Despite their bad reputation, retrogrades are nothing to fear. And having retrograde planets in a natal chart is actually very common—in fact, most of us have at least one. Learning which planets are retrograde in your natal chart can give you key insights into which parts of your life you might need to approach differently or do some internal work around.
What does it mean when a planet is retrograde?
When a planet is retrograde, it appears to move backward in the sky. The key word is "appears" here, as no planet actually ever moves in reverse, but during a retrograde, the Earth is passing the given planet in orbit, such that it seems to be moving backward from our vantage point.
The meaning of each planet in astrology dictates which facets of life its movements—including its retrogrades—can influence. For example, Mercury rules over communication, information, and media; and Venus rules over love, value, and aesthetics. A given planet's retrograde, then, can put a damper or cause a slowdown related to the realms of life over which it rules. That's why Mercury retrogrades are so commonly feared for what astrologer Ambi Kavanagh, founder of Soulstrology, calls "Mercury mischief" (aka communication breakdowns and crossed wires), and Venus retrogrades are known for throwing relationships and dating for a loop.
Though all the planets experience retrograde cycles, they occur in different durations and frequencies. Mercury retrogrades are the quickest and most frequent, at about three weeks a piece and occurring three to four times a year (because Mercury is closest to the sun and has the fastest orbit), while the retrogrades of the outer planets (like Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto) last for months at a time, typically occurring once a year.
The impact of these retrogrades can vary a lot depending on the planet involved, according to astrologer and tarot reader Lisa Stardust. “Jupiter and Saturn retrogrades can be lucky times because the energy of these planets becomes more potent and auspicious during the retrograde,” she says. “[Retrogrades] of planets like Neptune, Pluto, and Uranus are going to have minimal effects on us because they are so far away from Earth, while [retrogrades of] Mercury, Venus, and Mars will have more of a personal effect because they are closer to us.”
“[During retrogrades], we get a chance to pause and review things, which is extremely rare and can be auspicious if we use the energy correctly.” —Lisa Stardust, astrologer and tarot reader
Though retrogrades do imply a slowdown of forward momentum, Stardust says that doesn't always spell bad news. She emphasizes that retrogrades can be viewed more so as a time for us to reflect on our current relationships, situations, and anything that could use revision. “We get a chance to pause and review things, which is extremely rare and can be auspicious if we use the energy correctly,” she says.
What does it mean when there are retrograde planets in your natal chart?
If you notice that certain planets are denoted as being retrograde in your natal chart, it just means that those planets were retrograde at the time when you were born—meaning their energy was a bit dampened or impeded by their backward appearance at that moment in time. To be sure, this does not mean that, in your life, you're destined to struggle or be doomed in the areas over which these planets rule. (For example, Venus retrograde in your natal chart does not mean it's your fate to have bad relationships.) Instead, think of a retrograde planet in your natal chart as a reflection of a karmic lesson to be learned within your lifetime.
According to astrologer Alexandria Lettman, founder of spiritual wellness platform Jupiter Jewel, retrograde planets in your natal chart mean “you need to develop a unique relationship with the activities represented by the planet and do things differently.” Just as the planet was moving in a different direction than usual when you were born, so, too, should you approach the realms of life over which it rules with a unique tack.
“[Retrograde planets in your natal chart mean] you need to develop a unique relationship with the activities represented by the planet and do things differently.” —Alexandria Lettman, astrologer
For example, if you have Jupiter (the planet of expansion and luck) retrograde in your chart, Lettman says you might need to work on exploring your own beliefs without self-limiting or taking others’ influence into account. By a similar token, a retrograde Mercury placement in your chart could suggest you need to take your time when making decisions so you're able to consider all potential inputs of information (which is an area ruled by Mercury).
If you notice that your chart ruler (aka the ruling planet of your ascendant or rising sign) is retrograde, it could point to the need for some introspection around your identity, personal worth, and modes of self-expression, given that the chart ruler is the planet in your natal chart that's thought to dictate the overall themes of your life.
In certain cases, retrograde planets in your natal chart will have a more prominent effect on you—and that's when they include any of the personal planets (Mercury, Venus, or Mars), says astrologer Maria Sofia Marmanides, author of The Oracle Card Journal. “For example, a retrograde Venus in your chart might mean that relationships are quite significant for you but also present obstacles, or for Mars, you could run into issues around anger or athletics.”
You may face challenges when you navigate a retrograde planet's life themes—at least, until you do some internal work on these areas and learn the karmic lessons associated with them. Kavanagh stresses that the purpose of this process is not to punish you, "but to help you develop a deeper internal understanding and strength of the traits associated with the retrograde planet."
One benefit of having a planet retrograde in your natal chart? You’re bound to weather each of its current retrograde transits a little more smoothly than others, says Marmanides. For example, if you have a natal Mercury retrograde placement, you likely won’t be as greatly affected by scheduling and communication hiccups during Mercury retrogrades.
How can you tell if there are retrograde planets in your natal chart?
