Retrogrades in astrology are generally associated with mishaps and slowdowns—so you might find yourself a little put off if you notice, as I just did, a little “R” next to certain planets on your birth chart. Yup, that means those celestial bodies were retrograde on the day you were born. Dun, dun, dun! But according to Ambi Kavanagh, astrologer and founder of Soulstrology, retrograde planets in a natal chart are a lot more common than you might think. In fact, most of us have at least one.
ICYWW, when a planet is “retrograde” it means that Earth is passing it in orbit and that planet appears to be moving backward from our vantage point. “All the planets experience retrograde motion, with Mercury the most common—and feared!—as he often creates what I like to call ‘Mercury mischief’ in his multiple three-to-four annual retrogrades,” says Kavanagh. “The larger, outer celestial bodies, such as Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Pluto, and Chiron, all experience a long annual retrograde motion—usually four to five months. Venus and Mars, who orbit closer to Earth, retrograde every other year.” The sun and moon never go retrograde, she adds.
“Retrograde essentially means the planet’s energy is somewhat blocked externally, so those life areas that come within that planet’s domain are not as easily expressed.” —astrologer Ambi Kavanagh
So what does it mean if you have a retrograde planet (or several) on your natal chart? Think of it as a karmic lesson to be learned within your lifetime. “It isn’t by any means all doom or gloom, and certainly does not make for a ‘bad’ chart,” says Kavanagh. “Retrograde essentially means the planet’s energy is somewhat blocked externally, so those life areas that come within that planet’s domain are not as easily expressed. The chart holder’s soul chose to incarnate to learn deeper internal lessons regarding the areas of life ruled by that specific planet.”
You may experience a few challenges when you navigate a retrograde planet’s life themes—at least, until you work on these areas of life internally and can then enjoy them externally. Kavanagh stresses that the purpose of this process is not to punish you, “but to develop a deeper internal understanding and strength of the traits associated with that retrograde planet.” So below, learn the lesson each of the retrograde planets in a natal chart stand to offer. (Not sure which planets are retrograde in your chart—if any? Run a free online generator, like this one, to check it out.)
Here are the cosmic lessons you’re meant to learn from each of the retrograde planets in your natal chart.
Chatty, brainiac Mercury is voted “Most Likely to Go Into Retrograde,” 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. Astrologer Susan Miller previously pointed out that being born during Mercury retrograde makes 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, receiving, 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—we are very pro-Jupiter. If Jupiter was retrograde during your birth, you may have inner work to do around abundance, expansion, luck, and generosity.
Oh stable, structured Saturn. We associate this planet with Saturn return—a landmark astrological event that occurs in a person’s late 20s— because it speaks to our need to mature. Saturn’s themes are all about authority, responsibility, stability, success, and boundaries.
Uranus has a lot of mad scientist energy—in totally not-shocking news, it’s the ruler of rebellious Aquarius. If you were born during Uranus retrograde, you may struggle to fully express your inner originality, innovation, liberation, or ingenuity.
Neptune ebbs and flows along the same wavelength of the water sign it rules: empathic Pisces. You may be on a lifelong journey to deeply understand spirituality, creativity, compassion, and unconditional love.
Finally there’s Pluto, who deals with the shadow sides of life. If you’re born during Pluto retrograde, you’ll face growth opportunities in the areas of personal power, transformation, and the ability to dive deep beneath the surface.
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