The Dance of Venus & Mars Retrograde 2020
Prelude: 2020 Saturn/Pluto Conjunction
Nothing in astrology exists in a vacuum and the transits of the “little guys”--Mars, Venus, and Mercury--almost always trigger events based upon grander themes laid down by the “bigger guys” Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Astrology involves a complicated process of synthesis, which explains why every Mars, Venus, or Mercury retrograde--because they work alongside other transits and progressions that together formulate a complete picture--are not created equal.
Therefore, we cannot talk about the current transit and upcoming retrograde of Mars in Aries--from June 27, 2020 through January 6, 2021--without framing it in the larger context of the Saturn/Pluto conjunction ushered in at 22.46° Capricorn January 12, 2020. This relatively rare conjunction happens approximately every 33-38 years and lasts slightly over two years, though its effects progress slowly over the long-term. This makes it important to view the entirety of 2020 through this conjunction’s lens and to understand that its energy looms behind faster moving transits.
When Saturn, the lord of karma and planet of structure, limitation, achievement, and maintenance of traditions, joins Pluto, the lord of the underworld, planet of power, hidden motivations, secrets, and deep psychological complexes, it functions as a kind of “global Saturn Return.” This conjunction’s particularly karmic nature represents an evolutionary death/birth cycle during which the world has to purge old, archaic, ossified beliefs and ideas to clear a path for the new. The testing of the status quo faces the firing line now, alerting us it’s time to both fortify our lives as well as tear down and rebuild them where necessary.
Proof that this 2020 Saturn/Pluto conjunction sets the stage for a new world order is evidenced by its presence during previous major world wars. For example, the Cancer Saturn/Pluto conjunction of 1914/15 coincided with the outbreak of World War I when humanity witnessed the emergence of global warfare, and after which the world was never the same. The Leo conjunction of 1947 occurred just after the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. This resulted in the end of World War II, the reconstruction of a desecrated Europe, the beginning of the global nuclear arms race--and the start of the Cold War era--and the emergence of a modern new world order as we know it today.
Likewise, the Libra conjunction of 1982 ushered in a short but severe U.S. recession that birthed the era of “Reaganomics” and a trickle-down economy which has steered the economic course of much of the western world until now. This time period also saw the beginning of the AIDS pandemic.
And that leads us to the present and current life-altering events in the zeitgeist: the Covid-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, police reform and calls for greater social justice for all, and an upcoming U.S. presidential election. All these events will undoubtedly change our consciousness and usher in yet another new world order going forward.
Act One: Venus Retrograde 2020
Venus partnered with Mars in mythology not by marriage but through a love affair, and often (but not always), these two planets retrograde within months of each other. When they do (as in 2020), their alignment to each other cannot be ignored, and we interpret their retrogrades as part of their overall dance of partnership.
When Venus retrogrades, according to ancient traditions, she becomes the morning star, and because she’s closer to Earth then and moving in a direction antithetical to her nature, she’s more war-like, aggressive, and apt to show her brutish or more Martian face. Instead of using diplomacy, she takes a warrior stance--especially when fighting injustice—making her seem more like Mars, who likes to do battle on the front lines.
This year’s Venus retrograde in Gemini between May 12 and June 24 highlighted two major themes: social distancing and social values. The former included a reevaluation and redefinition of how we communicate with others, including incorporating innovative uses of technology to satisfy social distancing restrictions yet still help stimulate the U.S. economy. The latter illustrates Venus as warrior goddess: It was in the twin cities (Gemini) of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, that the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police sparked the resurrection of the civil rights and Black Lives Matter movements.
Additionally, Venus retrograde ignited another conversation and forged debate around how the rule of law is continually applied in grossly unequal ways that have resulted in bringing the age-old split in race relations to a boil. Concerned with principles of equality, peace, and harmony, but angry that they’ve been ignored, Venus changes her form, alters her tactics, and adopts a more martial stance, transforming the goddess of love into the goddess of war in her quest for fairness.
