Sometimes in life, in order to move one giant leap forward we're forced to take two baby steps back first. It can be frustrating but when we go with the flow and allow ourselves to appreciate why we are asked to retrace our steps in the first place, we often find nuggets of gold in the repetition. We see exactly where we were going wrong and have an opportunity to self-correct. But if you're not patient enough to learn from a retrograde cycle, try looking at the future lessons you'll be learning with a Timeline Tarot reading. Anyway, retrograde periods are meant to help us reconsider a plan, a decision or an action we took and see that there might be a better way.
Essentially, this is the point of any retrograde phase. All planets in the sky traverse in a delicately balanced cycle that includes times of apparent backward motion from our perspective here on Earth. That is the definition of a retrograde planet -- when we perceive it as moving backwards.
There's more to the story...
While retrograde planets -- and their potential effect on us here -- are extensively discussed by astrologers, this phenomenon of the planet actually appearing to backtrack is not the whole story. Retrograde cycles also have two other vital components that are valuable to learn about and understand. These are called "shadow phases" and "stations."
Believe it or not, a retrograde phase is technically much longer than what you typically think. We've all heard that a planet will turn retrograde on a certain day and then will turn direct on another day and we think "OK, got those dates marked down. I'm covered." Not exactly ... there's a bit more to the story.
The pre-retrograde shadow period occurs before the planet turns retrograde. Depending on which planet, it can be several weeks in advance (slower moving planets have a longer shadow phase). The pre-retrograde shadow period will begin when the planet reaches the exact sign and degree at which it will later (after it has actually gone retrograde) turn direct. During this phase you'll get a glimpse into what exactly it is you'll backtrack on during the actual retrograde. Pay close attention to the events and situations that arise during this time period. This shadow lasts until the retrograde station.
Report to your stations
What is the retrograde station? During a station, a planet is motionless ... it's at station. Neither turning forward nor backward it appears to be still in space. During the retrograde station, a planet will take a few days to be still and prepare itself for the giant trek backwards. These are the days when we might feel a certain amount of chaos. We humans on Earth become more than a little bit frustrated at the sudden lack of movement related to the planet’s energy. Sometimes however, a retrograde station can feel like a major sigh of relief. We know we've got nothing but time on our hands now to "figure it out."
After the retrograde station, the planet will actually begin its retrograde movement and back-pedal a certain amount of degrees. This is the part you might be most familiar with. If it's Mercury, the retrograde movement lasts about three weeks. If it's a slower moving planet like Uranus, it can be months.
Eventually however, there will be another pause ... a second station. This one however, is different. Yes, the planet suddenly becomes motionless once again. But now, it's preparing to move forward rather than backward. This is called the direct station and it can be an incredibly potent time. You might now achieve astounding clarity about whatever issue you've been struggling with during the planet's retrograde. It can be empowering, but again, with so much energy about to be unleashed, a bit unsettling.
Practice what you preach
Last, but not least, we arrive at the post-retrograde shadow. The planet is now moving forward once more but it still needs time to reach and then pass the degree it originally turned retrograde at. Now is the time you get to apply what you've learned during the retrograde period into your life.
As you can see, a retrograde phase is so much more than the actual retrograde!
Now that you're armed with more information about shadows and stations, you can begin to use them to your benefit. Take full advantage of each planet’s retrograde cycle and ultimately, you'll maximize your soul's evolution.