The word “retrograde” gets a bad rap, even outside of astrology circles. In astrological terms, it refers to a planet appearing to move in reverse, which is thought to influence similarly backward energy for our lives here on Earth, triggering things like technological failures, miscommunications, and even the desire to re-up old relationships. With not one, not two, but seven planets in retrograde motion over the next few weeks, that off-kilter energy will be that much more prominent in the cosmos.
I wouldn’t blame you if, at this point, you’re just about ready to go into hiding until next year. But as an astrologer, I also feel that retrogrades have been misunderstood, at least in the popular discourse. While, yes, they can certainly be chaotic, retrogrades can also serve the key purpose of better allowing us to see what may not be working in our lives so we can make changes accordingly.
Wait, what exactly is a planetary retrograde, and what does it mean?
“A planet goes retrograde when it is as far away from the sun as it can be,” says astrologer Narayana Montúfar, author of Moon Signs: Unlock Your Inner Luminary Power. “When a planet is retrograde, it appears to move backward from our position here on Earth.” The word “appears” is key here; the planet isn’t actually moving backward, but it just looks that way from our perspective.
When a planet goes retrograde, it’s also moving slower than usual, says astrologer Lisa Stardust. For example, it usually takes Mercury two weeks to move through one of the zodiac signs in the sky, but when it’s retrograde, it spends over a month in a single sign.
“When a planet is retrograde, we have to see and approach everything that this planet rules from a different perspective.” —Narayana Montúfar, astrologer
In turn, it’s thought that life also moves at a slower pace during a planetary retrograde—specifically the realms of life over which the planet in question rules. For instance, if we’re talking about Mercury retrograde, we’ll notice a slowdown in the Mercury-ruled areas of communication, travel, and information; whereas, if it’s Venus that’s retrograde, we’ll experience mishaps and crossed wires in the Venutian realms of love, values, and aesthetics.
As a result, “when a planet is retrograde, we have to see and approach everything that this planet rules from a different perspective,” says Montúfar. “We have to rethink, review, and revamp our response to that planet’s influence.”
Here are the seven planets that will be retrograde *at the same time* over the next few weeks
While there’s usually at least one planet in retrograde motion at any given time, not all retrograding planets affect us equally. The closer a planet is to Earth, the more likely it’ll make a direct impact on our lives when it goes retrograde. (That’s why Mercury retrograde tends to be the most infamous for causing trouble; it’s the nearest planet to Earth.) When the planets that are farther away from us in our solar system go retrograde, the effect is more collective in nature, and less individual—hence their designation as generational rather than personal planets.
In any case, seven planets retrograde at once can have a compounding effect, triggering a slowdown across different areas of life and encouraging us to look inward. Below, find a brief breakdown of the planetary retrogrades overlapping during this year’s retrograde season, and what you can expect from each one.
Mercury will be retrograde in Virgo from August 23 to September 15. Mercury is the planet of communication and travel, so this slowdown could bring delays, miscommunications, and misunderstandings. Chances are, you’re most familiar with this retrograde as it occurs three to four times a year.
Given that the current Mercury retrograde happens in Virgo, one of its ruling signs, the energy is bound to be very typical for a retrograde of this planet. According to Stardust, we can expect disruptions in work comms and routines, and also in the Virgoan areas of health and wellness. And the best way to move through the chaos is also to embrace Virgo’s spirit of organization, preparation, and meticulous attention to detail.
Venus has been retrograde in Leo since July 23 and will remain there until September 3 (after which it moves through its post-retrograde shadow, or retroshade, until October 7). Given that the planet rules over the realms of love, relationships, beauty, and finances, its retrogrades—which famously last about 40 days (and 40 nights) and occur once every 18 months—can be a real doozy, sparking interpersonal drama and conflict over core values.
Montúfar recommends focusing in particular on what brings you happiness and revives your creative spark, especially as this retrograde happens in the dynamic, self-oriented sign of Leo.
Beneficent Jupiter, which goes retrograde every nine months for four months at a time, will be in its apparent backspin in Taurus from September 4 to December 3. Known as the planet of luck, good fortune, and exploration, Jupiter doesn’t tend to throw us all for a loop with its retrogrades as much as the other planets do.
This retrograde will largely prompt a period of reflection, as we realize how lucky we are for what we have, especially within the Taurean themes of material items and personal values.
Saturn, the planet of discipline and rules, has been retrograde since June 17 and will continue in its backward path until November 4. While Saturn goes retrograde every year for four and a half months, this year’s transit may feel different as it’s occurring in the sign of Pisces for the first time in about 30 years. This could spark a spiritual wake-up call, pushing us to define where our boundaries should fall, and where they might be holding us back from achieving our dreams.
Uranus is retrograde in Taurus from August 28 to January 27, 2024, and typically spends half the year in its backspin. This year, its retrograde story follows a progression we might be deeply familiar with at this point, given the planet of change and rebellion has been transiting in Taurus since 2018. The combination of its renegade spirit with Taurus’s anti-change tendencies could prompt some inner turmoil and introspection, as we learn to face our fears and challenge our personal and collective status quo.
Neptune has been retrograde in Pisces since June 20 and will continue its backward trek through the cosmos until December 6. Like Uranus, the outer planet goes retrograde for about half the year each year. But given Neptune rules over the realms of illusion, escapism, and spirituality, its retrogrades tend to offer a much-needed reality check: a moment to lift the veil shrouding our dreams and ambitions, and define the lines between good and too good to be true.
