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Retrograde Planets

Good writing about retrogrades can be scarce, so we'll give a short primer: Retrogrades have to do with the angular aspect between a planet and the sun, as viewed from the earth. When planets reach a precise number of degrees away from the sun (consult your ephemeris), they go retrograde. When they reach the same angle again, they go direct. So all sun - planet oppositions are retrograde. For that matter, all oppositions (except those of the moon) involve one planet retrograde, one direct. (Other aspects are just as interesting.) The further the distance in miles a planet is from the sun, the more its retrograde is a generational affair. How much of a generation are we talking about? Did you know that every Aquarian born between 1900 and 1985 had a retrograde Pluto and almost as many people born in April have a retrograde Neptune? So for an outer planet retrograde to be personal, it seems to us that it must be either in aspect to the sun, or angular in the chart. We could go on, have a look at the books while we think about it:

See books on Mercury retrograde on the Mercury page.

UNDERSTANDING RETROGRADES - Helen J. Adams (aka Garrett), $14.95

Understanding retrogrades

Mercury retrograde: Interpreting Mercury retrograde, Progressed Mercury retrograde, Interpretation memos, Transiting Mercury retrograde, Mercury retrograde in health

Venus retrograde: Interpreting Venus retrograde, Progressed Venus retrograde, Transiting Venus retrograde, Venus retrograde in health

Mars retrograde: Interpreting Mars retrograde, Progressed Mars retrograde, Transiting Mars retrograde, Mars retrograde in health

Jupiter retrograde: Interpreting Jupiter retrograde, Progressed Jupiter retrograde, Transiting Jupiter retrograde, Jupiter retrograde in health

Saturn retrograde: Interpreting Saturn retrograde, Progressed Saturn retrograde, Transiting Saturn retrograde, Saturn retrograde in health

Uranus retrograde: Interpreting Uranus retrograde, Progressed Uranus retrograde, Transiting Uranus retrograde, Uranus retrograde in health

Neptune retrograde: Interpreting Neptune retrograde, Progressed Neptune retrograde, Transiting Neptune retrograde, Neptune retrograde in health

Pluto retrograde: Interpreting Pluto retrograde, Progressed Pluto retrograde, Transiting Pluto retrograde, Pluto retrograde in health

Additional observations: Aspects of retrograde planets, Retrogrades in health, House cusps.

Comment: Garrett has studied the mechanics of retrogrades. She notes, for example, that Mercury retrograde picks up at the same place in the zodiac as the Mercury retrograde some ten months before, she discovers the 96 year Venus retrograde cycle (by sign), aspects formed by retrograde planets, transiting & progressed retrogrades, the number of houses a retrograde is from the sun, retrogrades in health & more. Notably free of the karmic retribution stuff (as found in Martin Schulman, for example). One of the best books on retrogrades, with excellent tables & diagrams.

AFA, 93 pages.

MORE ABOUT RETROGRADES - Helen Adams Garrett, $12.95

What are retrogrades
Interpreting retrograde planets
Health & retrograde planets
Progressed & transiting retrograde planets

Comment: Contrasts the geocentric (ephemeris) sign position of retrograde Mercury, Venus & Mars with their possible heliocentric positions, a useful new slant on retrogrades. Skips that for the outer planets, where she contrasts the advancing & receding aspects between retrograde planets & the sun, eg, Sun trine Saturn as Saturn goes into retrograde, then the Sun - Saturn trine as Saturn is about to go direct. These two books on retrogrades by Helen Adams are useful & include things we've long wished for in books about retrogrades. Concludes with health & retrograde planets, retrograde planets by progression & transit. Stuff you won't find elsewhere.

AFA, 75 pages.

RETROGRADE PLANETS Transversing the Inner Landscape - Erin Sullivan, $24.95


Quotable quotes

Part 1: Retrogression, how it works:
1. The mechanics of retrogression
2. The Sun & natal retrograde planets
3. Secondary progression of planets

Part 2: The inferior planets retrograde natally & in transit:
4. Mercury, god of retrogression
5. Venus, dual goddess

Part 3: The superior planets retrograde in the natal chart:
6. The cycle of superior planets (including retrograde syndromes)
7. Natal Mars retrograde
8. Natal Jupiter retrograde
9. Natal Saturn retrograde
10. The trans-Saturnian planets
11. Natal Uranus retrograde
12. Natal Neptune retrograde
13. Natal Pluto retrograde
14. A natal case history: Oscar
15. A mundane case history: Syphilis

