Why do planets go retrograde? The physics, the meaning of retrogrades in astrological chart and why the number of them in Natal Chart is important? Statistical research through centuries, unusual case studies of extraordinary people with many retrogrades and lots of graphics. This article contains the basic outline of almost all facets of my study regarding this interesting topic.
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New material: WATCH A BRAND NEW VIDEO.
I’ve given an INTERVIEW on retrograde planets for an English astrologer, Mary English.
For the description and the list of timestamps go to the YouTube version or a separate article here on my website.
==END of 2020 edit.
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This is the outline of materials from my lecture on ‘Retrograde Planets and the Number of Retrograde Planets Found in the Natal Chart’, which is an expanded version of my article, “People with many Retrogrades,” that won the contest sponsored by The Astrological Society of Great Britain, and then subsequently published in their March 2014 issue of The Astrological Journal.
This lecture was presented to the Polish Astrological Society (PTA) in Warsaw, and despite inconvenient timing, about 35 people attended, which was a surprisingly large attendance for a single astrological lecture in Poland. I made only Polish version of highly condensed materials in 2-hour long graphic video presentation.
Before I manage to do the English version, you might take a sneak-peak at the content of the Polish video.
>> VIDEO IN POLISH LANGUAGE (2014) <<
Below I want to share the outline of these concepts in the meantime, some of which were not mentioned elsewhere other than my article.
The topic is quite vast, and possibly not the easiest to explain. However, my attempt is to make the concepts about retrogrades simple, with the hope that the reader, and especially those with a higher count of retrograde planets in the natal chart, can benefit from my research and findings.
There are three main themes:
- The explanation of the physical phenomenon of retrograde planets.
- The influence of retrograde planets in the horoscope.
- The number of retrograde planets in the natal chart.
PART I. CONCEPTS, TERMINOLOGY AND PHYSICS OF RETROGRADE PLANETS
Retrogradation, regression, or retracting in degrees comes from the Latin retrogradus, which is based on the Greek term αναποδισμός (anapodismos) which was used in ancient Hellenistic astrology and simply means “moving backwards.” Thus, a retrograde planet is that which appears to move backwards in the sky relative to its normal direction.
What is the ℞ symbol, which is used to indicate a retrograde movement of the planets in astrological charts and writings? It is not unique to astrology and planetary symbols. In reality, it is a generically used simple Latin abbreviation for words that start with the letter R. It is not even a ligature of R+x (there is no X), but it is simply an R with a stroke. It is also a widely known symbol used in medicine where it depicts the word “prescription” which is an abbreviation of the Latin recipe.
How does a retrograde motion occur?
Not everyone who practices astrology fully understands the retrograde cycle so let us review the physics of it, because we do need to understand it. Although it is simple observation, it is a necessary first step in understanding retrograde motion.
From a heliocentric point of view all the planets move in the similar constant motion and in the same direction. Only a few moons, as well as some eccentric comets and asteroids in the solar system, move in the opposite direction, but not the planets.
However, since the orbit of each planet is of a different size, each one requires different amount of time to complete its revolution around the Sun. That way, when we flatten it within the single circle of an astrological chart, we see the planets as if they travelled through the zodiac each at its own speed.
However, if we change our perspective and look at the sky not from above or the “top” of the solar system (where the Sun lies in the centre), but from the perspective of one of these planets – for example the Earth – other planets appear to move oddly. The planets regularly slow down and make loops, temporarily moving backward against the backdrop of the stars and traveling through the degrees of the zodiac from which they already just recently transited. Then once again, they return to their direct motion.
A popular visualization compares it with highway driving: when you overtake another car, for a moment it seems that the other car moves backwards. This stays true even if they move at the same speed. When they take the turn, the one with the longer distance to cover and will be slightly overtaken by the one with shorter path on that turn. And this is what actually happens with the planets that seem to go retrograde. Keep this picture in mind when studying the planetary diagrams here.
How did the ancients cope with those problematic loops that the planets make regularly? They used a concept that may seem surprising to us today to explain it by using a complex system of spheres, deferents and epicycles. It was formalized by Claudius Ptolemy (a fragment of astronomical work the Almagest, Chapter 12. On the Preliminaries to Regressions).
Diagram of planetary orbits, showing the distance from the Sun that each planet turns retrograde in the astrological chart.
When we understand that a retrograde motion occurs when a planet is in a specific orb away from the Sun, it is then clearly seen in the chart. We then do not need an ℞ (or R) symbol next to a planet to know it is retrograde. We just look at the distance that the planet is from the Sun in a chart, and by comparing it with the above diagram, we then make a quick estimation to see if the planet is in retrograde.
The rules are easily memorized: Every planet in opposition to the Sun, is retrograde (Mercury and Venus which can’t oppose the Sun will be addressed later). The orb for retrograde varies from as little as 99° for Pluto, 116° for Jupiter, and 136° for Mars. Essentially, if we imagine that the Sun is at a centre point on one half or hemisphere of the chart, then within the above mentioned orbs, the retrogradation will occur for the planets (excepting Mercury and Venus), that are located in the opposite half of the chart. These orbs are mean values which can vary by a few degrees since planetary orbits are not perfectly circular. The only variation is Mars, where the retrograde area is not around 100-116°, but much smaller, because its reference point is different since Mars is closer to the Earth’s orbit.
Mercury and Venus, whose orbits are inside our Earth’s orbit, are more difficult to visualize in retrograde motion. Actually, without the symbol ℞ or reviewing an ephemeris, it is impossible to guess in what direction they move. Since Mercury and Venus are always close to the Sun, they can never be on the other half of the chart from the Sun, so the above rules do not apply. Nonetheless, when they are on that half of their orbit where it is between the Sun and the Earth, then they are in retrograde. When they are on the other half of their orbit, where Mercury or Venus are not between the Sun and the Earth, then they are in direct motion. Changing direction occurs when they are at the furthest point away (in longitude, that is right or left) by orb from the Sun. That “half” where they are conjunct the Sun by being in front of it is the retrograde half, while when they disappear behind the Sun is direct one half. Though keep in mind that a “half” of the orbit does not measure as half in the measurement of time, because the Earth is constantly moving around the orbits of Mercury and Venus so their respective cycles are more complex.
