pInner planets, Mercury through Mars, function more powerfully when retrograde, and odds are that you will be aware of their retrograde significance if they are found either in the natal chart or in the solar return chart because they strongly impact personal decision-making as well as personal needs. Jupiter through Pluto, because they are more distant from Earth, are retrograde for a good percentage of the time, so it is less likely that their retrograde condition will be as obvious to you in your daily life. For example, Jupiter is retrograde 30% of the time, and Pluto is retrograde 50%.
All retrograde planets are closer to Earth than they are at any other times in their orbits.
Because they are so near to us during these times they require you to become more aware of how you are operating in your life, both internally and externally. In general, they invite you to look more deeply into what that planet really means to you.
It is interesting to note that in solar return charts, like in horary astrology, retrograde planets often describe something you are moving out of or away from. For example, if you find a retrograde planet in the 6th house, then you could be backing out of a job opportunity or some routine obligation, or you have come to realize that a change is premature for some reason. Perhaps you don't have sufficient information to make the change. This is particularly true if Mercury, Venus or Mars are just behind the cusp of the house-in this example, just behind the 6th house cusp. In years-gone-past, these planets were considered to be on the “hidden side” of the houses.
THE INNER PLANETS-Mercury, Venus and Mars
All retrograde planets imply there is a need for review. The years when Mercury is retrograde in the solar return chart are periods when you are challenged to back up and review what you have already learned in order to get a different or more intimate understanding of what you already know (or think you know).
Retrogradation personalizes the energy of the planet. With Mercury, it is important that you learn to internalize and analyze information throughout the year in order to see how it applies to your life in a personal way. In my book, “Your Hidden Powers-Retrograde Planets and Intercepted Signs,” I talk about how Mercury, when retrograde, takes on the flavor of its secondary ruling sign, Virgo. Once information has been thoroughly analyzed or reviewed (Virgo) it is easier to communicate it (Gemini) in a way others understand. Similarly, you sometimes need to review information before being able to thoroughly understand it or handle normal multi-tasking. In fact:
All retrograde planets tend to work first through their secondary ruling sign before being able to function creatively through their primary ruler.
Because retrograde planets are so near to Earth, they challenge you to pay more attention than normal to their functions. Personal planets, when retrograde in a solar return chart, indicate that the year is challenging you to review how the function of that planet operates in your life. For example, Mercury challenges you to retrograde-organize your mind, pay attention to details and take care of things that you have probably ignored because you have been so busy living your life. Weed out excesses and get ready to initiate some new systems in your activities. Is the information that has been previously fed into your personal computer (your mind) still applicable to your life? If it isn't, then it is time to weed out in preparation for new learning. Otherwise, your mind will become overly cluttered. Finish what already has been started. You could have so much on your mind that you are in “overwhelm”-you are confused and things can easily get mixed up.
One of Mercury's main purposes is to make connections. When retrograde, these connections don't always work properly. Therefore, it is not unusual to have mechanical problems, computer malfunctions or to experience any number of other misfortunes. You could blame Murphey's Law or Mercury retrograde. The truth is, there was probably some advanced warning regarding the problem prior to the time Mercury turned retrograde but because you were so busy, functioning in mental overload, you failed to take care of the problem when it first made itself known. So, when Mercury turned retrograde, things broke down.
When retrograde in the solar return chart, Mercury is telling you that you need to take care of what is already “on your plate” before biting off more than you can chew, not just for the three-week period of its transiting retrograde condition, but for the entire year. Bring things up to date, take care of unfinished business. This does not mean that you should not start anything new for the entire year, but it warns that before you start new projects, make sure you are ready for them-you have your ducks in a row.
When in transit, Venus is retrograde for forty days, and its retrogradation occurs every eighteen months. What is unique to the solar return chart is that, like Mercury, the meaning of the retrograde condition lasts for an entire year. When this occurs, you are challenged to reevaluate what is truly important to you. Ask yourself, what do you really want for yourself in the area of life described by its house? Are your relationships still evolving? Do you still want the same things from your partner that you did in the past?
Instead of rushing into a new relationship, review how your current or past relationships influence your life and how you might learn from them in the future. Your values are changing with regard to the activities of the natal house where solar return Venus falls, which results in the need to reevaluate the activities and people ruled by the house it occupies in the solar return.
Reviewing old values becomes a major theme of the year if the retrograde planet is Venus. You are called upon to reevaluate how your actions, impulses and desires have affected your life experiences when Mars is retrograde. In general, retrograde planets challenge you to reorganize the manner with which you have used or directed that particular energy in the past.
