Retrograde means directed or moving backwards and astronomers refer to a planet’s ‘apparent retrograde motion’. That’s because when viewed from Earth the planets in the sky are observed to move backwards but it’s just an illusion caused by the relative motion (speed) of Earth.
From an astrological perspective a retrograde planet has reversed its forward motion and is moving backwards on its journey around the zodiac belt.
In your birth chart the letter R following a planet’s symbol signifies the planet is retrograde and you may or may not have a retrograde planet in your chart.
Mercury is retrograde for around 21 days every 13 weeks.
Venus is retrograde for around 42 days every 18 months.
Mars is retrograde for around 68 days every 26 months.
Jupiter is retrograde for around 4 months every 9 months.
Saturn is retrograde for around 4½ months every 12 months.
And Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are retrograde for around 5 months every 12 months.
The Sun and Moon never have a retrograde motion.
Fact check: Retrograde planets
The basic interpretation of a retrograde planet relates to repression.
In psychological theory repression refers to the blocking of unpleasant thoughts, feeling and impulses in the unconscious mind so they don’t have easy access to the conscious mind and objective consciousness.
In astrology the thoughts, feelings and desires associated with a retrograde planet are repressed or bottled up in the not-conscious soul-mind and hindered in their expression. It’s considered an impediment but it’s an affliction that is easily corrected once the cause of the repression is identified. With the release of the repression the desire energies quickly return to normal.
Like all birth chart indicators it’s a predisposition that may or may not have developed. So you’re left to judge if the retrograde planet does mark for a repression and if the repressed desire is having a misfortune influence in your life.
Repression is not the same as suppression where you intentionally avoid reliving the memory of a painful experience because you’re unable to make sense of the experience and the mental torment associated with it.
A retrograde planet in your birth chart is most often associated with a very painful early life experience. At the time your conscious mind blocks the painful event and by repressing its psychological imprint escapes its painful memory.
But with the desire energy bottled up in your not-conscious mind it has great difficulty in finding overt expression so it tends towards introspection rather than open and observable action.
And with the qualities, abilities and events ruled by the retrograde planet dammed up and hindered in their expression misfortune can escalate in the form of personality disorders and feelings of inadequacy.
The accidental painful association of certain thoughts, feelings and impulses with so called social taboos and religious teachings regarding sex can often cause a repression.
That said it takes a very painful experience and quite a lot of pain and discomfort to repress a powerful urge or basic instinct.
The life-matters and activities indicated by the house where a retrograde planet is located tend to be ignored. And with the repressed desire expressing on a not-conscious level it still works to attract events into your life, especially when its astrological marker is activated by progression.
If a progressed planet in your chart turns retrograde a repression associated with its not-conscious desire-urge can develop and if a progressed planet that’s retrograde in motion turns direct an indicated repression can be released.
The interpretation of a retrograde planet should be approached with care and reservation. It indicates a birth chart predisposition involving the repression of its associated not-conscious desire-urge and this can only be verified through a sensible assessment of real-life experience.
Professional assistance (without birth chart knowledge) can be helpful in identifying and releasing a repressed desire-urge.
Retrograde planets and you
Mercury retrograde indicates your desire to think, reason, talk and write is repressed. The repression, associated with a painful experience involving your speech or intelligence, impairs the satisfaction of your intellectual life giving rise to feelings of inadequacy when communicating, solving problems and making judgments. Your potential for self-expression is somewhat dammed up.
Venus retrograde indicates your desire to socialize and give and receive affection is repressed. The repression, associated with a painful social experience, impairs the satisfaction of your companionship life giving rise to feelings of inadequacy when socializing, having fun and giving and receiving affection. Your capacity for artistic appreciation is dammed up.
Mars retrograde indicates your desire for aggressive action, energized effort and sex is repressed. The repression, associated with a painful experience involving conflict, competition or sex, impairs the satisfaction of your aggressive life giving rise to feelings of inadequacy when dealing with conflict and taking the initiative. Sex-life problems can be traced back to a harmful sexual experience, social taboos and/or misguided religious teachings regarding sex.
Jupiter retrograde indicates your desire for religiosity, goodwill, abundance and optimism is repressed. The repression, associated with a painful experience involving religion or morality, impairs the satisfaction of your abundance life giving rise to feelings of inadequacy when doing good, expressing faith and giving assistance. The inability to freely express hope and optimism can be a problem.
Saturn retrograde indicates your desire for security, safety, economy, work and persistence is repressed. The repression, associated with a painful experience involving hardship and loss, impairs the satisfaction of your security urge giving rise to feelings of inadequacy – worry and anxiety – when working, shouldering responsibility, taking precautionary measures to prevent loss and economizing. Your capacity to use foresight, plan, exercise caution and flee when necessary is somewhat bottled up.
Uranus retrograde indicates your desire for originality, independence, autonomy, freedom and radical change is repressed. The repression, associated with a painful experience involving your uniqueness, impairs the satisfaction of your individualistic urge giving rise to feelings of inadequacy when expressing your originality, independence, inventiveness and sense of difference. Any tendency to rebel and take radical action is somewhat dammed up.
Neptune retrograde indicates your desire for idealism, visionary perfection, dramatic expression, escapist fantasy and daydreaming is repressed. The repression, associated with a painful fantasy experience, impairs the satisfaction of your utopian life giving rise to feelings of inadequacy when you’re wishful thinking, fantasizing and idealizing reality. The repression hampers the expression of your imagination and capacity to promote.
Pluto retrograde indicates your desire for group activity, cooperative effort, teamwork and spiritual endeavour is repressed. The repression, associated with a painful coercive-group experience, impairs the satisfaction of your universal welfare life giving rise to feelings of inadequacy when cooperation is required to ensure a group’s success. The repression of your not-conscious desire to contribute to the common good impairs your spiritual development.
Mercury retrograde in the sky
A retrograde planet in your birth chart may require your attention but a retrograde planet in the sky doesn’t. That said, as astrological information seeps into the public consciousness, buzzwords emerge. Like ‘Oh, Mercury is retrograde – that’s why everything is crazy.’
Well the only thing that is crazy is the fortunate-teller who peddles this ridiculous Mercury nonsense. You’d think, according to them that whenever Mercury is retrograde that the world is going to end or at least the nervous bride when asked if she takes the man of her dreams to be husband would accidentally say ‘no’!
Back in the 1970s the American Federation of Astrologers put Mercury retrograde to the test in regard to sitting for AFA exams. After processing hundreds of exams the AFA concluded that Mercury retrograde at the time of the exam had no bearing on the results.
So the planets in the sky – retrograde or not – have no influence on you.
Their role as transit progressions to birth chart or progressed planets in your chart has them timing major events or mapping inconsequential events.
If at a certain time you’ve said the wrong thing, forgot an important appointment or experienced a mental jam up of some consequence check out Mercury in your chart. You’ll find your not-conscious intellectual urge is playing up due to Mercury’s involvement in a discordant progressed aspect.
And every time someone says the wrong thing or makes a mistake think to yourself: Oops – they should have checked their Mercury progressions.
In this tutorial we’ve focussed on retrograde planets and what they indicate in astrological science and the assessment of the birth chart.
For more information on repression download Elbert Benjamine remastered: Why repression is not morality here – New eBooks
For more information on retrograde in astronomy visit https://mars.nasa.gov/
Astrology for Aquarius – sharing our knowledge