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The Retrogradation of Planets

The Retrogradation of Planets in the Natal Chart

The retrogradation of planets in astrology is a fascinating phenomenon, often associated with periods of reflection, revision, and transformation in various aspects of life.

In an astrological chart, it refers to the appearance that a planet changes direction and moves backward in the zodiac. This is an optical illusion caused by the differences in the orbits of the Earth and the concerned planet.

In a sky map, retrogradation is indicated by an uppercase R, sometimes reversed, to the right of the concerned planet.

It should be noted that the Sun and Moon cannot retrograde due to their specific orbital movements in relation to the Earth.

The apparent retrograde motion of Mars as seen from Earth in 2003. / Author: Eugene Alvin Villar, 2008 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

In the geocentric system used in astrology, the Sun never retrogrades as it is always in direct motion around the Earth. This is a symbolic representation based on observation from the Earth, where the Sun seems to constantly move from east to west through the zodiac without ever changing direction.

As for the Moon, orbiting around the Earth, it also has a movement that is constantly direct in the geocentric system. It never shows an apparent retrograde motion due to its proximity to the Earth and the speed of its orbit.

The retrogradation of the eight planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) is sometimes important in several contexts:

Personalized Influence

A retrograde planet in a natal chart has a more personal and introspective influence. It affects the characteristics associated with that planet in a more internal or subtle way.

Revision and Reflection

Retrograde planets often invite deeper reflection on the areas of life they govern. For example, Mercury retrograde in a natal chart may indicate an internal thought process and more thoughtful communication.


Challenges and Opportunities for Growth

Retrogradations can signal challenges or lessons to be learned in the areas governed by the planet. These challenges are often opportunities for personal growth.

Atypical Expression of Planetary Qualities

The qualities of a retrograde planet can be expressed in an atypical or unconventional way. For example, a retrograde Venus may indicate a unique or non-traditional approach to relationships and aesthetics.

Inner Strength and Independence

Retrograde planets can also indicate inner strength and independence in the areas of life they influence, as the energies are turned inward rather than outward.

Repetitions or Delays

Retrogradation is indicated by a small R to the right of the planet, here Mercury.

They may also indicate repetitive patterns or delays in the concerned areas, requiring reevaluation or deeper understanding.

Astrologers often joke among themselves about this. When they make a mistake, there is a misunderstanding, or they are late to an appointment, they sometimes say: "Ah! Mercury must be retrograding right now!" A friendly way of not blaming anyone.

Influence on Relationships

In relationships, a retrograde planet can indicate significant internal dynamics or karmic lessons (only for those who accept this concept, which is far from being the majority in the modern astrological community) to be learned.

Impact on Behavior and Decisions

Retrograde planets can influence how a person reacts to situations, makes decisions, and manages their emotions and impulses.

In summary, the presence of retrograde planets in a natal chart suggests areas where the individual might need to focus more on personal development and self-understanding.

These planets can offer unique challenges but also precious opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.

Retrogradation for Fast Planets Compared to Slow Planets

Fast planets retrograde more frequently and for shorter durations than slow planets.

Their retrogradation affects specific periods and more personal aspects of life, making their influence more immediately felt and individualized.

Collective Effect of Slow Planets

Slow planets spend a large part of their orbit in retrogradation and influence broad groups of people born during these periods. Therefore, their retrogradation has a more collective or generational effect.

Personal Impact

Fast planets, being closer to Earth, have a more direct and personal impact in a natal chart. For example, Mercury retrograde can influence communication and thought processes in a way that is very specific to the individual.

Daily Changes and Events

Fast planets govern aspects of daily life and more immediate changes, while slow planets are associated with slower evolutions and long-term changes.

Personalization of Experiences

The retrogradation of fast planets in a natal chart can indicate very personalized experiences and challenges in the areas of life they rule.

L'interprétation de la rétrogradation des planètes en transit

Mercury Retrograde

Mercury / Author: MadVector 07-2021 / iStock by Getty Images
  • Periodicity : About three to four times a year.
  • Symbolism : Mercury retrograde is known for causing misunderstandings, delays, and problems in communication and travel.
  • Advice : It's a good time to review, reflect, and reconsider decisions. It is advised to double-check information and be patient.

Venus Retrograde

Venus / Author: MadVector 07-2021 / iStock by Getty Images
  • Periodicity : About every 18 months.
  • Symbolism : Venus retrograde influences relationships, romantic feelings, and finances. Past relationships may resurface.
  • Advice : It's a time to reassess what is important in love and finances. New relationships or financial investments are generally not advised during this period.

Mars Retrograde

Mars / Author: MadVector 07-2021 / iStock by Getty Images
  • Periodicity : About every two years.
  • Symbolism : Mars retrograde affects energy, action, and sexuality. A decrease in dynamism or initiative may be felt.
  • Advice : It's time to think before acting and reconsider personal goals. Avoid unnecessary confrontations.