It is seldom a good idea to initiate major projects during years when the inner planets (Mercury, Venus and Mars) are retrograde, although it is unrealistic to think that you should not initiate anything new for the entire year. Keep in mind, however, that the retrograde condition of inner planets suggest that things are changing, so use caution. If Venus is retrograde in the solar return chart, for example, some of your values are changing and you need to allow this to happen. Give things time, especially when considering making commitments. What you think was valuable in the early part of the year may be different by the end of the year due to this reevaluation process. Because this is a period of reassessing and internalizing, it is not the best time to make new promises in your love life; it is a better time to make improvements, or spend time analyzing and repairing any problems, as well as showing your appreciation of there are none. If there are relationships from your past that need to be revisited for some reason, this is a good year to do that. In fact, it is not unusual for people from your past call on you, or visa-versa.
Mars retrograde deals with lessons involving the use of your personal energy and power. In itself, Mars represents the urge to move into life in order to acquire what you want from it. When retrograde, it encourages you to reevaluate the methods you have used until now to get what you want. There may be issues of control that need to be addressed-either your own power or the power of others whom you have allowed to use as a control over you. You will be challenged to use your energy toward personal development. Reevaluate how you have used your aggressive drives in the past.
While direct, Mars functions more at the level of Aries, but when retrograde it takes on a more Scorpio tone, suggesting it functions with great intensity and suggests a need for an element of rebirth regarding the area of life its house defines. How has your assertive drive (or lack of it) affected you in the past? Especially when dealing with the issues ruled by the house it occupies in the solar return chart as well as the natal house in which the solar return Mars falls? What can you change regarding the manner with which you go out to get what you want? Instead of aggressively attempting to prove your ability to function independently in this area of your life, re-evaluate how you have done so in the past and make changes when deemed necessary.
When we look up at the nighttime sky and see Mars retrograde, it appears much brighter than it does when it is direct, as do all visible planets. This is because all planets are at their closest point to our planet when at the midpoint of their retrograde transit, suggesting symbolically that the planet is attempting to call your attention to something important by making its appearance more visible. You could say that its issues are “in your face”, so you can no longer avoid dealing with them. While the illustration below is not to scale (and won't win any prizes for graphic artistry) it clearly shows how close Mars is to our planet when retrograde as opposed to its distance from the Earth when it is direct.
• View the illustration as if you were standing on the surface of Earth.
• Now look to the planet Mars when retrograde. Notice how much closer it is to Earth when retrograde than it is when it's transiting direct. Note also that it is forming an opposition to the Sun, with the Sun on one side of Earth and Mars on the other. (This illustration represents Mars at the midpoint of its retrograde cycle.)
This same principle applies to all planets, making it obvious that when planets are retrograde they function as powerful urges that must be acknowledged and integrated into consciousness.
What this tells us is that when planets are retrograde they actually operate more powerfully than they do when direct. Yet, many astrologers have been led to believe that retrograde planets are weakened-that their energies are suppressed and not easily externalized. Perhaps it's time for astrologers to take a "closer" look at the significance of the retrograde phenomenon.
For the reasons stated above, I believe that all retrograde planets operate with greater power than they do when direct, in a natal horoscope, in transit or in the solar return chart, so their energies should not be ignored. We could go so far as to say that retrogrades are "in your face" to the degree they can easily obscure other functions of personality (planets) from getting the attention they need, causing frustration until you get the message, acknowledging and directing the power the retrograde planet represents.
To demonstrate this theory in another way, I frequently tell students to place their index fingers directly in front of their faces, and I encourage you to do that now. What do you see around you? Not much, because your attention is drawn almost exclusively to your finger. A significant part of your vision and attention is obscured. Similarly, if there is an issue in your life that is "in your face," it tends to dominate and distract you from getting other things done. This is what happens when a planet is retrograde. If the planet is Mars, for example, it is making a statement that something in your life needs your full attention. It is time to take a good look at what motivates or provokes you to take action. It is time to examine how you have, in the past, gone about getting what you want. Are your old Mars-strategies still working? Or do you need to make some changes in order to continue to evolve? When retrograde in a solar return chart, this theme is an important one that will last the entire year.
Amazing, isn't it?
Because Mercury and Venus are inside the orbit of the Sun, they will never be in opposition to it. However, they will have an inferior and superior conjunction to it. An inferior conjunction occurs when the planet lies on a direct line between Earth and Sun, and is therefore closest to Earth. A superior conjunction occurs when Mercury is most distant from Earth, on the other side of the Sun. (Use the illustration if needed.)
