The Ultimate Guide to Retrogrades

Posted on February 04, 2020

Two planets rotating backwards through a solar system of stars and comets.

Retrogrades tend to be the first thing people learn about with astrology that scares the living daylights out of them. But fear not! Armed with some knowledge, retrogrades can be managed just like anything else in astrology (or life!).

What is Retrograde?

What is the retrograde definition in astrology? A planet is called retrograde when it appears to be moving backward through the zodiac. It’s not actually moving backward, so it’s just the way it appears to us Earthlings thanks to the way the planets move in relation to one another. Don’t worry, you won’t see any planet suddenly going in reverse!

The normal motion through the zodiac for planets is forward, so going backward alters the natural flow of the planet. This can really throw some of them off (looking at you Mercury!), while with others, it’s not so bad.

On a personal level, the exact way a retrograde impacts your life will depend on the impact it’s having on your natal chart. You’ll live through a zillion retrogrades in your life (well, a little less than that), and many will come and go without any notice from you, while others will feel like they dropped a bomb in your life. The difference is always what they’re doing to your chart! And of course, how proactive you’re being about them.

If you don’t know your birth chart positions, make sure to use the free birth chart generator!

In general, there is an energy that comes with each planetary retrograde that may not be there when they’re moving forward. They’re all different in their own way and can impact us all in their special (sometimes maddening) way. So make sure to stay up-to-date with whatever retrogrades are coming!

What to Expect from Each Planetary Retrograde:

So now that you know when each planet will be going retrograde this year but here is an overview of each retrograde overall.

Mercury Retrograde

Most of us have heard about Mercury retrograde and are needing to know what to do and not do during this time. Since this retrograde happens three times a year, it’s important to be on the lookout when this planetary transit occurs.

Mercury retrograde affects communication, electronics, the mail, and the mind. Travel plans are often interrupted and miscommunications are common. Generally, some people choose to not sign contracts or make major purchases and decisions during this time. It’s a great time, however, for reorganizing your home and budget, restructuring plans, and reflecting on your communication style.

The general focus for retrogrades is the re-s: redo, revise, revisit, rethink, rediscover, etc., and this is never more the case than with Mercury retrograde. It’s the ultimate time for second chances and do-overs, and this is the best way to use a Mercury retrograde. What would you like to get another shot at?

Mercury retrograde can also be great times for getting in tune with your conscious and subconscious mind (since Mercury does rule the mind), and sorting through issues from the past or that have caused mental blocks. It’s a great period for releasing and moving on (like from an ex!). Communication issues may arise in relationships (so be mindful of your words), but forgiveness and patience can be of great help.

What you should do during Mercury Retrograde:

  • Do: Change up your routine
  • Do: Tend to routine maintenance
  • Do: Replace what’s old
  • Do: Give your mind a break

What you should avoid doing during Mercury Retrograde:

  • Don’t: Make major decisions
  • Don’t: Neglect warning signs
  • Don’t: Say no to warranties
  • Don’t: Take on too much

Venus Retrograde

During Venus retrograde, old flames often come back into our lives so we can find closure. You may feel as if you’re in a dry spell in the romantic department because this is a time for healing old wounds. It’s generally not a time when new relationships begin because we are usually working on sorting through the baggage we have kept from old relationships. It’s a great time to assess what you value in a relationship and get clear on what you want as well as what you don’t want. Those in relationships are able to work on healing the issues in them.

Breaking up is incredibly common during Venus retrograde (and we often hear of at least one or two prominent ones coming apart that surprise us), but this isn’t always permanent. What comes to pass during a retrograde can often be undone when it’s over, so if things unravel in a relationship during Venus retrograde, that may not be the end of the matter.

People from the past like to come back around during Venus retrograde since Venus rules the other people in your life. It’s a good time to reconnect with people you’ve lost touch with (but don’t be surprised if some come back around you don’t want to reconnect with too!).

Venus is also the ruler of money, so Venus retrograde can impact financial affairs in addition to relationships. Yeah, Venus retrograde takes your love AND money! (that’s rough) You generally want to refrain from making important financial decisions during Venus retrograde unless absolutely necessary. It can be positive for looking back at old financial opportunities or old ways you used to make money.

