Retrograde planets are a fact of astrological life. Some of you will have been born with a retrograde planet (or two) in your birth chart and some of you may have been affected by retrogrades and planetary stations that have landed on sensitive parts of your natal chart. Sometimes we simply cannot ignore thise event because retrogrades often feel as though something is being ‘done’ to us – and it’s often something that seems to come from nowhere. Retrograde planets may be frustrating and disconcerting, but they are yours to own – particularly if they reside in your natal chart.
Retrograde planets often represent an internalisation of planetary energy. By transit, they often act as reminders of things we have failed to deal with – and the nature of the retrograde planet and the aspect it makes – or the house it reverses over – will point to the issue that needs to be resolved. In your natal chart, a retrograde planet represents a particular challenge to be addressed – perhaps over the course of an entire lifetime. With Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius fast approaching in December 2023, I think the time is right to remind you about retrograde planets in astrology…
Retrograde Planets: Introduction
Having retrograde planets in your natal chart is like having one of the football team running in the wrong direction. That’s especially so if the planet in question is one of the inner, personal planets. Many of us have at least one retrograde planet in our birth charts, as the outer planets turn retrograde for extended periods of up to several weeks – and make that several months for the outer planets, Uranus through to Pluto.
Though all retrograde planets found in your natal chart are worthy of note, it’s the inner planets – Mercury, Venus and Mars – that we tend to notice most of all, largely because we notice their effects with greater immediacy. They affect us at a personal level because they represent the way we think and communicate (Mercury), how we relate (Venus) and how effective we are at asserting ourselves (Mars). They are functions that are critically important, and and difficulty with any of them has a major impact on the level of ease and comfort we feel in connection with that part of our life.
Unlike transiting retrograde planets (like the Mercury retrogrades we all know and love), when you’re born with a retrograde planet in your natal chart, it’s with you for life – so how are you going to be able to work with your renegade players to ensure they don’t spoil the game for the rest of the team? In this post, I’m going to look at the effects retrograde planets have on your life and, by the way, they’re not all as bad as you thought they were going to be.
Retrograde Planets: Mercury
If you were born with Mercury retrograde in your birth chart, your thought processes may be more subjective than they otherwise would be. The way you learn and take in information may be less logical and more intuitive. At school, you may have had issues dealing with learning materials in the usual way and the process of learning may have been different for you compared to the rest of the class. Generally speaking you may have needed to focus more on what worked for you – and this may have worked in your favour to make you more focused and analytical – favouring a Virgo-style approach rather than a Gemini-style one.
Retrograde Mercury in your natal chart may have made you shy or more reluctant to voice your opinions. You are never quite sure that what you say is what you actually mean. You may feel that people won’t quite understand what you’re trying to say. However, if had this type of experience, it can actually make you measured and careful with your choice of words, as you know how important the right words can be. Retrograde planets have a habit of turning inwards; you may be highly self-critical as a result of that. You may find it difficult think about things without blaming yourself. Stop taking things so personally.
Retrograde Planets: Venus
Venus retrograde in your birth chart can be difficult. It affects how you feel about your appearance and this has a real impact on your self esteem. The problem may be that what you regard as attractive or beautiful may be out of step with what is currently fashionable – and that makes you a renegade when it comes to things like your personal style. You may even neglect your appearance, as you would rather hide from view because of a lack of confidence in your own self-worth. You may have good reason to feel that way: Venus retrograde may make you feel as if you are subject to unwanted attention.
There is, however, a flip-side to Venus retrograde. Vanity and narcissism can become a problem, as you overcompensate in an attempt to turn around that awkward Venus. The issue here is, once more, self-love -and this may affect your romantic relationships too. Learning how to express love, and express reciprocity in relationships, is something that may not come naturally to you. Subjects with Venus retrograde may take a long time to learn how to relate – if they ever do. The key to overcoming that? Learn to trust yourself and learn to trust your partner. It’s not easy – but it can be done.
Retrograde Planets: Mars
Mars retrograde in your birth chart is a tricky one, as Mars energy hates to be repressed in any way – and repression is often associated with retrograde planets. Unfortunately Mars retrograde can result in real anger management issues, as you may find it difficult to direct your energy constructively. This can work in one of two ways. You either ‘lose it’ in ways that are often unprovoked and unacceptable ,or you find it difficult to express your anger at all, so your rage becomes internalised – and that is not a good thing for your mental health or your physical wellbeing.
So, what can you do to resolve this? A life of violent aggression or passive aggression is not a good one – and it would be wrong to choose one or the other – or move between both of those positions. You need to integrate your assertive Mars function in a more productive way. That may be best achieved thorough sports or physical exercise, because you need a focus that prevents your energy spilling over into areas that are going to be troublesome. Take the initiative, get to the gym and work things through in the safely contained space that retrograde Mars needs. You need to work out to work things out.
Retrograde Planets: Jupiter
When we get to the more distant planets, having one of them in retrograde motion is a more common occurrence. Jupiter (and Saturn) spend several month a year in retrograde motion so the effects we see with the outer planets are slightly different to our experience of the inner, personal planets. They are just as inwardly focused and this can make their effects more pronounced than they would usually be in your birth chart.