Mars rules aggression, passion, and sometimes war-like behavior. Its retrograde condition in a solar return chart challenges you to take a close look at how you are asserting yourself. Have you developed habitual ways of going after what you want? How do you demonstrate your aggression, and for what purpose?
Earth is always directly opposite from the Sun's sign and degree, so when a planet is at the midpoint of its retrogradation, it is not just opposite the Sun, it is conjunct Earth. Oppositions encourage you to think before you act, and to consider the potential outcome of your actions before you initiate them. This is particularly the case with a Mars/Sun opposition. Could the message be any clearer? Mars requires us all, collectively and individually, to take responsibility for our actions when in retrograde. If we fail to do so, things will begin to fall apart. The "enemy" will make itself known. Confrontation becomes unavoidable. Mars has come closer to Earth's orbit-in essence, it has come home to roost.
If you have overextended yourself, particularly during the time just prior to its retrogradation, you will reap the results when Mars begins its “backward” motion. Its energy will come to the foreground of your life to be confronted, redirected, integrated or exorcised. Any pent-up frustrations must now be examined. Face your anger, confront your passion, acknowledge your instincts and become more conscious of what provokes or motivates you. Rather than functioning spontaneously while Mars is retrograde, use this time to develop new strategies for getting what you want; old ones may no longer work. Ask yourself:
Are you piloting your own ship, or have outside forces taken control of the helm?
It is important to pay attention to what was occurring in your life (and in the world) just prior to the retrogradation of the solar return planet. There was a tendency to get ahead of yourself (functioning beyond consciousness) or over-extended in some way. Things may have happened that alerted you to the fact that you needed to put the brakes on and take a closer look at what you were doing. Examine your inner motives regarding why you are acting in a certain way. Are you functioning consciously or are you letting old patterns of behavior or thinking dominate your life at a time when you should be functioning objectively?
These questions apply to all personal planets when retrograde in the solar return chart.
There is an element of prematurity whenever you start something new when the inner planets (Mercury, Venus and Mars) are retrograde. These are times when you need to reevaluate, reflect and catch up with yourself in the areas of life ruled by the houses involved. If you use these periods constructively you will develop fresh, more objective strategies for moving forward with your life once the planet(s) has turned direct. The house in which any planet is retrograde describes an area of life where you have overextended yourself in some way, defined by the nature of the planet. You may need to go back and catch up with what has been left undone. Reexamine your past actions and the motives that stand behind them. Become more conscious of how your actions, passions and personal power have influenced the degree of success or failure you have experienced of late.
To confront your own passion can be a wonderful thing. To confront your enemies (whether the enemy is another person or something within yourself) can lead to greater self-understanding, depending on how the process unfolds. This is the test of Mars retrograde. Be aware; take responsibility for your actions; acknowledge your passion; realign yourself with your spirit (Sun).
Do you really want what you have been striving toward in this area of life? Make sure that the future destination you are moving toward and the passion or power that you are using to propel you are in harmony with where you really want to go. This can be a time of empowerment, providing an opportunity to meet your power, regenerate your life and realign your Aries-identity.
It is true that retrograde planets in solar return charts sometimes indicate the need to “back out of”, or away from experiences, or relationships, in order to get a new perspective or to complete things that have been left undone. How you have used the energy of the retrograde planet(s) in the past comes home to roost in some significant way (conjunct Earth,) and affects you at a very personal level. If you don't utilize the retrograde planet(s) energy creatively you will soon come to the realization that something very important is missing in your life. It can be a year where you are repeating something important, and that may or may not be a good thing. This is not a time to run away, but a time to confront-to look at yourself, your accomplishments and failures objectively. Retrograde planets imply a probable change in the activity and motive behind it due to your re-evaluation processes. Therefore, you will undoubtedly encounter some frustration if you try to forge ahead in the area involved. A sense of insecurity will be felt until the process of re-evaluation has been fulfilled.
For example, when Mercury is retrograde, it is important that throughout the solar return year you back up and take care of unfulfilled business. It is likely that you have been moving ahead so fast that you have not taken the time to complete or perfect projects or take care of important details. Its house shows the area of life where these details must be taken care of, and the degree to which you do so will ultimately affect the houses having Gemini and Virgo on their cusps. It is also a good time to re-connect with people with whom you have lost contact prior to this time.
