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In newspapers around the world this spring, horoscope columnists will mention how Venus and Mars are "about to change directions" or are "moving backward in the sky," which will undoubtedly be linked to predictions about sex and relationships for the coming months.

During the coming season, we are likely to hear from lovers from the past and long-lost friends, and our personal journey of seeking love is likely to be turned toward inner realities and reflecting on what has happened in the past. This is the story of the Venus and Mars retrogrades of 2001. There's a lot to this tale, and on some level we're all going to feel it. Let's take a closer look.

Meet Venus and Mars

Venus and Mars are the planets that shine most brightly over experiences of love and passion. These are our closest planetary neighbors, and astrologically are two of the easiest energies to relate to personally. Venus represents an aspect of the feminine and Mars represents an aspect of the masculine, which explains why you frequently find their symbols on the doors of men's and women’s washrooms.

Often, we think of Venus as the planet of love (after the goddess by the same name) and Mars as the planet of war (after his namesake), but actually it's not so simple. Both planets represent personal qualities and inner realities that all of us possess. In our somewhat confused culture and limited thinking, we tend to associate feelings of assertiveness with war and violence, and those of beauty with sex and love.

It would be much more accurate to say that Venus is the attractive or receptive aspect of who a person is—the part of us that draws other people to us with our love, beauty, sensitivity, art or good cooking. Mars is the assertive or aggressive aspect of who a person is—the quality of a person that expresses desire, need and passion in an outgoing way.

Although everyone has Venus and Mars in their horoscopes, many people don’t feel attractive, or feel strong or clear enough to strive for what they want out of life. And often, one energy or the other dominates the personality. Attractive people often feel like they don't have to express desire because things just come to them, and aggressive people don't realize they can ease back and draw what they want in their direction rather than conquering it. The gift of astrology is that we contain both inner male and female qualities if we choose to seek within and find them.

Venus and Mars in the Fire Signs

The sign that a planet is in colors or modifies its energy. Both Venus and Mars are now in hot, outgoing fire signs. Venus is in Aries, and Mars is in Sagittarius.

Aries is the first sign, the sign of beginnings, the spring time. It makes bold statements about who we are. Its motto is "I Am!" Venus is about our values. So Venus in Aries is a clear statement: "I value who I am!" This is a learning process, however, and it is more about feeling beautiful on the inside and less about fixing one's makeup or wearing nice clothing. It is about learning to love and appreciate who we are and, because Venus likes to share, extending that sense of value to others.

Mars in Sagittarius is associated with strong ideologies, deeply-held beliefs and the motivation to do something about them. Mars is like the arrow of energy, intention and aggression being shot from the Sagittarian centaur's bow. Sagittarius is free and Mars is desire; the effect is a tendency to liberate our passions. Desire is recognized as natural.

Looking Back, Looking Within

But what's different about this spring and summer is that both Venus and Mars will be retrograde. Between March 9 and April 20, Venus will be retrograde; between May 11 and July 19, Mars will be retrograde. Venus and Mars are retrograde the least frequently of all the planets. Because these are personal planets, we will feel the retrogrades distinctly; as distinctly, for example, as when Mercury is retrograde, only the effects will involve emotional energy rather than the mental energy of Mercury.

Retrograde motion, or the appearance of a planet moving backward in the zodiac from the viewpoint of the Earth, occurs when the Earth and the retrograde planet align on the same side of the Sun. The effect is just like when one train is passing another, and the slower train appears, very convincingly, to be going slowly backward.

The unusual emotional energy of these retrogrades will be worked out in our relationships with others, and within ourselves. Retrograde planets entice us to be introspective and reflective. We will have a wider opportunity to contemplate the past history of our partnerships and to explore inner reality. As an example, we might come into closer contact with both the inner male represented by Mars and the inner female represented by Venus.

Partnerships are likely to be presented with opportunities (in the form of challenges) to take their relationships to another level. The working out process will require patience, however. One partner in a couple may go through a series of changes, and then find his or her way; next, the other partner may go through a series of changes before coming to a place of stability. If relationships seem difficult or hopeless, it may be worth sticking with the process until a few weeks after both retrogrades are over and see where both of you end up.

We live in a world that is obsessed with externals, particularly where love and relationships are concerned. There are few influences that teach us to investigate our inner world, to ask ourselves questions about our values or even to question what our true needs in relationship are. Yet as Venus and Mars, certainly among the most tangible planets, make their retrogrades together, it's clear that now is the time to slow down, pay attention and ask ourselves real questions. Who knows: we just might get some real answers.



Eric Francis, the Seattle-based astrologer and essayist, writes Planet Waves. His twice-weekly horoscope and news service covers astrology, personal growth, environmental issues and political affairs. Eric blends astrology with investigative journalism and personal narrative to create a humorous, alive, and even responsible news source unique in the world.

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Other StarIQ articles by Eric Francis:

  • Beyond Death and Dowry: A New Sexuality   8/11/2012
  • Holistic Astrology: An Introduction to Chiron   3/17/2012
  • Beyond Death and Dowry: A New Sexuality   9/3/2004
  • When Lovers Become Parents and What to do About It   2/12/2001
  • Imbolc: In the Belly of the Stars   2/1/2001
  • Unbroken Chain: Samhain, Halloween and Scorpio   10/31/2000
  • The Kursk: Things Fall Apart   9/20/2000
  • Getting It Right: What to Do When Astrology Goes Wrong   7/30/2000
  • Go Figure! Newspaper Astrologers: How Do They Do It?   7/12/2000
  • Spicing Up Mercury Retrograde   7/6/2000
  • The Nuclear Axis   6/30/2000

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