Retrogrades: What are they really?

25 August 2022by Frederick0

Retrograde motion is an obvious change in the movement of a specific planet through the sky. It is generally assumed that the planet is moving backwards in its orbit. This is false because the earth is not the centre of the solar system and therefore the planets, in their orbits lap around the sun, may look like cars on a racetrack, each going at different speed. From our perspective on earth, this creates an optical illusion that the retrograded planet is reversing in its movement through the sky.

How a Retrograde looks like in motion
Fig 1. How a retrograde looks like in motion

Nobody knew why the retrograded motion occurs until the time of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543). In Astronomy, retrogrades come from an alignment of the Sun and Earth. In Astrology, retrogrades encourage us to reflect, redo, return, reconsider, restore, retreat, rethink, revise and repeat.


Astrology Vocabulary

Movements of the planets are described in a few ways: Direct (Prograde), Retrograde, Stationary, Stationary Retrograde, and Stationary Direct.


Normally, planets move from west to east through the stars in the night sky. This motion is referred to as Direct or Prograde motion. It is an ordinary motion of a planet moving forward in its orbit.


Planets periodically move from east to west through the stars during their retrograde and continue for a period of time before switching back to Direct motion again. This strange behaviour of the planets is understood from the context of the Sun being the center of the solar system.


Stationary refers to the point where a planet appears to stop.

Stationary Retrograde

Stationary Retrograde refer to the point where a planet has slowed and appears to stop before turning retrograde

Stationary Direct

Stationary Direct refers to the point where a retrograde planet appears to stop in its return to its direct motion

When it comes to retrogrades, its motion is different between superior and inferior planets. What are superior and inferior planets?

Superior planets are planets that extend beyond or further out into the solar system after the Earth’s orbit. Inferior planets are planets that orbits between the Sun and the Earth, including the Moon.

In astrology, the Sun and Moon are considered planets although both are luminaries.

If all planets are aligned, they will appear retrograde to each other


What Does Retrograde Mean in Astrology?

Retrograde planets are often associated with the idea of a delay. Their energy is turned inward. While earlier astrologers often regard retrograde planets as ineffective, retrograde planets generally indicate a physical weakness in the area defined by the birth chart’s house position. A transiting retrograde planet may indicate a return to a situation that was previously experienced as signified by the planet’s placement on the birth chart.

The outcome of a retrograde planet depends upon the meaning of the planet itself and its function as well as the planetary aspects (or interaction between the planets).

Mars and Saturn are malefic planets, which tend to be more problematic than the benefic planets, Venus and Jupiter. Mercury can go either way depending on which planet it interacts with (aspects) on the chart.

Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are planets so far away from Earth that their retrogrades tend to be less significant in the birth chart but in transits, they can be extremely impactful to the person or event on earth.

The Sun and Moon never retrograde.

To know more about the signification of each of the traditional planet, I have written an article and you can read more of it here. The following chart shows how the retrograde planets look like on a birth chart.

How to tell a retrograde on the birth chart
How to tell a retrograde on the birth chart


What Happens When Planets Retrograde?

Retrograde planets can produce delay or sudden outcomes. Also, they can deny an outcome by refranation, which means that an anticipated planetary outcome has failed to occur during a planet’s retrograde.

During a retrograde, it can affect the vitality of the person whose Ruler of the Ascendant is in retrograde. For example, if you are a rising Scorpio, then it will affect you significantly more than others if Mars or Pluto turns retrograde. This is because Mars rules Scorpio, which is also affiliated with Pluto in modern astrology.

The following lists some examples of what will happen when the planets turn retrograde:

Mercury Retrograde dramatically affects:

  • Communication
  • Networking
  • Connecting with people
  • Business or money transactions
  • Negotiation processes
  • Video or audio Recording

Venus Retrograde dramatically affects:

  • Harmony and union between people
  • Attraction among two people
  • Love, friendship and affection
  • Acquisition and possession of wealth
  • Arts and Entertainment
  • Reconciliation and human relations

Mars Retrograde dramatically affects:

  • Power of protection and defence
  • Distinction and discernment of priorities
  • Temperament control
  • Expression of anger, desires and sexual intent
  • Business pursuits and other ambitious projects

Jupiter Retrograde dramatically affects:

  • Personal realisation in areas of growth and blind spots
  • Exploration of truth
  • Teaching
  • Advocacy
  • Prophesying
  • Growth and abundance
  • Social Support

Saturn Retrograde dramatically affects:

  • Power of endurance
  • Commitment
  • Rejection and isolation
  • Mental wellness (especially depressing tendencies)
  • Loyalty and fidelity
  • Restrictions and limitations
  • Consistency and progress

Uranus Retrograde dramatically affects:

  • Dissociation and detachment
  • Power of liberation
  • Unorthodox concepts and reactions
  • Rebellion
  • Independent thought
  • Disruption of technology and progress
  • Status quo

Neptune Retrograde dramatically affects:

  • Self-sacrifice
  • Escapism
  • Dissolution of power
  • Idealizing
  • Empathy
  • Inspiration
  • Relinquishing and letting go

Pluto Retrograde dramatically affects:

  • Transmutation
  • Healing and rebirth
  • Forces of control
  • Domination
  • Manipulation
  • Regeneration
  • Repression

Retrogrades do not only show debilitated or negative outcomes. It depends on what is being signified. Retrograde planets can reveal positive outcomes when it signifies the return of a lost possession, homecoming, return of a missing animal or pet, return of someone who was imprisoned, return to health after illness, and then return of a betrothed.

Whatever the outcome of a retrograde may bring, there is always a solution to it. The most important thing when dealing with retrograde periods is to have a positive mindset in the midst of challenges, celebrate small victories and milestones whenever you can, and seek to understand rather than to be understood.

If you want to know why you have one or more retrograde planets in your birth chart, what does that mean, and how does that impact your life and career success, drop me an email or a WhatsApp message to book your time with me. The truth will always set your free!

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