Everything You Need to Know about Retrogrades

First, I’d like to thank any and all Mercury Retrogrades for permanently giving retrogrades a big, bad name in the astrology community. There seems to be a TON of misconceptions surrounding retrogrades. What is a retrograde? What does a retrograde signify for me? How does it differ from planet to planet, sign to sign? So many questions, and I’ve already peered into my crystal ball for all the answers (heavy dose of sarcasm on that last line, ya dig).

Before we begin breaking down this astrological phenomenon, I would advise one to become more acquainted with the major celestial bodies that play a role in everyday life. In order to fully grasp and utilize a retrograde period, it’s imperative to understand the celestial planet(s) and sign(s) the retrograde(s) occurs in. I suggest reading “An Astrological Breakdown – Literally” to get a brief yet concise breakdown of major astrological themes. Then jump on over to “New Year, New (Astrological) Bullshit” to see how many retrogrades there are this year, when they’ll be occurring, and the sign(s) the retrograde(s) are in. Last but certainly not least, generate your birth chart to see if you have any natal retrogrades in your chart! This is extremely important as uncovering the influence of a natal retrograde in one’s chart can signify any personal shortcomings or implications in that area in one’s life. I suggest using Cafe Astrology as their charts explicitly lay out where a natal retrograde is, such as the chart below.

Like this individual’s mock chart, your chart may have an “R” next to planet which indicates that said planet is in a natal retrograde in the chart. Likewise, it’s also totally possible to not have any natal retrogrades! However, it’s always worth checking out because it can prelude to how one’s life may be impacted in very specific ways (more ahead, I promise).

Before we chug along on the retrograde train, we ought to keep a few things in mind. Retrogrades aren’t life-altering, Earth shattering phenonoms. They’re more or less astrological pains-in-the-asses. Retrogrades can instill this fear, worry, or apprehension because these astrological occurrences can be emotionally draining periods in our lives. Why? Because retrogrades push us to our limits so that we may learn, grow, and move on from our mistakes. These periods are learning curves – we hate them because retrogrades put a magnifing glass on what’s not working. This can be stressful or difficult to maneuver. However, the personal, emotional, and mental gains from fully embracing a retrograde is worth the couple weeks (or months) of crazy. But in order to make a retrograde work for us and not against us, it’s crucial to understand what retrogrades are and what they can do in each planet so that we may learn from them.

What’s a Retrograde?

Retrogrades (denoted by Rx) refers to the planets traveling backwards in the night sky, or regressing. While the planets don’t physically do this, it will still appear to us on earth as if they are. In other words, retrogrades are the ultimate optical illusion!

Retrogrades call for us to pause and rethink, review, then revise in one or more areas of life. Typically, this time of reflection will be marked by trials, tasks, and setbacks. Each retrograde will differ and be characterized by its length of time, the planet ruling it, the house(s) it may effect, and the sign(s) that retrograde may move through. Therefore, each retrograde is unique and effects each person differently.

The retrograde period is marked by three main segments. The first is the pre-shadow end. This period preludes the retrograde where one may notice the upcoming retrograde begin to have a minimal effect in everyday life. When the retrograde begins, the planet is considered in retrograde and its effects are strong, occuring every day until the end of the retrograde. The last period is the post-retrograde shadow. This occurs after the planet is stationed direct, or appears to be moving forward again. The post-shadow portion wraps up any loose ends unveiled during the retrograde, meaning that anything left unlearned, unsaid, or ignored will come out during this time for completion. Once the post-shadow end is over, the planet is considered fully direct and the retrograde is over. If a person has embraced the retrograde and its lessons, he or she will see its positive impacts when the planet is fully direct. If not, however, one will continue to repeat the process into the next retrograde cycle.

Natal Retrogrades – WTF?

Retrogrades give no fuck about the time we were born. If a retrograde was occurring at the time of birth, then the retrograde is also encoded into the birth chart as are many other details. Each birth chart is unique to the individual as it solely relies on one’s birthday, time of birth, and birth place. Due to this, fine details like degrees and natal retrogrades, are also encoded as well as larger details like what the Mercury or Venus signs are in the chart.

As a retrograde can affect all of us for any period of time, our natal retrogrades affect us all the time. Like difficult aspects in our charts (such as squares or oppositions), natal retrogrades offer us a chance to learn then grow from our mistakes.

A natal retrograde’s energy is turned inwards. This will signify that the power of the celestial body may feel shortcoming, stagnant, or even powerless. The individual who has a natal retrograde may feel “weaker” in an area of their personality, and even in an area of their lives if the natal retrograde affects a house.

