A retrograde reframe
Of all the topics in astrology to go viral, retrogrades inspire the most discussion, memes, and misconceptions. In the era of clickbait, it’s not surprising that these periods are often portrayed in a negative light and can even become causes for panic. While it’s wise to enter any retrograde period forewarned and with plenty of contingency plans, we at CHANI tend to take a more balanced perspective. Retrogrades also offer their own gifts, such as opportunities to refine, revise, and scrutinize the finer details. They can also provide chances for us to review our ideas and completely change our minds.
Do planets really move backward?
When a planet is retrograde, it appears to move backward in the sky from our vantage point on Earth. Appears is the operative word here. In reality, this is a visual effect caused by a difference in planetary speeds — just as a car in the lane beside you will appear to be reversing as you pass it. Visual trick or not, the illusion of backward motion tends to mirror our experiences during these times. Symbolically, retrogrades manifest in our lives as reflection, introspection, and memories returning — as well as pesky delays or setbacks.
How each planetary retrograde is different
The planets farthest from the Sun, like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, are retrograde for approximately half the year. For that reason, retrogrades don’t have as much impact on our individual lives — unless the planet is stationing retrograde or direct on a degree where you have a significant natal planet or point. Though planets appear to be extra charged around the days that they station, the ones named above will manifest their themes more clearly on a collective or global level.
The planets nearest to our central star — Mercury, Venus, and Mars — have distinctive retrograde cycles and tend to affect us more personally. Whether in our everyday exchanges, relationships, or energy stores, these retrogrades bring shake-ups — from delayed flights (thanks Mercury) to a return of the exes (hey Venus).
Here’s a breakdown of how all the different planetary retrogrades impact our lives.
- Mercury retrograde: During a Mercury retrograde, communications, travel, and everyday tasks get disoriented and stalled. Misunderstandings are common, and technology tends to go haywire. However, Mercury retrogrades also provide excellent times for revision, editing, and careful planning. Spending time at the drawing board during a Mercury retrograde can be quite productive — especially when the messenger planet conjoins the Sun in a cazimi, which occurs halfway through each retrograde period. As the fastest-moving planet, Mercury stations retrograde three to four times a year.
- Venus retrograde: During a Venus retrograde, our relationships with people, beauty, and pleasure come under review. These periods are prime opportunities to go within for love and reaffirm our essential needs in partnership and intimacy. Venus retrogrades occur every 18 months, repeating in the same sign every eight years. Over time, Venus’ cycle traces a five-pointed star (or five-petaled rose) in the sky, suiting a planet so concerned with harmony and aesthetics. Like Mercury, Venus forms a cazimi (that auspicious conjunction with the Sun) halfway through its retrograde period. This day tends to be a stellar one for rediscovering your connection to love, creativity, and your unique beauty.
- Mars retrograde: During a Mars retrograde, which occurs every two years, our will, drive, and desires can feel thwarted or obstructed. Mars retrogrades can be frustrating, aggravating times. Plus, we’re more likely to come up against exhaustion and burnout. But it also support us in exploring our relationship to anger, passion, and motivation, teaching us that rage doesn’t have to be harmful or corrosive. When channeled constructively, it can be a galvanizing force for good. Even as our vital energies dip, Mars retrogrades offer crash courses in boundary setting, conflict resolution, repair, justice, and self-advocacy.
- Jupiter retrograde: During a Jupiter retrograde, our dreams, growth opportunities, and wisdom pursuits require recalibration. These can be times of spiritual doubt and realignment, when we’re asked to consider life’s deeper questions. As one of the farther planets from the Sun, Jupiter spends half of every year retrograde.
- Saturn retrograde: During a Saturn retrograde, we dig into issues around authority, discipline, parental archetypes, and boundaries. Our long-term plans may go under review, as well as our responsibilities and commitments. Like Jupiter, Saturn spends half of every year retrograde.
- Uranus retrograde: During a Uranus retrograde, our rebellious urges, innovations, and relationship to change get reexamined. This is a moment to balance innovation with time-honored paths. Like Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus spends half of every year retrograde.
- Neptune retrograde: During a Neptune retrograde, we often wrestle with deep spiritual questions or swells of disillusionment. If you’ve noticed that you’ve felt disenchanted, this period of time could help you replenish your capacity to dream and trust in a higher power. Like Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus, Neptune spends half of every year retrograde.
- Pluto retrograde: During a Pluto retrograde, a process of transformation or evolution may require reflection. This could prompt your relationship with your inner power to shift for the better. Like the other outer planets, Pluto spends half of every year retrograde.
Tips and tricks for every retrograde
- Turn your focus inward. While external opinions will be more distracting during these periods, we also gain deeper access to our inner wisdom — if we’re listening.
- Get comfortable with not having all the answers yet. By loosening your grasp on timelines, the information you seek will emerge exactly when you need it. And you may resolve a question or two that you didn’t even think to ask.
- Learn to love the process, with all its loose ends, instead of fixating on outcomes. There’s nothing like a retrograde to reveal what systems need reinforcing. Better late than never, right?
- Back up your devices and proofread all your texts and emails. Glitches tend to ramp up during retrograde periods. It pays to be prepared.
- Get your introspection on. Reflection will lead to fruitful course corrections and a deeper understanding of the patterns that repeat in our lives — as well as how to reverse them if adjustments are called for.
- Laughter is medicine. By reframing the inevitable snafus and setbacks of retrograde periods as a comedy of errors, you might even have some fun.
In a society obsessed with machine-like productivity, retrogrades remind us that introspection and rest are crucial parts of any growth cycle. Yes, retrogrades can sow confusion, delays, and slowdowns regarding the mission of the planet involved. But these jangles in the narrative also give us time to pause and integrate that planet’s lessons.
It’s when we relinquish control over the process that our creative and intuitive faculties go back online. Meaning becomes more associative, and we learn to search within for wisdom. We have the freedom to collage and remix something inspired by the pieces of whatever has come undone.