What you should do during Venus Retrograde:

  • Do: Save
  • Do: Reconnect with the moment
  • Do: Work on blocks to confidence
  • Do: Find some balance

What you should avoid doing during Venus Retrograde:

  • Don’t: Get anything frivolous
  • Don’t: Ignore your values
  • Don’t: Listen too much to what other people say or think
  • Don’t: Be too stubborn

Mars Retrograde

Mars in retrograde affects our vitality and sex drive. Our energy may be lower during a Mars retrograde as we are given time to slow down and evaluate if we are openly sharing our desires, how our passion is expressed and repressed, and if we need to be more or less aggressive. As we reorder our deepest desires and own them, we become more equipped to channel our energy in healthy ways when Mars moves direct again. Mars retrogrades last about 10 weeks and happen approximately every 2 years.

If you’ve been holding back on something that has frustrated and annoyed you, that is likely to erupt during Mars retrograde. Everyone tends to be a little short on patience and quick to get riled up. First, be honest with yourself about anything you’re repressing that you haven’t allowed yourself to express, and second, find a healthy way to express it! Start jogging daily, buy a punching bag, take up hiking, scream into pillows. Release it into the ether and let it go.

Having a healthy outlet for frustrations and controlling your energy can be the secret weapon with Mars retrograde. It blows up in your face when you don’t do that (and you end up blowing up!).

Motivations can also come under scrutiny during Mars retrograde. Why do you do these things, what pushes you to do them, why do you want these things, what pushes you to want them? Many people don’t ask themselves those questions when they make decisions or take actions, but they’re important questions. If what’s motivated you isn’t actually good, then this may be thrust in your face, and you have to work on changing that.

What you should do during Mars Retrograde:

  • Do: Exercise
  • Do: Tend to your physical body
  • Do: Revisit old desires in positive ways
  • Do: Improve confidence

What you should avoid doing during Mars Retrograde:

  • Don’t: Repress
  • Don’t: Act impulsively
  • Don’t: Behave impatiently
  • Don’t: Avoid responsibilities

Saturn Retrograde

Known as the ‘Lord of Karma,’ Saturn acts as a mirror of our intentions and actions. During Saturn retrograde, our karma gets in our face so we are able to deal with the consequences of our actions instead of brushing them under the rug. It can be a time of reckoning and makes us become more mature in the areas we have been irresponsible or inconsiderate. Saturn retrogrades are valuable in that we can finally learn our lessons and become better people. This happens once per year and usually lasts about a third of the year (about four and a half months).

Saturn is the planet of restriction and limitation, and this feeling can often be worse during Saturn retrograde. It’s meant to force us to deal with whatever we’ve been avoiding, and start taking some concrete steps to improve.

Responsibilities can be the cause of stifling energy, and it can be tempting to run away from them. This doesn’t please Saturn though and can cause more problems for you. At the same time, you also want to make sure you don’t take on too much and overwhelm yourself. Find the middle ground.

The direction you’re going in and long-term plans and goals are also Saturn’s domain, so Saturn retrograde can be an excellent time to focus on the path that you’re on and see where you can make alterations. If you haven’t gotten very far, then a change may be needed. Do your research first, gather information, and plan in advance so you go about it the right way (Saturn’s way).

What you should do during Saturn Retrograde:

  • Do: Be extra extra extra responsible
  • Do: Revisit old goals
  • Do: Learn lessons
  • Do: Plan for a break

What you should avoid doing during Saturn Retrograde:

  • Don’t: Be selfish
  • Don’t: Let laziness take over
  • Don’t: Ignore what’s right in front of you
  • Don’t: Blame others

Pluto Retrograde

Pluto goes retrograde once a year and spends about half the year retrograde. Pluto, the planet of change and transformation, has to do with our subconscious and our darker side. We see our own intentions and fears when Pluto is in retrograde. Of course, facing our fears and the way we project onto other people when we are in pain is one of the most valuable things to work on. While it can feel like heavy work, Pluto retrogrades leave us much lighter in a spiritual sense and can greatly improve our ability to relate to others and ourselves in a much more positive way.

As the planet of transformation, Pluto often requires us to make major transformations with whatever it’s touching in your life. Pluto retrograde slows this down, and gives you a chance to catch your breath and get used to the major transformations that have already been made. No one can last under the unrelenting touch of Pluto forever, so Pluto retrograde gives you a break.

The break can leave you time to work on getting more in tune with your darkness and depths, and to understand your inner demons and fears. This is how you can get to that place of lightness and positive energy.

