto [in Capricorn], such as greed. Uranus presents as the perfect distraction — all this technology stuff — when Pluto is often acting invisibly. There’s also the attraction to the dangerous element of Pluto charisma,” for example, why people might be attracted to Donald Trump as a candidate.

The Uranus-Pluto square is now separating, and a new aspect has emerged: Uranus conjunct Eris in Aries. The two are part of the same pattern, and now Uranus-Eris is being emphasized. It’s pushing the glam thing to its very pinnacle. Everyone is a rock star on Instagram. We are supposed to overlook not only that it’s meaningless, but where that energy could be better spent.

For its part, Eris in Aries is a massive identity crisis. It can barely bring itself to ask the question, “Who am I?” because it makes the question seem unanswerable, or perhaps invisible. No matter how many versions of your business card you make, or how many online profiles you post, the question does not answer itself.

The thing to remember is that it’s a hypothetical question with a fictional answer. While we may possess some supreme identity, and seek access to some set of “original instructions,” identity on this plane of reality is a kind of fictional entity.

This image illustrates the role of woman as teacher. Photo by Blue Studio.

Yet it can become useful once you express identity as purpose, and as you integrate all the many facets and fragments of yourself into one core idea of who you are. Much of what we call healing involves doing precisely this.

Now Uranus is coming along, and is merging the glamour aspect of Aries with the disruption element of Uranus, with the identity chaos element of Eris. The result could be a hot mess — or it could represent a time of genuine breakthrough on the theme of self-discovery and self-actualization. We have had a lot of hot mess lately, as you might discover if you initiate a conversation with people about anything potentially controversial, such as how they feel about life and love. The personal breakthrough, however, is not a prefabricated thing, and there is no telling where it will lead. That would seem to be the whole point.

Here is the problem as I see it: the need for an organizing or perhaps orienting principle. Aries represents the energy of pure potential. It is motive looking for a purpose. Purpose needs some guiding force. If one purpose of the current astrology is self-actualization, what is the core instinct that will drive that process?

Here is another: self-discovery takes courage, and is wrought with perils. The most prominent of them is how it has a way of dissolving your previous self-concept with something more tangible. If someone is attached to their self-concept, they are unlikely to seek anything that would change it in any way.

Many have, I observe, a real courage issue here in the digital age. There are those days when everything besides what is wholly unreal seems too real. Anything more than launching an app is too great of a risk to take. The world is blown up in one action movie after the next; people routinely fight zombies and survive alien attacks; and the world watches from the comfort of their entertainment station or tablet.

I think that a lot of this comes back to image: of needing to be seen a certain way (often, how one is not), or being afraid to be seen a certain way (often, how one really is).

Mars from Sagittarius to Scorpio: An Orienting Principle

Mars in Sagittarius possesses some glamour of its own. It’s a fire sign thing, though the glam of Sagg will seem to have more substance to back up its image. That doesn’t necessarily make it so. I would say an example of celebrity in the style of Mars in Sagittarius might be the rock-star pastor of a mega church.

Closer to the ground, it’s charisma associated with being passionate about one’s beliefs. It’s the image of spiritual, with some fire to give it a touch of reality, or seeming reality.

Being a teacher of life begins with honest, uncensored self-awareness. Photo by Eric Francis / Book of Blue.

Mars retrograde turns that to a question about what is really true. The crusading quality of Mars in Sagittarius is reversed, and becomes a personal inquiry. This is potentially uncomfortable; it involves questioning assumptions and also getting beneath the level of image, and in particular, the image of piety.

True, most people don’t associate themselves with cardinals carrying crosses parading around in red robes outside the Vatican, but there seems to be a strong impulse in contemporary culture to seem pious and pure.

Mars retrograde can burn through that with the power of the Sun evaporating morning fog, but then one is left without the cover of a spiritual image.

This can lead to a real crisis, and not just one of belief; once you get past the layer of belief, the next layer is existential. Think of what religion really is: it’s a contract with existence. Is your contract something that you wrote yourself? Do you have your own lease on life, or do you use the standard Bloomberg version? The standard version is typically what was impressed on people through their early religious and moralistic training. It tends to leave no room to make up your own mind, and when you try to, that can be beset by conflict.

On May 27, Mars retrogrades into Scorpio, entering the realm of what is beneath the realm of belief. Scorpio is the level you can’t do anything about. One can try to gloss over the core of biological necessity (what Scorpio represents, on one level) with ideas about reality (what Sagittarius represents, on one level).

It’s also possible to get them into alignment — to create a belief system for yourself that reflects the deeper truth of what a person is, and what you are, rather than contradicts or attempts to conceal it. And this is what Mars, weaving back and forth between Scorpio and Sagittarius all year, seems to be doing.

What I’m calling the core layer, Mars retrograde in Scorpio, can serve as a point of orientation. Start with the biological level of your existence: your body, your feelings, your instincts. What are they telling you?