Having lost her balance and equilibrium, Venus’s normal tools of diplomacy and peaceful debate become ineffective. Therefore, she becomes the iron fist in the velvet glove--though I’d go one step further by saying the velvet glove comes off too!--and adapts the more brutal and angry approach of her partner Mars.
I mentioned that Venus and Mars connect in mythology as lovers, but not marriage partners and, as I edit this article at 10:30 am on July 2, the TV news plays in the background announcing that Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested in Bradford, New Hampshire. Accused of being the chief enabler and sex trafficking procurer of young minor women for Jeffrey Epstein to sexually exploit, Maxwell’s charged also as a co-conspirator for participating in sexual acts along with Epstein and these minors.
This occurs as Venus--direct only since June 24--entered her second shadow period, and shortly after Mars entered Aries June 27. Almost a year to the date from when Epstein was arrested, Mars’s 0-Aries ingress triggers by square the recent June 21 solar eclipse at 0° Cancer--a degree made even more potent because it sits on the world axis, known as a point of notoriety and fame.
Epstein and Maxwell were lovers who had the same type of volatile and passionate relationship as did the mythological Venus and Mars. In mythology Venus was married to Vulcan but couldn’t resist the macho, virile, potent charms of Mars whom she lured into her marriage bed as often as possible when her husband was away. Vulcan, who eventually gets wind of their affair, fashions a net and throws it over them to entrap the lovers during one of their assignations. He’s invited all the other gods to bear witness to this and they roar with laughter at the humiliated lovers caught in a trap of their own making.
This imagery and the unraveling of recent events coincide with the transits of Mars/Venus, the eclipse triggers, and Saturn’s retrograde back into Capricorn July 1, the latter of which represents one last swipe to clean up and complete Saturn’s journey through Capricorn over the past two-and-a-half years. The last pass through a sign shows us the lessons learned and completes the cycle. The July 2 announcement of Maxwell’s arrest coincided perfectly with Saturn’s retrograde station back into Capricorn and, occurring at 29°57’ Capricorn, represents the symbolic humiliation of these former lovers’ sexual misdeeds.
Act Two: Mars In Aries
Mars entered Aries June 27 where he remains for six months due to his upcoming retrograde from September 9 through November 14. Since he doesn't leave Aries until January 6, 2021, Mars energy dominates the rest of 2020 by taking us through an internal purging and transformation that can lead to some sort of new beginning. This is true on both a national collective and personal level, so best to prepare to redirect, reorient, and question our power drives and motivations during this period.
Mars, for his part, is a yang planet representing action and how we get what we want, whose mission is to carry out the will of the Sun. This “get up and go” energy in our lives—our survival instinct, without which we’d be dead—represents such Martian themes as anger, sex, violence, bravery, courage, assertion, aggression, war, the military and police, valor, honesty, potency, power, sports, fighting, and competition.
Blatantly male, macho, and phallic, Mars energy manifests firmly in the fight or flight root chakra, depicted by the color red, like the planet itself. Loud, rude, rough, brash, and visceral, he’s the bully who’ll often use brute force to get what he wants. Living without Mars, however, would be incredibly boring--as well as dangerous--because we wouldn’t know how to protect ourselves in a life-threatening situation.
Mars allows us to feel the thrill, adrenaline rush, excitement, and danger of being alive—he’s the part of us that asks: What would life be without taking risks? Healthy expressions of Mars, especially when young, come through participation in sports as either player or spectator, and through sex—which can be one of the most beautiful energies life has to offer—as its stimulation leads not only to pleasure but creation and procreation. Mars provides the confidence to fight for what we want and to act with bold pride, yet there’s always the threat that ego-driven, competitive battles may spill over into the arena of violence or murder.
In planetary order from the Sun outward, Mars links the Earth to Jupiter. If we take our grounded earthly pursuits and push forward to something bigger--outside the scope of Sun/Moon/Mercury and Venus--we’re rewarded for our bravery by broadening our existence to other worlds through Jupiterian themes of adventure, growth, optimism, learning, and travel beyond the merely earthbound environment. Achievement of such Mars to Jupiter growth requires risk-taking of the kind famously given voice to in the original Star Trek television series through its quest “to boldly go where no man has gone before..."