Generally, for all the planets, it is their relative position in relation to the Sun (and Earth) that causes the retrograde movement and it occurs always in the part of their orbit when they are the closest to the Earth.
Retrograde frequency, duration, stationary period, and point of changing direction in relation to the Sun.
Pay attention that the distance from the Sun where Mercury and Venus change direction may vary by many degrees. Therefore, to guess where these two would turn retrograde for a given chart is not possible.
Why do the planets from Jupiter to Pluto retrograde once a year if they are the slow moving ones with each successive planet having a larger orbit? Let’s clarify this point to avoid some surprising mistakes. Since these are the slower moving planets, then it is the faster moving Sun that makes aspects to them, not the other way around. As we know, the Sun goes around Earth’s sky (with apparent motion) in a year. Therefore, with the exception of Mars which retrogrades biennially due to its closeness to Earth, all the planets outside the orbit of Earth are in retrograde once a year.
We can then distinguish three pattern groups:
- The outer planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, as well as all other objects (asteroids and Trans-Neptunian Objects) moving beyond Jupiter’s orbit retrograde once a year.
- The two planets closest to Earth retrograde less often: Mars retrogrades once every two years, while Venus retrogrades approximately once every 19 months.
- Mercury retrogrades 3 (sometimes 4) times a year.
Some astrologers and many astrological applications confuse the delineating point between a planet’s retrograde (℞) and direct (D) movement, thus affecting the definition of a Station, and in addition, what does a stationary-retrograde (SR) and stationary-direct (SD) mean? We can distinguish up to eight divisions of a planet’s cyclical movement from direct to retrograde, and then direct again. But do we need them? How did such a simple observation as a planet changing direction became so complicated? It is from a misunderstanding of physics, and a confusion over mixing the station with the change of direction which distorts the logical definition of retrogradation.
We must be careful not to confuse direction with speed; a planet is retrograde as soon as it changes its direction, and we can see how this works with charts. The Station is only another layer on top of that, and not an in-between state. In reality, no pause happens. The planet does slow down in apparent motion, but it does not actually stop for even a second, so it is always either direct or retrograde in motion. A better quality ephemeris or astrological programs will show that exact moment and will usually distinguish the moment between a planet’s stationary-direct and stationary-retrograde motion.
PART II. THE INFLUENCE OF RETROGRADE PLANETS IN THE ASTROLOGICAL CHART
Popular but not necessarily factual associations connected with retrogrades.
- Mercury retrograde in a natal chart implies an impaired mind, insecurity, or awkwardness. That’s just a common Ego-booster to call what is not comfortable to an observer as impaired. Nothing is being so eagerly, wrongly and unthinkingly labelled by people as intelligence and stupidity.
- Mercury retrograde as a transit brings communications disaster, nothing works out well, only miscommunications occur, and machinery breaks down.This concept is present even in the popular culture (see: Astrological threads in American TV-series). It functions as an absurd, over-determined in its denial, despite some interesting studies which show that a number of prosperous companies incorporated during a Mercury retrograde. In conjunction, electrical catastrophes and communicational disasters also occur when Mercury is direct. It definitely does not help to add the shadow periods: pre-shadow period before and the release period after each retrograde phase of Mercury. Some astrologers see it in the same magnitude of debilitation as the retrogradation itself. This then just leaves us with the idea that half of the year we will experience chaos and mental impairment. For many, Mercury retrograde is the only thing they will focus upon, and they will not undertake any new work when Mercury is in retrograde. Some studies show that those who watch out for Mercury retrograde periods, happen to be the same people who experience the communicational and technical chaos the most (as oppose to successful entrepreneurs, who don’t fear the Mercury Retrograde urban legend), because they are often disorganized all the time and at least they can blame Mercury half of the time. Yet, for a change, almost no one talks about how Saturn retrograde is a potential indicator of times when any new job might just end up being short-term or limited.
- If you were born with Neptune retrograde in the birth chart then you are a soul who incarnated in the mythical Atlantis. Remember that’s 40% of population. Are almost half of the population the incarnation of those mythical illuminated former inhabitants of that ancient spiritual paradise?
- If you were born with Saturn retrograde in the birth chart then you are one of the Holocaust victims from World War II.
- Mars retrograde acts like Venus, and Venus retrograde acts like Mars.
- A retrograde planet behaves like its second domicile sign in planetary rulerships. For example, Mars retrograde behaves like Scorpio, since Mars traditionally rules both Aries and Scorpio (modern astrology left Mars ruling only Aries, and sees Scorpio as having only a status of a co-ruler, because Pluto was given rulership of Scorpio). Few authors use this example in reverse for modern planets where, for instance, a retrograde Pluto is not Scorpio-like anymore, but behaves like Aries.Unfortunately, the concept of primary and secondary planetary rulerships is a relatively recent construct of modern astrology. Traditional astrology did not make a differentiation (the five planets did have one day house and one night house, but they were not regarded as “first” and “second”, nor was this division equivalent to the above-mentioned modern one). However, we might see Saturn direct acting in a strict Capricornian nature, while acting more rebellious in an Aquarian way when in retrograde, or that the suppressed Scorpio traits fit more to retrograde Mars than those of bold Aries, but for the other planets it is a stretch. Our approach to retrogrades would be safer when we limit it to the simple rule that retrogrades act in more inward way, which as a simplified rule works quite well. Making an artificial choice of which domicile ruled by the planet is more inward, is not needed.
- A retrograde planet rules a different sign. For instance, it rules the sign of its natural fall (i.e. Cancer for Mars), or by being debilitated in the signs it is naturally exalted in or ruling it. This approach is typical for some streams of jyotiṣa astrology.
Through research and observation, I find most of these ideas carry no merit from a rational and spiritually conscious approach. This does not mean they are of absolutely no value. For example, a person born with a Saturn retrograde may have had a previous life related to the Holocaust. However, we cannot definitively prove whether such stories about previous life one can find through different methods (from scientific hypnosis to a more spiritual or new age beliefs) are a true memories, or just important symbols from the unconscious soul projected onto our own limited understanding. Certainly, one should not make fixed rules about retrogrades especially if it contradicts recorded observation of complex phenomena.
