What Are Planetary Retrogrades and Why Do They Matter?



Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

Retrogrades occur when a planet appears to be moving backward from the perspective of the Earth. They are cosmic optical illusions, and the term has gained popularity over recent years. Like anything that goes mainstream, misconceptions abound.

Retrogrades are nothing new; they’ve been happening since the beginning of time. As more and more people talk about retrogrades, many believe these periods are doomed. Symbolically these transits represent a period of review, re-evaluating, and reassessing. It’s a time to pull back before launching forwards, just like shooting an arrow.

The term retrograde comes from the Latin word retrogradus, which literally means “backward step.”

As the name suggests, retrograde is when a planet appears to go backward in its orbit, as viewed from Earth. Astronomers refer to this as “apparent retrograde motion,” because it is an optical illusion. -Farmer’s Almanac

There’s something exciting about a world where our news feeds are filled with information about the cosmos. It’s hard to scroll through social media these days without reading about an upcoming planetary retrograde or super moon. It can get us feeling excited; however often times the thrill can be preceded or followed up by some very real fears.

Yes, astrology is an ancient tool that holds valuable insights and information. There’s a reason it’s been around forever and usually when we read the right messages we’ll resonate with them in our core. However, popular culture can take this sacred, ancient wisdom and use to satisfy our material desires or needs. Not to mention western society (if not the entire world) is often driven by fear.

In this day and age it is crucial to discern where we are receiving our information because the internet can be a slippery slope when it comes to what we read or watch.

This isn’t to say only professionals or people established in the field can share their insights; but it does mean noticing how the information feels to us. Pretty much anything that has us feeling afraid isn’t going to help. It’s easy to read something about some higher power that we didn’t know existed and then believe this all mighty retrograde is going to run a train through our lives.

Headlines such as “Why Mercury Retrograde is your Worst Nightmare” or “Be Careful During Venus Retrograde” not only instil fear but they lead us to forgetting the fundamental fact of being human.

That we have freewill. That we are creators.

The planets are not doing anything to us, instead they are currents of energy that flow around us. Think of retrogrades, full moons or any other astro-hype we read online as weather patterns. At the end of the day we can’t let the fear of the rain control how we live our lives. Yet when it comes to these planetary cycles we are quick to throw ourselves under the covers and countdown the days until it goes away.

The rain nourishes us, gives life to our planet and literally keeps us alive. Imagine fearing it or wishing it away? Retrogrades offer a similar type of nourishment or refreshment. Let’s remember this the next time we read about why this upcoming Venus retrograde will put our relationships in jeopardy.

As humans we have free will which means we get to choose how we move forward.

This is why someone who’s never heard of anything astrology can live an awesome and successful life. Or why someone who believes Mercury retrograde is out to get them will probably experience a whack of issues during those times.

With free will comes the decision to choose what we believe.

Now this is something that takes time to work through. As we are alive there are all sorts of limiting beliefs that affect us even if we aren’t choosing it. Imagine certain collective beliefs as second hand smoke. They limit us and can even make us sick but we have to realize that they are here; then separate ourselves from them before we can experience a change. If we choose to believe everything we read online that’s a choice that may come with some side effects.

At the end of the day it’s about finding the right information. The right information will feel safe or like a relief for us to read/hear.

Astrology can be a tool that offers understanding into ourselves and life in general however finding the right channels of information is what it’s all about.

Stationing Direct & the Shadow Period

Popular narratives usually tell us to sing praises when a planet’s retrograde ends, but it’s not that simple. Planets “station direct,” which means that the appearance of backward motion is ending, but it takes time for the planet to move forward at full speed.

These planetary motions are not like slingshots shooting forwards and backward at a rapid speed. Instead, they take time to pivot, shift and retrace their steps. This retracing is known as the “shadow period.”

Instead of the retrograde period ending on the day that the planet stations direct, in this context, the circumstances surrounding the retrograde are seen as continuing until the planet passes the post-retrograde shadow point, which is the degree that it originally stationed retrograde at. -theastrologydictionary.com

That’s a technical way of saying things don’t just go back to normal after a retrograde. So, when you’re scrolling on social media and see posts celebrating the end of these damn retrogrades, don’t hold your breath and dream that all your problems will disappear.

Let’s stop blaming the planets

As a professional astrologer, I love that people are talking about retrograde. Still, I also find myself frustrated by the blame that gets put on these periods. Ultimately, the planets are not doing anything to us. They are merely celestial bodies orbiting beyond us that have mythical ties, stories, and symbolic meanings to explore.

Astrology is not science; it’s art, and, like art, it’s not fair to blame an artist for what they choose to create.

If we want to paint a picture of dreaded retrogrades, the choice is ours! The power of our focus will create our experiences, and we will probably end up living out the doom of a retrograde. Or we can take responsibility for ourselves and our lives. We can decide to look upwards to the cosmos as a way to gain an understanding of ourselves. From there, we can take action, knowing we are responsible for our experiences.

Your thoughts are a catalyst for self-perpetuating cycles. What you think influences how you feel and how you behave. So if you think you’re a failure, you’ll feel like a failure -Forbes.com.

If you think retrogrades are going to ruin you, you’ll feel like they are ruining you.

Retrogrades are times of retracing your steps and learning from your mistakes. When they end, things aren’t meant to go back to normal. Instead, it’s about moving forward, embracing changes, and focusing on expansion. As we end a pivotal year, remember that the cosmic cycles are just a reflection of what’s unfolding with you. It’s not the other way around.

Astrology is the echo of your unique power; it’s not a script you have to follow.

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