Mars in Aries, the sign of its dignity, possesses greater freedom of action and so may more easily fuel any fire, meaning we should pay close attention to this particular transit. Since Mars entered Aries June 27, combined with a confluence of energies--including aforementioned eclipse triggers, Venus and Neptune retrograde stations, and Saturn’s ingress back into Capricorn—several heated events have transpired:
Federal forces, armed with tear gas and some kind of gun-fired projectiles (though not called bullets) have gone into Portland, Oregon, with the intent of protecting federal buildings from destruction by protestors. However, such forces were not invited in by state authorities, nor were they welcomed, especially since their tactics have injured innocent people and violate the Constitutional right to gather and peacefully protest. The U.S. Administration threatens at this writing to send such militia troops into other U.S. cities which neither want them nor condone their actions in Portland.
Historic centuries-old national status symbols of repressive regimes are being torn down and/or removed. Particularly true for confederate statues, the confederate flag, and state flags. Mississippi was one of the first to take down its flag and to implement legislation to remove other confederate emblems. The argument, spurred on by the Black Lives Matter movement, is that such statues and flags may be memorialized in museums rather than glorified in public as society attempts not to forget history but to reframe it, and represents part of the current larger cultural war.
The massive uptick in Covid-19 cases throughout the country, especially in areas that opened too quickly during Venus retrograde in social Gemini, turned face masks into a polarizing political issue. Both Mars and Aries represent the head and face, and the politicizing of this issue caused lots of yelling and raised the question: what symbolic image do you want to project in public?
Senate Republicans vowed to get to the bottom of bombshell reports that Russia offered bounties to Afghan militants for the targeted killings of U.S. troops overseas and suggested possible retaliation against Moscow. Anger exists around the fact that U.S. President Trump has, since learning this fact from intelligence agencies, spoken to Russia’s Vladimir Putin seven times, reportedly none of them about this issue.
Act Three: Mars Retrograde 2020
During the next six months many of these extremely important ongoing events—including the coronavirus pandemic, the upcoming 2020 presidential election, the Black Lives Matter movement, police reform, and the use of federal military force against individual states’ citizens--will continue to unravel.
Meanwhile, this Mars retrograde pattern becomes a very powerful one because it will square the pandemic 22.46 Capricorn degree of the Saturn/Pluto conjunction of January 12, 2020 three times--August 12, October 8, and December 20--designating them potential “trigger” dates. The days surrounding these exact dates represent hot spots when Mars can exacerbate challenges surrounding the pandemic and other issues that demand we redirect the battle in order to conquer the hidden enemy.
During the upcoming Mars retrograde period from September 9 through November 14 normally outgoing Mars energy turns inward, urging us to reorient in a new direction. Instead of boldly going where no man has gone before in the external world, it’s time to get in touch with our internal warrior and confront our inner rather than outer selves--not something Mars normally feels comfortable doing!
In general, retrogrades provide the opportunity to bring to light certain unsolved challenges with a particular planet’s energies based upon old habit patterns. During Mars’ retrograde any misuse of power--and old ways of assertion, competition, and aggression--will be called out on the carpet now and may not work the way to which we’ve been accustomed. This, in turn, calls for the reevaluation of our motivations: a) to determine if we’re on the correct path; and b) to adjust our actions and aggressive instincts to ensure better accomplishment of our goals.
Not usually a very introspective energy, Mars asks us to burn the fire within and purify our Martial energy by taking stock of our actions every two years when retrograde. We test our motives for proper action by surging bravely--not forward--but inward during this six-week retrograde period so we may revitalize and reanimate our healthy energies with renewed vim and vigor on the direct station.
Would that this could be easy to accomplish! However, much of the time Mars retrograde manifests as anger turned inward. Mars can become the bully when retrograde, making us much harder on ourselves because it’s difficult to let off steam appropriately. Old resentments may resurface, making this an ideal time to develop new strategies and approaches for dealing with issues. Adjustments and changes become required learning now, so that at Mars’ direct motion we may emerge with more mature ways to handle and implement our martial energies.