Part 4: The superior planets retrograde in transit:
16. Overview
17. Transiting Mars retrograde
18. Transiting Jupiter retrograde
19. Transiting Saturn retrograde
20. Transits of the trans-Saturnian planets
21. Transiting Uranus retrograde
22. Transiting Neptune retrograde
23. Transiting Pluto retrograde
24. A case of transiting retrogrades: Jude

About the author


Sullivan opens her book with a collection of notable quotes. Here is one, most of the rest are similar:
I think that any retrograde planet tends to interiorize the expression of the planet. It operates on a more subjective and covert level. The meaning of a planet doesn't change, but the capacity for extroverted expression is altered. - Liz Greene, The Outer Planets & Their Cycles, (1983) (pg. xiii)
Which is to say, they all seem to dance around the subject.

A few pages further, Sullivan says,

You may notice a lack of emphasis on house position & sign placement in all sections delineating retrograde planets. This is deliberate for two reasons. First, the most significant power of a retrograde planet lies in the fact that it is retrograde, and, therefore, is implicitly in aspect to the Sun. Secondly, the power of a retrograde planet is dependent upon its place in the gestalt of the horoscope, that is, dependent on whether it has exact aspect with the Sun; whether it is a singleton; or whether it is otherwise segregated from the main body of planets in the rest of the chart. (pg. xvii)
Gestalt: Wiki defines this as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts". Which somehow doesn't sound so profound. Continuing,
To catalogue interpretations for retrograde planets singly by house & sign would not only be erroneous & misleading, it would not work consistently. The reader is expected to synthesize his or her own knowledge of signs & houses with knowledge of aspects to or from retrograde planets to other planets, thereby coming to an understanding of what retrograde energy contributes within the context of the whole horoscope. (pg. xvii)
Which smells to me like a retrograde way of looking at retrogrades. So what sort of book results from this premise? Here is a random paragraph:
Jupiter as well as Saturn may be an influential factor in the super-ego, the part of the psyche that dictates to the Self and the ego how it is to behave within the context of prescribed family, social & religious mores. Differentiating between what is shameful & what is guilt-producing can become a time-consuming business. Strong Jupiter features in the horoscope can indicate a preoccupation with issues around morality, religion, ethics, social conscience, justice & equity. These are the basis of feelings of shame. We normally associate the astrological Saturn with guilt, which I believe is true, but both Jupiter & Saturn have to do with our relationships within society. In some important way, guilt (Saturn) and shame (Jupiter) create a structure within which we build our perception of the world out there. These ancient associations with Zeus as the supreme social arbiter form the underpinnings of the Jupiter-Sagittarius-ninth house connotations around law, justice and retribution for transgression. (pg. 193)
I regret I did not understand any of that. This is from the chapter on Natal Jupiter Retrograde, so we may assume that Sullivan's interpretation of retrograde Jupiter, at least in part, is that it brings shame & that such shame is similar to the guilt that Saturn (regrograde or not?) brings. This is, at any rate, intensely heavy-handed. The jargon, of super ego, shame, guilt, mores, makes me curious as to Sullivan's qualifications to use them. It is, after all, easy for a layman to pick up jargon & use it, willy-nilly, to make general, moralistic points. So I went to Sullivan's own biography, but found no trace of her training. Then I found a rambling interview which makes it clear that Sullivan has no formal training. As a teenager in the 1950's she read a lot of Freud (as did her mentor, Liz Greene), and then, in her early 40's (mid 1980's) took some university courses. Sullivan has travelled widely, but if travel widens horizons, Sullivan's outlook has stayed fairly close to that of her teenage years, when she eagerly read Freud as she hopped back & forth between British Columbia & California.

