You’ve probably heard someone talking about Mercury retrograde. And you may or may not know what it means or how it affects us but no doubt you have heard the frustration in their voices and in the words they choose to talk about this mysterious retrograde thing. Let’s go down this rabbit hole and see what we find, shall we?
First of all, what does retro grade mean anyway?
Retrograde is when a planet moves backwards.
Planets don’t move backwards.
They all move in the same direction as the earth don’t they?
The answer is yes.
OK. I bet about now you are shaking your head with confusion. Well…. imagine the Earth spinning slowly. The Sun, and all the planets rise in the East and set in the West. . Now imagine a space shuttle traveling in the same direction. The only difference is its orbit is smaller and faster than earth’s.
The difference in orbital speed creates the illusion of going backwards at certain point in their orbit. The same thing goes for all the planets in the sky. They all go through retrograde periods. The length of each planet’s retrograde period and the length of time between retrogrades is different from planet to planet. We have a Mercury retrograde period 3-4 times a year.
The average the other planets move in the following approximate cycles:
• Mars retrogrades for 72 days every 25.6 months.
• Jupiter for 121 days every 13.1 months.
• Saturn for 138 days every 12.4 months.
• Uranus for 151 days every 12.15 months and
• Neptune for 158 days every 12.07 months.
It is their distance from each other and individual travel speed causes the backwards, retrograde illusion. Mercury for example holds the inner most orbit of all the planets and travels this path the fastest of all planets. The time it takes to transit any given sign varies between two to three weeks or more. The time between retrogrades is between three and four months. After that, Mercury and the earth reach a place in their orbit where Mercury begins appear to slow down, stop, reverse directions and create the retrograde illusion.
Before I go farther with the whole retrograde explanation, I need to explain more about the transits.
Circles are divided into 360 degrees. You might remember this much from your school days. Astrology charts are circles divided into 12 sections. Each section has 30 degrees, each degree has 60 minutes and each minute has 60 seconds. Now you are beginning to see how detailed astrology can get.
As planets transit through the chart, they pass over these degrees, second and minutes. If you have a copy of your birth chart you can see the not only the sign and house in which any given planet was located at the moment of your birth but also the exact degree down to the second. My chart tells me that Mercury was at 6 degrees 43 minutes and 57 seconds of Aquarius when I was born. My chart also tells me there were a few planets in retrograde when I was born. . I will get into this a bit more later on.
We can tell when a planet is beginning to turn retrograde when it begins to slow down because it begins to travel less distance on a given day until it finally stops and begins to travel back over the area it just passed over. Astrologers say a planet is “preparing to station” when it begins to slow down. “Stationing” is the moment when it seems to come to a full stop, just before changing directions.
Astrology and its effects on each of us is complicated and difficult to understand. The subject of retrogrades is one of the more common terms known to the average person. There is more to know than what you’ve just read but I don’t want to overwhelm you. So, I will leave and let you digest this bit for now. Next time I will discuss how Mercury or any retrograde planet affects us in general. In the meantime….look for next weeks forecast in a few days.