With retrogrades being great times for do-overs and second chances, and Pluto ruling transformations, Pluto retrograde may be the ultimate time to transform something old, to breathe new life into something stale, to make everything fresh again. Rehabilitating and restoring can yield amazing results.

What you should do during Pluto Retrograde:

  • Do: Explore your inner self
  • Do: Discover healthy outlets for anger
  • Do: Refinish something
  • Do: Let things slide

What you should avoid doing during Pluto Retrograde:

  • Don’t: Give in to rage
  • Don’t: Be self-righteous
  • Don’t: Hold on too long
  • Don’t: Be self-destructive

Jupiter Retrograde

The planet of luck and fortune goes retrograde each year for about three to four months. The planet of money usually brings us fortune when it is direct and allows us to see how to restructure our lives to make money more efficiently while it’s retrograde. This is a great time to find success and happiness within our lives!

Jupiter retrograde is a planting/planning phase while and a harvest when it goes direct. Jupiter is the planet of expansion, so we can expect our intellectual growth to be slowed during a retrograde. We can use this time to locate what’s been blocking us and dig up those issues at their root cause.

If it feels like life has slowed down quite a bit during Jupiter retrograde, this might be Jupiter’s way of trying to get you to resolve some karma. What have you been ignoring? What have you been avoiding? What needs your attention right now before you pursue any of your desires? Tend to all of that first before pushing forward with anything else.

It can be frustrating when things slow down so much, and it’s tempting to try to take control, but this may be a period where you have to learn to trust that what’s happening is what’s supposed to. Trust in the Universe, trust in your instincts, and trust in Jupiter!

What you should do during Jupiter Retrograde:

  • Do: Take your time
  • Do: Focus on the positives
  • Do: Go places you’ve gone before
  • Do: Relearn something

What you should avoid doing during Jupiter Retrograde:

  • Don’t: Be impatient
  • Don’t: Be selfish
  • Don’t: Travel erratically
  • Don’t: Thumb your nose at people

Chiron Retrograde

Chiron is called the Wounded Healer and governs some of our greatest wounds in life. Often, they’re wounds that we didn’t really do anything to earn, but we have to learn and grow from them. Chiron retrograde lasts almost half the year, and during this time, we can use the period to work on that healing.

Chiron doesn’t just show us the wounds we have but also shows us how we can heal. Some wounds, we may never fully heal from, but we learn how to live with them and use the experience to become stronger and wiser. While Chiron is retrograde, we can see the pains that we need to address, and find some sense of peace with them. At the same time, you want to use a gentle touch with yourself, and show yourself some consideration as you deal with issues.

Chiron links to all sorts of wounds, and this is often mental, emotional, or spiritual pain, but it can be physical pain as well. If you have a physical ailment, you can use the Chiron retrograde period to try to find some relief and comfort.

With Chiron retrograde, you may have to face something that you don’t really want to, but have to. Find some courage within you, and go right at it instead of avoiding it. This can unearth a wealth of wisdom, not to mention trigger the healing you need.

What you should do during Chiron Retrograde:

  • Do: Take care of your physical self
  • Do: Be kind
  • Do: Focus on various ways of healing
  • Do: Talk things over

What you should avoid doing during Chiron Retrograde:

  • Don’t: Ignore aches and pains
  • Don’t: Let old wounds turn you sour
  • Don’t: Allow sadness or pain to fester
  • Don’t: Play the victim or push guilt on others

Uranus Retrograde

The planet of rebellion and revolution will make us even more rebellious when it goes retrograde. Uranus retrograde is often when we see governments overthrown and it lasts 155 days each year, which means we get to be rebellious almost half the year without trying too hard. Uranus shakes down old structures of thinking that no longer serve us to make room for newer, more evolved systems. We often change our core beliefs and deepest motivations during Uranus retrogrades because we spend time examining exactly why we do things.

We may be more restless and impatient during Uranus retrograde, wanting things to be exactly the way we envision right away, and this can cause some reckless actions to be taken and decisions to be made that we don’t think out very well. Try to calm this energy, and focus on making changes that are thoughtful and part of a plan.

You can become more aware of changes that you’ve been holding back on, and some of the desire to jump at change may stem from this. You’ve been holding back, and want to let yourself be free. This can create some problems though, so focus on changes that you have been overly cautious about pursuing and work on gathering information and formulating plans.