Focus on natal astrology
The effects of retrograde planets by transits, in an electional chart or horary question and the effects of the same planets in the birth chart are not the same. Simply put, horary, electional and event charts are focused on some concrete yield. The purpose and focus of delineating the natal chart is different and much deeper. Therefore, it is important for me to clarify the role of retrograde planets specifically to the natal chart as a basis for understanding the pure influence of retrogradation itself. This would be the topic I would present in this lecture, because we can understand the world only when we understand first the way how we understand everything, and what we do want see or know, and that what are we able to understand is dependent of something within ourselves.
I regard the retrogradation as a very simple and quick element of interpretation to use, although it is capable of telling us a lot.
Assessing the type of influence by counting how many planets are in retrograde in a person’s birth chart is much easier than calculating their temperament based on using the qualities of signs and planets. The application of retrogradation is much wider. This is one of the few factors in astrology that behave in the same way independent of either house or zodiac systems used (western tropical zodiac or one of multiple sidereal zodiacs). Moreover in most cases, it is usable even in those situations where we do not have an exact place or time of birth. Therefore, it makes a fast and efficient part of the analysis.
How does a retrograde planet act?
In classical western astrology, to reference the Anthology by Vettius Valens from the beginning of our era, as well as the later classical authors, retrograde planets (as opposed to stationary ones) were considered unambiguously detrimental. However, it is not often stated with clarity whether it is terrible in of itself, or is it bad to be on top of another debilitating planet. Nevertheless on the lists of planetary weakness by several authors, specifically Guido Bonatti and William Lilly, retrogradation was always close to the top of the list, and in case of Lilly it was assigned the highest minus 5 score.
Modern astrology stopped stigmatizing the retrogrades and even started to praise them as keys to the transcendence of karmic patterns. Likewise, some of the classical authors of jyotiṣa astrology consider retrogrades as extremely strong and beneficial, which reflects the fact, that when planets are retrograde in the sky they are at their greatest size and brightness.
There is also a connection between retrograde planets and the Moon.
Retrograde planets travel backward through the zodiac like the Lunar Nodes (if we use the Mean Nodes which are always retrograde, not the True Nodes which periodically do go direct when the Sun or Moon pass over either of them).
They are also connected with the Moon cycle itself and its pattern of waxing and waning.
Every planet in opposition to the Sun is retrograde.
When the Moon is in opposition to the Sun it shines the brightest and is the strongest. Retrograde planets behave the same way. Since they are closer to the Earth, these planets appear larger and brighter. Their influence reaches the Earth in their pure form, and not filtered through ego as happens when a planet is in direct motion.
A direct planet, like ego, projects its traits onto others, attracting the material events.
Retrogrades act by blocking the external influence of planet. These blockages make the native “retrograde holder” to focus on developing his internal strengths associated with the retrograde planet through a strong inner knowledge.
For example, a Saturn retrograde gives the native disappointments of limiting constrictive structures and authorities through others breaking their trust. In effect, it teaches him to develop the inner freedom of deciding where the boundaries are adequate and where they are not, despite the common norms.
Mercury retrograde perceives what communication is suitable in same unorthodox way, making the holder sometimes reject sharing thoughts or be harsh and incomprehensive.
The other planets render their traits alike, therefore not taking into consideration whether a planet is retrograde might bring a completely wrong judgement into reading the chart.
Jupiter retrograde is disappointed by teachers and religion.
Mars retrograde represses aggression.
Venus retrograde has problems with expressing the love, reducing it to a mechanical nurturance without feelings or warmth. It is supposedly one of the saddest set-ups, because in reality, all humans pursue a soul mate and a person who doesn’t fit in the convention of social relations and sharing emotions could be hard to handle for others.
Modern planets are assigned a rebellious nature and a connection with transcendence by definition. Therefore in retrograde it only enhance their inadequacy to norms.
Only Neptune in retrograde brings a distinctively different influence. This is a planet of nebulous motives, feeling adrift, dishonesty, delusion and media-related, and when in retrograde, makes a person almost unable to lie as well as create a drama around oneself.
Bottom line, as I showed you earlier on the diagram, a retrograde period is deeply connected in astrological interplay, so any planet in retrograde is not saying to us anything new actually. If it seems to contradict your overall reading of the chart, it should be a warning sign, that you haven’t seen something in your reading of the chart and you should review it.
Of course, the classical planets (Mercury to Saturn) are much more important here. However, any strong planet (on angles, conjunct or opposite one of the lights or the ruler of the rising sign to name the most influential) enhances the importance of retrograde planet. Especially Saturn retrograde strongly emphasized would manifest markedly.
Some universal advice for interpreting any retrograde planet is to listen to and trust your intuition, because once the ego stops predominating, the intuition then flows. If your decision isn’t made in a rush, but worked through self-conviction, then a pleasant outcome is assured.
We should be careful with any astrological rules for those “planets that disobey the rules.”
William Lilly in his Christian Astrology regards Saturn retrograde on the Ascendant as an indication that: the matter seldom or never comes to good. However, the wording used by Lilly was understood in the English of his time which in some cases has different meaning today, and probably referred to the simple fact that Saturn retrograde denies rules. Therefore, what the 1st house signifies will not keep with rules typical to such situations, or the querent may hate adhering to such rules, which all can lead to difficulties, but it does not automatically lead to failure regardless of the circumstances. For comparison, let’s look at horoscopes with Saturn retrograde on Ascendant – some examples of how the attitude towards sexual taboos caused different results, depending on the rest of the horoscope.
In horoscopes of both Alain Bernardin and Michal Witkowski there is Saturn retrograde rising. In addition, it is in Cancer, where normally Saturn is in detriment. So, is it terrible?
Bernardin became famous for establishing a revolutionary cabaret – Crazy Horse Saloon – where the dancers performed naked as in striptease clubs, enriched artistically with contrast lighting. The whole enterprise made him wealthy with a multitude of followers all over the world.
The other one is a Polish writer, who became famous with a book that laid bare the secrets of the gay community.
The ruler of the ascendant – the Moon – in both charts is on Medium Coeli (fame) in conjunction with Jupiter in Pisces where Jupiter is exalted (great fame). Therefore, Saturn retrograde had not made them unable to achieve anything. Saturn acted by simply breaking the structures connected with the body and persona (1st house) instead.