Not sure which planets are retrograde in your chart—if any? Enter your birth date, time, and location into a free online birth chart generator like this one to pull up your chart and figure that out.
Your chart will be divided into 12 sections (which represent the 12 houses in astrology) and the planets will be grouped in different houses. (Not that if you have empty houses in your chart, that's nothing to fear; the planets aren't usually evenly divided among the houses based on the nature of their orbits.) Look for either an “R” or an “RX” next to any of the planets in your chart, which signify that they are retrograde, says Lettman.
What each retrograde planet means in a natal chart
Chatty, brainiac Mercury is voted "Most Likely To Go Retrograde" thanks to its short orbit, so it's not uncommon to see Mercury retrograde in a natal chart. It may mean that you have lessons to learn related to thinking, communication, and the mind. (Being born during Mercury retrograde may also make you more philosophical.)
Romantic, smoldering Venus rules over relationships and all things enjoyable. If you were born during a Venus retrograde, you may take the long road when it comes to love, creativity, beauty, pleasure, peace, and inner harmony.
Mars is a spitfire planet with lots of physical energy—its placement in your chart informs your fitness personality and sex drive alike. If you were born during Mars retrograde, you may grapple with issues relating to energy, drive, ambition, autonomy, leadership, and manifestation.
Jupiter is a magnanimous, magnificent planet that's often considered the planet of good luck; its large size means that it tends to expand or enhance whatever it touches. If Jupiter was retrograde during your birth, you may have inner work to do around abundance, expansion, luck, and generosity.
Oh stable, structured Saturn. You might associate this planet with Saturn return, which is a landmark astrological event that occurs roughly every 30 years and brings a hefty dose of cosmic tough love. It speaks to our need to mature and practice discipline. If you have Saturn retrograde in your natal chart, you may face challenges or grapple with authority, responsibility, stability, success, and boundaries throughout life.
Uranus is the rebellious renegade and thoughtful innovator of the cosmos; in the least shocking news, it's the ruler of cerebral Aquarius. If you were born during Uranus retrograde, you may struggle to fully express your inner originality or sense of innovation, liberation, or ingenuity.
Neptune ebbs and flows along the same wavelength of the water sign it rules: empathic Pisces. If you have this dreamy planet retrograde in your natal chart, you may be on a lifelong quest to better understand spirituality, creativity, compassion, and unconditional love.
Pluto deals with the shadow sides of life—everything taboo or connected to death, and all that we tend to shove under the rug. If you were born during Pluto retrograde, you'll face growth opportunities throughout life in the areas of personal power, transformation, and the ability to dive deep beneath the surface.
Frequently Asked Questions About Retrograde Planets in a Natal Chart
Is it rare to have a retrograde planet in your birth chart?
It’s actually more rare to have no retrograde planets in your natal chart than to have at least one or two. That's because of the ways in which the Earth and the other planets are all constantly in motion, with the Earth often shifting ahead of other planets in its orbit, causing them to enter retrograde. (Remember: Retrogrades are when the planets appear to move backward from our perspective on Earth.)
“For at least six months out of the year, all of the outer planets are retrograde depending on whether they're located in front of or behind the sun, in terms of zodiac sign and degree,” says Marmanides. That's all to say, it'd be rarer to have all of those outer planets (and all of the inner planets) in direct motion when you were born than to have at least one of them in retrograde motion.
What does it mean when you have no retrograde planets in your natal chart?
Because of how often the celestial bodies are moving in the sky and the different lengths of their orbits, it’s actually quite rare for someone to not have any retrograde planets in their birth chart.
That said, if you have no retrograde planets in your birth chart, it may signal that you “may not have as much of a natural proclivity to reassess yourself as frequently or as automatically as others, and [you may be] more direct and forthcoming,” says Lettman. Because you may not naturally think to carve out time for introspection, Lettman advises using the retrograde cycles of the personal planets (Mercury, Venus, and Mars) to actively focus on self-reflection and self-analysis.
Remember: Your natal chart is just a snapshot of what the sky looked like at the exact moment you were born—not a predetermination of all the happenings in your life now or in the future. Having no natal planets retrograde doesn't mean you won't face conflict or have to look within. “The thing to remember about birth charts is that they show your natal promise, but they do not mean that you are stuck or fated to have only one path available,” says Marmanides.
How do you know if Venus is retrograde in your birth chart?
If you’re curious to find out which planets are retrograde in your birth chart, first use an online natal chart generator to pull up your chart. Then, if you’re trying to see whether your natal Venus is retrograde, specifically, “you would simply need to check if the symbol for the planet Venus has an 'R' or 'RX' next to it” in your chart, says Marmanides. Depending on the software you're using, the planet may also just be highlighted in red, she adds.
Remember that while a natal Venus retrograde can nod to some difficulties in love, it certainly doesn't mean your love life is doomed—in fact, far from it. You may just have some internal learning and growth to do as it relates to your role in relationships, or it's possible that you'll approach finding connection or love in a non-traditional way.
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