What is a Retrograde?


One of the most common questions heard from new astrologers is “what is a retrograde?” Understandable, and a good question! Today, Lynn is here with an excerpt from The 2022 Almanac of Astrological Data to teach you about the subject. We hope this excerpt gives you an idea of the sort of information you can find within the almanac itself!


When we say a planet is in retrograde, we are referring to the phenomena in which a celestial body appears to be moving backwards in the sky. Scientifically, a planet never moves backwards in its orbit around the Sun. However, this visual effect comes from our point of view on Earth, another body moving around the Sun at its own pace. Mercury is the easiest planet to spot this phenomenon with, as its orbit speed causes it to retrograde three to four times a year.

A computer representation of a starry sky, with a yellow line over it. The yellow line moves from right to left, but makes a loop, representing a retrograde, partway across the image.
The path of a retrograde makes it look like the planet doubled back on its own orbit. While this is merely a visual effect, astrologers interpret each planet’s retrograde to have specific impacts on us here on Earth.

Astrology sees a retrograde as a time where the planet’s energies are more sluggish or muddled. There are three phases to a retrograde:

  • the pre-retrograde shadow,
  • the retrograde itself,
  • and the post-retrograde shadow.

To visualize this, picture yourself walking down the street. At some point, you unknowingly drop your keys. Let us call this Point A. You continue walking on until, some distance down the road, you realize your keys are missing. We will call this position Point B. The distance you spent walking from Point A to Point B is the pre-retrograde shadow. Now that you know your keys are missing, you double back, retracing your steps to Point A. This span of travel is the retrograde. Once you retrieve your keys from Point A, you turn and walk back towards Point B, able to continue your journey as if nothing happened. Until you reach Point B again, you are walking in the post-retrograde shadow.

The pre-retrograde and post-retrograde shadows hold the potential to see impact from the retrograde, especially if the planet is moving between houses or signs during the span of its retrograde. However, the bulk of the energy changes are felt during the retrograde itself. Again, it is important to emphasize that the planets are not actually moving backwards; they merely appear to be from our position here on Earth.


If you enjoy what you read here, please consider taking a look at the full Almanac in the shop! Astrology can be a daunting form of divination to touch on, especially when it comes to the day-to-day impacts of it. The planets are constantly moving and influencing the world in a variety of ways. In order to help those curious in venturing into the realm of astrology, Lynn has compiled this detailed resource to get you started.


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