Retrograde motion is a phenomenon that occurs due to our vantage point here on Earth when we look at the planets in our Solar system.
When astrologers use the term retrograde, they are referring to apparent retrograde motion.
Definition: To go or to seem to go backwards, to become worse or to decline.
In a chart a retrograde planet has the letters or symbol “Rx” next to their glyph and degrees.
In some charts the planet and degrees are written in red to indicate the planet is retrograde.
A planet that is retrograde is seemingly moving backwards but it is that the Earth is moving forward swifter than the planet in question.
There may be several retrograde planets in each chart or there may be no retrograde planets, it depends on the chart.
Astronomy of Retrogradation
Retrograde motion affects all the planets with the exception of the Sun and Moon.
The luminaries are always direct and never retrograde.
When a planet is retrograde it is closer to the Earth than at other times.
As an outer planet draws towards the opposition to the Sun, it becomes well placed for viewing through a telescope, as the full light of the Sun is on the planet.
Station Retrograde and Station direct
In a birth chart, the station retrograde, and station direct points are marked with an “S” symbol for stationary.
Typically, planets are considered to be stationary when they are within an orb of 0°10’ of the station.
The orb depends on the aspect set settings in your computer program.
The slower the planet, the longer it lingers in the orb of the station.
How Retrograde Periods are Shown in an Ephemeris
Retrograde Planet Expression
A retrograde planet in a natal chart is retracing its steps over the same degree and minutes of the zodiac as it passed before birth.
The planet would have crossed that spot in the zodiac previously (moving direct) and is now retrograding back over a previously passed area of the sign.
It is going back over what has gone before and symbolically this imparts a reduced energy flow to the planet.
Retrograde motion is as if you are jogging down the road quite confidently, and then you realize you dropped your keys, so you stop and walk backwards looking for them, then pick them up and then once again start to jog forwards again.
This shows that retrograde motion is much slower than direct motion.
Reduced expression of the planet
The state of being retrograde appears to change a planet from its natural urges and direction and cause it to manifest effects similar to its opposite planetary pair attributes such as; Venus and Mars (female/male), and Jupiter and Saturn (expand/contract).
The Sign of the Retrograde
The sign in which the planet retrogrades needs to be considered. A planet may sometimes retrograde over one or two signs.
A Retrograde Sign Ruler
When a retrograde planet in a birth chart rules a sign, it takes momentum from that sign and makes it harder for that planet to rule the sign in a confident way.
Any planets in a sign ruled by a retrograde planet may show their own urges more so than the sign placement may indicate.
A Retrograde House Ruler
When a retrograde planet in a birth chart rules a house, the affairs of that house may initially be thwarted and held in abeyance until later in life when the retrograde planet stations direct by progression.
Sun and Moon Retrograde
This is a joke so do not get caught.
The Sun and Moon are never retrograde! To say someone has a retrograde Sun is an old astrology joke.
Retrograde Motion Cycle
Normally a planet which is direct moves along at a regular pace. As planets approach their retrograde period their movement changes in the following way:
- The planet enters its pre-shadow period. This is at the point where it will station direct later in the retrograde cycle.
- The planet slows down.
- The planet appears to stop, and this is the station retrograde.
- The planet begins to move retrograde at a slower speed than when direct.
- After a few weeks or months, the planet slows down again.
- The planet appears to stop at the station direct.
- The planet begins to move direct again and gets back up to speed in its after-shadow period.
- The planet leaves the shadow period at the point of the original station retrograde point.
Retrograde Motion Sequence
- Direct motion (D)
- Stations retrograde (SRx or S)
- Retrograde motion (Rx)
- Stations direct (SD or S)
- Direct motion (D)
In each retrograde period a planet will make its two stations at particular degrees and minutes of the zodiac.
Each retrograde period will cover a different part of the zodiac and will last for a varying amount of time.
The section of the zodiac where the planet will retrograde is known as the shadow period.
The planet enters the pre-shadow or shadow, moving direct, before the actual retrograde period starts.
After the retrograde period at the point when the planet stations direct, the planet remains in the after-shadow or shadow, moving direct, until the planet passes the original station retrograde point again.
The Inferior Planets Retrograde
The pattern for the inferior planets when retrograde is specific. In the diagram the Sun is in the center. The orbit of either Mercury or Venus is shown in the next circle out. The Earth’s orbit is shown by the outer circle.