Consider what might happen to a college student who has Mercury retrograde in her solar return chart. Does this mean that she should quit school for a year? Absolutely not. However, it does indicate that it would behoove her to go back and study old notes, reevaluate what she wants to gain from her education, catch up with unfinished work if there is some before attempting to add to her studies. There is a sense of repetition, but not necessarily the need to repeat an entire class. It is true that she could experience some frustration regarding her studies, but it would probably be because she got ahead of herself until she reached a point where she got mental “blocks” that will last until she reorganizes her study routines. Of course, the natal house where solar return Mercury falls, along with its house in the solar return chart, could indicate that Mercury's retrograde condition has little or nothing to do with her education.
The Social Planets when Retrograde
Jupiter, Saturn and the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are retrograde for a considerable time each year. In fact, Jupiter is retrograde 30% of the time and planets more distant from Jupiter are retrograde even more frequently. Because these are not personal planets, and the fact that they are retrograde so much of the time, suggests that they will not have as powerful effect on your everyday life when retrograde in a solar return-at least not at a conscious level.
Jupiter and Saturn are considered “social” planets. When retrograde, they speak more loudly to society than to any one individual. Over-expansion is a threat of Jupiter retrograde. It is a time when everyone should become more conscious of how they expand their lives and define what they want. If people don't take the time to expand inwardly, or expand their consciousnesses, but rather continue on a path of outward expansion, things will ultimately begin to fall apart. We see this in the lives of people who have for some reason become very wealthy in a short period of time, but are not internally equipped to deal with the expansion in a creative way. Jupiter's basic nature is to want “more” than what it currently has. When does more become too much? This is one of the most important questions of Jupiter retrograde, and is most certainly an issue of today's society as a whole, which seems to be based on a philosophy of “more, more more.” So it is not unusual to find a good portion of society having Jupiter retrograde in the solar return chart, signifying years when they need to examine their lives with these thoughts in mind. Are they internally prepared to expand their lives in a way that creates positive outcomes? Are their spiritual lives (secondary ruler, Pisces) as developed as their social lives? These are questions you might want to address if Jupiter is retrograde in your solar return chart, especially if it aspects personal planets.
Saturn is retrograde even more frequently-37% of the time. Like Jupiter, it is a social planet, but unlike Jupiter which deals with expansion and opportunities, Saturn rules the structures and boundaries that society sets up to “keep us safe.” Sometimes, we allow the Saturn energy to go too far, and instead of setting appropriate boundaries in our lives (personally and collectively) we become confined or entrapped within them. When retrograde, Saturn warns that it is time to reevaluate the structures and rules that dominate your life. Even more important, it warns governments and societies to review the “systems” that have been put in place in the past that society must abide by. It is a better time to review and make adjustments accordingly than to enact more laws and limitations that can ultimately entangle how society functions.
In the natal chart, Saturn retrograde suggests that the rules you were brought up with, and the authority figures that enacted them, probably don't work well for you. There are frequently “father issues”. Remember, Saturn's secondary ruling sign is said to be Aquarius, the sign of rebellion against overly rigid boundaries, or the lack thereof. The same can be said of Saturn retrograde in the solar return chart. If you see that the structures and systems you have been working with have become overly limiting regarding what you want for your future, then this is a good year to make adjustments. Even the systems you use in your everyday life and at work, as well as in other areas of your routine life, should be examined and adjusted, but it is not necessary to eliminate all of the structures that hold your life together.
The main thing to remember is the Saturn is retrograde over 1/3 of the time so in itself it does not suggest the need for major change.
The Outer Planets: Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.
The outer, or unconscious, planets are retrograde just as often as they are direct. In fact you will experience, by transit, at least three transits over the same place in your chart as they go back and forth, making internal adjustments in your life-with Pluto even more frequently.
If is doubtful that you will experience the energy of these planets any differently when retrograde as you do when they are direct, because the transformation that is occurring is more internal than external. I often think that they are saying, “Get on your mark, get set, go” when transiting back and forth over an important planet or point in your chart, giving you time to internalize (retrograde) the essence of what their transits are creating. Some people who have one or more of these planets retrograde in their natal charts say that the retrograde transit of the planet has a more profound influence on them then does the direct transit.
Personally, I usually don't place much emphasis on whether the outer planets are retrograde or direct in a solar return chart because they are retrograde so often, and if they are retrograde in your solar return chart, they are retrograde in many, many other people's solar returns as well. The retrograde condition of these planets seem to function more at a collective level than at a personal one.
For more information on retrogrades, I refer you to my book, “Your Hidden Powers-Intercepted Signs and Retrograde Planets” where retrogrades are covered in-depth.