Planetary retrogrades

By Hayley White

Reading time: 11 minutes

As someone who believes in astrology, one of the worst things I could possibly hear is: “Mercury is in retrograde”. There is nothing that makes my blood freeze, and my eyes roll quite like finding out Mercury, or any planet, is about to screw up my entire life. Okay, maybe not my entire life, but still, retrogrades sometimes cause a lot of disruption.

In A.D. 150, ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy thought the world was the centre of the Solar System. Because of this, he assumed that the planets and stars moved around us. He managed to figure out that some planets seem to be moving counterclockwise when they pass Earth. This is the same way the sun spins, so most of the planets also follow that same direction.

Ptolemy then stated that when the planets are moving counterclockwise, from east to west, they are moving in prograde. In astrology, a planet moving in prograde is called

By Hayley White

Reading time: 11 minutes

As someone who believes in astrology, one of the worst things I could possibly hear is: “Mercury is in retrograde”. There is nothing that makes my blood freeze, and my eyes roll quite like finding out Mercury, or any planet, is about to screw up my entire life. Okay, maybe not my entire life, but still, retrogrades sometimes cause a lot of disruption.

In A.D. 150, ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy thought the world was the centre of the Solar System. Because of this, he assumed that the planets and stars moved around us. He managed to figure out that some planets seem to be moving counterclockwise when they pass Earth. This is the same way the sun spins, so most of the planets also follow that same direction.

Ptolemy then stated that when the planets are moving counterclockwise, from east to west, they are moving in prograde. In astrology, a planet moving in prograde is called stationing direct. But every now and then, it was observed that the planets can appear to move clockwise, from west to east, depending on where they are in their orbit. This gives the illusion that they are moving backwards, so Ptolemy coined the term retrograde to describe this period.

Jillian Whyte is a certified astrologer, life coach and mastery specialist who has been perfecting her practice for over 28 years. She practises the threefold aspect of astrology: physical, spiritual, and soul. When I asked her what a retrograde was in astrology, she told me that it is the end of a loop.

“The loop is the patterning that the planet has to complete in its particular cycle,” which, she adds: “is the secret to life.” It comes with realizing that there is a cycle we go through where things are running smoothly for us, like we are on automatic drive on a highway, and then suddenly we get a little stuck and need to move through traffic. As for how these retrogrades affect us, Jillian tells me that this depends on how the planets are positioned. The inner planets of our solar system (which are closest to the sun) like Venus, Mars, and Mercury, have the greatest impact.

“They’re closer to us in the cosmos, so they affect us in a more obvious way and we’re more aware of them,” she says. The outer planets have less of an effect on us, not just because they are further away, but also because they deal with issues we do not have much control over.

“The outer planets have a bigger, more cultural influence and we’re not necessarily concerned with how our community is developing, or town, or city,” Jillian tells me. As for what each planet does during retrograde, she says we shouldn’t be worried. So much emphasis is put on how a retrograde can negatively affect people that they do not realise a retrograde can be a good thing.

Mercury retrograde

Of all the planets, Mercury moves into retrograde the most. Because of this, and because it is an inner planet, Mercury’s retrograde tends to influence us the most as well.

Every four months – roughly three or four times a year – Mercury retrogrades for 22 days. As the planetary ruler of communication, Mercury governs schooling and education, travel, messages, and forms of communication like emails, post, telephone, and writing.

During Mercury’s retrograde, this can become a little problematic. Maybe the thing you ordered online gets lost and takes longer than you expected, or maybe the travel plans you made with your friends fall apart, last minute. It is also believed that taking on a new business venture or signing any contract is not ideal. In a study by Murgea (2016) on financial volatility during Mercury’s retrograde, she hypothesized that a positive effect of knowing about the retrograde could be reduced financial volatility. Knowing that there is a chance things could go south, they may be prevented in the first place.

Despite all the negativity surrounding Mercury’s retrograde, it is, in fact, a good time for reflection and enables us to reflect on what we really want, and slow down. Sometimes, changes in plans are not always negative. You may not be able to go on that planned trip but find instead that another opportunity awaits you.

Venus retrograde

Venus retrograde is one of the rarest retrogrades of all the inner and outer planets. It takes place every 18 months and spends around 42 days in retrograde motion. Also an inner planet, Venus influences all things love, beauty, affection, and attraction. During its retrograde period, these things may seem to stagnate and it is quite common for relationships to face challenges (if not end). Venus retrograde also dissuades people to buy pretty things, start relationships or make changes to one’s appearance.

In all, it is a time to really think before jumping headfirst into big romantic or aesthetic decisions. It helps us work through any underlying issues in our relationships to makes sure we make the right choices.

Mars retrograde

The Mars retrograde period happens every 26 months and lasts two to two and a half months. Being an inner planet, its retrograde can affect us heavily. As the planet of aggression, confrontation, energy, and strength, Mars embodies our drive and ability to act, almost as if we have no desire to stand up for ourselves anymore. Its retrograde period slows everything down and forces us to essentially do nothing. Motivations drop, upending projects and plans, and repressing passions.

Mars retrogrades are a great time to really reflect on any pent-up anger and stress, resolve any deep-rooted conflicts and build up new impulses. At the end of this retrograde period, we can follow a renewed path, refreshed, and with invigorated motivation.

Mars
Image: NASA, Unsplash

Jupiter retrograde

Having a larger orbit, Jupiter retrogrades every nine months for around four months at a time. The planet Jupiter is associated with growth, healing, prosperity, good fortune, and miracles.

The Jupiter retrograde is an opportune time to look within, regain perspective and see missed blessings and fortunes. It helps us realise our gifts and sometimes takes us on a journey of psychological and spiritual growth.

During its retrograde, we peer inwards, forced to look at the bigger picture. It is a time of self-realisation and self-awareness and helps us restore our faith in ourselves and the universe.

Saturn retrograde

Saturn retrogrades once a year and typically spends about 36 percent of the year in retrograde. Known in astrology as the ‘Lord of Karma’, Saturn retrogrades bring about completion of karmic debts. Saturn is associated with discipline, authority, responsibilities, limitations, restrictions, and boundaries. It is a pretty tough planet, which kind of makes its retrogrades even harsher. Because of this, we either revisit these, or feel a slight reprieve from burdens, fears, and frustrations felt during normal Saturn transits.

Saturn’s retrograde period is a great way to review what has been learned during its transit, make improvements, and form structures. As a planet that holds sway over very intense aspects of our everyday lives, it is easy for Saturn to dominate our lives throughout its transits, which makes the retrograde a super important time of reflection.

“Like any learning, we need to kind of stop and think: ‘Oh, I wonder if my own Mercury’s retrograde isn’t such a biggie for me,’ – that might be the first step to take. And then perhaps: ‘What does Mercury actually mean anyway,’ you know?” Jillian says. “You may notice some of these things happening to you, or you may not,” she goes on, and adds that understanding how planets can affect people differently is very important. At the end of the day, it is up to you to define your relationship with the planets and realise that their influences may not always apply to you.

“Retrograde is when we’re out of norm with whatever is happening, so think: ‘How can I make a difference, how can I improve on this?’” Jillian advises. “It’s to be welcomed rather than run away from as it can give us strength rather than weakness,” she says. So next time you hear that Mercury is in retrograde, rather than seeing it as something to fear, see it as something to learn from and reflect on.

 

Sources: 1. Mercury retrograde effect in capital markets: Truth or illusion? Timisoara Journal of Economics and Business 2. Retrograde: Planets in retrograde meanings, astrology.com

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