What Does It Mean When Planets Are Retrograde?

Planets Astrology Retrograde
Some people know just enough Astrology to be dangerous…

The internet has gotten just enough astrological info out there into the culture at large, that much of society now suffers this knee-jerk reaction of “Retrograde? Oh, no…bad!”

When Planets enter into what we call retrograde states of motion, though, it’s not “bad.”

It’s not “good,” either, to be clear. It’s just a thing. It just is. “Good” versus “bad” is subjective stuff that depends on how you take it. Is it good when a wave makes its way up onto the shore, and bad when it recedes…?

So what does retrograde motion mean?

Mechanically speaking, it just means that at certain times, due to optics and perspective, it appears to us here on Earth that a Planet we’re looking at suddenly seems to slow down, come to a halt, and then start moving backwards. This is an illusion, and natural bodies in space don’t actually do this – it just looks like they do to us, watching from our own natural body in space. And then after a while, a retrograde Planet will seem to come to its senses, right itself, and start moving forward, or “direct,” again.

In more metaphysical terms, though, here’s where it’s important to emphasize again that “retrograde” does not equal “bad.” A very popular association is that Mercury going retrograde means that communication and the functioning of technology will all go off the rails for a few weeks, such that it’s best to maybe evacuate the grid or hunker down in a bomb shelter until the retrograde phase passes.

In reality, retrograde phases of Planets tend to play out in one of two primary ways:

Retrograde Planet Effects Diving Deep Within1) The forces symbolized by the Planet in question will play out inside of you rather than on the external stage. You will be invited to dive deep within yourself to examine how a retrograde Planet’s energies are working away within you.

For example, take that Mercury retrograde phase (one of which is happening as I write this)… Mercury is very much about communication. Instead of communication with the world around you, though, a Mercury retrograde phase can be seen as a great opportunity for communication with yourself.

Listen to your inner voice, pay attention to ideas that seem to surface without any effort from you, do some journaling, see if your dreams are telling you anything worth listening to. It’s not a one-way street, either – while listening is a great practice at these times, so is speaking. Practice self-directed affirmations, dialogue with yourself, even try telling yourself what to dream about before you go to sleep. Communication with your inner self is definitely on the menu during these intervals.

Retrograde Planet Effects The Past Returns Astrology2) Things from your past may resurface again at this time. Sometimes retrograde periods operate like final exams, and we’re given the chance to test our learning and put some lessons to bed.

Consider Mars in retrograde (also happening as I write this). Mars has to do with our drive to assert ourselves, to face our fears, and to lust for things. When Mars enters a retrograde phase, we may find that people or things from our past pop up from out of nowhere, and give us another shot at dealing with them to see if we’ve truly taken on the recent teachings of the Warrior Planet.

Look at the facing of fear thing as an example. Say that during the last two years or so since Mars last went retrograde, you’ve had occasions in which to deal with some variety of fear (maybe more than one flavor of fear, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s stick to a single example). Maybe in this period, you’ve been repeatedly invited to stand in your fear of confrontation (which is a Mars thing all on its own already). You’ve done some hard work in this area in these 24 months or so, and you’ve begun to feel like you’ve climbed to a new plateau in your development as a confrontation-ready member of society…

But then Mars goes retrograde, and all of a sudden, you find yourself enveloped in a real whopper of a confrontation. And maybe it’s not just big. Maybe it also involves people or situations that had featured heavily in some earlier confrontational dynamic that you had already navigated, and that you’d maybe thought you’d already put to rest once and for all. But now, like something out of a late-night zombie film, the thing rises, stronger than ever, and it’s on you to face it and deal with it again, using all of the skills and know-how you’d been sharpening up for the previous two years or so. Again: welcome to your Final Exam.

So to circle back: are these things intrinsically “bad?”

Is it “bad” to be asked to look inward, and to do some work on your innermost self? Is it “bad” to be tested on things you’ve been studying and practicing? Maybe if you approach these experiences in a way that lacks integrity and self-worth, then sure, that might end up feeling “bad”…but if you approach them with purpose, with a willingness to put in another burst of effort, and with the certainty that you’re worth the energy it might take to make your way through any feeling of challenge in these experiences, then they might actually seem…”good!”

So don’t be afraid to get retro…even when as many as seven Planets all go retrograde at the same time (like now…). It’s just a bigger chance to go even deeper inside and to be even more sure that you’ve been paying attention in the classroom of your life.

…by Steve Seinberg


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