We survived a powerfully aspected blood moon eclipse last month. But we’re facing five planetary retrogrades this month. Count ‘em – FIVE! One for every finger on one hand, toe on the other foot, or Super Bowl ring on Tom Brady’s dresser. Except these aren’t as spectacular or sought-after… unless you look at them from the proper perspective. (Psst… this number goes from five to SIX in a week… but don’t let that scare you…)
What’s a planetary retrograde? A retrograde is a period of time during which a planet seems to be going “backwards” in its orbit. No, planets don’t actually move backward – it just seems that way from our vantage point. It’s the same sort of optical illusion that happens when you’re on a train and you pass another train (or it passes you) going in the same direction at a different speed – for a moment it seems as though you or the other vehicle is moving backward. Each of the planets in our solar system moves at a different speed, and has a slightly different orbit around our sun. Obviously, those closest to the sun complete their orbit much faster than those further away, since the distance needed to circumnavigate the sun increases as the planets get further away. For example, a year on Mercury is only 88 Earth days long (although – fun fact alert – a Mercurial day actually lasts the equivalent of 176 Earth days, due to its very slow rotation. So a day on Mercury is about two years long. I’ve actually had days that feel like that).
When the planets are in retrograde, they’re still making their same “forward” progress around the sun, just as we are. But it feels different to those who are especially in-tuned to astrological events. And many people don’t like how it feels. Think about what it’s like when you’re on that train passing another – it’s disorienting and a bit uncomfortable for a few seconds, right?
Folks who keep tabs on these sorts of things report that retrogrades create a “stalling effect.” It feels as though forward progress of certain aspects of our lives is being delayed, or that there are suddenly obstacles in the way, or holes in the road. It can feel physically and emotionally exhausting and frustrating. The journey becomes momentarily (often for weeks or months) unpleasant. The view is spoiled. But is it? Does it really need to be that way? Or are we not appreciating this time period for its true purpose? Let’s look at each of the current retrogrades in turn:
Mercury – (July 26-August 19, 2018) – Mercury is the planet whose movements affect communications. Mercury retrograde periods happen several times per year, usually for about three weeks at a time, because of the swiftness of Mercury’s orbit. It’s the most well-known retrograde, even seeping in to popular culture, because it affects something that touches and concerns just about every single one of us in the developed world – technology. Technology is how we get things done in a digital age. How we communicate, how we transact business, make purchases, even form relationships. If electronic communications are disrupted, everything we do is affected. And in our fast-paced, instant gratification, lightning-cabled world, disruption means delay, which, we sometimes think, means missed opportunities. OR we can choose to see it as the Universe’s way of slowing us all down for a few weeks, to help us to recognize what’s really important. Do we really need to get there in half the time? If that little progress circle on our computer spins and spins, are we really missing out on something? If our television screens become a bit pixelated and buffery, are we going to miss something crucial? If we miss a few provocative Tweets from unpopular politicians, are we going to be hopelessly out of touch when the memes start flying? Probably not. Patience is a virtue best cultivated during a Mercury retrograde. Use that down time to turn everything off and go outside for a while, take a walk, find some real (as opposed to virtual) roses, and actually smell them.
Mars – (June 26-August 27, 2018) – Mars is named for the God of War. It gets sh!t done. The energy boasts warlike tendencies that get us going to defend ourselves, and to determine whether we should fight, or take flight. When Mars is in retrograde we may more often decide that fighting is preferable to backing down. We may act irresponsibly or impulsively, or take rash action. We may even pick fights or become aggressive. What’s missing? The self-control that usually keeps our less measured side reasonable. Be careful if you’re a fly off the handle type. During this period, you’re being taught what’s important enough to argue about, and what’s important enough to accept gracefully. If you’re not cautious with your baser instincts, you could end up losing important relationships within this timeframe, or hurting people you care about. If you’re the type of person who tends to get walked-over by others, the proverbial doormat, this may be your Spirit’s opportunity to let fly. Tell it like it is, stand up for yourself, throw open the window and yell out that you’re mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore! You can blame it on Mars afterward, but remember that no one has the right to take advantage of you or hurt you. Mars fun fact – during this timeframe, at the very end of July and beginning of August, Mars and Earth will be as close to one another as they ever get in their respective orbits. Look up and see the bright red “star” in the sky. Give Mars a wink and tell him to turn direct soon. By the end of August we’ll all be feeling less cranky.
We’re skipping Jupiter, even though it was retrograde from early March until early July, because he’s direct again. We’ll slowly begin to reap his jovial benefits again now that his “wait for it…..” period has ended.