Looking at yourself and getting past the self-image that you want to see can take some courage. Photo by Eric Francis / Book of Blue.

If you’re picking up some form of anger, pain or guilt, that’s unlikely to be on the instinctual level. If you are picking up something that feels more like hunger, that’s more likely to be on the level of your biology.

However, we do have a few possible issues related to pain and the need for healing. One of them is embarrassment. If you feel guilt or shame associated with desire, that’s calling for healing — and to seek that healing you would have to admit your underlying desire.

Another is not knowing where to begin your healing process; being overwhelmed with confusion or frustration at where to start. Often this is impacted by repeated failed attempts. That does not mean your desire is wrong. Nor does how often you were told it was wrong, or told others theirs was wrong, make your desire wrong.

As Mars makes its way toward Scorpio, the layer of belief between you and your deeper reality is getting thinner and thinner. It will be less easy to rationalize away your emotions. You might ask: why the need for excuses? Why the need for so much religious guilt, both in society and in our families? What, exactly, is the issue?

What if you were actually to stand in your desire, and admit it openly? Do you think you would become a savage, insatiable animal? Or could you manage your hunger like an adult — you know, Chinese, sushi or stay home and boil some spaghetti?

The answer may come down to how you feel you will be perceived. It’s just strange: craving sushi or spaghetti does not make you a glutton.

Photo by Eric Francis / Book of Blue.

Meanwhile, Mercury is retrograde in Taurus. That’s a much less complicated image of admitting what you feel and what you want. Mercury in Taurus is saying listen to your body. Feel your feelings — and articulate them in language, first to yourself, then to people to whom it might matter, or who might be able to provide something you need.

Though there are many interesting stops along the way, this discussion is heading to an interesting place. On June 9, Uranus in Aries will make its first of three conjunctions to Eris in Aries. That will turn some energy loose. It’s a high point where a potential opening for the issue of self-actualization versus lost in the sauce of glimmer and glamour will make itself known. Even through all that glare, haze and confusion, a touch of reality can get through.

On the same day, Mercury in Taurus makes an opposition — a face-to-face meeting — with Mars in Scorpio. Mercury will be in direct motion by that time, after a deep period of introspection.

I know that my audience is mostly women. Lately I’ve been revealing a series of teachings I’ve learned in the process of my tantric studies. Here is one. In sexual relationships, women are the teachers. We are all birthed from the cosmos of the female body and the emotional sphere of the female experience of sex. In this sense, there is something inherently cosmic about female. Honoring this, tantric wisdom suggests that it’s women who initiate everyone into birth and, by association, into death; and along the way, into sexual reality.

Yet there’s a question of what to do in a society where so many women are so injured, feel so broken, are angry at sex, and angry at men. There is a question of what to do when so many women, who are our teachers, have been convinced and continue to convince themselves that they are something other than human.

Reality as we know it exists first on the biological level. Nearly everything else is some form of denial, defense or rationalization. It is possible to experience the biological level as natural; that is, to experience life unburdened of guilt, shame and fear. Photo by Eric Francis.

This is a challenging question. I don’t have an answer, though I think that we might get some help from returning to the physical, body-level of existence where all this stuff we’re perceiving is happening. Were women to follow the instinctual rather than programmed level of their reality, I believe it would lead to a balanced, healthy and expressive mode of emotional and sexual exchange.

The thing is, at some point, openly admitted desire must enter the discussion. One cannot teach effectively, and raise the level of consciousness, and be in denial at the same time.

A second possibility may be found in men who have made contact with their feminine side — a great many have. I don’t know about you, but I remember when macho and gay were the only choices for men, and only one was legitimate. Many, many men have cultivated their feminine side and have in a sense adopted the preserver energy (inherently female), which has served to preserve the wisdom of women’s bodies. It’s not merely that all men are not rapists.

Rather, it’s fair to say that as many men are comfortable with the female body and female emotional realm as are women, and we can seek them out as people who might be helpful in initiating women as teachers.


Planet Waves Weekly Horoscope for May 12, 2016, #1100 | By Len Wallick

Aries (March 20-April 19) — One way or another, you are making yourself into something more than you thought you could be only two years ago. The question is whether you are fully and consciously aware of what appears to be a successful personal transition in progress. Your day-to-day decision process has evidently been sound enough to get you this far, but is your ascent more than the accumulating sum of your hard work and a lot of good choices? In a way it does not matter if you can see how far you have come. As is often said: don’t mess with success. But at least give yourself credit where credit is due and be proud of who and what you are. — by Len Wallick.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — It’s a good year to be a Taurus. Celebrate your existence, and not just on your birthday. Extend your appreciation of being here now for as long as you feel it to be appropriate. The only thing you might want to be careful about is excess. When you raise a glass to toast, make it pure water more often than not. This does not mean you need to deny yourself the good things in life. Simply realize that there are enough good things available for you to enjoy so that you can sample a bit of each without going overboard with any. After all, variety is the spice of life. More to the point, no palatable diet ever consisted of only spices. — by Len Wallick.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — You have every reason to cultivate optimism at this time just as you would care for a garden in its early stages. While flower and fruit may not be evident now, they will be delivered with time and a surprisingly small amount of effort on your part. The key is to be both patient and consistent in all your daily efforts to support any current endeavor that has the potential to support and nourish you in return. Do not allow pessimism to take root. Yes, it is important to be realistic. Most important, however, is a belief in your own ability to be and do what is needed to ultimately enjoy an abundant harvest. — by Len Wallick. 