Look also at the opposite example where the ruler of the Cancer rising chart – the Moon – is also conjunct Jupiter on an angle, but this time on the opposite IC (home, family) in Virgo, where Jupiter is in exile. This is the natal chart of a boy, also of different sexual orientation, which in this case hadn’t been elevated as a source of fame, but instead became a reason of being expelled from a foster home. Saturn is also retrograde here, but not on the Ascendant (in fact it’s even in his own sign, in Aquarius). The harm was done by other factors here.
As these chart Comparisons show, the retrograde motion of Saturn on the Ascendant, even when also in its sign of exile is not striking out the chances for the native to progress, so there are more important elements in the chart that might impair the native.
PART III. THE NUMBER OF RETROGRADE PLANETS IN THE NATAL CHART
The best method to understand how retrograde planets operate is by analysing the charts of people who have no retrograde planets in comparison to those people who have all the possible planets in retrograde in their chart.
McCormick and statistical research
Articles on retrograde planets in the natal chart are quite scarce, and most of them simply quote the calculations of John McCormick, an American astrologer from 1960s. He came to conclusion, that it is not the quality but the number of retrograde planets that allows us to distinguish different types in people. His calculations used the modern eight planets from Mercury to Pluto. The Sun and Moon are excluded since they never retrograde.
What emerges from the statistical recalculation of the ephemeris, is confirmed in research on different groups of people.
Statistically, at least one planet is retrograde more than 92% of time thus making for only 8% of time when there are no retrogrades in the sky from the Earth’s perspective. The highest frequency in the population are those people born with two or three planets in retrograde. The result is quite similar to normal distribution. However, to have no retrograde planets is still more likely than to have five in retrograde. Six or more planets in retrograde is quite rare.
For those who have less than the average two or three planets retrograde (zero or one) the world moves quickly. The person wants to experience more, but feels an inner uncertainty from the enhanced activity.
In contrast, when there are more retrograde planets, the world appears to slow down, so there is less inner uncertainty. McCormick himself was very cautious about people with six retrogrades. He reported to know only two people with them, and regarded them as true loners. About those extremely rare cases with seven retrogrades, he assumed it must be impossible for others to understand them.
A statistical examination of astrologers seems to indicate that they often tend to have one more retrograde planet than the regular distribution pattern shows. Astrologers who write about retrograde planets usually have very little of them. For instance, McCormick has only Uranus retrograde, though it is located right on the IC.
When no planets are retrograde
Since there are no retrograding planets only 8% of the time, the frequency of a birth chart without any retrogrades is limited. Therefore a chart without any retrograde planets should be considered more the exception than the rule.
People who are born with all the planets including the Sun in one half of the horoscope are very likely to have no retrograde planets. Yet, Mercury and Venus need to be checked to see if they are also direct.
This is not very common type of the chart. If not only all the planets and the Sun are in one half of the chart, but the Moon would also be in the same half, we will get an even more special type of chart, indicating very focused personality. Even without analysing what is in which sign, I can quickly assess that this person is sensitive and insecure, but intelligent and with a streak of stubbornness.
People with no planets in retrograde (not just those with special tense charts like above) want to achieve as much as possible and move forward just like their planets. They are able to put much effort and passion into their goals. Some astrologers comment that having no planets retrograde makes these people plainspoken and transparent, which is not necessarily true. It is better to say that these natives feel complicated. And as much as it may appear so to them, they seek an outside opinion, in the belief that it can bring to them an inner understanding since the other seem to see them more clearly then they see themselves.
Maximum of retrograde planets – the difference between traditional and modern astrology
McCormick calculated statistics on retrograde planet frequency for a span of one hundred years. I expanded these calculations to include all the 21 centuries of the Common Era (CE), and an interesting conclusion emerges when we compare the time periods when the current number of the known modern planets from Mercury to Pluto were retrograde to those periods when the classical five planets of antiquity were retrograde (Mercury to Saturn).
If we begin counting from the 1st century CE, then eight of the modern planets never retrograded simultaneously, but we did have seven planets retrograde for 19 short events that lasted from four to 64 days. If we review these retrograde series over the 21 centuries, the five classical planets do retrograde concurrently, however at a lower frequency than seven of the eight modern planets going retrograde. Thus, for this analysis, the modern system is less ideal. As one who works with ancient astrology, I am happy to report that all five classical planets can and do retrograde concurrently thus reconfirming its ancient, but consistent methods as complete. However, as seen in the table above, the periods of retrograde for both the seven in the modern and the five classical planets are extremely short thus rare, with wide gaps of usually one to several centuries between occurrences. It is not surprising then how small a fraction of a percent of a population will be born with a maximum number of retrograde planets.
The last time that all of five classical planet were retrograde was in the distant year 1542. We do not have many accurate birth charts for people born then. However, we do have a few people:
Though not much about their personality was reported.
However, I was able to find one chart with all classical planets retrograde. Moreover, it is of the famous astrologer, the legendary Nostradamus.
ASTROLOGERS WITH MANY RETROGRADE PLANETS
In his chart the Lights (Sun and Moon) with both Mercury and Venus retrograde are near the MC, although not in aspect to each other by orb (except with a moiety orb by Bonatti that makes Venus and Moon in aspect). The opposite side gives Mars retrograde, Jupiter retrograde, and Saturn retrograde all within 8° to the IC, opposing the Sun, so they are as close to the Earth as possible. Jupiter, the closest planet to the IC, is exalted and conjuncts both debilitated malefics (in Cancer, Mars is in its fall while Saturn is in its detriment). These three planets rule all the other planets plus the Ascendant. For example, Jupiter retrograde rules both Mercury (planet of astrologers) retrograde in the 9th house of higher wisdom and North Node (which many see as the souls vocation) in the 12th house of mystery. Is this enough indication to be a great psychic mind, and widely remembered as being synonymous with prophecies about war and destruction?
However we have two versions of his birth chart. The one above and the other for exactly a week earlier.
The first chart mentioned is recalculated based on his date of death and the number of years, months and days he lived (both inscribed on his tomb), while the other chart comes from Chavigny, a biographer of dubious reliability. Some researchers suggest that he tampered with the true date of birth of the prophet to make Mercury – the planet of astrologers – be in better essential dignity (cf. article at CURA – in French). In the chart for that date, Venus is stationary and not yet crossed the point of change of direction, but this would still be close to the ideal five ancient planets retrograde.