When I open a book on astrology, I want to see solid astrological fundamentals, combined with practical experience & some good common sense. When the fundamentals are avoided & terminology from other disciplines is substituted in their place, I suspect that ideology, not astrology, is what's on offer. Another extract, to close. This on outer planet stations:

1. The transiting planet stations-retrograde on a sensitive degree (or planet). If this happens, the outer planet has been hovering ove the natal degree for a few weeks prior to the station, and has been creeping forward at a decreasing rate. This has the effect of gradually loosening both one's conscious and unconscious ties to the principles of the affected planet or point. Most frequently there is no "surprise", but instead a deep-seated angst - an unfocused, undifferentiated sense of disorder regarding one's ingrained responses and habits surrounding the planet or point beng 'sat upon' by the stationing planet. A deep feeling of unresolved conflict begins to surface, but with no avenue for analysis because the experience is too new. However, other transits & progressions will help to identify how to contain the free-floating anxiety and, also the knowledge of the fact that it begins a process often assuages one's fear. The station period is frequently exhausting because the internal homoeostatic principle tries vainly to activate itself and resist change; the exhaustion can precipitate the subsequent depression of the senses and emotions often associated with this stationary transit. These feelings of depletion are exacerbated by the fact that the stationing planet will spend almost two months hovering around that degree point. (pgs. 359-360)

Weiser, 428 pages.

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YOUR HIDDEN POWERS: Intercepted Signs & Retrograde Planets - Joanne Wickenburg, $24.95

To the reader

Intercepted Signs: Environment versus destiny

1. Introduction to intercepted signs
2. What is an intercepted sign?
3. Getting started
4. Polarity of the signs
5. Rulerships & retrogrades
6. Duplicated signs or intercepted houses
7. Are you out of your element?
8. The nature of the planets
9. Aspects & phases
10. Relocation charts
11. Transits & interceptions: Inner planets; Outer planets
12. Environment vs: destiny charts
13. Interceptions in review

Retrograde planets: Your hidden powers

14. Introduction to retrograde planets
15. How planets retrograde
16. The retrograde dilemma
17. Eight stages of cyclic unfoldment
18. Retrograde planets

Comment: December, 2008: A customer brought this book to my attention a few days ago. Here are my notes on intercepted signs:

My view of intercepted signs is that they are house-based. You have one way of dealing with the house from the sign on the cusp. But for unclear reasons this doesn't work all that well & so, perhaps in your teens or early 20's, you found a work-around, by means of the sign intercepted inside that house. You are then unaware you have two different ways of dealing with matters of that pair of houses.

Wickenburg is grasping:

However, when signs are intercepted, instead of providing constructive feedback and encouraging you to investigate the needs of your intercepted signs ... to delve more deeply into the experiences available through your intercepted signs ... to uncover the hidden potentials they define ... the environment challenges you to move on to the next obvious step in life (the experiences of the next house). The environment simply does not see, or understand, the degree of complexity involved with finding fulfillment in the areas of life shown by the houses containing intercepted signs. Due to lack of encouragement, feedback or role models offered by the outside world, the needs of these signs are often hidden until later in life when some crisis (brought on by transits) brings them to the surface. The needs & potentials of intercepted signs, and the powers of intercepted planets, are sometimes delayed in expression because of lack of external stimuli." - (pg. 18, emphasis & ellipses in original.)
This is a nice idea, but only half thought through. She's saying that a house with an intercepted sign inside it won't work all that well, and I agree. She then says affairs of this house will be ignored, and here I disagree. There are only twelve houses. Intercepted signs come in pairs. One of them might possibly be ignored. One of them cannot be. All you need do is consider the six possible pairs. 1 & 7 ? Try to ignore the first!

It may be that one is unaware of the difficulties with the intercepted sign until it is touched off by some transit, but it may also be the intercepted sign is a long-running sore that never quite goes away. I do not think that resolution of this problem waits until one is 50 or 60. The problem is solved much earlier, but awareness of that solution may not come until much, much later.

In my case, Libra & Aries, in houses 5 & 11, are intercepted. Saturn sits in Libra, Jupiter in Aries. I was aware of 5th house problems, I was aware of a Saturnian influence in it, before I was 15. (Decades before I knew anything about Saturn or astrology.) My first efforts to work with the sign on the cusp of 5, Virgo, did not happen until I was in my 40's. I did not become aware of the true situation, ie, the dual nature of the house, until my 50's. I have still not figured out what is going on with Aries in 11.

