Posted by: Donna Cunningham | December 11, 2009

Mars Retrograde 101—Answering your Questions

Mars glyph Donna Cunningham Skywriter©12-11-09 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

 Skywriter is presenting a series of articles about Mars’ current retrograde through the sign Leo.  We’re looking at ways to channel that potent but admittedly unsettling burst of energy so you can improve your life.

Its effects will be felt in one or two of the houses of your horoscope and therefore in many of the areas of life those particular houses represent. The goal of the Mars Mission series is to help you to identify which areas will be affected and then to develop tools for making that part of your life better.   

Advanced astrology students already know what house of their charts that would be and therefore have some ideas of their own about what specific chart features are being triggered. For beginning students, today’s post is an orientation to retrogrades in general and to this Mars retrograde period in particular. The general reader who has happened on this site, alas, may still not know what all the astrologese is about, so you’d have to consult an astrologer or your auntie/college roommate/coworker who’s into this stuff. 

1) What’s a retrograde?

Mars retrograde, Donna Cunningham, SkywriterAh, you’re one of those general readers, are you?  The symbol for retrograde is shown at the side.  Rather than go into a detailed description here, let me just say that those are periods of several weeks to several months when one of the planets in the  planets in the solar system appears to be moving backwards through the zodiac from the point of view of the earth. If you really NEED to know why, read an explanation here:

 Basic facts: Mars is usually in a sign no more than 2 months, but during its retrograde periods once every 2 years, it stays much longer. This time, it entered Leo on October 16, 2009 and won’t leave until June 8, 2010, nearly 6 months.

2) How long does this retrograde period last?Mars articles Donna Cunningham Skywriter

Astrologers say that the effects are felt during the entire period a planet is in the retrograde path—a phase called “in the shadow of the retrograde.”

In this case, the retrograde path is from 0-19°Leo, and Mars is in that range from October 16, 2009 until May 18, 2010.

3) What does Mars stationary mean and why is it important?

The stationary period in any planet’s orbit is a particularly potent one, because it stays in the same place for a period of two weeks to a month, prolonging its effects on that particular degree, wherever it appears in a chart.  A stationary period for Mars is the most likely time that conflicts might come up, bringing your attention to neglected areas of your life that now will call for much-needed action. 

Stations occur in two phases of the retrograde cycle—when it is about to turn retrograde and when it is about to turn direct. Mars turns retrograde on December 20, 2009, but is stationary at 19° Leo all of December through January 9, 2010. It goes direct on March 10, 2010, but is stationary at 0° Leo from March 1-21.

4) This is TMI! All I really want to know is, will it affect me?

Ah, get to the point is what you’re saying.  Okay.  If you have any planets between 0-19° of Leo, you’ll be directly  affected at least 3 times while Mars is in the retrograde path:

  • once when it crosses that planet’s degree before going retrograde
  • once during the retrograde itself
  • and once when it goes forward again over the same spot.

In addition, if you have planets between 28° Cancer to 3° Leo, or else between 17-21° of Leo, the stationary period will affect you strongly.  Stations are felt anywhere from 2° before to 2° after the exact degree of the planet. That’s called a conjunction and is powerfully energizing in any and all meanings of the planet Mars.

Likewise, if you have planets in the range of 0-19° of the other fixed signs (Taurus, Scorpio, or Aquarius), you will be affected at least 3 times while Mars is in the retrograde path: once when it crosses it before going retrograde, once during the retrograde itself, and once when it goes forward again over the same spot.  Taurus and Scorpio form squares to Leo, and Aquarius is opposite, two more difficult aspects. Again, any planets within about a 2° range of the stationary points (0° and 19°) will be particularly impacted.

Finally, people with planets within 0-19° Leo’s fellow fire signs—Aries and Sagittarius—will feel the effects of a supportive aspect called a trine. In this case, the effects would be more energizing and less likely to run you into headlong battles with others.

5) What houses of my chart will this transit affect?

There may well be more than one house involved in this transit–possibly two that are next door to one another.  By looking at the signs and degrees on the house cusps, locate the house that contains 0° of Leo and then determine which house contains 29° Leo.   The areas of life most influenced by this transit will pertain to the one or two houses Leo occupies.

At the side you’ll see a section of a sample chart to practice on.  0° Leo is located in the 12th house; the Ascendant–that is, the 1st house cusp–is at 5° Leo, and the remainder of Leo is contained in the 1st house.  Thus the retrograde begins in the 1st, moves backward into the 12th, and then when Mars goes forward once more, it crosses the Ascendant, and completes its tour of Leo. It will remain in the 1st until it reaches 10° of Virgo. 

 Here’s a downloadable chart blank, complete with house meanings, that you can use to plot your own Mars retrograde postion as well as other astrological cycles:  Blank chart with house meanings.

To learn more about the 12 houses, including details about the houses of your own chart, download this free chapter from my ebook, An Astrological Guide to Self-Awareness: AGSA ch13-houses.) 

6) And, finally, HOW will it affect me?

Answers to that question are the point of the Mars Mission series. The short version is HOWEVER YOU LET IT. 

A bit longer answer, as noted at the beginning of this article is this: this series will be looking at ways to channel that potent but admittedly unsettling burst of energy to improve your life. Its effects will be felt in one or two of the houses of your horoscope and therefore in many of the areas of life those particular houses represent. What I’m aiming for in the series is to help you make healthier choices about this transit.

 There’ll be more to follow, but here are links to the first posts in the series and to other articles about Mars:Donna Cunningham Skywriter Mars

If this posfree astrology booklet by Donna Cunninghamt was helpful, DON’T MISS THE NEXT INSTALLMENT IN THIS SERIES.  Sign up for a subscription, and get a FREE EBOOKLET for Skywriter Subscribers Only: Mothers, Daughters, and the Moon, a 50-page excerpt from The Moon in your Life. Read more about it here: NEW: FREE BOOKLET FOR SKYWRITER SUBSCRIBERS! 

 If you’re already a subscriber and want a copy, forward the most recent email post to me at To sign up for a subscription, go to the top right hand corner of the blog and click on “Subscribe.”  Then send me an email with your subscription confirmation or an email post with a request for the booklet in the subject line.


  1. Thank you Donna for your articles, posts, blank charts, and all your explanations!! Merry Christmas! Leslie

    • Merry Chistmas to you, too, Leslie. I’m just celebrating one year of active blogging–my best present this year! Donna

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