What is a planetary retrograde, and how does it influence my life?
Did you know that the word ‘Planet’ comes from the Greek word for ‘wanderer’…?
The word ‘retrograde’ literally means ‘to walk backwards’, and during a planetary retrograde, it appears to be ‘wandering’ in the opposite direction than its normal course of orbit.
Retrograde motion is an illusion created when we observe other planets from Earth, which is also in motion. This is because the astrological zodiac measures the movements of planets in relation to the Earth, (not to the Sun which they are actually orbiting). Retrogrades appear to occur when the Earth passes ahead of a slower-moving outer planet, or when a faster-moving inner planet passes ahead of the Earth.
When Mercury and Venus are retrograde, they shift from evening to morning stars. The retrograde cycles of planets outside to Earth’s orbit occur when we experience them as being in opposition to the Sun.
During a retrograde cycle, the energies which are expressed by that planetary body have a more introspective focus. The usual forward momentum shifts, encouraging us to bring awareness to our internal experience. We can also use this time to gain wisdom by reflecting on the past with a new sense of perspective.
A retrograde cycle has 3 phases:
(1) Pre-shadow phase – the influence of the retrograde energy starts to be felt and grows stronger with each day. The planetary body which is about to go retrograde will be passing back over the path which it is currently transiting when the planet is in the retrograde phase. During the pre-shadow phase, the orbit slows down until it eventually reaches the point where it will switch directions.
(2) Retrograde phase – the orbit is counter to the normal direction and the planetary body appears to be ‘moving backwards’
(3) Post-shadow phase – the influence of the retrograde is still felt but starts to slowly diminish with each day. The planetary body is moving forward again, retracing its steps for the third time over the same path. It’s moving slowly at first (it is said to be ‘sleepy’ during this time) but with each day it picks up speed until it fully resumes its normal pace.
Common Experiences during Mercury Retrograde
- Frustrations or confusion resulting from miscommunication
- Important information tends to be missing or ‘veiled’, especially related to plans, decisions, agreements (contracts) and financial commitments
- Plans are disrupted; unexpected detours
- You feel fatigued + more likely to back out of social commitments at the last minute
- Transportation blunders, breakdowns, delays etc.
- A focus on the past, which may involve working through something currently unresolved
- A focus inward; introspection and reflection
- Being in a state of receiving; heightened intuition
- Spontaneous inspiration leading to ‘magic moments’
- Unexpected opportunities and synchronicities come to you
- Travel (especially domestic or short distance)
- Transportation (vehicles, planes, trains & their schedules, etc)
- The transmission of ‘messages’ – In Greek mythology, Mercury was the messenger god.
In the Zodiac, Mercury rules Gemini and co-rules Virgo with Chiron.
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Some ‘quick tips’ for flowing with Mercury retrograde vibes:
- Relax and trust that you don’t know what ‘ought’ to be
- Create extra time and space in your schedule for rest and self-care
- Look for the ‘silver lining’ when there are unexpected derailments to your plans, magical opportunities lie beneath the surface!
General Activities to avoid during retrograde!
- Making financial commitments or plans which are inflexible – making big purchases or locking yourself into plans that you cannot easily back out of without a financial penalty are all very risky during retrograde. Remember, key information is missing or hidden during retrograde and its shadow periods. This is also a time when unexpected events are more likely to arise, which can shift the assumptions underlying these commitments.
- Initiating New Long-Term Projects – Starting new projects such as beginning a new job or launching a new product or service through your business during Mercury retrograde typically lend themselves only to short-term prospects. So, if you want to launch a new long-term endeavor, plan to do it before or after the retrograde and shadow periods.
- Signing contracts – When you sign a contract, you do so with the assumption that all of the relevant facts and details are known – however during Mercury retrograde, remember that the chances are much higher that we do not have yet all of the relevant information!