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What is a Retrograde Cycle ?

We often hear the term Mercury is retrograde or Venus is Retrograde but what does it mean?

Technically we know that planets orbit the Sun, we have seen the diagrams which show the sun in the centre and the respective planets on their orbital paths. As well as this orbit, planets also have epicycles, they rotate in a kind of circle all of their own. So, they have a big orbit whilst they are turning in an epicycle. It is this epicycle which gives the appearance of retrograde motion from our perspective. Please study the diagram below to gain an understanding of this space motion.

Retrograde cycles in astrology


A planet when retrograde is considered to be impaired or afflicted in its ability to deliver what it promises. There are many considerations to take into account when reading a chart and this is one important one. If a planet is angular we consider this good but if that planet is retrograde it is unlikely to deliver its positive promise and more likely to be in a strong position to take away anything beneficial. If one already knows the influence of that planet and has read the house, sign and house cusps to see what affairs it concerns then one only needs to apply this knowledge but in reverse as it were. A retrograde Mars in Aries is more likely to internalise than take direct and assertive action for instance. There is a need to be assertive but the inability to be so will cause internalised anger, annoyance and frustration. The promise is assertiveness and direct action - the result is that neither of these things are likely to happen if Mars is in retrograde motion. The ability of the person is impaired in this regard

Retrograde Phases

The Sun and Moon are never retrograde. Other Planets have varying times and duration of retrogrades.

Mercury retrogrades 3 times per year for about 22 to 24 days
Venus retrogrades once per year for about 41 –42 days
Mars retrogrades occur roughly once in just over two years for about 2 months
Jupiter retrogrades occur just over a year apart for about 120 days (4 months)
Saturn retrogrades are annual for 4.5 months
Uranus retrogrades are annual for 5 months
Neptune retrogrades are annual for 5 months
Pluto retrogrades are annual for 6 months

As you can see the faster moving planets have shorter retrograde phases so to be born under such a retrograde becomes a bit of a lottery. However, with the planets from Uranus to Pluto it becomes more of a certainty that for almost half a year there will be a retrograde. Although I consider outer planets in many things I do not consider them in a truly personal sense, where they may act directly and influence the personality of the person. It is difficult to place a great deal of credence on the retrogrades of the outer planets although there will be people who disagree. The Retrograde of Jupiter and Saturn can cause delays and reversals when beginning new business.

Transit Retrogrades

Planets are shown as being retrograde in the natal chart but retrogrades also occur by transit. That is, planets continue on their path after birth and from time to time make a contact with the original chart, they cause events to happen in our lives and can be predicted. Sometimes these transiting planets go retrograde and take us back over old issues. For dates of planetary retrogrades see my articles on Mercury Retrograde and retrograde dates, the links are top right on the side menu.

Natal Retrogrades

When you are considering the natal chart you begin with the planet. Determine what it means, what is its nature? Determine how it is modified by the sign it is in. Determine the area of life it affects through its house placement. Then you look at whether or not the planet is direct or retrograde.

If direct in motion then the energies are projected outwards, if retrograde then the energies are thwarted or blocked from positive and direct expression.

Jupiter, in good condition, in the first house promises wealth or good fortune for a person, but if it is retrograde it is likely to take away fortune rather than bestow it. This is the influence of a retrograde planet. Other factors need to be taken into account too. The dignity of a planet will show, for instance, how much of its promise, if any, it will deliver or whether it will deliver its promise and later destroy it as we so often see with tycoons going from rags to riches and back again.

Retrogrades are not an optical illusion. This can be clearly seen as the planet in retrograde motion goes in the reverse order through the signs and degrees of the zodiac. The diagram above shows you how the epicycle causes the planet to appear, from our perspective on earth, to be moving in a retrograde motion.


Also see links to articles top right

Mercury retrograde and other Retrograde Dates

You can also learn more about Retrogrades by doing a module in
Astrology Courses, see link on the menu bar above

Hazel Leung
Telephone 0438 318 180 or (07) 4031 8181


More Articles

The Guardian Angel and Your Destiny

Astrology of

Spinning the Wheel of Fortune

Soul Mates

What is Astrology?

Empty Houses

What is Retrograde?

Mercury Retrograde Dates

Planetary Retrograde Dates




hazel leung

I first studied modern western astrology in 1989 and fell in love with the self knowledge contained within a natal chart. I was always fascinated by human nature and found it easy to use astrological indicators to see the cause and effect of people's lives. Naturally I learned a lot of things about myself in the process.

In 1994 I undertook a Diploma of Medieval Astrology Course because I found some of the older, forgotten techniques gave me a better understanding of people which helped me to see better solutions for people to learn, change and thrive in life.

I have been working with clients l since 1990 and my astrological knowledge became very useful when coaching people on how to make their lives better. I have other tools in my tool box, Transcend In Meditation is a life changing style of meditation and I also use kinesiology and meditative hypnosis to help clear old patterns which hold people back in life.

I live In Cairns, in Australia but I work worldwide. I use email, skype and paypal as well as direct deposits for clients in Australia so distance is no object.


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