With so many retrogrades he is to some degree similar to astrologers with five or six of modern planets in retrograde. They usually use some elements of astrology, mixing it with hypnosis, soothsaying, numerology or other divination techniques, because that’s how they view them – as interchanging sources of inspiration that don’t work well in isolation and one should not limit oneself to only one. Hence most of the astrologers with many retrogrades won’t stick to its rules. Therefore, their work might appear as not as devoted to astrology in its strict sense although their understanding of astrology might actually be deeper. Nostradamus, for instance, was a serious astrologer. He even spent some time researching and revising the detailed calculations of retrograde motion of planets, correcting the previous tables.
Françoise Hardy (6℞, ♀ ♂ D – direct) – an iconic 1960s French singer and actress who had childhood problems with self-esteem, though never treated her famous jobs with ego that would want to prove something, and eventually became an astrologer (see more on her in another post)
Examples of other horoscopes of well-known people with many retrogrades. All of them, like Hardy, have Venus, the planet of art, in direct motion.
Roy Chapman Andrews (7℞, ♀D) – the American explorer whose adventurous life was the model for the character of Indiana Jones.
Anna Zugno (7℞, ♀D) – Italian cyclist (an example for a group of athletes with seven retrogrades, and one of few people born on April 30, 1984, and another is presented towards the end of this article)
Cheryl Burke (7℞, ♀D) – American dancer who openly shared a story about being molested in childhood.
Jean and Auguste Piccard (6℞, ♆ SD – stationary direct, ♀D) – twin-inventors
Frank Sinatra Jr. (6℞, ♂ SD, ♀D) – singer, and the son of famous singer Frank Sinatra, who in 1963 was kidnapped for ransom, then released.
Jean-Claude Jitros (6℞, ♂ SD, ♀D) – French fashion designer (creative with leather just like a one non-famous creative man with 7 retrogrades)
Angela Davis – she was one of two names McCormick did find to have six retrograde planets, yet she actually happens to have only five (☿♀♂ direct). Still, she’s quite interesting individual. A communist leader, the FBI put out an all points bulletin on her with people hiding her all over the United States. Davis was a radical feminist, and a fighter against the racial discrimination of Afro-Americans.
Cassius Clay, later on known as Muhammad Ali (6℞, ♂ ☿ Direct) – an extraordinary legendary boxer and defender of Islamic religion and the rights of black people.
For a change, he doesn’t have Venus in direct motion. But of course he has Mars direct in 10th sign of fame and ruling the 9th sign of religion. In Hellenistic astrology no sign can see the adjacent signs, so a planet in an adjacent sign to it’s domicile cannot freely control it and can get frustrated about that. Because Venus does see both Aries and Taurus, the matter of religion did come to surface, but retrograde Venus on the Descendant axis which is in square with her domicile in Taurus, where the Mars, obviously resulted in bad politics and problems in career. When looking at his chart take into account which planets are retrograde and which are expressed in typical mundane “direct” way.
“NORMAL” PEOPLE AND THEIR ABNORMAL LIVES.
An extremely private and withdrawn lesbian with six retrograde planets (except ♀ and ♂) who was never more intimate with anyone beyond cuddling and kissed only once. She never used drugs, but was unhappily in love with junkies. A Pacifist and a ghost-child, always at the background, silently watching. She witnessed her many relatives battered or raped. The very same abused women treated her like a maid. After failing to hang herself, she ran away from them to live in shelters. Only close friends can experience her silver tongue – the third sign (independent Aquarius) is ruled by independent retrograde Saturn in the 11th sign of friends. She won’t let strangers know much about her or label her. The Lord of her Ascendant is Jupiter retrograde which lies in 12th whole sign house in Scorpio – the hidden and debilitating place where it doesn’t see the house it rules: the first (the helm of life it should steer) and 4th (family and roots).
A story of one American family that had a dangerous car crash with a school bus driving at full speed. The chart for this moment had Mars Rising in his domicile (in Via Combusta) in trine with Jupiter retrograde (the only retrograde in the chart) in the house of long and extraordinary journeys, conjoined with Moon in Cancer where both are extremely dignified. Though they are also in tight opposition to a stellium of Venus, Saturn and Neptune in the house of short journeys, with Uranus in the same house (I use whole signs as houses like elsewhere, but Porphyry, Regiomontanus and Placidus cusps give the same positions here).
The mother who was the driver has one retrograde planet ended up with a steering wheel in her chest almost reaching her heart. Her rebellious daughter with no retrogrades was completely crashed into the dashboard. But two sons, with five and six retrogrades respectively, survived the accident relatively well. The younger with five Retrogrades didn’t even get a scratch and stayed conscious whole the time, so while in the ambulance he overheard that the others died. In his birth chart the Sign of Virgo is rising with Moon.
The ruler – Mercury – is together with Sun and Mars in Cancer all in direct motion. He also has Jupiter-℞ T-squaring Saturn-℞ in 3rd house in Scorpio and very well placed Venus on the North Node in 9th. Parallels to the chart of the accident are clear. Although he experienced many dangerous situation later in his life, the highway accident was not among them. I won’t talk about his experiences, but let’s just say he has exactly the same planets retrograde as Angela Davis.
The other boy with six retrogrades had his brain exposed because the skull came off in the car crash. Doctors proclaimed he would be mentally retarded. But he came out of the hospital as if nothing ever happened. Although bullied in childhood, he became a jolly and likable man, except by his family who never got along with him.
After months of hospital care, the surviving victims of the car crash came home. But despite coming so close to death, the atmosphere in the house was far from healing. The mother, who sought perfection, always cold to her family and disliked by people, acted like nothing had happened. There was no discussion about the accident at all. She went through a cycle of repeatedly divorcing and remarrying the children’s father, who was in fact a sexual maniac, who was also diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and other disorders.
MIKKHAIL – A NATAL CHART WITH SEVEN RETROGRADE PLANETS
Finally, I like to share the chart of the most interesting person I met – Mikkhail (Michael) – an individualist living in Poland. He has the maximum possible number of seven retrograde planets and according to other sources is also a very advanced old soul with a very harsh karma to be stuck with (or “an old fart” as he calls himself), that has incarnated here for the last time to prove something, with many master numbers in numerology.
When Michael was being delivered, the doctors had to ask the mother’s parents whose life to save, mother or child’s, because one of them won’t make it. He was bottom-down in the green waters – seemed dead, but after a resuscitation a lively birth was announced. The mother survived as well and everything seemed to end well.
