Retrograde planets are those which, because of the angles and orbits of the planets in question look as though they are going backwards, of course they’re not actually going backwards, they just look as if they are. But in astrological terms that is significant because it is showing us something about how we are relating to the energy of that particular planet. Lots has been written about this phenomenon in general, I’ll put a few links at the bottom of this post, but what I want to discuss here are the retrograde movements of planets in 2012 because we are in a very unusual and significant year!
Look to where the mutable signs are in your chart, any planets in mutable signs (especially planets between 7 and 23 degrees) and what houses they rule to figure out the most likely areas of influence for you.
The story starts back in November of last year when Mercury went retrograde in Sagittarius, ushering in a round of eclipses that have accompanied the retrogrades through this year. All the eclipses and retrogrades since then have really put the focus on mutable signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces) which means that they have been highlighting a very changeable, unsettled energy where it feels like almost anything could happen but at the same time not a lot really does happen. It’s no accident that for the last few months a lot of people have been saying they feel unclear about the way ahead, not sure where they are going, generally uncertain. That’s mutable energy for you, it can shift and change as it moves from one thing to the next.
So, ever since that Mercury retrograde last November there has been a real focus on this kind of energy with important and unusual planetary movements in mutable signs, and all the eclipses in mutable signs too. Not to mention the major shift of Neptune into Pisces – the planet of fantasy, illusion, imagination and mysticism moving into its home sign of mutable Pisces. This energy is hard to get a grip on, understand, analyse. It is energy that is becoming something, but it isn’t there yet and so it’s a little difficult to handle as it isn’t at all clear what it is we’re dealing with, all we know is that we’re dealing with something.
The shift in energy really started to become noticeable towards the end of January when Mars slowed down and then turned retrograde at 23˚ Virgo. Around the end of January you might have noticed things change, often something would happen in the physical world (I had a ceiling collapse) which heralded the change in direction. As Mars got deeper into his retrograde phase energy became more withdrawn and towards the end of February communications and thought processes often became more difficult or more inward looking as he was opposite Mercury. Then at the beginning of March he was opposite the Sun highlighting areas of our life where we started to see we needed to make some changes.
One very important point during the Mars retrograde was the New Moon of 22nd March at 2˚22’ Aries – this New Moon was ruled by Mars and had a retrograde Mercury conjunct it (Mercury was heading back into mutable Pisces from Mars ruled Aries, really emphasising the shift from the outward looking Mars energy to the introspective, mutable energy of the retrogrades). Things set in motion at this time are those that will gradually take shape over the period ruled by these retrogrades, probably becoming more visible once Mars leaves his shadow on the 20th June, just after another New Moon, this time in mutable Gemini. Note, that New Moon on the 19th June is a really good time to start new projects, plan now so that you’ll be ready to make the most of it when it comes.
So, Mercury moved back into mutable Pisces and then turned direct just as Venus entered mutable Gemini. At the point where he went direct, 23˚ Pisces, Mercury was opposite the point at which Mars had earlier gone retrograde. This emphasised issues highlighted during the Mars Mercury opposition at the end of February and indicated that these events or issues were connected to what would eventually emerge from all these retrogrades. It also set the scene for the upcoming Venus retrograde.
After the opposition with the Sun at the beginning of March, Mars continued to go retrograde until Venus reached her ‘shadow’ – the point at which she will turn direct after her own retrograde phase. It’s like Mars was handing the Mercury-ruled, mutable retrograde baton over to Venus. So we see these three planets, Mars, Venus and Mercury seem to be working together to weave something – but what that something is, is still unclear. It weaves in time as well as space – as Mercury turned direct opposite where Mars had turned retrograde Venus entered Gemini and the degree at which there would later be a solar eclipse. It’s like she was putting down a marker for something to be worked upon later – if you keep a journal it could be worth checking out what was going on in your life or the lives of those around you at the beginning of April and also on 21st May (day of the eclipse) to see if there’s a repeating theme – it probably won’t be a massive event, more likely to be a mood, an intuition, a dream, something like that which can set an idea growing that will later (much later) bloom.
