Mercury Retrograde is a phenomenon that has worked its way into mass consciousness. The moment a communication snafu occurs, folks blame Mercury Retrograde!

The truth is, not all miscommunications can be laid at the feet of this little planet. But it does behoove us to observe a few simple principles about this event.

Mercury appears to turn backward in its path around the Zodiac three times every year, for about twenty-one or twenty-two days at a time. So every four months, you get a three-week pause in which to catch up on old correspondence, read the book that’s been sitting on your nightstand and make phone calls to friends and family.

Everyone knows that Mercury Retrograde is a great time to do things that start with ‘re’: repair, reduce, reconsider, recreate. But what else can you do to bring out the best energy of this period?

Certainly, thoughts turn more inward than outward, so taking care of personal affairs is a great idea. Follow your gut instead of following your head. This is a great time to practice yoga, meditation or any activity that centers your mind and body.

If you can avoid signing a contract during Mercury Retrograde, fine. If not, go through it carefully a couple of times and get help if you need it. Try not to buy electronic equipment during this period, or travel, because delays and snafus seem to abound. Above all, don’t worry! Life moves forward even when Mercury seems to be going backward.

Find out more about Mercury retrograde in AriesMercury retrograde in TaurusMercury retrograde in GeminiMercury retrograde in CancerMercury retrograde in LeoMercury retrograde in VirgoMercury retrograde in LibraMercury retrograde in ScorpioMercury retrograde in SagittariusMercury retrograde in CapricornMercury retrograde in AquariusMercury retrograde in Pisces

We’ve all heard about Mercury Retrograde -- how communication gets confused, traffic slows down and luggage gets lost when this little planet appears to start moving backward in the heavens. Mercury, however, is not the only planet that turns retrograde. In fact, all the planets except the Sun and the Moon go retrograde regularly.

So, what is this mysterious retrograde motion? It’s a simple optical illusion that occurs when a faster-moving planet passes a slower planet in its orbit. It’s like driving down the freeway at a very high rate of speed. If you pass a car inching along in the slow lane, it will appear that the slower car is moving backward. It’s not, of course, but it appears that way to you, in the faster car. In astrology, retrogradation is the apparent temporary 'backward' motion of a planet when measured against the background of the celestial zodiac.

The periodic backward motion of the planets was first observed many thousands of years ago, and in fact, the urge to understand retrograde motion was a driving impulse in the development of mathematics and sciences.

When a planet is retrograde, it’s as close as it can get to Earth, and if it’s visible, it’s very bright. These facts give us a clue as to the importance of retrograde planets: Their effects are strong!

A retrograde planet makes three crisscrosses over the same few degrees of the zodiac within a limited time span. That illuminates another clue for interpreting its effects: During a retrograde period, you’ll have to try extra hard to focus, and sometimes, you’ll have to do things more than once before you get the job done right.

Often planets in retrograde are considered to have a negative effect, but this is not true. A much better interpretation is that retrograde motion turns the energy of the planet inward. That energy is now in concentrated form, helping us to understand and integrate it more holistically and completely. You could look at retrograde motion as a planet inhaling, and direct motion as the planet exhaling. It’s the breath of the solar system.

The most important points in the retrograde cycle are the degree at which the planet turns retrograde, and the degree at which it once again returns to direct motion. At these points, the energy of the planet is particularly noticeable and strong.

Find out more about Mercury retrograde, Venus retrograde, Mars retrograde, Jupiter retrograde, Saturn retrograde, Uranus retrograde, Neptune retrograde, Pluto regtrograde

Jupiter, that big, fat, gaseous giant of the solar system, is retrograde about one-third of the time. Both the retrograde and direct stations -- the points at which Jupiter seems to turn around in its orbit -- occur when the Sun trines Jupiter, which is considered to be a favorable aspect.

This leads us to suspect that, unlike the common perception of other planets’ retrograde periods, Jupiter Retrograde has a positive effect.

During Jupiter Retrograde, the Sun opposes Jupiter. At that time, Jupiter rises exactly at sunset and grandly marches across the sky all night long. It is very bright and close to the earth during this time.

Since Jupiter rules expansion and exaggeration, these regular turning-back periods are kind of like a self-cleaning oven: They keep things from getting out of hand. Retrograde motion slows down Jupiter’s tendency to make things bigger. It’s almost a sort of automatic braking system.

Jupiter is very much about our belief systems, and when it’s retrograde, we are more likely to follow our own path rather than be led by others. It’s an excellent time to clarify within yourself where you stand on any particular issue, and also to develop personal faith, self-reflection and independent learning.

