Technically, there is no such thing as a retrograde. I mean, a planet never really comes to a complete stop and then goes backwards. We all know that.
Actually, retrogrades are an interesting phenomenon. When seen from Earth, the planets appear to be moving backwards, but it’s an optical illusion due to the orbits of different planets in relation to Earth..
What makes a retro important astrologically is that the planet will retrace its astrological journey. Re-visit degrees that it has already journeyed, and often it re-visits a sign it has already traversed. It’s in this re-tracing of degrees and signs that retrogrades become important to the astrologer and the client.
In this article we’re only going to discuss Personal Planets, consisting of Mercury, Venus, and Mars. Of course the Sun and Moon are personal as well, but the luminaries never go retrograde for pretty obvious reasons. Earth orbits the Sun, so the Sun never appears to retrace its orbit from our POV on Earth. And, the Moon is in orbit around Earth, so it never appears to go retro either [again from our POV on Earth].
Each of the personal planets has some regularity to their retrograde cycles because of the orbit around the Sun and how that transit is seen from Earth.
People are most familiar with Mercury Retrogrades, primarily because they are so frequent. Mercury goes retrograde approximately 3-4 times every year for about 3 weeks each retro cycle. Venus goes retrograde once every 18 months for about 40 days. And, Mars goes retrograde once every 26 months for between 55-80 days. These are important to the individual because they can affect the individual’s daily life.
Jupiter, Saturn and the trans-Saturn planets [Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto] usually don’t impact an individual as dramatically as the personal planets. But like all things in Astrology, it really depends on the chart.
Mercury Retrograde: Having problems being understood? Having arguments with siblings? Do you normally find communication easy, and suddenly it feels like your tongue is wrapped up in cotton? Welcome to Mercury Retrograde?
By transit, this planet goes retrograde 3 [sometimes 4] times a year and statistically goes retrograde more often in Fire signs than any other. Air is next in line regarding frequency. This stat has lead me to believe these retrograde periods were meant to be a time of reflection and inspiration (fire), marking it as a period of time for the inculcation of all we experience. Sort of an opportunity to get oneself back on track; to look at the reality of our lives, and the consequences of our choices.
Mercury is the thinker and we need to step back and think about where we are going every now and then. Not only can this period delay mail, the signing of contracts, the phone won’t ring, and the email won’t arrive, but it will cause all manner of havoc with the sending and receiving of communication. I’ve come to the conclusion that many times communication is delayed for a very good reason. While it may be frustrating if you do not use the period of time for reflection, it can certainly be a great benefit to the attainment of goals to step back and ‘think” about things for a moment.
We feel out of sync with our ability to ‘tell’ people who we are and what we want, and we also feel we don’t understand others. That’s probably because we don’t understand them right now. And maybe we’re not supposed to…
Venus Retrograde: Traditionally, Venus represents harmony, art, beauty, grace, charm and affection. Pleasure, comfort and luxury. Personalized love and expressions of love. Receptivity and the ability to attract others and maintain relationships. Attractive or desirable people, places and things.
A simpler view of the importance of Venus is; Venus is what we desire. Anything we desire is a product of Venus, and therefore Venus represents how we come to place value on people, things, places, etc. What we desire, we value more, and what we do not value generates little to no desire. Venus represents one’s archetypal form of individuality, in so much as individuality is defined by one’s inner values.
When retrograde, these values sometimes get shaken up, rattled, and questioned. Depending on the sign placement during the retrograde, these principles can be disrupted gently or more harshly, but in some way while Venus is retrograde values will be thrown into question, and desires will shift.
Technically this too is a time of deep reflection upon what the individual desires. Once every year or so, a retrograde Venus lets us take stock of where our desires and our values [judgements] are taking us. It is a time to give up those things that we no longer value, but keep out of habit. It can be as simple as cleaning out the attic, but some sort of “cleaning” usually occurs. It can be physical, mental, or spiritual, but subtle changes will occur to redirect our energies towards what we want in life.
Mars Retrograde: Traditionally, Mars represents action and aggression. It is the planet that allows all of us to take action, and it defines how we will take action. Simply put, while Venus is what we want, Mars is how we go about getting what we want.
By transit this retrograde can really put a damper on getting things done, but I believe it is an opportunity to reflect on how we go about getting what we want. How we deal with frustration, and how we re-act to not getting what we want, etc. are always important issues to reflect upon during this time.
Since frustration can be high during a Mars retrograde, try to think before you speak, as arguments are common during this phase. Get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated during this phase, as Mars retro can suck the energy right out of you and you will feel tired and want to sleep longer than normal. Mars is related to vitality, and retrograde vitality suffers. New projects and plans initiated now are likely to stall or not develop as expected. Accidents and arguments from impulsive actions and unrecognized anger will flare. Health problems from stress that’s internalized are also much more likely to surface during this time. Things don’t go as fast as we want during Mars retrograde. The better use of this time is to wait, plan and accept compromises.
Mars Retro is also a perfect time to go back and pick up projects, issues, etc. that were dropped and try to resolve them now. It can bring an ex-lover back into your life, or a lover that should have been in your life but wasn’t for some reason. All actions that failed or failed to occur can sometimes be taken back up when Mars is Retro. Sort of a second chance or a do-over. This is one of the more positive influences, but truth be told, it is also one that gets swept under the carpet in the face of so many other more frustrating influences.
Just remember that new projects will have a slow start or fail during this period, but old projects and existing projects can be finished or re-started.
The personal planets are the planets that influence our lives on a daily, and hourly basis. They are the tools we use to reflect upon our lives, think about the future, they give us the power of discernment, and allow us the energy to carry out plans to accomplish our goals. They work for us all the time, but during a retro phase, they also do the quiet work of adjusting our plans for the better. Frustrating as they can all be, the time spent in personal contemplation is worth it. Trust me!