Misdirected and misguided anger has an odd way of manifesting physically because we can push too hard and cause inflammation of unhealthy patterns that result in flare ups of old health issues. These may appear on the surface as boils, welts, sores, fevers, headaches, accidents, and a myriad number of other problems. Our level of individual consciousness and awareness dictates how well we incorporate this energy, making this Mars retrograde period an especially good time to take care not to impulsively expose ourselves to Covid-19. Rash decisions can have long-term implications and being mindful now by finding other, safer, ways to blow off steam can alleviate the pressure and still safeguard us physically.
Mars retrograde contains three distinct parts:
His first “shadow period”: This begins when Mars hits 15-degrees Aries on July 25–the degree to which he will return at his station direct on November 14. This shadow period lasts until Mars’ September 9 station retrograde and comprises the beginning of our awareness of problematic issues and circumstances.
The retrograde proper: From September 9 through November 14 we’re asked to confront these issues on a deeper level and to find satisfying solutions. Our knowledge about what’s been brought to light during the first shadow period will deepen, and it’s now we’ll fight and take action to accomplish actual internal change.
Mar’s station direct/second “shadow period”: November 14 until January 2, 2021 represents Mars’ second “shadow period” because it’s then he once again reaches the 28-degree Aries mark at which his retrograde period began. This comprises a time to see if the action undertaken has worked or made a noticeable difference, and if not what further action needs to be taken.
In short, when retrograde, the potential for Martian themes outlined and discussed above come under scrutiny, review, and re-evaluation in order to be rebirthed and reactivated. The positive image of Mars retrograde centers on that of guardian and protector vs. warrior and aggressor. This period initiates an intense review of appropriate vs. inappropriate use of force and misuse of power. That means for us all, both individually and collectively.
This will prove a time when we see if the murderers of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor—and so many others--are brought to justice. Likewise, it will be a time when we see just how far efforts to mitigate the current pandemic work and/or how far Covid-19 will go in further ravaging our country, people, and economy. We’ll also discern if those who want to defund the police will prove successful and how far the Black Lives Matter movement can evolve. In addition, we’ll ascertain as well how any number of myriad dizzying changes since the start of 2020 may or may not progress in a positive direction, including whether a presidential election will decide if the future holds a reversal of power—or not.
We must remember, however, that there’s a revolutionary movement occurring now and that Mars stimulates the fight on both sides. Meanwhile, no one has unbridled energy and a flashing red stop sign eventually comes to everything. In war, each side believes it’s right--reflecting tremendous polarities in thinking--and everyone defines the battle on their own terms. Akin to a boxing match where each side fights back against the other, it’s the side that feels empowered to initiate new beginnings which will start making changes. Meanwhile, the side resisting change will feel a tremendous urge to defend the status quo. A retrograde makes the underdog fight back with full force. It’s like the hand that pops out of the ground at the end of the movie Carrie to indicate “I’m not going down without a fight!” and that there’s one last battle to come.
The Mars/Neptune conjunction of June 13 also plays a strong part in the 2020 story, especially since it squared Venus at her inferior conjunction in the midst of the June 5 lunar eclipse. Mars brings the flame of action to Neptune in collective-oriented Pisces, and ignites the fight for the underdog, the invisible, and disenfranchised.
This warrior battle cry from the soul of the collective unconscious encompasses the unmitigated pain and suffering of our black and brown brothers and sisters who’ve been historically and traditionally relegated to the fringes of society. This old pattern, woven into the collective psyche of this nation for eons, is playing out by rising into greater collective consciousness now.
The struggle to find common ground between the heart and the mind--inherent in the eclipse charts of June, the Mars/Neptune conjunction, and the Venus/Neptune square—has awakened a battle between beliefs, thoughts, words, and principles. Out of the struggle the voice of the invisible is finally being heard as new laws to defend and protect emerge. Peaceful protest, a definitive phrase for retrograde Venus, can accomplish this, despite some fringe element violence amidst this philosophical battle.
