WHAT IS RETROGRADE? by Stephanie Tetra Forest
The Astronomy of Retrograde
All planets move across the sky following the Sun’s path – the Sun’s path is also called the Ecliptic. When observing the planets and stars night after night sailing across the Ecliptic, one of planets might appear to slow down and move in the opposite direction it was heading in. When the planet appears to move in the opposite direction, from our perspective on Earth, this is called a retrograde planet. Eventually the retrograding planet will seem to pause, then again switch directions and ‘station direct’ back to it’s original direction, until a specific period of time goes by, and it once again goes retrograde.
Retrogrades only appear to move in an opposite direction relative to the earth’s perspective and it is very much like an optical illusion. The planets actually never switch direction. The Sun and Moon never station retrograde either.
Mercury will retrograde three to four times per year for about 3 weeks. Venus flows into retrograde every 18 months for about 6 weeks. Every two years Mars retrogrades for 2-2.5 months, Jupiter retrogrades for about 4 months a year. Saturn also retrogrades for about 4 months a year. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto all retrograde for about 5 months a year.
In the Ephemeris*, you can spot a retrograde planet because it has an R or an Rx next to it. You can follow the column down until you see a D next to the planet indicating it has stationed direct.
Another way to explain or visualize the action of retrogrades is found in the speed of a planet and where it is located in the sky relative to the earth. So for an example, you may have been on a train or in a car when another car was close by riding side by side and then the other car suddenly seems to slip backwards. Only the car is not really going backwards, it just appears that way. The same sort of optics happens from the earth’s perspective too when we are looking at other planets.
The Astrology of Retrograde
From an astrological point of view, all planetary phenomenon, even retrogrades, even an optical illusion, have their own particular set of characteristics, qualities, emanations, and manifestations for the earth and its inhabitants.
A terrific amount of outstanding work already written about retrogrades can be found on the internet and in many astrology books.
For a beginner – intermediate explanation and for those new to astrology: When interpreting a natal chart, individuals born with the personal (inner) planets in Venus, Mars or Mercury in retrograde, seem to be internally guided by a powerful direction to go within themselves and subjectively check things out from an orientation slightly askew of not being totally seduced by the mass collective trance conditioning. Theirs is an inherent disposition or a natural resistance to going along with anything status quo. A quiet rebellion forms naturally against being conformed to think or act in a particular prescribed or programmed way. The prescribed way is seen as insulting or archaic or anachronistic to the progression and basic evolution of the human being and consciousness itself. Their train of thought is based on an internal logic that comes from profound observation of their interior world in reaction to what they see all around them. Their individual thought then is not just for the purpose of rebellion in and of itself; it stems from an inner sense of truth. Eventually, a fundamental questioning occurs of the actions and thoughts of those in their immediate environment.
Obviously these are deep thinking natives with a tendency towards being independent. Their gifts are freed up once they recognize and honor their innate expressions of uniqueness. They feel more comfortable within themselves as they accept that they are here to move consciousness forward. Parents would do well to have this kind of information early on because it would make a substantial difference in raising their child’s ability to be self-accepting in a world that prefers conformity. Parents need only just listen to the ideas and perceptions of their child and show acceptance, even without understanding entirely what the child is delivering to them. When an inner planet, Mercury, Venus, or Mars is retrograde, the child may not have much confidence in themselves especially when they are younger because the world is often seemingly oppositional to their internal view of truth. These truths are derived again from observation or from an internal sensory connection to their cosmos.
Natives with personal retrograde planets in the birth chart can choose to be in long term relationship depending on other factors, and, they will still always hold an independent vision of themselves and their world and the world of the others.
When an outer planet (Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, Pluto) in real time in the solar system stations retrograde by transit and/or progressions* and when this planet closely aspects an inner planet in our natal horoscope, there is increasingly a huge shift in psychological scope. We are given to a deeper introspection surrounding life’s various issues we are struggling with. We may notice the timing is off for initiating things is or actions taken don’t seem to go as smoothly as they could. This is a time of gathering, holding back, observing. When the retrograde period is over, there is a consequent release of the energy that has accumulated.
When the planet stations direct, it may be worth waiting for, if at all possible, to put one’s plans into action. Because then we are co-operating with the solar system and things can move along easier in the direction we seek to manifest. The same is true of APDM. We can use this time period to put forth our ideas, both individually and collectively.
*An ephemeris is a table of values listing the positions of astronomical objects in the sky at a given time.
Different kinds of ephemerides are used for astronomy and astrology.
** Transits and progressions are commonly applied western astrology techniques used for the purpose of prediction.
Transits involve real time planetary positions and progressions are a mathematically derived method for interpreting various planetary combinations and potentials in a future setting.