Photo by Magenta
What are retrogrades?
From our vantage point here on Earth, when we look up at the planets travelling along their orbits, it looks to us like our celestial neighbours are moving forwards in front of a band of stars (e.g the star signs).
So what is this retrograde thing?
“Retrograde” is a term used in astrology. When astrologers use this they are usually talking about a planet being “retrograde” or “in retrograde”. It means that, from our point of view on Earth, it looks as though planets start to spin backwards as they travel along their orbits. Of course, a planet doesn’t really move backwards or change the direction it’s spinning, it’s just an optical illusion. But it’s these moments when the planet appears to do something wacky like this that are important. Because when a planet isn’t travelling like it’s supposed to, it can interfere with the planet’s characteristics. Our article on astral magick gives more detail about these planetary and sign characteristics.
When a planet is doing it’s moonwalk in front of a certain starsign, this is the bit of our human experience that this planet’s retrograde behaviour may be felt the most. This is because certain starsigns also rule different bits of our human experience.
Astrology is hard, so don’t worry if this feels complicated already. We have a table that shows which starsign rules which part of the human experience (or ‘house’ as it’s known in astrology) on our Casting spells page, if you want to get into the details of that a little more feel free. But imagine the planets are characters in a play. They have lines to say and basically act out the story in a certain way. When a planet is retrograde, then it’s as though the character has done something unexpected, maybe messed up their lines a bit or knocked the set over. Things in the play may get a little confused and messy!
When do planets go retrograde?
Everything except the Sun, Moon and Earth can, and does, go retrograde from time to time. Mercury is retrograde on average three times a year and because Mercury is the fastest moving planet, these periods last the shortest amount of time at about three weeks a pop. Venus goes retrograde every 18 months or so and these periods last about 42 days, give or take. Retrogrades for Mars pop up every couple of years and these can last anywhere between 58 days and 80 days.
Then we get towards the bigger planets. These planets go retrograde every year for ages, magickally speaking. Jupiter’s retrogrades last about 4 months. Saturn’s lasts a little longer at 4 and a half months. Uranus retrogrades last about 5 months. Neptune is retrograde about 5 and half to six months and Pluto spends half the year in retrograde.
Retrogrades in astral magick
As we mentioned earlier, retrogrades in astrology can mean that the characteristics of a planet are at a bit of a standstill, sometimes even a little confusing or chaotic. This might be problematic when looking at electional charts to work out the best time to do something.
But this is where astral magick can differ a little bit from astrology. Retrogrades within a certain starsign can be an advantage, magickally speaking. For example, if the spell is more introspective or if the approach required needs to be a little different, using the retrograde of a planet can serve the magick better.
Using retrograde planets magickally
As of 14th September 2022, our publication date, pretty much everything is retrograde. Only Mars and Venus are travelling the solar system unretrograded.
Mercury is retrograde in Libra at the moment (next week it’ll move its retrograde into Virgo) which means, right now, communication within relationships may be impacted. This might be a good time to counter this with spell work aimed at improving communication, balancing relationships or to work within a partnership in a different way.
Jupiter’s retrograde at the moment is in Aries (it will carry on its retrograde in Pisces in October) so right now, it could be useful for spell work aimed at undoing any false starts or premature endings. Jupiter in Aries could be useful for examining your own belief systems, the retrograde would bring this introspection to a deeper level.
Saturn is about halfway through its retrograde in Aquarius. Magickally speaking this might be a good time for a new way of leading, taking risks or and being comfortable outside the comfort zone.
Uranus is currently retrograde in Taurus. This could lead to rocking the foundations connected with things of value. It might be a good time to counter this with spell work aimed at improving success or looking at possessions in a different light.
Neptune is retrograde in Pisces until December. This is a great time to deepen spiritual connections, work with intuition spells and best of all it’s never been easier to reveal what has been hidden.
Pluto’s retrograde in Capricorn ends in October which may be felt through changes to our place in the world. The retrograde is potentially the best time to work on any imposter syndrome issues, focus on making change happen or try to see change in a different way.
Retrogrades don’t have to bad in magick
Remember astral magick isn’t the same as astrology. As long as you’ve noticed when a planet is retrograde, the information can all be used magickally. In astral magick, this means blending together a planet’s characteristics, with star signs characteristics and the different parts of our human experience (the astrological houses) to work out the best time to cast a spell.
Astral magick utilises other magickal tools. Ingredients like planetary herbs to boost a planet’s power when it’s in a retrograde phase, incantations using the planet’s relative attributes and other ingredients all mean that retrogrades can be worked with, rather than worried about in magick.
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