What Is Retrograde In Astrology? How Each Rx Planet Affects You

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planet in space

You've probably heard about Mercury retrograde, which has become a scapegoat for communication and technology suddenly seemingly all out of whack. But when someone says a planet is retrograde, what do they really mean?

What is retrograde?

The Merriam-Webster definition of retrograde is "having or being motion in a direction contrary to that of the general motion of similar bodies and especially east to west among the stars."

In astronomy, when a planet retrogrades, it appears to move in a backwards motion in relation to the earth's movement. Emphasis on the word 'appears,' as a planet can't actually move backwards during its orbit — it's just an illusion as seen from Earth.

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In astrology, a retrograding planet is believed to bring about a ton of emotional and physical awakenings, while also creating some turmoil in our lives.

While Mercury retrograde is by far the most mainstream retrograde season, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Pluto, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus also appear retrograde.

The length of each planet's retrograde season depends on that planet's orbital speed.

There are three phases of retrograde called retrograde shadow periods including the pre-shadow phase, the actual retrograde, and the post-shadow phase.

Pre-Shadow Phase

During the pre-shadow phase of a retrograde, the retrograding planets appears to slow down as seen from Earth. During this time, you may sense issues in areas of your life ruled by the retrograding planet.

Retrograde Phase

When the retrograde fully hits, the retrograding planet appears to move backwards along its orbit. According to astrology, all of those issues you may have ignored or glossed over in the past force themselves to the forefront of your life.

Post-Shadow Phase

The post-retrograde shadow period begins when the retrograding planet appears to move forward again. Just as the planet works to "catch up" to Earth's orbit, in astrology, the issues that cropped up during the retrograde period begin resolving

Meaning of Each Planet in Retrograde

Each planet's retrograde phase creates different issues and teaches different lessons based on the areas of life that planet rules.

Here is a breakdown of every planet's retrograde season and what it means for you, according to astrology.

Mercury Retrograde

Rules: Communication, transportation, technology, and digital/social media

Retrograde Frequency: 3-4 times a year, lasting approximately 21 days

What to Do When Mercury is Retrograde: Catch up on paperwork. Get organized. Back up your tech. Do repairs.

Is there really a reason why people freak out when Mercury is retrograde?

You have probably heard your astrology-obsessed friends warn you about the coming of retrograde season, but what does this time of the year really entail?

Mercury's retrograde impacts everyone in similar ways. Once you start to notice a shift in your life, it is pretty obvious that it may not be a coincidence.

All of the planets' orbits affect each other. As one orbit interacts with another, it may seem like the planets and the universe itself is moving backwards. In everyday life, this can cause feelings of frustration, lack of motivation, and nostalgia for the past.

While this time may be the answer to why you are falling behind in work or slacking off in school, it can also be a time to reflect on the past and channel your introspective side.

Mercury rules all forms of communication: travel, cars, planes, work contracts, and relationships with others are all examples.

When Mercury is retrograde and starting to move backwards, it is important to reserve extra time for yourself.

You will be able to avoid the negative effects of the retrograde if you plan ahead of time, especially for important events.

While it may be easy to blame Mercury's retrograde for all of the bad things that happen in your life, it is easier to try and prevent those frustrations from even occurring in the first place.

Set aside time for yourself and always make reservations for travel way ahead of time.

RELATED: 11 Ways Mercury Retrograde Seriously Messes With Your Relationships

Saturn Retrograde

Rules: Reputation, social standing, work, structure, politics

Retrograde Frequency: 1x a year, lasting a few months

What to Do When Saturn is Retrograde: Look for a new job, ask for a promotion, keep up on politics and avoid intense political conversations, plan your next move. It's also a great time to work on self-improvement and your health.

Saturn returned back to its home sign, Capricorn, back in 2017 and will remain there till the year 2020. With this long of a retrograde period, what does that mean for us?

If Saturn retrograde happens to fall in your natal chart, this means your life's focus will depend on duties and privileges.

While Saturn is in retrograde, you will be able to see your future from a more well-rounded and mature standpoint. Those little insecurities you once had in life will slowly start to fade away.

Saturn is associated with karma, so when Saturn goes retrograde, you may notice things balancing out and justice being served.

RELATED: What Does Your Saturn Sign Mean In Astrology?

Venus Retrograde

Rules: Personal property, love, marriage, partnerships

Retrograde Frequency: Every 18 months, lasting 40 days

What to Do when Venus is Retrograde: Reconnect with your partner. If you own property, take inventory of what you have or get rid of what you don't need. Take time to care for yourself.