Rebellion can also be a lot higher, and you may push back against anything that you feel is trying to hold you back. You may crave more independence, and freedom to be true to yourself. These are good things if you go about them properly. Find the room you need to be yourself without pushing everyone away.

What you should do during Uranus Retrograde:

  • Do: Thoughtfully make changes
  • Do: Act more independently
  • Do: Reconnect with friends
  • Do: Allow yourself to dream

What you should avoid doing during Chiron Retrograde:

  • Don’t: Act like a rebellious teenager
  • Don’t: Have a hive mindset
  • Don’t: Abandon your causes
  • Don’t: Give up hope

Neptune Retrograde

Neptune, ruler of Pisces, affects our dreams, our spiritual connection, and our love for humanity. It goes retrograde once per year and the retrograde lasts five or six months. During this time, we have a deeper connection to our spiritual side, our intuition, and our artistic abilities. The potential challenge during a Neptune retrograde is that we get lost in escapism or fantasy because we lose touch with reality much easier. It’s important to be diligent to remain balanced as we grow spiritually, meaning that we will want to help the world but need to work within the world (rather than retreating into ourselves) to do so.

Tapping into intuition can be excellent during Neptune retrograde since we’re much more sensitive to the subtle energies around us. Having a solid connection to your intuition can also help you when reality becomes a little hard to grasp. Work on exercises to strengthen your intuition, and trust in yourself and your abilities. If there are subconscious blocks hindering your intuitive abilities, root them out.

Focus on your spiritual pursuits, ideas, and tend to your spiritual needs during Neptune retrograde. This can help to nourish you and make you feel more secure during the retrograde. Explore new ideas that interest you, or create a spiritual ritual. Use spiritual energy to inspire you creatively, and express your spiritual self through creative means.

Energy can be especially flowy when Neptune is retrograde, which can make us all more flexible and adaptable. This can also make us all more easily pushed around, taken advantage of, and used. Ground yourself as much as you can, and remove rose-colored glasses when dealing with others.

What you should do doing during Neptune Retrograde:

  • Do: Pay attention to your dreams
  • Do: Be kind to your heart
  • Do: Work on healthy boundaries
  • Do: Use your imagination productively

What you should avoid doing during Chiron Retrograde:

  • Don’t: Get lost in your dreams
  • Don’t: Let yourself be a doormat
  • Don’t: Spend time with energy vampires
  • Don’t: Get lost in fantasy

Does Every Planet Go Into Retrograde?

In astrology, the Sun and Moon are considered to be the luminaries and they do not go into retrograde. Every other planet does experience retrograde periods, which can slow things down in the area of life they govern so we can organize our thoughts and intentions in that department.

Retrograde Motion in Astrology:

A retrograde period is when a planet appears to be moving backwards in the sky along its orbit. The Latin root word retrogradus means going backwards. Each planet’s retrograde has a different length and frequency, bringing a chance to review and reflect upon certain areas and themes in our lives.

This means we can go over what has happened in the area of life the retrograde planet rules so we can lay it to rest or shift our behaviors with our will. It also means the area of our life that the retrograde planet rules is going to be impacted in full force, no longer hidden from our waking consciousness.

How Common Are Retrogrades?

Because each planet takes a different amount of time to go through all 12 zodiac signs, their retrogrades are different lengths and occur at different times.

Think about it this way: the Sun takes 365 days to go through all 12 zodiac signs, the Moon takes 29.5 days because it’s much closer to us. Depending on how far a planet is from us, it could stay in a sign for a very long time. Neptune, for instance, spends 14 years in a sign, Uranus spends 7, Saturn spends 2 1/2, and Jupiter spends 1.

The inner planets (Mercury, Venus, and Mars) have retrogrades more frequently because they are closer to us and have a smaller orbit around the Sun. Mercury retrogrades occur generally 3-4 times a year for about 3 weeks at a time. They occur different dates each year. Venus retrogrades last about 40 to 43 days and occur every 18 months. Mars retrogrades happen once every 2 years and last roughly 10 weeks.

Do Retrogrades Happen at the Same Time Each Year?

Retrograde dates shift each year so you can always check to see when the retrograde dates are for the year to come.