It is only as the inferior planets move into the most westerly and most easterly position that the retrograde cycle starts. Positions 1 and 3 show the station retrograde and the station direct respectively.
During a retrograde cycle there are three conjunctions to the Sun. The first direct pass, the retrograde conjunction, and the final direct conjunction with the Sun.
Retrograde Time Period
The time in days for the retrograde period depends on the positions of the inferior planets and the earth and how far each body is from the Sun. This is why each retrograde period may be slightly longer or shorter than the previous one.
Mercury is probably the most well-known retrograde planet where it is even common knowledge outside astrological circles. Mercury is usually retrograde for three weeks and about three times a year or every four months. In any one year Mercury will typically retrograde in the same elementthen the retrograde period shifts into another element.
Mercury Retrograde Keywords
- Suggests a hesitation in learning and school life
- Indicates that learning to read and write may be slower
- Considers thoroughly before contracting or speaking
- Rehearses to eliminate imperfect speech
Mercury rules the nervous system delivering messages to and from the brain.
Mercury retrograde oriental
- Quiet and retiring.
- Reviews and weighs all angles before speaking.
- Deep thinker and someone who contemplates.
- Reviews information and files for the future.
Mercury retrograde occident
- Halting speech and may lisp or stutter
- Ultimately accomplished in education.
Venus is retrograde about every eighteen months for about forty days (six weeks). Venus’s retrograde motion begins when she is one sign ahead of the Sun, and direct motion resumes when she is one sign behind the Sun. Venus rules the feminine principle and is a receiver of both material goods and love.
- Suggests a hesitancy in giving and receiving love
- Indicates time is needed to appreciate money
- Seems like another Mars
- Ability to acquire material possessions
- Early in life financial reversals, then acquires financial savvy
- May be tactless and rude, learns social skills the hard way
Venus retrograde oriental
- The urge to connect
- Sensitive and easily hurt
- Financially careful
Venus retrograde occidental
- Beauty is appreciated later
- Wealth growth later in life
The Superior Planets Retrograde
The superior planets have their obits outside that of the Earth’s.
They are the planets from Mars to Pluto.
The superior planets are retrograde every year except Mars, which is on an almost two year retrograde cycle.
The superior planets begin their retrograde periods when they are near the trine to the Sun.
Whilst the Sun travels the four months (i.e. one third of the chart) towards the next trine, the superior planets are retrograde.
Around the point when the Sun passes the perfect to the trine to a superior planet, the superior planet again begins direct motion.
When a superior planet is in opposition to the Sun it is always retrograde.
Mars is retrograde every twenty-two months for about eleven weeks.
This means it is retrograde about every second year.
Mars Retrograde Interpretation
Suggests a hesitancy in assertive matters.
The individual is likely to retain anger inside.
Jupiter is retrograde for around four months and direct for around nine months every year.
- Suggests a hesitancy in vision, expansion, and philosophy.
- The ability to build bridges is reduced.
Saturn is retrograde for about four and a half months each year.
- Suggests a hesitancy in establishing boundaries, and limitations.
- Indicates that maintaining boundaries is reduced.
Uranus is retrograde for about five months each year.
- Suggests a hesitancy in expressing uniqueness and original ideas.
- The urge to step outside the norm is reduced.
Neptune is retrograde about six months every year.
- When Neptune is retrograde it suggests a hesitancy in sleep patterns and dreams.
- The urge to be artistic is reduced.
Pluto is retrograde for about six months each year.
- Suggests a hesitancy in establishing a personal power base.
- The urge to purge the unwanted is reduced.
Aspiring Astrologer Activity: Retrogrades
In your astrology journal please do the following:
- Name two types of planetary station.
- State how a the retrograde period shown in an ephemeris.
- Note at what two points in the retrograde cycle a planet enters and leave its shadow period.
- Name any planets that are never retrograde.
- Note how often Mercury goes retrograde each year.
- Name which planet is generally retrograde every second year.
- Note which planet has the shortest retrograde periods.
- Name the typical aspect at which the superior planets go retrograde.
Referring to your chart, please do the following:
- Note which planets are retrograde.
- Note if any planets are stationary.
- Decide if you have a retrograde chart ruler.
- Write out all your retrograde planet complex’s using astrological short form code.
- Choose one planet that is retrograde and suggest how it may have manifested in your life (100 words).
Extend Yourself Further
- Choose one retrograde planet and interpret it fully (500 words).
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