Saturn – (April 17-September 6, 2018) – Saturn is the stern taskmaster of the heavens. He’s like a drill sergeant trying to get you to learn – “Again, soldier! AGAIN! Now drop and give me 20 just for being a numbskull!” Exhausting, frustrating, depressing and mind-numbing. The good news? During this timeframe, if you’ve learned from your previous Saturnian battles, you’ll be shown how far you’ve come, and given an opportunity to progress even further. If you’re just beginning to understand, or if you’ve been through the wringer and haven’t yet changed your ways, you’re in for a rough ride. Buckle up. If you’re up for it, this is the time for some serious self-reflection, internal house-cleaning and atonement. Pick up your pack, fall in and soldier on. Next month you’ll feel more at ease.
Uranus – (August 7, 2018 – January 6, 2019) – By the time many of you are reading this we may be past the thumb and onto the other hand. That’s right – SIX retrograde planets for until Mercury turns direct on August 19, followed by Mars a week or so later. Uranus is a mind-trip – it’s the woo-wooiest planet we’ve got in this system. Think mental, spiritual and emotional “Wild Wild West” in the outer reaches of our solar system. It’s about inner knowing, deep understanding, digging to discover your true nature, but also fluctuations, change, weirdness, and the unexpected. This isn’t for sissies, folks. We’ll be asked to make some significant changes in our lives. HOW will we be asked? You’ll find yourself presented with some “problem,” “dilemma,” “conundrum” that you will have to change your way out of. Or not – up to you – but emotionally, intellectually, relationship-wise, it may be “change or die.” Not physically, literally die, of course, but you get the message. Do the work, or, as Saturn would say, “pay me later.” This will be toughest for folks who like things “just so,” or don’t see anything wrong with the way they’ve been smashing and bashing their way through this life so far. Why all the quotation marks? Because control is an illusion we feed ourselves to protect us from the fact that we’re just out here careening through space as the lessons come fast and furious. This may be a time to drop those illusions. Embrace what you’ve got, and delve into why you’ve got it. This is your chance to find some resolution. Oh, and retro Pluto will be on hand to help force you to relinquish control for the first few months of your journey – keep reading.
Neptune – (June 18-November 24, 2018) – Sigh. Whimper. Glub. Neptune is about emotions. Get out your hankies. When dreamy Neptune spins on her oddly-tilted heels we’re looking at a reoccurrence of all those hopes, dreams, emotions, creative desires, spiritual longings and squishy feelings that we’ve tried to stuff into our way back pocket. Neptune isn’t having any of that. She wants you to explore, to FEEL, and to decide which of your dreams are only there to protect you from something you don’t want to face (is it YOU who wants to become a computer analyst, or your Mom telling you that artists are destined to struggle that’s keeping you from going off into your true calling?), and which are the fulfillment of your purpose. Take a real look at where you’re heading (Saturn will help) and ask yourself if you’re still on the right track, or you need to get off at the next station and check the map before moving on. But first grab your weighted blankie, a box of tissues, a RomCom and a carton of your favorite indulgence. This may get wet.
Pluto – (April 22-September 30, 2018) – Was that thunder and lightning? Am I just imagining maniacal laughter in the dark recesses of my brain? Or is Pluto messing with me again? Yep, I’ll admit it, Pluto will always be a planet to me (despite the downgrade) – and as a Scorpio I am one of the signs that calls it home (along with Mars, of course). And what’s it all about? Power. Control. Darkness. Furrowed brow, piercing gaze, clenched jaw relentless movement toward a goal. THE goal. But wait a minute. Pluto is retrograde… so we’re looking at uncertainty, worry, self-doubt… all the things that make us really uncomfortable. Remember that illusion of control I talked about when looking at Uranus (please read that as “YurAHnuss” to make that sound less awkward)? Now’s the time to think about whether your white-knuckled grip on controlling everything (or feeling like you are) is getting you where you want to go. What do you really need to keep tabs on, and which of what you’re holding onto is the Universe telling you to “Let go. I got this.”? Figuring this out will help you to move from where you are to where you need to be.
This Summer of the Retrogrades is the Universe’s summer school. We really want to be sipping mint juleps or mai-tais at the beach, when instead we’re lying on the proverbial (or literal) couch moaning that our spiritual head is exploding. Throw in a blood moon eclipse and we’re really a bunch of hurting slush puppies. Fear not! The good news about retrograde periods is that they only try to teach you the same lesson until you finally get it. They may hold you back a year (or two, or three, or…) while you struggle with the cosmic equivalent of new math, but as soon as the light bulb goes on (“EUREKA!”) you’re good to pass along. To learn a new lesson next time, of course. The hard work will make Graduation Day, when it finally comes, all the more sweet. Enjoy!