Pluto has been retrograde since May 1 and will continue to move backward in the strong-willed sign of Capricorn until October 10. And like its counterparts on the periphery of our solar system, it goes retrograde every year, typically for five to six months.
Though Pluto may have technically been downgraded to dwarf planet status, that doesn’t make its astrological impact any less potent. In fact, Pluto is known as the planet of transformation, death, and rebirth, with its transits pushing us to uncover what may be hiding beneath the surface.
While Pluto’s retrogrades aren’t normally felt very intensely, given its large distance from Earth, the current one is a different story, as Pluto oscillates between Capricorn and Aquarius (a sign it hasn’t touched since 1798) before moving entirely into Aquarius at the end of 2024. This ends a nearly twenty-year chapter of Pluto in Capricorn and begins a new one in the fixed air sign, changing the undertone of our collective vibe.
As we experience one last hurrah of Pluto in Capricorn for our lifetimes, Montúfar says it’s time to reflect on what Capricornian systems or institutions (in your life or writ large) may be wielding unnecessary power and how we might take the final steps necessary to break away from or transform them from the inside.
What can we expect from the overall vibe with seven planets retrograde at once?
“Seven retrograding planets can certainly create a vortex of energy that can feel like chaos—or a curriculum,” says astrologer Bethany Nicole, who compares this retrograde period to a school project, where we are given areas on which to focus within our lives before a set “deadline,” when all the planets will have returned to direct motion. “If you have consistently worked on the ‘assignment,’ it will feel easier than if you have been ignoring it or avoiding it altogether,” says Nicole.
The areas of focus in question right now correlate to the different realms over which the seven planets rule (above)—but your assignment will feel the toughest in whichever of these life areas could use the most work for you.
“Retrogrades affect people differently, but generally you will have either more or less energy than usual,” says Stardust. “You might feel sluggish and lethargic, or you may feel restless, scattered, or anxious.” But while you may experience distinct obstacles and struggles, this also isn’t the time to tackle everything at once. Retrograde energy is prime for rethinking, reviewing, and reconsidering the recent past, and then plotting and planning a new direction forward—not necessarily taking action in that direction.
“While we may feel dragged under the water for a bit, where we pop up is going to be a [better] destination.” —Bethany Nicole, astrologer
Plenty of astrologers, including Nicole, love retrograde periods, as they can function as a major learning and growth opportunity. “Are [retrogrades] always fun in the moment? Absolutely not,” says Nicole. “But do they turn out in amazing ways? The answer is typically, ‘Yes.’ While we may feel dragged under the water for a bit, where we pop up is going to be a [better] destination [than where we came from].”
That’s to say, all the introspection possible during a retrograde isn’t for naught; you can take advantage of the chance to slow down and rethink things as a means to put yourself on a new path—one you may not have realized you needed to take but that will work out better for you in the end.
4 tips for surviving and thriving throughout this retrograde season
1. Break bad habits
One way to make good use of a particularly strong retrograde season is by focusing on the habits you’ve carried from your past and that you’ve been wanting to break. With this cosmic lull time, we have the opportunity to pause, reflect, and implement behavioral changes that can last.
This is one of the main reasons that Montúfar likes retrogrades. “I think they teach us that growth isn’t linear,” she says. “They give us the opportunity to slow down so we can rethink our strategies and later on, move forward with a more defined and refined view of what we truly want.”
2. Manifest something new
Given that retrogrades are known to cause delays and create barriers to forward momentum, it may sound counterintuitive to use them as an opportunity to manifest what you want—but Stardust says that’s exactly what you should do.
“Retrogrades force you to slow down and face the challenges in your path,” says Stardust. “That makes this a great time to write down your intentions for the future.” Use this period for journaling, meditating, visualizing, and practicing gratitude.
3. Take a close look at your birth chart—and consult a professional
One of the most important things you can do to effectively weather a retrograde season is to consider your birth chart. In particular, it’s helpful to look at which astrological house each of the seven retrograde planets occupies in your chart, so you can determine which areas of your life will be most affected by this period.
“Where a planet lies in our chart, what areas of our lives need the most attention, and the energy of the planet itself can make a difference for different people,” says Nicole. For example, if Mercury is retrograding in your ninth house of travel and expansion, this may not be a great time to go on a big trip. And if Venus is retrograding in your seventh house of relationships, perhaps now is not the time to start dating someone new.
By a similar token, if you find that one or more of the current retrograde planets are also listed as retrograde in your birth chart (typically marked with an “R” and signifying that they were retrograde when you were born), those planetary transits may give you more trouble now.
If all this just sounds like cosmic jargon, you may benefit from booking a birth chart reading with a professional astrologer who can help you break it all down.
4. Remember that this period is temporary
Despite our best efforts, certain days during this retrograde season are just going to feel tougher than others. If you’re having a day where everything seems to be going wrong, it’s important to remember that this, too, shall pass. (Sure, that may be a cliché—but it’s a cliché for a reason.)
It may be especially comforting to remember that you are not alone in the struggle; everyone will face this retrograde season, albeit in different ways. So, be patient during this time and show people (including yourself) some grace. All of these planets will eventually move forward—and so will we.
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