What's up with Retrogrades?
We’ve mentioned in this June’s horoscopes that, by the end of the month, half of the planets in the sky will be retrograde. Going beyond popular knowledge on the ominous Mercury retro, do you know what a retrograde planet means and how it affects you? Read below for more info!
The Universe is orderly enough that planets have their own fixed choreography through the sky: their orbits. That’s why a planet can’t move backward, but it can certainly seem to! Astrology has a geocentric approach that emphasizes not the objective reality of the skies, as astronomy does, but the way that we subjectively perceive it from here on Earth. When we say that Mercury goes retrograde, what we actually mean is “If we look at it from the Earth, Mercury appears to be moving backward across the sky”.
Why does this illusion appear? Think of two trains, one of which is moving faster. If you’re on the fast train, the slower train appears to be moving backward, even though it is, in fact, advancing as well. We can look at retrogradation as being a movement- and an energy- trick where, for a certain period of time, the Earth is a fast train outpacing a slower one. Since the Sun and the Moon are intertwined in movement with our home planet, they can never be retrograde. A train that’s connected to the one we’re in could never appear to move away from us! When it comes to the other eight celestial bodies in our solar system, though, the story is different…
The planets have different retrogradation periods, from 3 weeks 3 times per year for Mercury to about 5 months every year (!) for Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. However, due to what we call the “shadow period”, you might feel their influence earlier on and sense their lingering effects even after the retrogradation has ended. So…what are these effects?
Since Mercury and Venus are between the Sun and the Earth, they will appear retrograde closer to their conjunction to the Sun. Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the transpersonal planets are outside Earth’s orbit, so their retrogradation will happen closer to their opposition to the Sun.
Notice how it’s all linked to the God of Light. When a planet is retrograde, its energy can be opposite to what we consciously want (the Sun), pulling us backward or revealing hidden patterns. In the case of a conjunction, the retrograde planet can be “burned” by the Sun, having difficulty in expressing its traits in a healthy, assertive manner. It can seem that the only clear thing during a retrograde season is that not much is clear at all.
Pressing the “pause” button
We can understand retrogrades easier if we think of a few keywords and make free associations. What does “backward movement,” say to you? Maybe you’re thinking of the past, of recurring themes and events, or lack of progress, of frustration, delays, and lack of patience. But remember that the planets aren’t actually moving backward- it’s an illusion of subjectivity!
When we realize this, we can access the gifts that the retrogrades bring us: taking a step back to evaluate a situation and analyze our past patterns, slowing down and replacing our rush through life with patient, profound awareness, turning an eye away from the world and into our inner world. It can be difficult for those of us who thrive on efficiency and on an “I want it now” philosophy, but that’s exactly one of the retrograde lessons: to accept uncertainty and see that no matter how hard we try to push forward, sometimes we just have to lay it low.
Process and revise
This leads us to another key word: “revision”. Retrogrades have different phases. The planet’s first act is to move forward and reach a certain point of the zodiac, followed by the stationary phase when it stops for a while, lingering on that point. The retrograde period follows and the planet moves backward, after which it stations again at its maximum retrograde point. Next, it lets loose and starts advancing. It reaches its starting point for the second time and this time it surpasses it for good while continuing its smooth movement forward.
It’s obvious here how things come to a momentary halt: the planet reaches a point where it’s denied further passing. A career, personal or relationship context might feel like it’s stagnating and no solution can be reached at this moment. A revision of the past is necessary before being able to advance. This might happen in your inner world or as a reiteration of past events in your life. What has come to pass? What was your role in it? When the planet revisits its initial “Do not pass” sign, it finds it dissolved. The path is clear. It was necessary to turn your eyes from your goal back to your soul, your motivation and your past before passing was granted to you.
Going back to free associations, we might link “revision” with verifying older projects, correcting mistakes, picking up a hobby we’ve abandoned, calling an old friend, meeting an ex or someone else from our history- all of these being chances to re-live the past, hopefully at a higher level of consciousness this time.
If we could compare a planet’s cycle with a breathing cycle, the direct motion would be the inhale and the retrograde period would be the exhale. It’s a time when things depend less on your conscious will or on your power of manifestation and more on your ability to remember and to reflect with patience and with attention to your inner world. Even though it might feel slow and frustrating, we need these fragments of the planetary cycle as much as inhaling needs exhale, activity needs reflection and the future needs the past. So don’t despair- this retrograde season has you.