by Robert Wilkinson
This was inspired by comments asking about what it means when planets are retrograde as opposed to when they are direct. There are some strange rumors out there about how often some planets are retrograde, and even how "bad" retrograde planets supposedly are. There seems to be a lot of confusion about retrograde planets, so today and tomorrow we take a brief look at the phenomenon.
All the planets go retrograde except the Sun and Moon, and even these go faster or slower at various points in their transits. Mercury goes retrograde three times a year (except when it's four!), Venus every 19 months, and Mars once every 25 months. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto all go retrograde once a year for several months at a time.
Any time a planet is retrograde it is still moving forward, but at a much slower rate of perceived speed from the Earth's point of view. Thus a retrograde planet only appears to be moving backward relative to the zodiacal backdrop, and when we and it are again at a certain positioning relative to the Sun, it again appears to move forward through the sign it's in.
So all retrogrades are a perception based in planetary orbital speed relative to the Sun. Consulting an ephemeris, aka a book of planetary motions, we find the outer invisible planets all go retrograde about the time of the Sun's waxing (lower) square to their positions, and stay retrograde for several months until they go stationary direct just before the waning (upper) square. There are philosophical implications to the outers being retrograde when they are at certain phases in their orbits relative to the Sun, but that's beyond the scope of this article.
When a planet is direct, it means we are "directly" experiencing its natural evolving awareness of the sign it's in. When retrograde, we're re-tracing ground we've already covered, but from a different perspective. It's like driving down a street from one direction, then driving back down the same street in the opposite direction. Two perspectives on the same field of vision.
However, a retrograde period never goes back as far as the last period, or we'd be stuck going back and forth over the same material indefinitely. This gap in how far we went forward to how far we're going back changes based in which planet is retrograde.
The inner planets swing back across far more degrees than the outers. Mercury retrogrades back about 15 degrees (except when near Gemini, when the swing is only 9). Venus fairly consistently retrogrades back about 16 degrees, and Mars goes back 18-20 degrees.
The outers are a different matter. Jupiter retrogrades about 10 degrees every year, while Saturn appears to go back 7 degrees. Uranus retrogrades back 4 degrees, Neptune goes back 3 degrees, and Pluto goes back 3-4 degrees.
After the retrograde period, Jupiter races forward about 45-48 degrees before going retrograde again. Saturn moves forward about 20 degrees before again slowing. Uranus moves 8 degrees forward, Neptune moves 5 degrees, and Pluto moves 5 or 6 degrees before going retrograde again.
So you can see that in any given year period, Jupiter gains 35-38 degrees of experience before taking its look back. Saturn gains 13 degrees of experience, while Uranus gains 4, Neptune gains 2, and Pluto gains 2. This means the parts of our lives and internal makeup symbolized by the outer invisible planets spans much less experience each year than the functions symbolized by the visible.
Thus we cover less ground in the spiritual realm, but also are more familiar with it when we master its lessons than the brief glimpses of the inner planet experiences as they race around the zodiac relative to the Spiritual planets. And, since the outers do go back so far relative to where they originally advanced, we often find ourselves revisiting familiar points of experience over several years.
It is far different with the inner planet periods, which never revisit the same points within any time frame we can take advantage of. For example, the last time Jupiter went RX at 23 Capricorn and direct at 13 Capricorn was in 1925, and the only times Jupiter stimulates 23 Capricorn as its direct station are 1949 and 2032.
This area of identical stationary degrees every 83 years is probably a subject for extensive study. I looked briefly, and it seems that for Jupiter, 1913 has the same stationary degrees as 1996, 1925 as 2008, 1937 as 2020, and 1949 as 2032. So we could infer that certain stationary points condition those effects not just for 12 years to come, but for the next 7 Jupiter cycles.
Tomorrow we'll examine some interpretative possibilities of how to look at retrograde and direct planets.
Copyright © 2008 Robert Wilkinson