Retrogrades: A Matter of Perspective
Updated: May 12
Oh retrogrades…this is one of those Astrological words that generally evokes a feeling of “oh no” inside us. Oh no, Mercury retrograde? Does that mean Mercury is like…broken?
As someone who was born with Mercury in retrograde, I can tell you I had a bit of this feeling inside me when I first realized this about my chart.
I’m forever doomed to have miscommunications and feel misunderstood…
This 👆 by the way, is never how Astrology should feel. Astrology is meant to take you out of the box, not make you feel imprisoned in one.
Only upon further reflection (courtesy of my natal Mercury in retrograde), however, I realized there’s a lot more to this cosmic occurrence than the superficial fear-mongering message of, “Oh no, Mercury is going retrograde. Wear a helmet."
Retrogrades, both in natal charts & as transits, are filled with purpose and opportunity far beyond what their reputation has earned. Or they wouldn't be there to begin with. Let’s start with the basics, shall we?
What Does Retrograde Mean 🔄
Oxford Languages defines retrograde as "directed or moving backward." So when a planet is retrograde, it is moving in reverse orbital direction...only no ❌ That's not what is actually happening. It’s what we perceive is happening from our perspective here on Earth. We can understand a lot about retrogrades simply by understanding what’s physically happening in the sky when a planet moves into this position.
First off, every planet in our solar system orbits in the same direction, which has never changed. It would take a massive event to cause that kind of cosmic change. So, if a planet can’t move backward, yet we call it retrograde, what is happening here? 🧐 This Giphy kind of explains it...
What’s happening is that from our perspective here on Earth, the planet in retrograde merely appears to be moving backward. It’s a trick of the eye, a visual hallucination. It's there, but it also...isn't really there? This happens at specific times when our orbit has a certain relationship with another planet’s orbit. If you’re a visual person like I am, click here. It's a good ole' YouTube video explanation.
So here are the facts—when a planet is in retrograde, it isn’t actually moving in reverse, it only appears to be from our perspective here on Earth, and this occurs because of our orbital relationship with other planets in the solar system. I invite you to begin to explore the symbolic themes here. They are indicative of how retrograde affects our human experience.
Retrograde Planets in the Birth Chart
Almost every single planet can move retrograde. In fact, Pluto spends five to six months in retrograde EVERY YEAR, which means about 42% to 50% of the entire population was born when Pluto was retrograde. Pluto is retrograde in their natal chart. It is more uncommon for someone to be born when no planets are retrograde. And, fittingly, the only two celestial bodies that NEVER move retrograde are the Sun and the Moon, and that’s because the Earth orbits around the Sun, and the Moon orbits around the Earth. We can only have retrograde relationships with the other planets also orbiting our Sun—not with the Sun itself, and the moon doesn't orbit the Sun.
Here’s a breakdown of how long each planet spends in retrograde per year (approximately):
Mercury: Three times a year for 3 weeks
Venus: Every year and a half for 6 weeks
Mars: Every 26 months for about 2 to 3 months
Jupiter: Once a year for 4 months
Saturn: Once a year for 4 to 5 months
Uranus: Once a year for 4 to 5 months
Neptune: Once a year for 4 to 5 months
Pluto: 5 - 6 months, depending
Being born when a planet was retrograde means that this planetary energy wasn't moving in the "right direction". It was a bit "backward," and this is reflected in your experience of life. You just don't quite feel like everyone else in this department...and that's a very good thing.
What Retrograde Means in Astrology
When planets are direct (meaning moving forward, the “normal” motion), the planet is covering new territory, at least for this cycle. It’s future-oriented. It's looking forward; It's going forward. When a planet moves retrograde—at least from our earthly perspective—it is revisiting a path that it’s already moved through. It’s past-oriented. There’s a reflective quality for all retrograde planets. The energy isn’t outward, forward moving. It’s backward, inward moving.
A retrograde planet is not going to act like it’s “supposed” to; it’s actually meant to operate against the status quo. With any planet you have in retrograde, there’s an energy in that planet that is meant to keep you from following herd mentality when it comes to the thing the planet represents. Have Jupiter in retrograde? Chances are your leadership style is going to be different than the standard model teaches. Have Neptune in retrograde? I would say religious traditions are less likely to provide you with genuine spiritual connection and growth.