Wickenburg's notes on intercepted houses (pgs. 52 - 58) are theoretical. In theory, houses with the same signs on them would be linked in some fashion, but we need to find the ruling planet & note the house & sign it is in, as well as any tight aspects it may have. Robert Blaschke has tightly linked 2nd & 3rd houses, by means of dispositors in mutual reception (his chart is published), which, for him, means the harder he works (3rd house) the more money he makes (2nd). (Read his book on the self-employed astrologer.) I have the same signs on 2 & 3 (Cancer), but I am not so driven (3rd), nor do I get rewarded (2nd) when I am. In my case, the ruler, the Moon, is in opposition to the Sun, which disposes it. The polarity between the Sun's house & the Moon's house, fueled by the luminaries themselves, dominates the entire chart.

Wickenburg's retrograde theory is that the first of the two signs a planet rules is its primary. The second is its "retrograde" position. Mercury is naturally Gemini. When it is retrograde, it functions more like Virgo. Saturn is just fine as far as Capricorn is concerned, but if you have it retrogarde, you have to deal with Aquarian issues. Uranus, when direct, functions like Aquarius. When retrograde, like Capricorn. (Would this not make Uranus the higher octave of Saturn?) Direct Neptune is Piscean, retrograde, Sagittarian. Direct Pluto is Scorpionic. Retrograde, Pluto functions in an Aries fashion. This is a novel theory.

The author covers the eight stages of retrograde. Which are:

1. Solar conjunction (superior) to retrograde zone
2. Pre-retrograde to retrograde station
3. Retrograde station
4. First half of retrograde phase
5. The solar opposition or (Mercury/Venus) inferior conjunction
6. Second half of retrograde phase
7. Stationary direct
8. Stationary direct to solar (superior) conjunction
(pg. 131)
Wickenburg's writing on the various planets when retrograde is quite good, and almost completely free of mythical references, which I found a welcome relief. The retrograde appendix gives the dates/locations the planets enter their retrograde zone (ie, area of the sky they are about to back over), the dates/locations of the retrograde station, the solar conjunction/opposition, the date the planet goes direct, and the dates/locations the planets left the retrograde zone. All of which will help you to focus more clearly on retrogrades.

AFA, 178 pages, paper.

RETROGRADES - Mohan Koparkar, $7.95

Introduction: General description, retrogrades & house rulerships, retrogrades & interceptions, retrograde in groups, progressions, transits, reincarnation & in mundane astrology

In each of the following chapters, each planet is treated in each house, ruling the various houses, opposite direct planets, and, for Mercury & Venus only, opposite retrograde planets:

Retrograde Mercury
Retrograde Venus
Retrograde Mars
Retrograde Jupiter
Retrograde Saturn
Regrograde Uranus
Retrograde Neptune
Retrograde Pluto


Koparkar sees retrogrades as a phenomenon of opposition. In the introduction, he writes,
Since the retrograde motion exhibits adaptability & compromise, it will be forced to do so to its master who forms the opposition. In case of no opposition to the retrograde planet, individual freedom & adaptability are at its own will. (pg. 5)
While it's true that all solar oppositions (except to the Moon, of course) are retrograde, retrogrades with other planets & other aspects are eye opening. Which Koparkar overlooks, a pity.

Delineations of retrograde planets as rulers of the various houses are quite good. An example:

Retrograde Saturn Ruling the Ninth House: Family traditions often represent hindrance to this native. As much as his philosophies and standards are rigid & old fashioned, he finds it necessary to run away from it. Thus, dealing with people of different beliefs, cultures, attitudes, or nationality can be important in his life. At the least he will try very hard to isolate himself from his up bringing. Hindrance in higher education or blockages in applying his knowledge for practical use seen. Seldom he is confident of his convictions, making him introvert, aloof, and self-conscious. Problems with legalities, litigations, lack of publicity & recognition seen here. He can be anti-institutional as he fears being lost in the crowd. Stage fright attitude is very likely in this case. Strong fluctuations or departure from standard religion noticed. Needs to travel may only be internal, but actual travel substantially limited. If he gets a chance to travel, long trips do not always bring pleasure to him. Weak father image perceived by him or hidden resentments towards him due to unusual circumstances. When applicable, second marriage [the 9th rules second marriages - Dave] can be a complicated issue. Although full of challenges, it can be hard to get away from to be free again. (pgs. 89-90)
Many interesting & useful details not found elsewhere, which makes this our favorite retrograde book, though Koparkar's writing on Uranus, Neptune & Pluto is not as good as I would like.

Mohan Enterprises, 140 pages. 140 pages. Mohan Enterprises, paper.

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