Ever wish you could go back in time and do something differently? While, you may not be able to set the dial on the time machine for a specific day and time, retrogrades can offer us possible time warp access. While some have given retrogrades have gotten a bad rap (thanks Mercury), I tend to think of them as a great opportunity for do-overs.
Astrologically, retrogrades are a time when planets appear to move backwards in the sky. However, the planets don’t actually change direction, it is only an illusion caused by the Earth passing slower moving planets. Instead of doom and gloom or fear, I tend to l think of retrogrades as a time for noticing when a planet asks us to slow down and pay attention—similar to a transit, but that’s a post for another time. With retrogrades and transits, planets often show us its true colors and leave it up to us to decide how we will handle the themes it reveals. Every planet operates on a spectrum of expression or multi-valence. For example, the planet Saturn is currently in retrograde from now until. The themes of Saturn include everything from where we work hard and commit to our judgment and how we manage time.
With awareness of a planet’s areas of expertise, we then have a choice at any given time how we express or allow those energies to move through us, aka free will. If we tend to be non-committal, Saturn retrograde may help us understand where effort and hard work may be needed. If our modus operando is impatience or constant action, Saturn may teach us to slow down.
Keys to unlocking the lessons of a retrograde involve looking to the sign and house that planet is located in or where the retrograde is happening in relationship to your chart. The houses correspond to general areas of life, here are some keywords associated with each house. Putting your chart in relationship to the current planets (showing the retrogrades) will be particularly helpful to notice if any of the planets in retrograde are in relationship to the Ascendant, Descendant, Midheaven, or IC.
House 1 (Ascendant): Sense of self, what you show the world, demeanor House 2: Money, worth, value House 3: Communication, travel, education House 4 (IC): Home, emotions, body House 5: Romance, creativity, children House 6: Everyday life, work, health House 7 (Descendant): One-on-one relationships, love, partnerships House 8: Sexuality, death, shadow House 9: Spirituality, philosophy, ideals House 10 (Midheaven): Reputation, professional destiny House 11: Friends, community, projects House 12: Sensitivity, psychic ability, collective unconscious
In the words of C.G. Jung, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Retrogrades are calls for us to bring awareness and consciousness to areas of our lives via the planets and also the houses. They ask us to pay attention to something we may have missed in the past.
Planets retrograde more or less frequently depending on their relationship to Earth. Mercury retrogrades four times a year for around three weeks, while Saturn retrogrades roughly every 12 months for around 4.5 months. Currently, Jupiter and Saturn are in retrograde and Mars and Pluto will join on April 17 and 18 (respectively). Look out for themes of Mars in retrograde asks us to look at issues of anger, ambition, and moving too fast. Pluto in retrograde offers a time of transformation, purging, or soul cleansing.
Retrogrades (Rx) have several major phases with energetic subtitles to each: 1) Pre-Retrograde Shadow: around this early time before the planet moves backwards, clues may pop up about the themes this retrograde has to show you. Example with Mars Retrograde: At work you notice an agitation with one of your co-workers. 2) Retrograde Station: when the planet appears to start moving backwards through the degrees, and the real juiciness often occurs. Situations that were slightly agitated before may come full force during this phase. This is also when it is more likely the “negative” expressions of a planet may show up. Example with Mars Retrograde: The disagreement with your co-worker has become intolerable and there is a clear tension. You find yourself making comments under your breath or arguing just to argue with him/her. 3) Direct Station: The planet resumes forward motion and may also bring sudden clarity that wasn’t possible during the retrograde. The energy shift can create a sense of relief, moving out of this phase may also offer a glimpse at the more positively associated expressions of a planet. Example: You realize the fight with your co-worker was actually about your discomfort with anger and how much you people please. 4) Post-Retrograde Shadow: This final phase is about lessons learned and evaluation. It’s a great time for reflection about some of the challenges that came up around the retrograde phase. Example: You feel clear about why you were anger to begin with and start a dialogue about your needs at work.
Retrogrades, just like transits, don’t have to be destabilizing or earth-shattering, with attention and care they can be times of deep transformation, growth, and healing. Getting a second chance can be healing or painful, it’s up to you, though who knows, a retrograde might just allow you to change the future if you let it!