Friday, February 8, 2013

That's so retro (When planets do the backwards dance)

Photo by Patricia Herlevi, 2009
We have all heard of retrograde planets, signified by the "rx" in a natal or transit chart.  However, most people seem only concerned with Mercury retrograde, which has developed its own brand of superstition.  However, the world has never ended because the communication planet appeared to move backwards.  And the keyword is appeared because the planets actually never moves backwards, but the earth shifts orbit giving us the impression of retrograde planets.

All the planets except the luminaries (Sun and Moon) retrograde.  However, the sun and moon eclipse two times a year, and we also experience the moon/sun cycles each month with the new and full moons, which many astrologers use as predictive indicators for the energies for the next several months, if not years, especially if the new or full moon falls in an angular house (1,4, 7, and 10) or conjunct a natal planet.  We'll tackle the moon cycles in a future article.

So if all the planets except the sun and the moon go retrograde, why is it that only Mercury retrograde receives the bulk of attention? Personally, I experienced hardship in the spring and summer of 2005 when Mars in Taurus went retrograde and Mars stayed in Taurus for 6 months.  Before that period began when Mars was in Aries, I fell down a flight of stairs and sprained my ankle.  The ankle took over three months to heal, and during that time I was housebound next door to a house under loud renovation.  A construction project scheduled for 30 days took several months to complete and the neighbor's cat died of pneumonia in the process.  Mercury was moving direct at that time.

So what does it mean when a planet goes retrograde?  Some astrologers say that the retrograde mutes the planet's outward energy and creates introspective energy.  It's not a time to launch new projects depending on the planets that are retrograde.  And in some situations we experience a cooling of the jets and a calming of minds.  When Neptune was last retrograde and during the last Mercury retrograde, I found it easy to meditate and spent a lot of time walking my spiritual path. 

The upside of a Mercury or any planetary retrograde is that we can retrace our steps and take a closer look at details.  The message is slow down and even take a vacation, which won't be possible during 2013 with several planets retrograde and for several months.  Sure, we can slow down and re access, and relax a bit since we won't have access to the planets anyway. 

But we can't take a 5 month vacation without losing the day job. I'm not a mundane astrologer, but I understand astrology enough to realize that 2013 is not a year for launching a huge project, or building an empire. With so many planets in introspective water signs and with the outer planets retrograde it's time to get in touch with our spiritual footing.  It's time to let go of fear and limitation and TRUST.  And this isn't easy for any of us, and especially not critical earth signs or the action-oriented fire signs, not to mention the highly analytical air signs. But the message is step back and breathe.

Saturn goes retrograde on February 17 and goes direct on July 8.  That gives us roughly 6 months to reassess the structure in our lives and this might even be a good time to take up a study or a meditation practice.  We will reassess issues around responsibility and discipline, not to mention dealing with aging populations, and gaining sage wisdom from our elders.  Traditions will come under scrutiny, especially traditions revolving around family and marriage.  We won't act upon these issues until after Saturn goes direct in the beginning of July, but we will spend a lot of time revisiting and reinventing.

Pluto in Capricorn goes retrograde on April 12 and goes direct on September 19.  Again, this is an outer planet which deals with the bigger picture going inward for several months.  I've already discussed Pluto on this blog so you already have an idea of what this transformational planet is capable of doing.  Capricorns, Cancers, Aries, and Libras born in the first third of their sign, will feel this planet retracing steps from the previous months and old unfinished issues will come up again, both on the personal and global level.  Check out the house or houses Pluto retrograde appears in your chart and this will give you an idea what area of your life Pluto will highlight.  Since Pluto is slow moving, you have already visited these issues two or three times, and you have two more rounds to go if your Sun, AC or Moon is around 7 to 12 degrees Cancer, Capricorn, Libra, or Aries.  Other personal planets feel the affects too.

Still in a way, when planets go retrograde we do get a break from the planets' intense energy, and Pluto is the most intense of all.  On June 6, Neptune goes retrograde (a good time for meditation) and goes direct on November 12.  Uranus goes retrograde on July 17 (also giving us a break) and goes direct on December 16.  This gives you an idea of the number of planets and their retrograde periods for 2013.  Mercury of course, will go retrograde three times during the course of the year and it unfortunately, is the most feared of the retrogrades.  In addition (at the end of 2013), Venus goes retrograde on the Winter Solstice in Capricorn and Jupiter in Cancer goes retrograde on November 8.

The downside to Mercury retrograde is that computers, cars, and machinery could break down at this time.  Get your car checked before the retrograde periods and also get your computer anti-virus and firewall updated before the retrograde periods.  Letters and mail gets lost, miscommunication happens (speak more clearly and don't hide your intentions) and I will say with Mercury going retrograde in the foggy sign Pisces on February 23, that miscommunication and foggy thinking will be the norm for 6 weeks (3 weeks of the retrograde and 3 weeks of Mercury retracing its steps forward).  Mercury is in its fall mode in Pisces.  People could overreact emotionally at this time, pulling out sob stories from their sleeves.  Hearts could shatter from the intensity of suffering in the world.

However, the upside of this Mercury retrograde period is that it is a good time to get spiritual.  This is a good time to deal with pain by seeking a therapist or life coach.  This is a good time to heal the heart chakra and learn to set appropriate boundaries so you don't become a perpetual shoulder for people to cry on.  This is a good time to go on a retreat, but not to travel too far from home because this is also a good time to get lost.  We won't be thinking clearly so practice grounding meditations and go slow during this time.  Take a yoga or tai chi class.  Join a choir or enroll in a dance class.  Watch a lot of uplifting movies and listen to uplifting music.  Remember to breathe.  This is a good time for photography, especially nature photography, but take good care of your camera during this time because it could break down too.

Having said all of that, there is nothing to fear.  Retrogrades happen to give us a break.  We need to balance the yin with the yang and we can't go, go, go 24/7 for 12 months straight without burning out and ending up in a mental ward (which is ruled by Pisces).  Find the humor whenever possible, because at least with Mercury we have a trickster planet at work.  Take time to play, to laugh, and to enjoy your life no matter which direction the planets move.  It's like one online radio spiritual coach mentioned recently, it's always perfect timing.

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