The term retrograde comes from Latin for “backward step.” You’ll hear it a lot in astrology. This is an optical illusion where a planet appears to move through the zodiac opposite its usual direction. It is indeed hurtling forward through space, but because the planets do not revolve around us and we are also in motion, sometimes a planet appears to go backwards. In that process, it backs up over a certain range of degrees in the zodiac and ends up passing through that range three times: first forward, then backward and lastly forward again. Thus you will sometimes see mentions of three related time frames for certain influences; circumstances may be related around these times. Usually the second of the three occurrences is the toughest transition, where the planet’s message is most strongly conveyed.
A person might be born when certain planets are in the retrograde phase. In such a case, the person tends to internalize the energies represented by the planet or to look within for the expression of the planet’s power rather than investing that power outside of oneself. Planets are retrograde when they are closest to the earth, so think of bringing the planet’s meaning closer to you. The retrograde period is usually a time of relearning lessons related to the planet in question, so sometimes it presents difficulties as part of that lesson-learning.
In the continuing cycles of the planets’ motions, retrograde periods are a time to research, review and re-do, any “re-” word. Our culture likes to pretend that we can move forward in linear progress, but nature tells us everything goes around in a circle or spiral. So sometimes we have to circle around before we go forward again. That’s what retrogrades are good for.
The slower-moving outer planets spend more time retrograde than the quicker-moving inner planets. Even though Mercury Retrograde only lasts three weeks at a time (three times a year), we seem to feel them the most. Possibly that’s because Mercury is in charge of all forms of communications and those touch every area of our lives. Mercury is also associated with all means of local transport. Hence its retrograde times are when we are more likely to be delayed by traffic snarls (allow extra time) or need car repairs (try to anticipate with preventive maintenance). Allow extra time for everything because you’ll need to doublecheck your work.
My annual On a Page graphs show when planets are retrograde and the degrees where they back up. To see if you have planets in that range, look at your natal chart and find the sign and degree where the retrograde begins and ends. To obtain your natal chart, find out your exact birth time and go to Alabe.com. Click on “Free Chart” on their home page menu. You should be able to print your chart from there (or save it to your computer) and access a free brief interpretation report.
Once you have your birth chart, you can see what part of it any planet is retrograding over by comparing the degrees of the retrograde range to the houses of your chart. You can also discover if any planets were retrograde at your birth.
When you have a personal consultation, your astrologer can explain the influences in your life of natal and current retrograde planets.