In our example chart, this individual has natal retrogrades in Mercury, Mars, and Pluto. This individual’s natal retrogrades also affect their houses. For example, the natal Mercury Rx affects the Ninth House, the natal Mars Rx affects the Ascendant (First House), and the natal Pluto Rx affects the Fourth House. These aspects could impose retrograde energy into an area of life, which could mean that the individual may feel more frustrated or experience more shortcomings in this area of life.

A natal Rx can lead to major breakthrough, though! Like learning to cope with the harsh aspects in our charts, we can learn to adapt to our natal retrogrades, too. As humans, we ought to aim for growth – through our mistakes, our connections, our experiences, everything! A natal Rx can provide us with these opportunities to learn from. It may cause implications in our early, more immature lives but with each experience, hopefully the individual will learn from it. For example, a Mercury Rx could signify that the individual struggles with being communicative. Maybe this individual has a difficult time verbalizing how they feel, or what they think even if it’s obvious to them. This could then lead to self-esteem issues or issues in building relationships with their peers. Although difficult (and even emotionally taxing), these opportunities will *hopefully* allow the individual to become a better communicator, more independent, more self-confident and all while building genuine relationships.

A natal Rx can be taxing, but only if you let it be. Become familiar with your shortcomings, become accountable for them, and aim to grow from them. That will ultimately lead to mastering a natal Rx.

Types of Natal Retrogrades

Mercury This aspect may cause the individual to feel unheard, unacknowledged, ignored, or incompetent in public speaking. A natal Mercury Rx could impose issues with defending one’s self, limiting one’s ability to articulate their thoughts, and/or leave one feeling like they aren’t as smart, witty, or quick as their peers. This aspect could allude to either talking too much or not at all, or even feeling like they’re always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Because of this, the individual may be perceived as more of an introvert.

Venus This aspect points to difficulties in finding love, keeping love, self-love, and working towards healthy relationships. A Venus Rx could go one of two ways and this may heavily depend on the sign the Venus is in. Type A is more of a loud, brash, in your face, “I LIKE YOU” type of lover. Type A may come off as arrogant, aggressive, possesive, and disillusioned in love because of their need to be on the prowess. Type B is can come across as noncommittal, shy, uncomfortable with vulnerability, and may even fear intimacy. Type B may run from love, from opening up in a relationship, and/or committing to a relationship. Both types can be subjective to the signs. I personally could see Type A’s associated with fire and water signs. Fire signs in Venus is considered a detrimental placement – basically a crash ‘n’ burn type of love. Water signs in Venus could be more of a possessive, volatile, emotional rollercoaster love. I would also associate Type B’s with air and earth signs. Air signs in Venus could come across as indifferent to love, flighty, unreliable, and unwilling to be more emotional. Earth signs in Venus may come across as more possessive, stubborn, boring, emotionless or volatile at the wrong times in love. Regardless, this individual would need to work on self-compassion, self-love, and building healthy relationships.

Mars Like Venus Rx, Mars Rx can have two main types. Type A would be more volatile, easy to anger, flustered easily, or hurt easily. Type A may be more prone to more emotional outbursts. I would associate this type with fire signs and water signs because both signs are associated with passionate, emotional elements. Type B is more of a passive aggressive, indirect, and may be more prone to playing the victim. I would associate Type B with air and earth signs for their clever, manipulative qualities. A natal Mars Rx may also have issues with bullying, expressing emotions in a healthy manner (time & place matters!), and having a healthy relationship with sex. The issues in sex may be on extreme ends – either promiscuous or prudish. Other issues may include feeling sexually naive, fear of intimacy, or lack of comfortability with sexual desires.

Jupiter Although in retrograde, Jupiter is still our Great Benefic and will still have positive influence in any state. This natal Rx may result in overthinking, and a desire to be very well planned for any foreseen or unforeseen event. An individual who has a natal Jupiter Rx may also be prone to procrastination or laziness, but may make up for it with exceptionally philosophical views. As a result of this, the individual may wind up having lower self-esteem, stress, or a lack of zest for life.

Saturn Unlike Jupiter, Saturn is our Great Malefic, so this inward, regressive energy can be toxic, taxing, and stressful. Sounds lovely, eh? Individuals with this natal Rx may make the same mistake over and over again – without learning fully from it the first few times. These individuals may feel guilty in their current life times – perhaps from karma in their past lives. These individuals may hold themselves accountable for every little failure, thus resulting in stress, low self-esteem, and feeling restricted. A natal Saturn Rx can mature a person beyond their years because of this overwhelming feeling of fate, karma, and responsibility.