A fiery planet like Mars in a water sign like Pisces produces hot steam, conjuring up imagery around a pot of water boiling over. This fight has compassionate undertones to its surface anger. As Mars transits forward and backward through Aries over the next six months all this will be further examined. While there may be a reemergence of violence during Mars retrograde if peaceful tactics don’t work, remember these events are playing out against the bigger life-altering landscape of the Saturn/Pluto/Jupiter conjunction in Capricorn.
This Capricorn stellium is ultimately about tying up loose ends to the current status quo, patriarchy, and all those institutions, structures, traditions, and laws that have been corrupted and need to be purged, transformed, and rebuilt. Finally, let’s not forget that at the end of 2020 Mars hands the baton over to the Saturn/Jupiter conjunction at 0° Aquarius--always about the formation of a new economy.
This energy syncs with Pluto’s transit through Capricorn and the upcoming Pluto return in America’s chart. America’s at a crossroads as we face this pandemic and the social upheaval exposed once again through the racial inequality that’s been at the root of this country since its founding and the implantation of slavery. America’s Pluto return, which begins in early 2022 and lasts until the fall of 2023, means the next few years will be about staring the ugly part of our history squarely in the face and emotionally processing the collective mess, as it’s time for all the pestilence to be unleashed. Mars carries out the hard, dirty work that Pluto excavates and exposes, as he’s traditionally the soldier and the fighter who does Pluto’s bidding. The beginning of the Plutonian process is like an infection or abscess that has festered for a very long time, in this case for centuries, that finally intensifies and erupts in volcanic ways, and not just once but many times until a complete transformation has evolved. It spits out the putrid, rancid and rotten. Pluto is the vile, base, seedy, murderous type of behavior that gets swept under the carpet and is only dealt with in backrooms, bar rooms, dark rooms and board rooms. These are the secret nasty power dealings and negotiations that go on behind closed doors. Pluto is the mafia and all underground, covert types of behaviors. Pluto is the “original sin” if you want to put things in those terms, and America is being forced to confront that in all its ugliness. The Corona Virus Pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement is part of this. Both these monumental events are showing the gross inequality of society and the disproportionate and unequal way a valuable part of our society has been treated. Pluto is like a toilet bowl being clogged and shit just backs up and overflows. Our plumbing is the problem and we need to unclog the pipes from centuries’ old buildup of muck and mire. There are layers and layers of coagulated dirt and grime. Pluto is a watery and subterranean planet so feelings must be felt and processed. That is not an easy thing to do on a personal level so can you imagine the struggle this is on a collective one?
What about Mars’ effect on a personal level? As astrologers, we counsel our clients that relationships begun during Mars retrograde periods run into problems in the arena of sex, anger, and power struggles. Sex can prove particularly problematic because, more than likely, a hot sexual encounter or affair begun then will fizzle out when Mars stations direct. However, if the relationship does continue, it will be burdened by some kind of restriction or limitation.
You may remain friends and feel emotionally close yet physically distant. Whatever the manifestation, it won’t be an easy sexual relationship. Things usually work out better on the retrograde if someone you know re-enters your life to work out a past fight or disagreement. Just as Venus on her retrograde becomes more martial, Mars during his retrograde becomes more Venusian, and therefore may appropriate a more diplomatic approach to problem-solving. He may listen more attentively before he acts.
As mentioned, be careful about redirecting anger inward and causing health problems such as ulcers, high blood pressure or, even worse, unleashing unconscious anger that can explode in unexpected rage toward others. If we put effort into the harder work of becoming a spiritual warrior by fighting the internal battle with our own demons and purging them, rather than projecting them onto others, this will make for a much better world in the long run.
Joseph Addeo, a Level IV NCGR-PAA Certified Astrologer who serves on the Board of Directors of the New York Chapter, can be reached via his website at www.josephaddeo.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/josephaddeoastrologer.