Retrograde motion seems to strike fear these days into the hearts of many a novice astrologer, because in the times in which we live, speed seems to be of the essence. We all seem to need to move on, get on, get going and start the next phase. Either that, or we are holding on desperately to phases that we have outlived. The liminal spaces do not seem fashionable in this day and age, and to walk between worlds does not seem cool unless you are taking drugs, of one sort or another, engaging in activities which get you “out of your head” rather than exploring the depths of the self.
The retrograde transit experience, is in my own opinion, a valuable opportunity for a thorough “spring clean” of the issue being addressed; perhaps the astrological equivalent of the mother in law coming to visit… just the push that you have needed to launch that flurry of activity that you know deep down is long overdue! So although when a natal planet is under the influence of a transit subject to retrograde motion, it can feel like being stuck in the rinse and repeat phase of a wash cycle, you can be sure that a thorough job is being done, even though you may often feel like giving up.
All the planets, apart from The Sun & The Moon, experience retrograde phases, a spell of motion which from the perspective of the earth, the planet appears to be moving backwards against the backdrop of the fixed stars.
Mercury experiences a retrograde period three times in every thirteen months, and spends about twenty two days in retrograde motion. Venus spends the least amount of time retrograde, spending only seven percent of her time like this, turning retrograde once in every eighteen months, and spending forty two days in retrograde motion. Retrograde Mars happens once in every twenty six months, and he spends sixty to eighty days in apparent “reverse” motion, which is nine percent of his time. Jupiter, Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, all have a yearly retrograde phase, spanning from one hundred and ten days per year for Jupiter, to one hundred and sixty days for Pluto. Pluto spends forty four percent of his time retrograde, so it is no surprise that his effect on the horoscope can be the most difficult, and his lessons the hardest won.
The experiences of retrograde transiting inner planets, such as Mercury, which move swiftly, may give a sense of having to go back over stuff and redo it, everyday stuff, like servicing the car, fixing the washing machine, arranging get-togethers. Your way may seem apparently “blocked” by events beyond your control, and this can seem annoying, irritating and inconvenient, but something that you know will be over in a few weeks.
With the transits of the outer planets however, Uranus Neptune & Pluto, it can feel as if your whole life is breaking apart, and whereas under retrograde Mercury your printer may have broken down or your important appointment was delayed, under a powerful Pluto transit, it can seem as if your whole life needs to be traded in for something different, and that you will be unable to last the distance. The direct and retrograde periods of an outer planet transit can take years to complete and it these periods of life that we look back on, and understand retrospectively as being powerful shaping forces of who we have subsequently become.
The general experience is that when a planet transits a point in the horoscope, stuff happens as defined by the placements in the natal chart, and it registers in our aawareness, but we tend not to look at it too deeply. Then, when said planet turns retrograde and we experience it again, passing the other way, this is when we can get knocked off our feet (especially if we are not paying attention). We might stagger around wondering what happened, and we often blame something outside of ourselves for creating this uncomfortable situation. Jobs, partners, the authorities, age, our health, ill wishing wizards or even our children may all be used as scapegoats at this time. On the final passing, we have the opportunity to integrate the message, and to receive the wisdom that has been on offer. With the outer planets, this whole process may even happen more than once, over the course of several years, and can perpetrate huge upheaval, depending upon the natives propensity for transformation and change.
My name is Joanna Grant, I am an Astrologer, Tarot Reader and Writer, who lives on the beautiful Beara Peninsula in the South West of Ireland. I can often be found at home, deep in arcane research, or practicing some new form of divination whilst burning the dinner! My children wish I was “normal” but will be delighted in the end, that I’m not. My long knowledge of Astrology leads and informs my practice, in offering guidance, empowerment and healing, helping others to lead a more authentic and magical life. You can read more about me here.