Direct planets are much more susceptible to doing things because that’s how everyone else does it, while retrograde planets are independent thinkers. They question, they analyze, and they go back to reflect on experience. They see things from a different perspective, and when you change your perspective, you see things you didn’t before. There's the gift of being a bit "backward" 🎁
So when it comes to really understanding how retrogrades show up in us, there’s a “genius” like quality to retrograde planets in that they bring new things into existence. There's innovation. It doesn’t mean it’s always expressed this way, but that potential is there. The challenge of retrograde planets is they can get stuck in introversion and are less likely to take actionable steps towards sharing your gifts externally. It's easy to understand why a "backward" moving energy might struggle to be expressed in a forward kind of motion. Typically, introverted people don't like doing things like taking center stage. Nevertheless, these introverted talents can be our hidden superpowers.
When I shifted my orientation towards my Mercury retrograde "sentence", I began to express this part of me differently. With a deeper appreciation (and acceptance) for this part of my chart, I leaned into this part of myself. I went from saying, "You're weird and shouldn't talk about your ideas with others." to, "I love my ideas, and I also want to hear what other people have to say about them." Change the story and change your life. When it comes to having a retrograde planet, you have to embrace your individualism and stand strong in that energy. Now exactly how, where, and why depends on where the retrograde planet falls in your chart. But the message is own it. Don’t try to fit it. Doing so is going against what your soul needs from you in this life.
Retrograde Planets in Natal Charts and Transits
Retrograde Planets affect us in two ways (at least), through the natal chart and through transits. When you are born with a planet in retrograde, it means that you are imprinted with that "backward" moving energy. It's something you carry with you for your entire life, part of who you are. Retrograde Transits affect everyone collectively on a social level. Let's use Mercury retrograde as an example since it's so infamous.
Being born with Mercury retrograde means that your conscious, rational mind (Mercury) naturally possesses retrograde qualities. This shows more creative thinking, though it can also make it more challenging to communicate clearly and directly. This is a trait of your mind. When Mercury moves retrograde as a transit, which it does three times a year, then everyone's Mercury is affected by this retrograde motion. It's like we all move to this place of "backward" mental functioning & communication—which is why there are all those "warnings" not to make deals or sign contracts during this time. It's why the tools we use to communicate (technology, scheduled meetings, and other things) can take a turn for the unexpected. Miscommunications can happen when Mercury is retrograde. Despite these warnings, Mercury retrograde is actually a really fantastic time to think, analyze, and innovate.
Now if you are someone born with Mercury retrograde, the Mercury retrograde transits are a bit easier to navigate for you. It's like everyone else kind of gets on your mental level. You might even find it's easier to communicate during this time, and people get you more. This effect applies to any planet in retrograde.
Find Retrograde Planets in Your Chart
So hopefully, by now, you are excited to see what planets you have in retrograde! But how? Well, first things first, you need your natal chart. Don’t have one? ⭐️ You can calculate your Star-based chart here. Please note that I practice a kind of Astrology that's a bit different than most Astrologers, and this affects how your natal chart is calculated!
Next, just look for a Srx or a Rx by each of the planets. That means that planet was either stationed retrograde (Srx, just beginning or ending) or in a retrograde cycle (Rx). If you have a lot of retrograde planets, chances are you’re naturally someone who questions the status quo and is not as likely to get caught up in what's "popular". You are out to experience this life in a very unique and individual way and have a different perspective than most. If you don’t have a lot of planets in retrograde, maybe just one or two, then you may find that you have a tendency to get caught up in “herd mentality” or following traditional approaches, the "tried and true" method if you will. You probably also understand & get along and find your place with others more often than not because
you naturally relate. You can be a true team player. I always hesitate to give broad, general interpretations like this because exactly how these direct or retrograde energies might show up for you depends on your chart. This leads me to...
Learn More and Get Support
Tada! 😁 My new offering! Star Circle! Want to learn more about retrogrades? Specifically, how do they apply to your chart? Come take a class with me on this topic of retrograde planets with several other curious souls. This 90-min class will dive deeper into this topic, and I offer professional support in helping you understand retrogrades in your chart.
What's included in June's Star Circle:
In-depth understanding of each planet in retrograde and how they can be expressed
Help locating your retrograde planets and their connected energy
2023 retrograde transit forecast
An activity/exercise to help you work with your retrograde planets in everyday life
Savings on a personal recording or private sessions if you desire to dive deeper
Each class is capped at 8 participants with a $25 investment. I offer this class at three different times in hopes that you'll be able to attend at least one of them! I will be offering the replay to purchase for $5 for those who can't attend live (all attendees get the replay free of charge).
Get a Personalized Interpretation
Want to skip the interpretive work and go straight to the good stuff? Get my professional interpretation of how this retrograde information applies to you. You can purchase a 10-15min personal recording for $20 👇