Nevertheless, his family life was and still is a hell, who are unable to express kind feelings to him, and pin the responsibility for everything under the sun on him, constantly digging up dirt on him, expressing complaints and accusing him of everything he did and did not do and of what other people did. Despite these difficulties, no one can challenge his intellect and resourcefulness which enables him to survive the assaults from the family, false friends, serious diseases, death of those close to him and being dragged through the courts by swindling companies (after a success in court he began fighting through the courts against other fraudulent corporation. Everything that concurrently with being constantly mobbed by mixed-up irredeemable people seeking help (also karmic) from his strength and wisdom. Still – because of his way of behaviour, developed to not let the others destroy him completely – ordinary people prejudge him as a monster or a madman. With time, they all however have to finally agree with him in pain and with a tail between their legs, because they need time to see through their ignorance at the things he spots and perceives instantly, long before they happen. However since these truths are too dirty to be admitted by these people, that they almost always start being overdetermined in their denials again, leading to a renewed effort to torture him even more bitterly, misusing the strength they developed thanks to his kicking their inner demons and blockages. Only animals, little children and few adults are able to notice his inner peace and concern about blinded humans’ fate, behind the facade that people seem to fear. Others perception of him is restricted to not believing he’s suffering in process of fulfilling the inner mission of his soul forces him by punishing him when he’s too soft on people, because it sounds so unbelievable to them that they can only think he’s exaggerating, completely watering down what they are not secure with to accept. It is difficult to tell if anyone is able to fully understand him, that away he’s from the rest.
In my Polish lecture I gave special space to present his chart and retrace his atypical life with the use of progressions and firdaria, which allow us to quickly and elegantly interconnect his chart stigmatized with had karmic work. The attendees had an occasion to see in practice whether I am right about what a common reaction to a person with the highest number of retrograde going into important topics is, because Mikkhail was a special guest of the lecture.
NOTE: A separate article about Mikkhail’s story and his chart analysis is in preparation and will be posted on my website, therefore if you’re interested, please revisit my website, contact me or follow me on social media to stay tuned.
SUMMING-UP AND FURTHER CONCLUSIONS
People with many retrograde planets experience the feeling of being different. They often feel unnoticed, like living in a different dimension. When they speak up publically for a serious cause, nobody seems to listen (or at least no one seems to be able to respond). The discussion regarding retrogrades usually goes on among people with very few retrogrades leaving the serious questions of these people unnoticed. They feel like the society doesn’t want to accept anyone deep, self-aware and just considered “abnormal”. These “Retrograders” attract energy in some imperceptible level. Others with serious problems seek their help. So many disturbed and blocked people or addicts come to their life in succession, like they would subconsciously know that only these “Retrograders” can bear with them without hypocrisy and believe in a way out for them more than others do. Retrograders seem to experience bad situations, within their own homes often full of physical or psychological violence, or difficult childhood outside home or parents who don’t have good relations (or at least an immigrant parent). They are also prone to accidents. It’s clear that people, as well as blind fate cannot function normally in their presence. They recognize that many others would not survive if put in their shoes. They consider suicide very often. I don’t know of anyone who ended their life, but their feelings and thoughts of leaving this world are frequent in their minds. However, this seems to be of different quality from what typically is imagined when one thinks of suicidal tendencies. Try imagining the world calming and slowing down for these people, with others around rushing around with unimportant ideas, before making an attempt to see them being open to die. However with time, when they develop maturity, they find the reassurance within themselves. So far, this applies to all people with five, six and seven retrogrades that I was able to research the natal charts.
However it is not the outside symptoms that connects these people but a deep similarity that is almost impossible to picture. The material events act for them as blockages that allow them to develop internally. However, it is hard for them to express verbally, because the customary words don’t match with what these people see and how they perceive others. Although every one of them is different, there’s an elusive common denominator. Strange events are only there to enable these people to achieve the strength of character that lets them survive the inner experiences that would defeat others.
I feel like I’m from some other planet or other reality. I see this world like I’m in front row of a circus where people do strange things over and over like a hamster in a wheel not able to see beyond what they do. I can’t help anyone because they can’t understand what I mean and usually will express being mad at me for that or ignore me totally or just treat me as I need psychological treatment. So I keep most of the stuff I see for myself.
This was my attempt to shortly summarize how is it to be a person with many retrogrades. Each subject with the exception of one person agreed with the descriptions. The one exception in time agreed after being initially opposed, but it shows how hard it is to pin that down.
To look from the other perspective, let me report, that I also have seen some people with standard two and three retrogrades saying things like, “this definition is not true, because I feel the same.” Apart from the obvious fact, that I haven’t stated that others cannot say similar things, it is an interesting example, because it is a characteristic of some people with the standard number of retrogrades who, as I stated earlier (and people with many retrogrades experience that all the time), whenever they see or hear something from or about people with many retrogrades, they tend to not listen what is an actual deep meaning of that and if they decide to comment upon it, they would just say something about themselves that is actually irrelevant to the topic. It is lke they subconsciously deny these people’s existence or right to be more conscious and need to downgrade it to some mundane triviality, for which human language is best suited. And many people feel the urge to express that they are smart and they see others as stupid too. But that’s not what these people think. They know the answers, they are in no doubt what should be done and who they are, they don’t want to prove anything. But they were born with strong burdens that won’t let them change the world or humanity. Born in a golden cage that by isolating them makes them see things clearly. They care about the world, not so much about attention. If anything, they would appreciate understanding and compassion, but that’s what they can actually fulfill themselves. Although each one of them is different, and it might be hard for some people to accept a person who is far away from being a Buddhist monk, or to be enlightened at all.
One of these Retrograders (April, who is an astrologer with six retrogrades) brought to my attention the similarities of my rundown to what the words of Jeff Green (the father of Evolutionary Astrology, who has 4 ℞) had inspired her to: Many retrograde planets helped one to individuate, in reflection – seeing things for what they are and getting out of “the Matrix”. And when there are no retrogrades, a person tries to fit in and makes more projection instead of reflection. It’s hard to not agree with her.
The Old Souls of astrology?
