Astrology Q&A: retrograde planets in the chart

retrogradeQ: I know what it means when Mercury Retrogrades, or after reading your recent article on the subject, I have a much better idea. But what does it mean when I have another planet or planets retrograde in my chart?

A: A planet is considered to be retrograde when, from the point of view of Earth (and her inhabitants), it appears to stop moving forward through the sky and to begin moving in a backward, or retrograde fashion. Of course, it is still moving forward objectively, but astrology is based on the subjective viewpoint. To us, it looks like it is traveling backward, and therefore, it is.

Retrograde planets can behave oddly. The psychological forces represented by those planets in the chart are more difficult for the conscious self to realize as ‘self.’ I have heard retrograde planets compared to feral children, raised by wolves, that must be approached and tamed by the conscious self before the qualities it reflects can become actualized parts of the self.

When a personal planet such as Mercury, Venus or Mars is retrograde, that part of the self is turned inward and finds difficulty expressing outwardly. A retrograde Venus has difficulty expressing the love, affection and truth that they feel, and in fact has difficulty even expressing it to themselves. They may feel set apart from others, unloved and unlovable, with likely some karmic issues to resolve around love and relationship. A retrograde Mars takes one’s energy and drive and expresses it inwardly; anger is likely to be repressed, and it is not easy to act spontaneously in an uninhibited way.

A natal Mercury retrograde, which is different from transiting Mercury retrograde (such as we are experiencing now), makes the mind and its inner workings feel more inward and personal. A person with Mercury retrograde can feel misunderstood, largely because they have difficulty expressing themselves in a way others can follow. Their thoughts follow more subconscious pathways. Their mind may feel more empty and quiet, or conversely, they may have lots of inner conversations going on, which they find very difficult to articulate for others. They may feel very different from others, and lonely because it does not feel easy for them to connect.

Jupiter and Saturn are not quite as central to the self, and Chiron, Neptune, Uranus and Pluto are decreasingly so. But the qualities that each of these represents tend, when that planet is retrograde, to isolate and sink in, making us feel more alone and disconnected. Retrograde planets take work and personal growth to integrate and access the positive and life-affirming qualities that they represent.

As with all challenges, retrograde planets are a wonderful opportunity to grow, spiritually, emotionally, personally and in real-world skills. There are a lot of different kinds of challenges in the astrological chart, and they all represent growth opportunities. At the same time, the emotional tone can be frustrating, dispiriting and enraging. Developing the ability to access, express and evolve the emotional energies is key especially with planets ruling or associated with the water and fire signs.


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