On Retrogrades and Shadow Periods
I was reminded of something very important about planetary retrogrades today. Retrogrades occur regularly, and we may often find ourselves recognizing a pattern in our life struggles that correlate with the retrogrades. In this article I want to break down the meaning of each planetary RX, their shadow and what patterns you would be addressing during these periods. First, I want to clarify a few things.
Retrograde is when a planet looks like they are moving backward in degree from the POV on earth. No, they do not actually move backward, the backward motion is technically an optical illusion due to the nature of the orbit being and oval or ecliptic (higher and lower on different sides) and therefore being on a different track than earth. The retrograde ends when the earth and the planet are now on different sides of the track where the planet is no longer looking like it is moving backwards.
You can think of it like two trains on separate tracks, one train is on a fast track the other experiences hills or mountains where that train moves slower. as the first train remains on the fast track and the other slows down it looks like it is moving backward.
Shadow Periods are being discussed a lot more this year, this is because a lot more people are looking to astrology for their personal healing! The Shadow period of retrograde helps us acknowledge the shift and time of change and integration rather than assuming "Hey, retrogrades done lets go back to normal now!" And being faced with even more obstacles because we are resisting change. The Shadow begins when a planet reaches a degree that will eventually be the last degree the planet retrogrades to, and it ends when the planet reaches the last degree it reached before its retrograde. For example. Mercury moves through Gemini and begins its retrograde at 5 degrees, in 3 weeks it retrogrades into 19 degrees in Taurus before stationing Direct. This would mean that the shadow period began at 19 degrees Taurus and ends when it reaches 5 degrees Gemini again.
Here is a diagram from www.evolvingdoor.ca/miscarticles/rxstation.htm for a great visual! And below that a tweet with a very helpful graphic of understanding our solar systems orbit.
Mercury RX happens every 3 months - we basically get a Mercury RX every Season (Winter, Spring, Summer Fall that is). Every 3 months you may notice a personal issue comes to a tipping point. For example: personal breakdowns about your romantic life every 3 months, work stress culminating every 3 months, anxiety at an all time high every 3 months etc.
This is Mercury RX trying to get you to fix a problem. I am not talking about "every three months I get into a fight with my partner so we must break up to fix it" I am talking about fixing the internal reasons for those tears, anxiety or stresses. After all, retrogrades represent turning inwards.
Mercury specifically brings up a lot of topics around self communication and perception of the world around you. As the planet of communication and processing information Mercury RX can be a lot to handle because we receive contradictory information or feelings that challenge our perception of the world, or situations that we feel "safe" in. Retrogrades are the cosmos pushing us to challenge ourselves and grow. This is why if you ignore any shadow work or personal development during retrogrades, that theme is surely to come around again and again.
Mercury RX Shadow lasts about 2.5 weeks before retrograde and 2.5 weeks after thanks to mercury moving the fastest. Lets do some math. give or take Mercury Rx and shadow last 8 weeks, it occurs 4 times a year 9x4=32. there are 52 weeks in a year. This means that over half of the calendar year is spent under the influence of Mercury retrograde and its shadow. This is why I believe keeping up with personal development practices and regular self reflection are known to benefit people.
Venus stations retrograde every 18 months or Year and a Half for about 6-7 weeks. With a 4 week shadow before and after Venus Rx's influence totals to 3.5 months every 18 months.
Venus Rx and its shadow get us to reflect on our sense of pleasure and love. During this cycle we can not help but think about our relationships and the balance between them. If there is an imbalance of give and take in relationships it is certainly going to be prominent during a Venus RX.
Venus RX stirs the pot to help us evaluate what makes us feel good and fulfilled. not only will we ask ourselves if relationships are providing equal support but we will be asked: Is your job providing you with satisfaction? Does the environment/space/house you live in feel comfortable? Do you like the way you feel in your body?
Venus RX wakes up our tactile senses and we often find ourselves re-inventing something. Buying that new car that drives smoother, treating ourselves to a re-vamped wardrobe or new hair cut. We are invited to look at material things and how they provide us with happiness, confidence and pleasure as well.
The planet of War, Action and Reaction, Mars, retrogrades only every 2 years. When Mars stations retrograde we are being asked to evaluate our actions over the past 2 years and evaluate where we need to change. Mars rules our action and reactions or our motivation behind these so we also need to use the Mars retrograde period to evaluate what truly is motivating us.
This often brings with it a shift in our perception. If mars Rx is accompanied by Mercury in the communication zones of your chart a Mars retrograde can be particularly potent in re-wiring your habits.
Mars' retrograde time usually last about 3 months, with the before and after shadow periods accumulating to a total of 7 months under Mars RX energy every 2 years.
Jupiter Retrograde is an interesting one to look at. Jupiter rules the energy of expansion, abundance and joy. We experience its retrograde once a year for 4 months, with the pre and post Rx shadow periods its influence is around for 9.5 months out of the year. That is only 2.5 months a year with no influence of Jupiter Rx! No wonder humans are constantly searching for happiness and more joy/abundance/prosperity! Could it be because Jupiter Rx influences a huge chunk of the year and we are not always aware of its influence?
This is a great example of how astrology can be used to correctly use the collective energy. When Jupiter is in retrograde we are asked to reflect on our joy and explore new things that make us happy or feel expansive! In the Culture we live in today we can often feel limited by the structures society puts on us. Jupiter Rx asks us to find the abundance with in our selves. Jupiter Rx can be used to deeply develop different areas of your life and call in growth where it is needed. Every year Jupiter would hit a different life area (astrological house) in your chart and this can indicate which area to focus your growth and abundance on in that year.
While Jupiter allows us to look beyond the structures society puts on us, Saturn asks us to look directly at them. Saturn is the planet of authority, discipline, structure and limits. Saturn also retrogrades every 12 months, and last about 4.5 months allowing its shadow periods to elongate its influence over the course of 11 months. Yes. Technically speaking there is only 3.5 ish weeks a year where we are not in the degrees of Saturn Rx's influence.
But this does not mean we are constantly in Saturn Rx energy. This means that like with Jupiter each year carries an underlying theme for us connected to Saturn Rx.
These themes usually have to do with us setting boundaries. When we are in Pre-Rx Shadow situations will come up to shake us up and get us thinking, maybe we set some trial boundaries. Then in the 4 months of Saturn RX we are forced to look at our inner and outer world and set firm boundaries to address our limitations. We may also find ourselves called to restructure our lives in some way (again, this could be relevant to the life area (astrological house) highlighted in your chart by the sign that Saturn is in). Then in the post retrograde shadow we begin to integrate these changes and ideas we confronted in retrograde. Depending on where the other planets are Saturn Rx Shadow can actually bring more change in our material world since we are more ready to make desicions and integrate what we have learned.
The Outer Planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto also station Retrograde but for longer periods as they are a further distance from earth. I didn't include them in this article since I want to study more about their influences. Right now I find that the Inner Planets and their Retrograde Cycles have the most relevant influences to those who read my content :)
Stay tuned for more!
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Astrologer, Past Life Regression Therapist and Intuitive. Sarah writes articles on current astro happenings, historical astro interpretations and spiritual topics.