At the times when Jupiter turns in either direction, it’s best to avoid long-distance travel or legal appointments, if possible. Jupiter’s energy is strong at these times, and you may find headlines that reflect Jupiterian themes.

Learn more about the other retrograde planets: Mercury retrograde, Venus retrograde, Mars retrograde, Jupiter retrograde, Saturn retrograde, Uranus retrograde, Neptune retrograde, Pluto retrograde

Mars, the Action Planet, normally spends four to six weeks traveling through each sign in the Zodiac. But when Mars goes retrograde -- and that’s only about nine percent of the time -- it spends more than six months in one sign! Talk about focus!

Let’s consider what happens when the most assertive, forward-moving planet in the solar system slows down, stops, and seems to start moving backward in its orbit.

This doesn’t seem to make Mars happy. To top it off, Mars is as close as possible to the Earth at this time, so when retrograde, it shines very brightly, all night long. This adds up to a very strong influence.

Of all the planets, Mars Retrograde indicates the need to ‘do it again.’ Actions and work that you’ve already done come back for revision, and current projects run into snags. You’ve got a long to-do list but can’t seem to get anything accomplished.

Your to-do list may seem like some sort of exasperating sticky-note that you can’t get rid of. It’s frustrating and annoying. Sometimes projects you’ve been working hard on will even come to an unexpected end.

Mars Retrograde can indicate anger and temper issues, and these feelings may be turned inward instead of being openly expressed. This can lead to all sorts of unfortunate effects, including temporary depression. Initiative can be thwarted during this time.

Not everyone will be affected equally. The sign in which Mars makes its retrograde matters a lot, both on a general level and also in determining who will be more personally affected by its retrograde motion.

Learn more about the other retrograde planets: Mercury retrograde, Venus retrograde, Mars retrograde, Jupiter retrograde, Saturn retrograde, Uranus retrograde, Neptune retrograde, Pluto retrograde

Neptune, one of the two outermost planets, has such a long orbit that it spends fourteen years in one sign! Although we here on Earth can’t see this planet without a powerful telescope, astronomers have plotted its course with extreme accuracy.

Like all other planets, Neptune has a retrograde period; that is, if we could see it with the naked eye, it would appear to slow down, stop and then temporarily turn backward in its orbit. After five months, it slows down again, turns around and resumes its normal direction.

Since Neptune is retrograde forty-three percent of the time, by itself, it’s not an enormously important factor. But the stationary points -- the points at which the planet seems to turn around in its orbit -- are enormously important. It’s at these times when the energy of Neptune are most evident.

Since this pokey planet can spend months at the same Zodiac degree when it is stationary, astrologers look for the span of just a few days that pinpoints when Neptune actually begins moving from the stationary point. It’s on these days when you’re likely to see Neptune’s influence on the news -- drug raids, new developments in the healing arts, magicians and escape artists, criminal activity, the Mafia and the oil industry, to name just a few.

What about on a personal level? Neptune is related to your creativity and spiritual life. When Neptune is retrograde, you’re more likely to be attentive to these areas of your life, and give them voice. You may not present the efforts of your inspirations right away -- that may wait till Neptune has gone direct -- but you will cherish them all the more for waiting.

Keep a dream journal, for your dreams are likely to be vivid and meaningful during Neptune Retrograde, if you take the time to interpret them.

Learn more about the other retrograde planets: Mercury retrograde, Venus retrograde, Mars retrograde, Jupiter retrograde, Saturn retrograde, Uranus retrograde, Neptune retrograde, Pluto retrograde

Uranus is the oddball of the solar system, in more ways than one. For starters, it rolls along its equator instead of spinning upright in its orbit, the way a proper planet does.

For another, the discovery of this almost-invisible planet rocked the astronomical world -- Saturn, previously the outermost clearly visible planet, was no longer the edge of our planetary panoply. Truly revolutionary!

Like all the other planets except the Sun and Moon, which are not truly planets, Uranus periodically turns retrograde in its orbit, seeming to stop in its tracks for about two weeks and then appearing to move backward along its path through the Zodiac.

After five months, it slows down again and seems to turn around once more, resuming travel in its original direction.

These points at which the planet seems to turn around -- and remember, retrogradation is only an optical illusion -- are called ‘stationary points,’ and are the times when the planet’s energies are most noticeable in the entire cycle of the planet.

When Uranus is stationary, watch both the news and your personal life for unbelievable headlines. It’s times like these that produced the saying, ‘Truth is stranger than fiction.’

During the retrograde period, our more outrageous inclinations may be less evident, though occasionally, for someone who’s normally rather repressed, this period will provide the opportunity to throw off the shackles of inhibition and allow a freer self to emerge. This is the ultimate triumph of Uranus Retrograde.

