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Do you know that Mercury isn’t the only planet that goes retrograde? More importantly, do you know what retrograde actually means? With the amount of attention mercury retrograde gets three to four times each year, it’s a common misconception that this phenomena is limited to the planet closest to the sun, but this is far from true. In fact, all the planets in our solar system go retrograde at some point during the year, and some even retrograde for half the year! Mercury retrograde just happens to occur the most frequently, and because Mercury rules communication in astrology, it’s especially popular to discuss. With that said, it’s time to clear up all the misconceptions about retrogrades and understand what exactly they are, why we shouldn’t fear them and how to embrace and magnify their energy instead.
First, let’s talk about the term “retrograde.” From an astronomical perspective, a retrograde occurs when a planet appears to be moving backwards in the sky. The keyword here is “appears,” as this isn’t actually happening. Planets don’t actually slow down, stop and change directions. They only appear to be doing so based on their speed and distance from the earth. To compare, think about the last time you were at a stoplight and someone drove off way faster than you when the light turned green. For a brief moment, you might’ve felt like you were going backwards when you hit the accelerator. Did you actually go backwards? Nope, but your perception was altered due to the difference in speed of your car versus the other car. This is similar to the nature of a retrograde from an astrological perspective.
This sensation applies not just to the planet’s movement, but also to how retrograde affects you personally. You might feel like you are going backwards for a bit, but you are in fact still moving forward in life, so don’t stress! Astrologers recommend using this time to focus on the past in order to move forward, so during any retrograde it’s encouraged to re-evaluate, rethink, redo…All of this re-ing is is so that you can make more strategic progress in the future as you move forward.
All planets share the desire to dive into our past when they go retrograde. The biggest differences between their retrogrades are the length of time they last, how often they occur and which areas of life they influence. Lucky for you, we’ve created a quick guide to helping you remember how long each planet retrogrades, how often each enters retrograde and what areas of life they encourage you to revisit.
Read on for a guide to each planet’s retrograde below.
As the closest planet to the sun, Mercury retrogrades three to four times every year, serving as a quarterly check-in for you to evaluate how you communicate, how you can be more efficient with your daily tasks and how effectively you are marching towards your goals in life.
Each retrograde lasts for three weeks, during which time making progress on new ventures is highly unlikely—focus on the past instead. This is not the time to start anything new, and this goes for any new strategies, hobbies, projects, relationships or businesses, unless you are replacing an outdated strategy or habit after a period of reflection. During Mercury retrograde, your time is best spent re-evaluating and improving on existing structures only.
Heralded as the planet of love and money, Venus goes retrograde approximately every 18 months and retrogrades for an average of six weeks. When Venus goes retrograde, she urges us to re-evaluate our love lives. You may find old relationship issues that you thought were settled rear their ugly heads for a final showdown. You may also find that you need to re-evaluate your budget and improve it to make it more efficient.
The goal of Venus retrograde is to help you in the process of deepening your sense of self worth and honing your closest values. During this retrograde, any area of life in which you are not honoring yourself to the fullest is up for review.
The planet that rules physical energy, forward momentum and your sex drive goes retrograde every two years for about two and a half months at a time. No, that does not mean you won’t get laid or accomplish anything worthwhile for two whole months. It’s quite the opposite, actually!
During Mars retrograde, you will find new ways to channel your energy in productive and pleasurable ways. However, any issues you have been struggling with regarding your ability to make things happen for yourself will undoubtedly come up. The goal is for you to look those things in the eye and tackle them once and for all. When Mars goes direct and the retrograde ends, you will relish in being more focused than ever before.
The giver of luck and gifts is backwards in the sky about one third of every year, averaging 120 days retrograde annually. Jupiter is said to bring fortune and expansion anywhere in a chart it exists. Arguably, Jupiter is probably one of the gentlest retrogrades we experience. The goal with Jupiter retrograde is for us to make sure we haven’t gotten lazy with all the goodness Jupiter brings into our lives.
This retrograde serves as a reminder that we need to do the work to achieve our dreams—after all, your dream job isn’t any good if it drops from the sky and you don’t have the credentials or experience to do it! Use Jupiter retrograde as a time for tackling your complacency, and pinpoint areas in which you could be working just a little bit harder.
Neptune spends about 23 weeks every year shaking up our perception of reality, retrograding for 43% of the calendar year. When in retrograde, Neptune aims to teach us about how we deceive ourselves, suppress our own fears, manage our anxieties and possess unhealthy attachments. When Neptune is moving direct, it has a tendency of distorting reality, especially when it comes to encouraging rose-colored glasses.
Neptune retrograde smashes said rose-colored glasses, giving us the sometimes-surprising opportunity to see ourselves more clearly. The nature of Neptune is a bit elusive in general, so it seems fitting that it acts a bit differently than the other planets by allowing for clarity during retrograde. Use Neptune retrograde to get real with yourself, and don’t worry—you’ll get a new pair of glasses when it goes direct again.
Similar to Jupiter, Saturn retrogrades for about one third of every calendar year spending an average of 20 weeks moving backwards. This retrograde is probably the one that most astrologers feel relieved to see. Saturn, the taskmaker and stern grandaddy of the zodiac, is adamant about keeping us in line when the planet is direct. Saturn wants us to accomplish our goals, live a balanced, healthy life and work hard.
If we aren’t living up to Saturn’s standards, this planet has no problem reminding us of how it rules Karma, too. When Saturn goes retrograde, we get a little break from new lessons and a chance to revisit old ones, which tend to be gentler and more familiar. Enjoy this 20-week break and spend time ensuring you took heed in the life lessons you were taught when the planet was direct.
Uranus, the glass-ceiling-breaking revolutionary of the zodiac, spends about 22 weeks retrograding for 40% of the calendar year. During a Uranus retrograde, our little rebel takes a nap, calming our needs for freedom, change and chaos.
This is a great time for us to look for new paths towards accomplishing older intentions, using the energy of Uranus to help us think creatively and get out the box. Uranus, even asleep, is still a changemaker—just more subtly.
Although astronomers no longer claim Pluto as a planet, astrologers still do. As such, they recognize Pluto’s influence during a retrograde like any of the other planets. Good thing, because Pluto takes the cake, spending half of the year in retrograde and averaging 186 days backpedalling in the sky.
When Pluto is retrograde, it urges us to evaluate our relationship with power. Are you stepping into your power or shrinking from it? Are you welding your power in a way that is harming others? Are you being overpowered by others? If any of these questions resonate with you during Pluto retrograde, it’s time to embrace your inner power and use it to empower others, too.