Numerology has the Master Numbers, whose holders are gifted with greater inner wisdom; The Journey of The Souls has its Old Souls (the most matured set of incarnations of the soul). One can’t help to see the people with many retrogrades as an analogy here.
However, it wouldn’t be responsible to create a new theory of classification of people – creating a language of labels for the unnameable things, because it immediately corrupts that knowledge. But it’s hard to miss a substantial difference between people who have 5 or more planets in backward motion and those with just two or three such planets.
Similarities and differences between people with many retrogrades and those with none.
At the same time it’s hard to leave out those who don’t have retrograde planets at all. They are dissimilar to the “norm of majority” (that is the standard two or three retrogrades) as well. Although they are on the other extremity of the distribution graph shown earlier, than those with many retrogrades. Being extreme and atypical, they go the same road in their inner life. But the starting point for them is totally different.
What might help here is a comparison of the classical treatment of retrograde planets with the modern one (which is also quite similar to Vedic approach). A theory of my own, which in my opinion allows to understand why people What might help here is a comparison of the classical treatment of retrograde planets with the modern one (which with no retrogrades and those with many retrogrades share the same possibilities (e.g. of a spiritual development), but experience totally different restrictions imposed in their charts (by Moira – fate).
The ancient “masculine” spirituality, that is characteristic for the patriarchal civilization focused on development and aim of the soul, condemns the retrograde motion. The fact that the source text that survived to our days contain only that kind of thought, may be partly due to the fact that astrology back then was mostly performed for the rulers, who’s aims were materialistic and required actions (keeping the lands under the regime, detect the traitors, build and conquer) so it was more electional and horary in nature, than wanting to explore one’s insides. Yet it doesn’t mean the great astrologers of the antiquity had not analysed the soul and blind fate – we know they did, sometimes to a great extent. But can we really say that in the centuries where the astrological delineation was almost exclusively male-oriented, for the rich and cruel mostly – it was pure and not subject to that worldview at all? On the other hand there’s a stream of spirituality, that originated from Asia, which is now popular in modern astrology, that in the contrary we might call a “female spirituality.” The spirituality in this view is passive and in sync with what already is happening (as oppose to “masculine spirituality” thinking, that you weren’t born with the fulfillment and craving to achieve it by effort or tricks). The “female spirituality”, what is obvious, for a change treats the retrograde planets with praise.
But in reality both of these methods on their own are a faulty limitation (if a view is antithetical to the other view, it is not covering the whole of the reality, but just the part of it, that fights with the other part, so it is actually an image of reality fighting with itself). Only taking both of this ways of perception into consideration – and seeing them as the spirituality based on the cycle of activity and passivity (an action aimed to make oneself develop by reacting alternated with tuning in with what already is present and not acting). That, as a wholeness gives us a true picture of reality.
The closing conclusion should be clear now, I hope. In an accurate understanding of retrograde planets I do see a great cognitive capacity of human and the world, and I feel it’s my aim to explore them further.
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Many thanks to everyone with whom I was able to interview – especially to Mikkhail, April, Allan, Joseph and Adam. I would like to also thank Tomas Kiedos for help with recalculating AstroDataBank data of sportsmen and especially Nicholas Theo for commentary assistance when I was revising this text.
Copyright © Gregory Rozek
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Awesome article… Great to finally find an in-depth article on Natal Retrograde Planets… I have 6 planets (Mars-Pluto) and Lilith retrograde… Thank you!!!
My pleasure. Thank you, Ashley. And good luck with your set-up!
I have a question about the people who have 2 or 3 retrogrades and feel the same as the people with 5,6, or 7. Are they somewhat enlightened or just happen to feel similar? You see, I have 3 retrogrades. One in Saturn mentioned as a victim of the Holocast, Jupiter, and North Node. I just now noticed these in my chart and I’m amazed at such detail given here, I will probably look at more of your articles.
It’s really down to the individual level – looking at each birth chart individually. However often the first comment a person with 2-3 retrogrades would voice is “I feel like that too, and I don’t have many retrogrades, so it’s stupid”. This can be partially the definition of assuming what the standardized majority feels is what someone else must be feeling like, like there is no other option (“They claim they feel like an alien, I think I can say I feel like an alien, must be the same thing!”). And partially, say 6 retrograde planets are not required for described scenarios. Which means, there can be other reasons, also astrological equivalents. But if so many retrogrades do occur in one’s birth chart, this is almost a guarantee for the situation to happen. I describe the number of retrogrades as a quick and effective rule of the thumb, because it is not talked about by astrologers at all, as well as somehow the majority of those with more retrogrades say to agree with the whole premise. And most of those with 2-3 retrogrades does not care about the whole topic (as the premise suggest they will do). I am fairly okay with people with fewer retrogrades to see themselves partially in this “retrograde world”. I would be worried if there would be a backlash from 6 retrogrades people saying it’s all wrong (though I would actually want to learn from that). Astrology is always requiring the judgment of an individual astrological chart, as like in nature, you need a certain combination of factors to be really certain that a correlation will occur. Saturn is the number one factor that has a lot to say here. For example, if you have a lord of the rising sign to be Saturn retrograde in opposition to Sun or Moon, or your lord of the Ascendant is conjunct such Saturn – it gives a strong “retrograde narration”. And one more thing – a really retrograde person (many retrogrades, Saturn retrograde making hard aspects to the key planets ruling the soul, certain Moon phases, etc., including equivalents in numerology) is going to have a different tone in their internal energy and how their energy interacts with the rest of the world. Or in other words: suppose you cannot feel comfortable with a person and want to avoid them – depending if a person has a said strong retrograde combination of factors or just 2 retrogrades being – say Uranus and Neptune in a cadent house – the emotions about that person would come from a different place within you. To one who has more retrograde stuff in their chart, these distinctions are more obvious, and for someone with a more standard birth chart this sound more woo-woo, so they would simplify certain things to be “the same” in their experience. We also have people with no retrogrades, for whom it fluctuates, is much more nebulous – at one point they seem to grasp the difference, but a few moments later they are not sure if there is any or perhaps if there is a difference maybe they got it the other way around – that kind of feelings. I like it better if I’m explaining this when doing someone’s interpretation, and can address their specific birth chart. But I’m hoping I might get an idea how to generalize the details for the general audience…
Both text and layout/graphics.
Thank you very much!