Jupiter Retrograde

Jupiter / Author: MadVector 07-2021 / iStock by Getty Images
  • Periodicity : Annually, for about four months.
  • Symbolism : Jupiter retrograde invites introspection regarding personal growth, opportunities, and luck.
  • Advice : Use this period to reconsider your life goals and beliefs. Opportunities might present themselves in less obvious ways.

Saturn Retrograde

Saturn / Author: MadVector 07-2021 / iStock by Getty Images
  • Periodicity : Annually, for about four to five months.
  • Symbolism : Saturn retrograde calls for a review of structures, responsibilities, and limits in one's life.
  • Advice : Reassess your obligations and responsibilities. It's a good time to correct past mistakes and strengthen foundations.

Uranus Retrograde

Uranus / Author: MadVector 07-2021 / iStock by Getty Images
  • Periodicity : Annually, for about five months.
  • Symbolism : Uranus retrograde questions changes and individual freedom. Unexpected changes may be less frequent but more introspective.
  • Advice : Reconsider areas of your life needing renewal. Be open to innovative ideas. / Periodicity: Annually, for about six months.

Neptune Retrograde

Neptune / Author: MadVector 07-2021 / iStock by Getty Images
  • Periodicity : Annually, for about six months.
  • Symbolism : Neptune retrograde is associated with spirituality, dreams, and illusion. Reality may seem more blurred.
  • Advice : It's a conducive time to connect with your inner self and spirituality. Be mindful of disappointments or illusions.

Pluto Retrograde

Pluto / Author: MadVector 07-2021 / iStock by Getty Images
  • Periodicity : Annually, for about six months.
  • Symbolism : Pluto retrograde deals with deep transformation, issues of power, and renewal.
  • Advice : Confront and heal deeply rooted problems. It's a time for letting go and personal regeneration.

Succinct Interpretation of Planetary Retrogradation in the Natal Chart

In the natal chart, the action of a retrograde planet is not tied to time or events. It slightly colors the character trait associated with the planet, but is of much less importance, in our view, than the interpretation of its configuration in sign, house, dignity, and aspect.

Many modern astrologers even go so far as to neglect to take it into account, which does not seem incorrect to us. It is a relatively minor characteristic to avoid discussing in a first, even detailed, interpretation of the chart.

Moreover, it should be noted that followers of karmic astrology have their own interpretation of retrogradation. Naturally, this should be approached with curiosity.

Mercure Retrograde

You tend to internal reflection, and your communication and thought processes are more introspective.

Venus Retrograde

You reevaluate your relationships and values, adopting a non-conventional approach to love and finances.

Mars Retrograde

You suppress or redirect your energy and aggression, acting in a more thoughtful manner.

Jupiter Retrograde

You experience internal growth and expansion, revising your beliefs and life philosophies.

Saturn Retrograde

You reassess your responsibilities and limits, learning discipline lessons in a more personal way.

Uranus Retrograde

You undergo internal changes and innovations, rebelling against established norms at a subtle level.

Neptune Retrograde

You explore your spirituality and creativity introspectively, delving into your dreams and unconscious.

Pluto Retrograde

You undergo deep internal transformation and healing, confronting your personal power and control.

Modern and Traditional Interpretations of Retrogradation

The understanding and interpretation of planetary retrogradation in astrology have evolved over time, and there are certainly differences between traditional and modern approaches:

Traditional Approaches

In traditional astrology, retrogradation was often seen in a more negative or problematic way. Retrograde planets were sometimes associated with misfortunes, delays, or obstacles. This view was partly due to a less nuanced understanding of planetary energies and a focus on external events and fate.

Modern Approaches

Modern astrology tends to view planetary retrogradation in a more nuanced and psychological manner. Rather than focusing solely on external challenges, modern astrologers often interpret retrogradation as an invitation to internal reflection, personal growth, and reevaluation of the areas of life affected by the concerned planet.

Relative Importance

In contemporary astrology, retrogradation is neither systematically viewed as negative nor as diminishing. On the contrary, it is often considered an important period for personal development, even if it may bring challenges.

Perception of Retrograde Transits

The transits of retrograde planets are also seen differently. Rather than viewing them as universally difficult periods, they are often interpreted as necessary pauses for reflection and reconsideration of life trajectories.

Evolution of Beliefs and Practices

With the evolution of society and beliefs, as well as the integration of new disciplines such as psychology, astrology has embraced a more holistic and individual-centered approach.

In summary, although retrogradation has always been a significant aspect in astrology, its interpretation has evolved to become more nuanced and personalized in modern approaches. Rather than considering it inherently negative, it is often viewed today as an opportunity for personal development and introspection.

And as we mentioned earlier, it is still a relatively minor characteristic to avoid discussing in a first, even detailed, interpretation of the chart. It is of much less importance, in our view, than the interpretation of its configuration in sign, house, dignity, and aspect.