Here is a great astrology calendar you can use to track the retrograde dates so you know the energy shifts that will be coming well ahead of time. It’s also helpful to other people who don’t follow astrology if you casually mention how you notice yourself feeling different and that it’s linked to a specific retrograde. It can help pique their curiosity about learning how to use the energy of the retrogrades to heal and move forward in their lives.

Why is Retrograde Popular in Astrology?

Retrogrades are some of the most important astrology that can occur each year, and often because they can be periods of great opportunity or great challenges. They can act as triggers for important events, and you can use them to wisely plan and prepare.

Astrology itself has become more popular in recent years, and as many start learning astrology for themselves, they often come to retrogrades (especially Mercury retrograde) pretty quickly. You can see how it plays out, not only on a personal level, but in the entire world, and it’s usually pretty obvious.

Retrogrades tend to be important players whenever anything happens in the world. Wars and violence, financial crises and diplomatic debacles, supreme highs and the lowest of lows - a retrograde is likely involved!

What Happens If Your Ruling Planet Goes Into Retrograde?

Your ruling planet, which is the planet that rules your Rising sign, will go into retrograde at some point unless it’s the Moon or the Sun. Your ruling planet’s retrograde will feel stronger for you.

For example, let’s say your rising sign is Capricorn, which is ruled by Saturn. During a Saturn retrograde, a Capricorn may go through an even deeper soul reckoning and maturation because it’s their ruling planet.

How Do Retrogrades Affect Us?

If we know there is a retrograde occurring, we can use this time to do house-cleaning in the area of life that the planet rules. In that way, a retrograde can very much be a growth phase for us. For those who don’t know which planets are retrograde when it can be confusing because they don’t know why their focus and energy isn’t the same as usual. This can lead to frustration and inefficient use of energy. Reread the descriptions of each planet’s retrograde and mark the dates on your calendar so you can be prepared for these shifts and ride the cosmic tides.

Are Retrogrades Always Bad?

Absolutely not! They’re a challenge for sure but when we know how to harness the direction these energies push our brains in, we can remove our resistance to the process and really make headway in our progress as humans and spiritual beings trying to evolve. Don’t let people scare you into thinking that retrogrades are bad. That is a very fear-based and limited viewpoint. It comes from people who don’t understand astrology enough and just observe strange events without seeing beneath the surface.

What Does it Mean when Retrograde Planets are in my Birth Chart?

If a retrograde planet is present in your birth chart, this means that the planet was retrograde when you were born. A natal retrograde planet operates a little differently and means that the energy of that planet is a little different for you than the norm.

By planet:

  • Natal Mercury retrograde can give you a different way of communicating, looking at the world, expressing yourself, or using your mind
  • Natal Venus retrograde can give you a different way of approaching relationships or managing money
  • Natal Mars retrograde can give you a different way of using your energy or finding what drives you
  • Natal Jupiter retrograde can give you a different way of pursuing opportunities or expanding your life
  • Natal Saturn retrograde can give you a different way of learning lessons, pursuing goals, or handling responsibilities
  • Natal Uranus retrograde can give you a different way of making changes or being independent
  • Natal Neptune retrograde can give you a different way of using your intuition or connecting to your soul
  • Natal Pluto retrograde can give you a different way of finding your personal power or transforming
  • Natal Chiron retrograde can give you a different way of healing or managing your wounds

And if you’re wondering: ‘how do you find out if you have retrograde planets in your birth chart?’ - go use the free birth chart generator! (if it’s retrograde, it’ll say Yes under the Retrograde column)

What are the Effects of Retrograde Planets in a Horoscope?

A horoscope is based on what the transit (currently moving) planets are doing for the period of that horoscope (that day, week, month, or year). It assesses what the planets are doing in relation to each zodiac sign. When a planet is retrograde, this is something that will often be a focus in a horoscope since they can be so important.

(BUT fair warning, it’ll be much more accurate for you to base the retrograde impact on your actual birth chart!)

Retrogrades can be incredibly important events to track in astrology, and doing so can help you plan your life accordingly. Get the power of the planets on your side so you can thrive and succeed where everyone else falls and fails!

Conclusion

You may want to make use of the free astrology calendar so you know when retrogrades are starting. Good luck!

Related Article: The Complete Guide to 2020 Retrogrades

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Nic Gaudette’s astrology career began in 2004. She’s performed thousands of astrology readings, helped thousands of students learn astrology, has written over a dozen horoscope… Learn More About The Author »

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