Thank you so much for your beautiful, detailed work on the light above and for sharing freely below! You are powerfully brilliant and benevolent, may your karmic desert be just and plentiful!
The highly controversial Teal Scott-Swan (http://www.tealswan.com/), known in spiritual circles as “The Spiritual Catalyst”, has 6 Rx planets in her natal chart. She suffered years of horrendous abuse as a child. She is also (or claims to be) an extrasensory.
I’m also beyond excited because, in a synchronistic turn of events, I just discovered I know someone with 7 retrograde planets, a former distant colleague of mine. I’m considering getting in touch with him to interview him, so I’m eagerly waiting for your article about Michael and his story.
Thank you for sharing, Maria!
Just be prepared that he might be extremely reluctant to share his inner life.
I am sorry I am not being able to deliver the promised remaining materials as fast as I would like to.
If you’d care to share some more of your observations (for the unrestrained sharing of opinions on other I assume rather via confidential private contact), I’d love to hear that.
CLASSIC WAY EXPLAINED ABOUT THE RETROGRADE PLANETS!
Brilliant article, Gregory, very well-researched and well presented. I’m an astrologer/psychologist (for 34 years) with the five outer planets Rx in my chart. I recently made contact with a woman with six retrogrades (Mars and Jupiter direct), and whose Moon is Void of Course. Fewer than ten percent of natal horoscopes have V/C Moons, and hers is halfway through an unusually long (24 hour) V/C period. We have similar professional backgrounds, went to the same grad school ten years apart and she is insightful and self-aware. She is a self-described loner, but we are nonetheless considering a LTR. I wonder if you have encountered this combination (6 Rx + V/C Moon) in your research, and if you have any comments?
Thank you, Bill, for pointing out to the void Moon, and sorry for the delay in my answer.
I agree, on the theoretical level the standard delineation of Moon being void of course seems consistent with my findings on retrogrades. But here are some problems with considering them the same way:
The definition of void (and wild) Moon has changed or developed several times in history of astrology.
Retrograde movement is an obvious astronomical fact and is not dependent on any theoretical concept like where is the border of the sign of the zodiac, where the void of course stars and when ends, there are no circumstances that can alter the state of being retrograde, as opposed to void Moon which is dependent on where in the sign it lays (not always*) and what aspects does it make – as opposed to sign borders, orb of the void Moon to consider and what is the theory of aspects you are using with this void Moon.
*For example in Hellenistic Greek period of astrology, which predates any other tradition that utilizes void of course (like Arab, medieval and so on), Moon was void when no aspect will happen within next 30 degrees, therefore disregarding the sign borders. Also the system of orbs was different back then. So you get different results in different system when considering “Moon is void in this chart, or not?”
Therefore, simply based on just that, research on void moon would require much more work, since to examine a theory (as opposed to the effect of obvious event) one needs to examine all the possible versions and interpretation of this theory, within multiple theoretical frameworks, to be sure of anything.
Also going a one step further, it’s not that easy to follow void of course Moon (or any other planet) as it is to count the retrograde planets (of course we can take different objects to consider in counting retrogrades and built a theoretical systems on that, but you get the point where I’m going here, I hope).
And finally: basically the void Moon is more or less being an unaspected planet (special kind of, but still). Therefore, what it does is highly dependent on individual chart analysis.
I wouldn’t be so eager with making generalizations about retrograde planets either, but the case studies made impossible to not see the connection.
But also, the historical astrological doctrines are not that eager to use void of course for the Moon in the natal astrology, as they do for horary and electional astrology (the role which the Moon plays in different chart types was different).
So, taking all of that into consideration, that’s worth looking at when you looking at the chart of person being insightful and withdrawn form typical human thinking, which would obviously require personal judgement over a single chart.
Still, I would risk a starting-point theory (that is to be checked with personal judgement in each chart) that the Moon being in the last balsamic phase can be responsible for what you described – as a single indicator yet to be checked, that is.
And I also know of at least two charts of such people with Moon being in strong 1-degree orb harmonious aspect with the Sun (not in balsamic phase) and with other planets also. So I wouldn’t make a “no-error guaranteed rule” of any of these.
But I agree, with many retrogrades, void course would make the Moon “less busy” so internal life may like it to have, so to speak.
Thanks for the thought. Is that OK for you?
Fascinating article. I’ve got the five outer planets and ascendant’s ruler (Mercury) in Rx, and while not a *complete* hermit, I’m pretty darned close. Thanks for helping us retrograde types to appreciate our sometimes extreme (and therefore problematic!) introversion.
Great article. Informative and enlightening on such a rare subject. I knew there was more to retrogrades than all the negatives associated to them by most articles. I have my natal Node plus 7 planets retrograde (Venus direct.).
Hi Gregory! Before I read that you did graphic design I was admiring your logo. I don’t see many astrologers/graphic designers, and I thought how well you presented this article with illustrations dispersed. Thank you!
I’m sure you’ve looked into many charts with Rx planets, but I wanted to add that I also acutely feel the way you describe for those with many Rx planets. I have 6 Rx, including chart ruler Mercury, and only Venus and Pluto are direct.
I told my mother when I was a four years old, “I’m in the wrong place. I’m not supposed to be here”; she tells me that I said it as if it was a sudden and horrifying realization, and it gave her goosebumps. I don’t think I’ve ever left that state.
Anyway, thanks again for posting this! There is not a whole lot of information about retrogrades, as you said. It’s good to know we’re not alone. 🙂
Thank you so much Gregory for this enlightening article. As a person with 6 RX planets myself, it’s nice to know that the feeling of life constantly throwing me a curve ball is somewhat explainable. In a way I suppose my unfortunate coincidences made me feel rather crazy without any indication as to why I suffered them. I used to think that this life was some kind of karmic balance I was brought here to fulfill.
If you would like to discuss the series of my life that has unfolded I’d be happy to do that with you, for both greater knowledge of myself and for your studies. Please let me know if you’re interested!
Anyways, I thank you again. You are a wonderful writer with great thoughts and I hope you continue to investigate your astrological interests.
This is a very well informed site.
My daughter has 6 rx planets, all but Venus and Pluto.
She’s 28, teaches 11th and 12th grade English, married, extremely social and travels a lot; including a 28 day backpack with her younger sister in Europe.
She’s very pretty, intelligent.., not brilliant, she had to work for he