Mars, the Warrior Planet, has been transiting through Aries since the end of June, and will be in that Sign much longer than usual – through January 2021 – due to its retrograde period from September 9 to November 13. During this time, Mars will be squaring the territory in Capricorn that is being transited by Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto, making this pattern even more complicated and intense. I will focus here on just one facet of this transit, having to do with the quality, or mode, of energy during this time.
Mars is at its most powerful in Aries, the Sign that it rules. The energy of Aries is cardinal in nature. This is the kind of energy that initiates action, the energy that leaps forward and says, “Why wait let’s go!” And Mars is the most cardinal of the planets: it represents the part of us that takes action – perhaps aggressively – to get what we need or want. With Mars in Aries, we can expect to feel the urge to act, to get started and move forward, more strongly than usual.
But it’s not so simple right now. When retrograde, Mars appears to slow down and move backward. Mars, the forge-ahead warrior, is “stuck” in Aries. What lesson might we learn from this unusual pattern?
Let’s back up. Astrology describes energy as having three qualities: cardinal, fixed, and mutable. Outside the realm of astrology, these qualities of energy are not recognized in the same systematic way.
Alex takes initiative. Alex is hasty and never stops to think. Bailey is dependable. Bailey is stubborn. Chris is easygoing and flexible. Chris keeps changing the plan. Astrology describes Alex’s energy as cardinal, Bailey’s energy as fixed, and Chris’s energy as mutable. Any given natal chart will depict a mixture of these qualities. Alex’s chart, for example, will have many planets in cardinal signs.
Astrology also teaches us that things function best when all three modes of energy are seen as valuable and allowed to manifest. Without cardinal energy, nobody would venture to try anything. Without fixed energy, the new project would not be maintained long enough to succeed. Without mutable energy, needed adjustments would not be made.
Most charts are a mixture of modes, often with one or two modes more prominent. My natal chart, for example, has mostly fixed and mutable energy; I am most comfortable when things are stable (others might say boring). My next fallback mode is to keep my options open; I feel better knowing that I can change my mind, or my plan, if necessary. With two planets in cardinal signs, I can deploy that energy if I need to, but it takes more effort – or perhaps a push from my spouse who has more cardinal energy.
It was astrology that taught me to understand myself, and others, in this way. And my own experience bears out how useful it is to become conscious of our preferred modes, more open to operating in other modes when necessary, and less inclined to negatively judge others who are more cardinal, fixed, or mutable than we are.
But is this how our modern society sees things? I propose that the answer is No: cardinal energy is praised and demanded of us, while the opposite quality – fixed energy – is disparaged and discouraged.
Let me explain further.
Cardinal energy starts things. The focus is on motion, and on new. Fixed energy, in contrast, stands still. The focus is on maintaining that which exists. The faster something moves, the more cardinal it is. As it slows down, it becomes more fixed.
With this in mind, consider the admiration heaped on entrepreneurs, that is to say, people who start things. And why do businesses compete so strenuously for the “youth market,” that is to say, money spent by people who are new and not old?
Ask yourself: which of these two words would you choose first for your resume: “proactive” or “reliable”?
Reflect on the pressure we feel to respond quickly to every work email, and the irritation we feel when someone else does not respond quickly.
Think about the ways in which society is structured to make it harder for us to sleep. To sleep is, of course, to pause and be still.
Consider the things that we are afraid to say to those who hold power over us: “I haven’t started yet.” “There will be a delay.” Compare to the things that we say to those over whom we hold power: “can you start right away? “Why is it taking so long?”
The shame and distress that seems to go with any form of slowing down or pausing reveals an unhealthy emphasis on cardinal energy at the expense of fixed energy. To someone with a lot of fixed energy, this can make for a persistent sense of vague discomfort. If you resonate to this, I am here to say, “Own your fixed energy!”
I won’t speculate here about the reasons why our society over-values cardinal energy. I will simply pose it as an interesting question, given that all three modes are equally necessary and valuable. It is the stillness of fixed energy that opens space for awareness, allowing us to discern where we need to stay the course, and where change is needed. Mutable energy relieves the tension of rigidity by making us comfortable with change, and cardinal energy propels the necessary action. In other words, “ready, aim, fire.”
The slow, backward transit of Mars through Aries will tend to frustrate the cardinal impulses so highly valued by our society. We can respond by matching the pace of the Warrior Planet, slowing down, and reflecting on how we can better balance between cardinal, fixed, and mutable energy in our lives.
very interesting post
Thank you, Keisha. We appreciate your insight.
This explanation of the modalities was so expertly balanced and holistic. Thank you for this contribution as it helps me to grow in my appreciation of others and their modes of action. Having quite a bit of mutable energy in my own chart can have me irritated at those who have more fixed energy. During this Mars retrograde, I have found even more value in the ‘fixed’ modality. Everything, even work, is done in a reflective, intentional way now.
Excellent clear and inspiring post!
Thank you for an important concept explained so simply in the context of astrology. I well remember colleagues at work, highly thought of, who rushed around clutching “important” pieces of paper but delivered nothing of worth while the slow and steady quietly kept their heads down and got the job done. We used to say “it takes all sorts to make a world”. Such homilies are long lost but so true. Not only do you explain why astrologically but the value placed on cardinal energy today does, I suspect, go a long way o explain why the world has become such an intolerant place.
The big question is, when will this period fade away?
I resonate with your essay, very much.
Natal Rising is Leo, Sun in Taurus conjunct Midheaven, Moon in Aquarius.
Although I have a stellium in the 10th House in Gemini, I most strongly relate to FIXED, as a mode.
I hear what you are expressing quite clearly. (Mars Rx in Aries has not been exactly easy to take . . .)
Thank you for your essay!
What a beautiful post to read today. So true. Thanks you, Ms. Ironwood.