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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

On Retrogrades ~ March 2014

On Retrogrades
March 2014
by Tim Rubald, C.A. NCGR-PAA, C.A.P. ISAR

Oh, no! Now MARS!
          A lot of astrologers, astrology writers, and speakers that I know of seem to love retrogrades because those provide a reason to pull out a box of clichés that help inject something different into their words about a particular planet. The idea is that a retrograde serves to take the wind out of the sails of the retrograde body, or to weaken, twist, or impede its message. We are in a period now when we can evaluate four planets’ retrogradation to see just how much the clichéd approach holds up.

          Mercury retrograde is famous for communications problems. My phone went on the fritz, and that’s interfered with my communications in very obvious ways. Demonstrably, some Mercury retrograde clichés are supported. But there’s a yang to that yin. In the same period, of my phone trouble, I’ve had some of the best and most inspired spurts of all sorts of communications that I’ve ever had; writing, consulting, speaking, and communicating with others in general. On the other hand, some of those “brilliant” bits have been completely misconstrued to the extent of me singing the classic, “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”* to more than one person during the retrograde.
* Writers: Sol Marcus, Ray Charles, Gloria Caldwell, and Bennie Benjamin by whom it is copyright.

          Much of what writers and speakers say about retrogrades holds up; but often for the wrong reasons. Fifty years of observation have taught me that a retrograde planet is not weakened, and it is certainly not going the “wrong” direction.

          An astrologers’ group of which I am a life member, the Organization for Professional Astrology (, poses a question to the membership each month. This time, fittingly, the question was about retrogradation.

          The retrogrades referred to are (USA dates):

Mercury Rx         February    6                 03° 20’        Pisces

Mercury D           February    28               18° 10’        Aquarius

Mars Rx               March         1                 27° 32’        Libra

Mars D                May            19               09° 02’        Libra

Jupiter Rx            November 6/7, 2013    20° 31’        Cancer

Jupiter D              March         6                 10° 26’        Cancer

Saturn Rx            March         2                 23° 19’        Scorpio

Saturn D              July            20               16° 39’        Scorpio

“Since we have an incredibly packed retrograde period, with 4 stations [the body or point appears to stand still as it moves from direct to retrograde motion or vice versa] this week (Mercury and Jupiter go direct, Saturn and Mars go retro), and ... [we] are in the midst of a back to back retro season, (Venus retro in January, Mercury retro in February, and Mars going retro in March), well the question BEGS to be about Retrogrades!” --- Maurice Fernandez, OPA Community Outreach Director

Question: What in your view is the most important thing to consider or apply with retrograde cycles?

          There is a long, even traditional, misunderstanding of retrograde motion in the astrology kingdom. I say kingdom for metaphorical emphasis, not by accident. I’d say that some of what still holds with many astrologers, and even in recent books, may be correct, but for the wrong reasons, and some of what’s offered is just wrong. After more than fifty years of observing (observation is the best astrology teacher), I’ve learned to try and not fit astrology into the molds given historically. It’s a dance, without the historical track we’d have nothing, and since much offers a framework for understanding, I don’t for a moment suggest that we toss everything out and start over. I respect and am deeply grateful to my predecessors.

          You can get an idea of my approach by reading some of the articles I’ve put on my blog, There’s a search box under the name of the blog. For relevant articles, put “Mercury retrograde” in the box, and search. I’ve focused primarily on Mercury in my writing there, but retrograde misunderstanding applies to all of the planets’ retrogrades. While we generally assume that the Sun and Moon don’t retrograde; due to the Sun’s wobble about the barycenter (the center mass of the solar system), it does; not that often though (seven times in the last 3400 years).  There is much to say about retrogrades. When someone comes up with a challenge to long-held beliefs as I do, resistance is human. There’s a sort of fear factor, like “Oh, am I wrong? Is my teacher or the highly respected astrologer who wrote this book wrong?”

Just kidding, Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) was a Renaissance mathematician and astronomer who formulated a heliocentric model of the universe which placed the Sun, rather than the Earth, at the center.

          The change I am proposing is subtle. What happens when perspective is shifted just a little? Why a body sometimes appears to retrograde has been known as long as a heliocentric solar system has been accepted. There are no retrogrades around the Sun at the center. It is the geocentric view that creates the phenomenon. Somehow a shading of “bad, backwards,” remains in astrologers’ retrograde delineations, even though most of them know that the Sun is the center (almost) and that the planets always move in one direction around it. A slight shift of viewpoint and I hope that we lose the problematic emphasis on retrogrades and increase our understanding. Then astrologers can impart a better refinement of life processes in work with clients (for those who do the interpersonal thing).

Nothing really goes backwards. Thanks, Nicky!

The basics: 

1) The planet is nearest Earth when retrograde (or the Earth is nearer the planet, Tweedledum/Tweedledee). 

2) There are 3-5 “hits” of a particular longitude (the Signs are measures of longitude) that retrograde motion allows. That means that a point in your chart may be aspected or “hit” by a retrograde planet three to five times due to retrogradation.

          Let's see what happens when we bring those two factors to greater attention, and give a little less attention to a planet’s “negative qualities” due to its apparent backward motion

2003 but you get the idea. The ECLIPTIC is a great circle the plane of which passes through the center of the Sun as well as through the center of the Earth.  The Ecliptic also corresponds closely to the plane of the orbits of the other major planets around the Sun. The Sun is always smack in the middle of the Ecliptic. The Sun is behind us as we look toward Mars from this starship observation deck. Another way to say that is the Sun is opposite Mars, or, the Earth is between the Sun and Mars, or, the Earth and Mars are on the same side of the Sun. All of those are equivalent. This example works for all of the planets outside of Earth's orbit. For how it works for the planets inside Earth's orbit, Mercury and Venus, see the illustration in this article

Question: Do you have anything to share about the coming Mars Retrograde cycle in Libra?

          As suggested, a retrograde planet may be (to me it is will be) in greater focus. While my mentor (one of several I’ve been blessed with), Zip Dobyns, would say, “There’s no such thing as a bad planet.” When you are talking about Mars, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, I think you may notice, at least, experience out of our comfort zones.

          From the “handed down realm” here’s this from Devore’s Encyclopedia: “This proximity of Mars to the Earth . . . considerably augments the strength of its reception ... signal strength ... Wilson ... attributes it to a wave of robberies, vicious murders and calamities.” I don’t throw these notions out, but look to appreciate them in the entire range of Martian expression, that of the traditional malefic, as well as from Zip’s notion of no bad planets. [I hope to write more about Mars Rx soon.]

 Question: Do you pay attention to planets beyond Mars’ (from Jupiter and on) retrograde cycle?

          All planetary motion interests me.

Question: The Nodes natural motion is retrograde; do you find any different significance to the Nodes going DIRECT?

          Our Moon nodes’ mean motion is retrograde; their “true” motion includes a kind of stuttering that includes stations and bits of direct motion. While I’ve opted for True placement in chart work, as far as transits go, I find the changes or “effects” if you will, of the True Lunar Nodes, unremarkable. I may be missing something, but I’ve found no reason to delve more deeply there. All of the planets have a nodal axis but I’m assuming the question is about the lunar nodes. Planetary and lunar nodes have much to contribute, but one can’t focus on everything.

* See Tables of Planetary Phenomena, Neil F. Michelsen, page 6.

Copyright © Tim Rubald 2014

Tim Rubald, C.A. NCGR-PAA, C.A.P. ISAR
tweeting @startalker