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Look to form or be part of a team effort or two, and you will probably enjoy more than just successful results. If circumstances indicate that you should be the one organizing or managing a collective endeavor, remember that the best teams are made of very different individuals who each make a unique contribution to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Therefore, as a leader, encourage both diversity and motivation. If your calling at this time is to be more follower than leader, work to do more than just your part, by supporting the morale and relieving the burdens of those whose direction you serve. — by Len Wallick.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — If you want to be understood, first seek to understand. Even though you may not receive credit for being compassionate, you know in your lion’s heart that one of your many strengths is to feel empathy and show support for those you like and love. The only challenge is that it is now evidently time for you to demonstrate the same qualities of heart towards those who have not previously inspired you to be sympathetic. There is a reason for this, and it has to do with what some call enlightened self-interest. The degree of success you enjoy henceforth will be proportional to the extent you are able to walk in another’s shoes. — by Len Wallick.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Time is on your side. As good as days past may have been for you, there is substantial reason to believe that even better days are yet to come. To do your part to make sure those evidently impending days are the best they can be, don’t simply wait for things to come to pass. Take an active role. For example, even if you see no need to do so at this time, update your resume and keep a presentable copy where you can find it quickly. That way, if an unexpected opportunity comes knocking, you can answer the door promptly and adroitly. Act as though the life of your dreams is looking for you, and you will do the finding. — by Len Wallick.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — So far as you are able to do so, it would be worth your while to invest in your community. Your contributions need not be extravagant, monetary or even tangible. What will count most is the quality of what you give and the degree to which your devotions serve to develop bonds with your neighbors. For that reason, offer your services through existing cooperative efforts, at least at first. What’s more, part of what looks to be your personal environment of endeavor at this time implies that you should be something more than just an agent of change and service. Also, be open to being changed, so long as it is for the better. — by Len Wallick.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — Odds are a lot of people wish they had at least one of your qualities. Therefore, be present to the good fortune of being you by not taking what you have for granted. Think of yourself as a well, which once dug still needs to be maintained. Be mindful of all the things you should (or shouldn’t) do to assure that you do not run dry, break down or somehow become bitter. This is about more than attending to your own good, because (whether you can see it or not) all that is good about you makes an important contribution towards maintaining an extended community. That community is defined and inspired by your very existence. — by Len Wallick.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Worry not. There is no indication that your future will be anything less than your present. Indeed, if anything, there is a promise (even the inevitability) of more. Whatever appears to be a prospect of loss at this time is in all probability the prelude to actual gain. Whatever looks for all the world like an onset of limitations is likely just part of a process leading to personal development and expansion. It’s almost as if you are young and growing again. Even though you may feel trepidation and uncertainty about what’s ahead, the probable fact is that you and your life are about to open and bloom like a flower. — by Len Wallick.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — It’s okay to have exactly the life you want to have. There is, however, no need to be distraught if you run into some detours on the way. This does not mean that you need to suppress your emotions or compromise your feelings. It does mean you owe it to yourself to be joyful and elated about your prospects. If there is anything your life has taught you up to this point, it is that you can feel confident and believe in yourself. Just look at how far you have come. Just think about all the people who respect what you have done. Therefore, respect yourself and enjoy the journey, even if the road is not always smooth or straight. — by Len Wallick.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — When you are at home, feel it. Enjoy the comforts of your abode, no matter how humble. Revel in the simple miracle of your pillow, or favorite chair. Take in your table, and everything on it, with a sense of awe and wonder regarding how it all came to you. The same sense of appreciation will go a long way when in the company of friends, or family. Listen to that unique voice and all that it says beyond words. Look into those living, incomparable eyes and search for the soul that is there to be seen through them. Let gratitude be your guide. Let it take you from the prosaic into the profundity that fills even your most mundane moments, and freedom will be yours. — by Len Wallick.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Behave as though you are the proud owner of the world, and what you want from the world will be more likely to come your way. When you are with somebody else, show off that tree and those clouds as if you have made them yourself. In a very real way, you do possess and have created all you see, taste, smell, hear and feel. Just as real is the fact that at least some others would absolutely love it if you shared those possessions with them. All you have to do to manifest those realities is to be alert for those moments when somebody asks about your day, and be ready to give them a small but tasty piece of it. Sooner or later what you receive in return will be precisely what you were looking for. — by Len Wallick.

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