"Mercury must be in retrograde."
You've probably heard this astrological go-to excuse when someone has a technological mishap, miscommunication, or some other similar challenge.
Even non-astrological folks have probably heard of a Mercury retrograde. And while Mercury goes retrograde more frequently than other planets (hence why you're more likely to hear about it), any planet can "go retrograde." Let's dive into what "planets in retrograde" means and what happens when they are retrograde.
What Is a Retrograde?
All the planets in our solar system orbit around the sun, moving in the same direction. But they orbit at differing speeds and varying distances from the sun on slightly different ellipses. So if you observe them from Earth, sometimes one or more of the planets appears to move in the opposite direction of the others.
This appearance of backward movement is called a retrograde, and it's a visual illusion. The retrograde planets are still traveling in the same direction as they always have, but they look like they're transiting backwards through the sky.
When this backwards planetary movement ends and the planet is once again traveling in the same direction of orbit as the others, that planet is said to be direct. So when a retrograde ends, the planet goes direct again.
How Planets in Retrograde Affect You
Each planet brings different energy into your life. When a planet goes retrograde and moves backwards, the areas of your life that the planet's energy affects may feel a little backward as well. But don't worry - just as a planetary backwards motion is an illusion, so is your backward motion in the different parts of your life.
While it may feel like you're moving backwards, what's most likely happening during a retrograde is that you're moving into your past or psyche to clear out energies that no longer serve you. Once they're cleared, you can move forward with greater clarity and strength.
How Often Each Planet Retrogrades
The reason you hear about Mercury retrograde more than any other planet is because Mercury goes retrograde the most frequently - three to four times per year for about three weeks at a time. But Mercury isn't the only planet that retrogrades - all of them do, and sometimes several can be retrograde at once.
|How Often It Retrogrades
|Length of Retrograde
|~Every 3-4 months
|~Every 18 months
|~Every 2 years
In Astrology, Mercury is the planet of communication and commerce. It's all about the energy of sending and receiving information.
When Mercury is direct, the ways we transmit and share information tend to hum right along. However, when Mecury is in retrograde, our communications can become muddled. This could show up as glitches in all the devices we use for information transmission (computers, cell phones, and other technology), misunderstandings due to poor communication, and missed connections.
If you've recently started something new, it may appear to slow down or even be dead in the water during a Mercury retrograde. While Mercury retrograde is never a good time to start something new, it's the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate and refine your processes and communications so that when Mercury goes direct again, your project can pick up steam and blaze ahead quicker and more efficiently than it did before the retrograde.
Astrologically, Venus is the planet of money and love. Its energy is all about pleasure and enjoyment of aesthetics, romance, and material items.
During a Venus retrograde, you'll probably notice shifts in the energy in your love relationships and in your bottom line. You could experience some growing pains in a good relationship, the desire to separate from a bad relationship, and financial issues that impel you to re-evaluate your budget and income streams.
These bumps in the roads don't have to be setbacks, however. They're there to help you dig deep, redefine what you desire and deserve in your life, and re-evaluate your relationships and finances so you can strengthen them or release what no longer serves you. Ultimately, the energy of a Venus retrograde can help you step into stronger relationships and finances when Venus goes direct.
It's not unusual to find yourself feeling a little lethargic during a Mars retrograde. Astrologically, Mars is a planet of action and active energy. That type of energy propels you forward, giving you your drive to accomplish things.
When the planet appears to move backwards in the sky, it can not only negate the active get-up-and-go energy you typically feel when Mars is direct, but it can leave you feeling sluggish, congested, and frustrated at your lack of forward momentum.
If you notice yourself feeling more passive or easily irritated during a Mars retrograde, use this time of lowered energy to re-evaluate your motivators. The period of inaction you may feel during a Mars retrograde can help you take a long, hard look at what you're filling your life with and decide whether the actions you've been pursuing have meaning, or whether it's time to find more meaningful ways to direct your energy.
When Jupiter goes into retrograde, it invites you to spend less time in social butterfly mode and go inward. And while you're in there, the Jupiter retrograde encourages you to make sure you're not taking all that bountiful good fortune for granted. Instead, the energy invites you to connect with the source of your gifts and develop a greater appreciation for them.
When Saturn appears to transit backwards, it could cause you to feel the heaviness of responsibility or reflect on how you could or should have done things differently in the past.
While this dense energy can definitely feel unpleasant, there's great benefit to a Saturn retrograde, as it invites you to travel inward for a reality check that spurs you into action to restructure or replace those things in your life that no longer serve you.
Astrologically, Uranus is the planet of innovation, chaos, change, and individuality. It supports the energy of your freedom-loving side.
When Uranus goes retrograde, you may notice that fewer things spark innovation or activate the desire to disrupt the status quo. And that's okay. With your mind quieted for a time, you can go back and look at projects you left by the wayside when you were struck with new ideas and re-evaluate whether those things are worth picking up and pursuing to completion.
You know how you tend to dream, ideate, and look at things through rosy lenses? That's the effect of the planet Neptune when it's direct. Neptune is what allows us to think a little magically, dream a bit bigger, and sometimes not look at things as they are, but as we wish to see them.
So when Neptune goes retrograde, which it does for nearly half the year, we may start to look at things a little more analytically and clearly. And truly, there's room for both energies in your life. Being a dreamer can bring great things, but those dreams need to be tempered with reality in order to turn them into something great.
Sure, it's technically a dwarf planet, but Pluto still goes retrograde like its larger, closer-to-the-sun siblings. Astrologically, Pluto is small but mighty - at least as far as its energy goes. Its energy is about cycles of metamorphosis, such as death and rebirth, or total transformation.
That powerful energy from this dwarf planet causes us to dig deep, sifting through our darkest shadows in order to transform them into our most powerful strengths. And when Pluto goes retrograde, it brings the things we hide in the deep darkness to the surface so we can more easily recognize and heal them.
So, during a Pluto retrograde, which covers almost half a year every year, you may notice old wounds reopening and old pain creeping to the surface where you can expose it to the light and heal it. Dreams may be darker and old disagreements could flair up, but Pluto retrograde provides the opportunity to finally look straight at these things in the bright light of day and find a path towards healing.
Retrogrades Bring Balance
When planets go retrograde, they invite you to take a break from your external world and go within. While their effects can feel uncomfortable, it's all about balance.
Retrogrades bring old and new issues to the surface, provide time to think and reflect, and allow you to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of your busy world. As you go within, you have the opportunity to reconsider, adjust, and course correct.