What does it even mean when planets are in retrograde?

I’m sure you’ve heard people panicking over mercury being in retrograde or venus in reverse or something similar over the past few months. Your friends might have been ranting to you about the alignment of their stars, or acquaintances on Twitter warned you not to make any decisions during that particular time period. You likely nodded, commiserated, and pretended to agree — but let’s face it, if you’re reading this article you probably still aren’t 100% sure about what any of it even means. 


So let’s talk about it in general terms first. Literally, a planet being in retrograde means that it appears to be moving backward in the sky. We’ll disclaim that the planets aren’t actually moving in reverse, but the illusion of it is enough to disrupt the harmony of the heavens. In astrology, ‘retrograde’ is equated to turbulence in the planets. Following the principle “as above, so too below”, that same disruption trickles down onto earth. 

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The way that disruption plays out depends on the particular planet which is in retrograde. And of course, all 8 planets do experience retrograde. In fact, there’s rarely any windows of time within a year when we’re not experiencing one planet in retrograde or another. 

Let’s begin with the most famous (or infamous): Mercury. People are constantly moaning about Mercury being in retrograde and how it is essentially ruining their lives. This is because Mercury rules over spheres of communication, information, and agreement. It messes up our ability to talk and listen to one another, particularly harming personal relationships. Making any formal decisions and deals is also highly discouraged during this time. 


Next is Venus. Obviously, the planet of love holds dominion over our hearts as well as beauty. Actions and decisions that involve romantic relationships and your own looks should be put on hold. There is a higher propensity to be “reckless in love and in your appearance.” 

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Mars is all about passion and drive. When Mars is dormant, much of the driving force behind our actions and enthusiasm is siphoned away. You can expect to be listless, demotivated, and having to work through low-energy. Jupiter retrograde affects us in the same way, except it is more inward-looking. 

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Saturn retrograde may be the most tiresome: it forces us to confront responsibilities or problems we may have been avoiding. As the planet of discipline and long-term progress, its resting state brings us directly in front of hurdles blocking our path. 


Uranus, as the ‘rebel’ planet, has been known to ‘shake things up’ during its retrograde. We tend to tap into our more rebellious natures, or rebel with what we’ve previously known — it can be dangerous in that it moves us away from what is best for ourselves. But it can also shine a light on new perspectives and attitudes. 

Neptune is said to rule spirituality, dreams, imagination, and creativity. On its retrograde, Neptune asks us to face our unconscious thoughts and feelings. One way this happens is acknowledging dormant dreams and ambitions. It could also mean facing the music when it comes to sugar-coated relationships and situations. 

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Lastly, we have Pluto. It may no longer be considered a planet, per se, but it still continues to hold sway over our lives and relations. People essentially believe Pluto to control one thing: truth. It may manifest in transformations, power, and rebirth but it always goes back to facing your own truth. 


Of course, while the influence of the cosmos may find its way down into the lives of people on the ground it is still a matter of choice. You still get to dictate how these planets in retrograde affect you, or the extent of its effect on you. It may impact your emotions and instincts, but the actions that emerge out of it are still totally in your control. 

What do you think — are planets being in retrograde really that bad?