Jupiter is a good case in point. Associated with intellect and belief systems, retrograde Jupiter can magnify a person’s interest in philosophy, religion, politics, academic pursuits or any form of belief system that they believe gives the answer to the world’s ills. At best, people with Jupiter retrograde will conduct a focused exploration of a particular belief or subject area, examine its principles and perhaps re-frame it to create a new approach and level of understanding in their chosen area of expertise. It may give excellent inner focus to academic researchers or those who need to develop a profound understanding of a particular issue.
And at worst? You may end up with the ‘armchair expert’ who professes to know it all. You may see those with Jupiter retrograde tearing down established belief systems and proffering their own opinions or idiosyncratic doctrines as a replacement. Jupiter retrograde has the potential to be a charismatic cult leader. Thank goodness Jupiter retrograde has the potential for a different outcome – you may be deeply philosophical about life and less likely to be swayed by the arguments of those whose belief systems differ from your own. If that means you hold beliefs that see them out of step with society? So be it.
Retrograde Planets: Saturn
Saturn retrograde in your natal chart can be challenging because it may result in the kind of inferiority complex that may prevent you from fulfilling your true potential. It can lead to shyness and you may shy away from any place or activity that is not known or in your control. For example, you may become the micromanager who controls everything because you fear the risk of anything (and everything) not going to plan. That’s Saturn retrograde in action. You take responsibility – but you fear responsibility too. You may beat yourself up as you feel inadequate – even when it is obviously not so.
Saturn may be the planet of responsibility and hard work, but with Saturn retrograde, it’s possible to have someone who simply gives up and makes no effort. You may lack ambition or believe that you’re are not good enough for the job. You may develop a negative or pessimistic attitude towards life in general and thus sabotage your own efforts. You lack confidence. Saturn retrograde can make you feel as though you’re entering the ring with one hand tied behind your back. To combat this, you need to develop your self-confidence and remind yourself that you don’t have to be the best – being good enough will be just fine.
Retrograde Planets: Uranus
We come to the generational planets. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto spend approximately half their time in retrograde motion, so its not uncommon to have a retrograde outer planet in your natal chart. When we look at the generational planets, we need to analyse them from a generational viewpoint, as well as from a personal perspective because you will share the influence of the retrograde planet with the cohort of people born around the same time as you.
Uranus retrograde is a funny one. The rebel of the zodiac, Uranus behaves in unexpected ways and, at a generational level, those influenced by Uranus retrograde may feel a need to rebel against the rules and ‘norms’ of the previous generation. Social movements and protest groups may attract those born with Uranus retrograde. Rebellious fashions and challenging opinions may prevail. Of course, Uranus being Uranus, those with this retrograde planet may even be more resistant to social change than you would expect them to be.
Retrograde Planets: Neptune
Neptune is the planet associated with spirituality, dreams and escapist tendencies that often lead to addictions of all kinds. Those with Neptune retrograde may have a more pronounced association with any of the well known and well-documented Neptunian issues you will be familiar with, simply because Neptune retrograde’s effects are internalised and intensified for those under its influence. So how do you deal with that if everyone around you is experiencing it too?
The best way to deal with Neptune retrograde may be to look within. There is always the the risk with ‘spiritual seekers’ that ‘enlightenment’ is accessible through the use of alcohol or drugs. Those with Neptune retrograde may have tried that route and failed to find Nirvana. They may become evangelical about clean living or have the capacity to work with those suffering from Neptunian issues. It may take one who has been sick to be the most effective healer.
Retrograde Planets: Pluto
Pluto retrograde is the most intense of all the retrograde planets. This is the signifier for generations of people who have issues with power and control. Are power struggles more likely with Pluto retrograde in your chart? At a generational level, those with this placement may be more likely to be subject to – or engage with – extremes or abuses of power. This may be at at a social or societal level or at a personal level. They may have strong feelings about issues of extreme wealth, power and control or feel powerless to change things in the world around them.
At a personal level, Pluto retrograde may be more intense than usual. There may be a tendency towards secrecy – and issues about secrecy may feature with this generation, for example, regarding sexual or financial misconduct. There may be the feeling that the world is out of control and that may trigger issues like obsessive compulsive behaviour, self destructive behaviour or mental health problems. It’s easy to be dragged down – so step back, pull yourself away from the things you can’t control – and deal with the things you can control, namely, how you respond to bad news and difficult situations.
Progressed Planets: The Key to Retrograde Problems?
One final word as I update this post. As the sufferer of a retrograde planet myself, I have often wondered about how to resolve the worst retrograde planet issues. As an astrologer, I have recognised the positive impact that is often felt when retrograde planets are ‘corrected’ by secondary progressions. By secondary progression, it’s possible to identify the point at which your natal retrograde planets appears to move forward – and you regain some sense of a ‘normal’ perspective or resolution of your retrograde ills. It seems all is not lost when planets are in reverse gear…
© Sara Shipman – updated 2023