Marilyn Campbell

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ASTRO Q & A - What is meant by a planet being "retrograde"?

Although the word “retrograde” is defined as moving backward or going in reverse, in astrological terms it does not mean that the planet has literally stopped and started revolving in the opposition direction. Its direction never actually changes (any more than a new moon truly disappears). However, as the planets circle the Sun, the vantage point we have from Earth may cause a planet to appear to rotate in reverse of its usual spin.  Anytime a planet is said to be in retrograde motion, the influence it has on Earth is contrary to its usual effect. It may be the complete opposite, as with Mercury (obstructive rather than supportive), stalled as with beneficial planets such as Jupiter, (The Great Benefactor or Godfather), or lessened as with challenging planets like Saturn (Karmic Lord or The Great Lesson Teacher).

Mercury retrograde is not all that rare, occurring at least three times in any given year. The aspect lasts approximately three weeks each period but the transitional three to five days before and after have been known to be influential to a certain extent as well. What does that mean to us? Since Mercury is the planet governing communication and transportation, we need to be prepared for possible glitches in those areas. This aspect has been connected with things that crash, such as cars, computers and communications (verbal and technological). So, back up the hard-drive and take your vehicles to the mechanic for a check-up in advance. If at all possible, do not schedule any important negotiations or signing of legal documents during this period, as whatever is decided may have to be reworked in a few weeks, or worse, the deal or situation may have problems that don’t show up until later. Purchasing technology or a car is often fraught with difficulties.

Likewise, as Jupiter governs careers as well as big wishes, everyone experienced a slowdown in progress to some extent in that area of their life while Jupiter was retrograde. Pluto is a much more distant planet but still has influence over global matters and finances affected by international events. Whatever sign the retrograde planet is in will be the most strongly affected.

Mind you, a retrograde period does not create a negative situation; it only brings something already problematical to the surface. The positive use of such time is to research, review, rework, rethink…whatever you’ve been doing in the area of your life affected by the planet involved. For instance, for an author, Mercury retrograde is the perfect time to do fact-checking or revisions.