Learn more about the other retrograde planets: Mercury retrograde, Venus retrograde, Mars retrograde, Jupiter retrograde, Saturn retrograde, Uranus retrograde, Neptune retrograde, Pluto retrograde

Venus is our next-door neighbor here in the solar system, and therefore it is retrograde the least amount of time of all the planets -- only once every 18 months, for about 6 weeks at a time.

That amounts to about seven percent of the time, total. Compare that to Pluto, which is retrograde forty-four percent of the time!

When Venus, the Planet of Love, goes retrograde, it’s no surprise that relationship issues come right to the surface. Things you (or your lover!) have simply been tolerating all of a sudden become intolerable. One or both of you may say or do things that you otherwise wouldn’t.

Some folks have been known to make sudden, unilateral relationship moves when Venus was retrograde -- but we don’t recommend it. Far better to talk it out and give it some time. You can make a permanent decision later on, when Venus goes direct and you become more sure of what you want and how to make it happen.

By the same token, it’s best not to begin a relationship under Venus Retrograde, either. However, it could be a great time to reconnect with someone from your past. Just be careful not to repeat mistakes.

Perhaps the most valuable feature of Venus Retrograde is the opportunity for you to reevaluate what is important to you: What do you value? You perceive your value system with new eyes during this period, and can adjust your life accordingly.

When Venus is retrograde, it is considered a poor time to get married or open a bank account. Don't purchase luxury items, as they are likely to be overpriced. It's a great time, on the other hand, for shopping in antique stores, secondhand stores and flea markets.

Learn more about the other retrograde planets: Mercury retrograde, Venus retrograde, Mars retrograde, Jupiter retrograde, Saturn retrograde, Uranus retrograde, Neptune retrograde, Pluto retrograde

Pluto, the planet of transformation and regeneration, is so very far away from the Sun that it takes almost 250 years to make its entire orbit around the fiery center of our solar system. It spends many years in one sign, and is so slow and far away that it is retrograde almost forty-five percent of the time.

You can’t see Pluto, of course, unless you happen to have access to a powerful telescope, but it’s hard to avoid feeling its influence -- especially when it’s at a dead standstill, spending up to four months in the same degree of the Zodiac, at what are called the stationary points of its cycle.

On the days when it finally seems to start cranking up and moving again -- whether it is going retrograde or direct -- Pluto themes are all over the headlines, and they aren’t usually very pretty: terrorist attacks, mining disasters, things long hidden coming to light. In short, scary stuff.

On a personal level, Pluto is all about personal growth and transformation. And let’s be honest: You can’t grow all the time without pausing occasionally to absorb and integrate the lessons you’ve been learning.

Pluto Retrograde periods are perfect for this. Personal evolution is a two-steps-forward, one-step-back process, and the pace is determined by the direct and retrograde motion of Pluto.

Occasionally the Pluto retrograde period is characterized by painful loss, or events and circumstances in your life that are far beyond your control. In many ways, Pluto represents factors that are much larger than any individual; it is the planet of human evolution, after all, and that trumps any single person.

But for most of us, most of the time, Pluto retrograde periods offer us the chance to delve deeply into our own inner resources and determine what is most important, when all is said and done.

Learn more about the other retrograde planets: Mercury retrograde, Venus retrograde, Mars retrograde, Jupiter retrograde, Saturn retrograde, Uranus retrograde, Neptune retrograde, Pluto retrograde

Saturn, the planet of boundaries and life lessons, is retrograde about thirty-six percent of the time. When it’s retrograde, Saturn shines its baleful, beautiful yellowish light on us all night long.

Saturn already has the reputation of being a downer. How could four-and-a-half months of Saturn Retrograde possibly be a positive thing? Well, easily. Instead of getting more serious, folks back off a little bit. It’s a time to take a little breather from the usual breakneck pace that most people keep these days.

Don’t worry, you’ll still get plenty of work done; it’s not like Saturn changes personality during this period. It’s just that the sense of urgency and anxiety relaxes somewhat. Doesn’t that sound like a relief?

Sometimes old tasks come back to haunt you during Saturn Retrograde. If so, you’ll have to reorganize your priorities and keep your perspective. What’s important to do now, and what can wait? Let others, especially those in authority, know about the changes. Reduce your expectations somewhat. Don’t cave in altogether, though; that won’t make Saturn happy!

This is not a good time to break away and start something new, but it’s a fine time to plan for the projects you’ll begin when this planet goes direct again. Take the time to do things right on the first attempt. Watch for authority issues -- another domain of Saturn. As always, Saturn wants us to develop patience. It’s good for the soul!