Uranus This natal Rx energy is also karmic, but in “personal growth” type of way. An individual with an Uranus natal Rx will have a more difficult time finding themselves as a person. Because this is an outer planet, individuals with a natal Rx in Uranus may have an exceptionally longer time finding who they are than those with a direct Uranus in their charts. This energy may cause the individual to struggle with their identity as this individual may have a hard time rebelling. Only through rebelling can one find who they are, and without rebelling, the person may feel stuck, stagnant, or bored. This individual may also have a difficult time accepting changes in technology and society. A Uranus Rx energy turned inwards can be volatile and cagey, so individual with this natal Rx should try to be engaged with the community as well as themselves.

Neptune A natal Neptune Rx can allude to feeling lost or losing part of one’s self, loss of dreams and wishes, and often confusing reality with illusions. Individuals with this natal Rx may be victims of martyrdom as this aspect would infer that the individuals may have had to give up a goal, dream, or wish in order to help others. This energy can also make an individual feel confined and stifled if their creativity is stunted or perceived to be stunted by the individual’s environment. Because this individual may feel disconnected or unable to fulfill their dreams, the individual may be more prone to daydreaming. This can create conflict in waking life if the individual confuses reality with illusion, or is unable to take off the rose colored glasses to see things for what they truly are. Due to the need to daydream and the fact that Neptune is passive in nature, the individual may be more prone to laziness or inactiveness.

Pluto Pluto deals with death – symbolic and metaphysical. Those with a natal Pluto Rx may struggle with letting go, moving on, and starting anew. This aspect may allude to many significant losses in one’s life. Pluto is also associated with the taboo, so this aspect may include difficulty in finding comfortability in taboo subjects such as sex and death. Lastly, this aspect may allude to issues with control, either being controlling or feeling controlled.

What is & isn’t in Rx?

The few planets that do not go into retrograde are the Sun and Moon. This is especially helpful considering it would be extremely difficult to cope with an inwardly energized conscious and/or subconscious ego. But everything else, well, fuck it!

Just kidding (but not really). Seriously, everything else – planets and asteroids – can go into retrograde and can be encoded as natal Rx’s. That means that you may just have a natal Rx in Venus and in all your major asteroids like Eros, Pallas, Juno, Chiron, etc.

Like a Rx in a planet, an Rx in an asteroid also results in an opportunity to grow in an area of life and/or personality. For example, a Venus Rx would call for us to rethink, review, then revise our approaches to love, our commitments, our relationships, what’s working, what’s not working, and even our love language. So, an Rx in Juno would also mean that we are asked to rethink, review, then revise our commitments, what’s imbalanced, and our relationships/partnerships. This also applies for a natal Rx in any celestial body.

Likewise, any present retrograde and natal retrogrades can affect the individual’s houses. For example, a chart could have four natal retrogrades in Mercury, Mars, Pluto, and Chiron. If a planet/asteroid and a house share the same sign, then they also share the natal Rx. So, the Mercury Rx could be in the Ninth House, the Mars Rx in the First House, Pluto Rx in the Fourth House, and Chiron Rx in the Third House. These natal Rx’s can impose hardships and difficulties in the areas of life each House rules.

Mastering the Retrogrades

Each retrograde needs a little special TLC. In order to master a natal Rx or a presently occurring Rx, it’s important to understand what sign and what celestial body the retrograde occurs in. Each sign and celestial body duo requires a special, self-love cocktail. Plus, knowing the traits and characteristics unique to the sign and body will help one fully mature, master, and grow from the retrograde.

Although unique in their own right, every retrograde requires the same few things. The Rx period is plagued with trials, tasks, and setbacks to test us… How can we learn and grow from our mistakes? In order to investigate our mistakes, it’s pretty crucial to hold oneself accountable for their karma. With accountability comes self-compassion. We’re all human. We make mistakes (sometimes the same one more than once). It’s ok. Learn from it, remember it, and hopefully, grow from it.

A really useful practice would be meditation. Meditation is great for retrogrades – anytime, really! Through mastering the breath, one can master the mind. Meditation has several practices for mastering the breath. Retrogrades can be a time of illusion, deception, cloudy judgement, and tainted with negative energy. By focusing on the breath, one can train the mind to see past these aspects of any retrograde, thus gaining clarity and insight. Meditative practices, such as tonglen (Chiron/Mercury/Venus/Mars/Uranus Rx), love and kindness (Chiron/Venus/Mars/Jupiter/Saturn/Pluto Rx), and Gatha (Mercury/Chiron/Neptune/Pluto/Saturn Rx), are recommended!

If desired, crystals can be used while meditating. Crystals can help set an intention or goal for meditation, and can aid in clarity while meditating. Some easy crystals that can be used in any retrograde period include selenite, clear quartz, and rose quartz.

Good luck with mastering each retrograde, & stay tuned for future posts on this year’s retrogrades!

~ As above, so below.

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