By the end of April there was an air of things getting back to normal with all these planets in forward motion again, but as both Venus and Mars were still in their ‘shadow’ there was still a lot more to come. Energy levels were still a bit low and things felt a bit like wading through treacle, but it seemed as though things were back on an even keel. For a month or so… then we come to the middle of May and Venus turned retrograde at 23˚ Gemini, highlighting again that mutable 23˚. Before she had managed to gain enough backwards motion to get out of that degree there was the solar eclipse, reminding us of the earlier Mercury retrograde at 23˚ Pisces, opposite the Mars station retrograde point of 23˚ Virgo. Add into the mix that Mercury was moving really fast to reach Gemini before the Sun reached Venus, landing himself at 23˚ Gemini in time for the lunar eclipse on the 4th June and we start to see just how these movements are all weaving together and how beautifully intricate the story is (or maybe just complicated and difficult to get a handle on).
At this point another energy starts to really play into the pattern being woven – Chiron, an asteroid which typically indicates places of extreme sensitivity in our emotional lives. As Venus turned retrograde Mars opposed Chiron and Chiron will later square Venus just as he turns retrograde and just before she turns direct. In fact Chiron will add something of a sensitive, hurt or tearful nature to the last couple of weeks of the Venus retrograde showing us areas where we need to develop greater compassion towards ourselves and others and quite possibly highlighting areas in our lives where we have been hurtful and are now sorry for that, or where we have been hurt by others and have become defensive. Chiron linking in to Mercury-ruled retrogrades indicates wounding with words, communications, not listening, more than hurt caused by overt actions and it is these areas we will be encouraged to look at. Chiron really is about compassion rather than hurt, although the compassion comes from having been hurt, so it is this attitude of understanding and gentleness towards ourselves and others we are asked to cultivate and which flavours the end of the Venus retrograde phase.
Before Venus does turn direct Jupiter enters Gemini, again triggering that eclipse degree from the 21st May – look for further developments along that theme around 12th – 16th June. Jupiter is a kind of ‘clean up guy’ for these retrogrades, but in a nice way. Jupiter has the last of the mutable retrograde phases and will go over ground covered by Venus, and also take in ground covered by Mars as he is square to much of the Mars retrograde phase. Jupiter is slower moving than Venus or Mars and so he’ll take a little time getting to his station retrograde point. In the meantime Mars picks up speed and leaves his shadow, Venus trips lightly back through Gemini and on through Cancer and Leo – the summer should have a lighter feeling than much of the first part of the year, with less introspection and more outgoing energy. But we are cautioned not to forget what we have learned during these retrogrades because come October Jupiter will head back through Gemini, just going over things, sorting things out and giving us all a hearty pat on the back if he thinks we’ve stepped up to the mark but really exposing areas where we haven’t put in the hard work.
Jupiter goes back from 16˚ Gemini to 6˚Gemini where, during January of next year he will square to Chiron who is now moving forwards again. This square will be heralded at the end of November by a lunar eclipse opposite the degree where Jupiter will station direct and square to the degree where Chiron squares Jupiter. This is the final (ouch) lesson of these retrogrades and from the end of January Jupiter moves forward through Gemini very quickly, positioning himself on the 23rd degree just in time to meet up with Mercury and Venus and say “there ‘job done’” at the end of May 2013.
So, a brief summary – these mutable retrogrades and eclipses are going over areas in our life where we have things to learn about how we communicate with others, how we learn from ourselves and others, how areas where we are over-sensitive stop us relating effectively and how we hurt and are hurt in our relationships. The overall message is the cultivation of compassion for ourselves and others which then allows the building of more effective and successful relationships. It may be a difficult journey and at times may be very unclear and confused, but by this time next year we should be able to look back at it and understand what was going on.
Retrograde – some links