Retrograde Planets 101

What does it mean when you have a retrograde planet in your chart?

planets with retrograde symbol

So, you have one or more retrograde planets in your birth chart. You know the ones I'm talking about. They have a little "Rx" attached to them in a mysterious way on your horoscope wheel -- as if they're special cosmic prescriptions for your personal growth.

Retrograde planets in a birth chart have significant meaning ... as do transiting retrograde cycles in the sky. But what, exactly, is a retrograde planet? Are all retrograde planets equal? And what do they mean for you when they're in your birth chart or in the current sky? Read on...

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Class is in session

The first vital piece of information to understand about a retrograde planet is that the word retrograde means "backward step" in Latin. Although astronomically a retrograde planet really isn't moving backward, from our perspective here on Earth an optical illusion occurs. Consequently, we perceive a retrograde planet as appearing to move backward rather than direct in the sky. This happens because of the difference in speed between various planets and Earth.

Every planet will have a retrograde cycle. However, the two luminaries -- the Sun and Moon -- will never be retrograde.

The effect of a retrograde planet is quite profound when you consider it from an astrological perspective. When a planet is retrograde it's not free to act in its usual fashion. Instead, it's much like trying to walk up the down escalator at the mall. Ever try to do this? Yeah, good luck. You get frustrated and exhausted because you're trying to move in a direction that's not meant to be. How can you be your usual charming self in the process? Same goes for a retrograde planet.

Digging for buried treasure

When a planet is retrograde, all of the qualities we normally expect from that planet are reduced in strength. They're still there but we cannot easily see them. We have to dig deeper to find them ... we have to go within and wrestle in order to pull them out. So if you're born with a retrograde planet, you may find that it's more difficult to readily access the energy that planet is associated with. You have a special cosmic prescription to spend more time learning about ways to use that planet successfully, but the good news is that you may end up being an absolute expert at that planet!

For example, if you are born with Mercury retrograde, then you might find that your mode of communication is different from others. You might need to spend extra time to become proficient in certain Mercury-ruled areas, but at the same time, the retrograde suggests that this extra effort will likely lead to you developing an especially marked proficiency. Since the planet of thinking, learning, and communicating is retrograde, there is likely to be more about these areas of life that operate underneath the surface for you. You may have to spend a great deal of time thinking about -- and noticing -- things that people with Mercury direct don't pay attention to.

Different planets, different lessons

We all get a cosmic taste of retrograde planets. In fact, at any given time it's not unusual for several transiting planets to be retrograde at once. When a transiting planet is retrograde, the best way to use that energy is to go within and retrace our steps regarding that particular planet. There may be something we've overlooked or an issue that needs to be revisited. Retrograde periods can be quite valuable because they give us an opportunity for "do overs" in every area of our life.

Mercury

Mercury is retrograde about three times a year for approximately three weeks at a time. During this time there might be communication and travel-related mishaps in your environment, but it's also a great time to retrace one's steps and keep working on a project or idea until it's polished.

Venus

Venus is retrograde for about 40 days every 18 months. This is not usually the best time to get married or do anything else "Venusian" in nature. It can be an excellent time to revisit your patterns concerning love relationships and money, though. It can also be an invaluable time to reassess any unhealthy self-worth patterns and nip them in the bud.

Mars

Mars is retrograde for about 58-81 days every two years. This is a great opportunity to restrategize your approach to self-assertion and find healthier ways to deal with angry feelings and conflict. It's also a good time to reassess your sexual needs. It's not a positive time to launch any endeavor that requires ambition, stamina or initiation.

Larger lessons

The outer planets -- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto -- are retrograde for more time each year since they move slower. In general, these planets transiting retrograde are not as significant unless that particular planet makes a tense aspect to a personal planet in your chart. In the birth chart, however, all retrograde planets have a unique significance that have to do with the planet's general meaning and function in our lives. So if you have a lot of retrograde planets in your birth chart, don't despair! You have a special cosmic prescription to achieve greatness when it comes to those particular planets. It might just take a little bit of extra work and awareness to get there!

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