When Venus turns retrograde, it may feel as though relationships collapse into complete chaos.

If you have been sensing a breakup coming within your relationship, Venus' retrograde season may be the time it happens. Some astrology experts even call Venus season the breakup season.

If this is making you a little nervous, try to remember that Venus in retrograde is rare. However, when it does happen, prepare to protect your relationships at all costs.

While this may seem terrible, sometimes Venus has a funny way of showing us what we really deserve.

If the planet's retrograde forces you and your partner apart, maybe it is to give you some clarity moving forward.

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Mars Retrograde

Rules: War, energy, motivation

Retrograde Frequency: Every 26 months, lasting 60-80 days

What to Do When Mars is Retrograde: Apologize. Stop fighting. Pay attention to red flags and how you feel. Get in touch with your need to forgive. Let go of anger or a need to get even.

Mars only goes into retrograde once every two years or so. Once Mars does appear to slow down and reverse its course in the sky, some things could shift in your life.

Once Mars enters into retrograde, it usually lasts two to three months.

The planet Mars is what pushes us to act the way we do; the planet is the embodiment of our drive and purpose on this Earth.

Mars helps us to uncover who we really are, and retrograde season can either make your sense of self more or less clear.

The season can also bring about an inner warrior within us, as it plays upon our hidden strengths and talents.

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Pluto Retrograde

Rules: Transformation, change and psychic energy

Retrograde Frequency: 1x a year, lasting 5-6 months

What to Do When Pluto is Retrograde: Deal with your hidden secrets. Look to heal your 'darker side.'

Pluto spends almost half of the time in retrograde! Pluto in retrograde can bring out that goofy sense of self.

You may feel yourself trying to fully understand who you are, while still succumbing to this odd feeling. If you have been struggling to figure out your purpose in life, Pluto's retrograde may be the time for some self-reflection.

Since Pluto is a slow-moving planet during retrograde, its impact may be dull. Unless it has direct points to the moon, sun or Earth, the impact of this retrograde season may not alter any of your plans.

RELATED: What Your Pluto Sign Means — And How To Find Yours

Neptune Retrograde

Rules: Dreams, imagination, fantasy

Retrograde Frequency: 1x a year, lasting 160 days

What to Do When Neptune is Retrograde: Get creative. Take a spiritual retreat. Search your soul and heart for answers to the unknown.

Neptune knows how to take its time and really makes its way into every pocket of the zodiac.

This brings both good and bad news: the good news is that since Neptune really takes its time to orbit around the Earth, its effects during retrograde are very subtle, if at all noticeable.

Neptune retrograde tends to bring false illusions you have about life to light, forcing you to face facts and make changes based on what's really happening around you.

Whether this is good or bad news, Neptune's retrograde always brings about some sort of changes in the end.

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Jupiter Retrograde

Rules: Luck

Retrograde Frequency: Every 9 months, lasting 4 months

What to Do When Jupiter is Retrograde: Study or do something to improve your career. Become culturally educated. Travel.

Jupiter is another planet whose retrograde period moves slower and is, therefore, less chaotic. Jupiter's retrograde period happens once a year and lasts for about three to four months.

Jupiter is the teacher of all planets. Its wisdom can reach all boundaries of the universe. When in retrograde, Jupiter can help you seek out the truth and find balance within your life.

This retrograde season brings about a period of internal growth. Jupiter will push you to love everything about yourself that once held you back.

If retrograde falls within your natal chart, prepare to be swarmed with a whole lot of faith, wisdom, and forgiveness.

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Uranus Retrograde

Rules: Chaos, freedom

Retrograde Frequency: 1x a year, lasting 5 months

What to Do When Uranus is Retrograde: Change something up. Release what is holding you back. Network for business.

The planet goes retrograde once a year, which means it spends about half the year in retrograde. These retrograde periods usually last about five months.

This season calls for you to make a very difficult choice: change or face severe consequences within the zodiac. If you choose not to change the negative aspects of your life, your creative and free-spirited soul will start to diminish.

This period of time pushes you to take drastic measures within your relationships, career, and inner self. Uranus does not mess around.

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Carlie Fox is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture and relationship topics.

Aria Gmitter, M.S, M.F.A., is YourTango's Senior Editor of Horoscopes and Spirituality. She studies with the Midwestern School of Astrology and is a member of the South Florida Astrological Association.