Mercury isn’t the only planet that retrogrades. Every planetary ‘step back’ and what it means.

Mercury will retrograde, or appear to be moving backward in the sky, from August 23 through September 15. It’s the third of four times Mercury will be moving in retrograde this year.

Mercury isn’t the only planet that will retrograde this year. Retrograde motion in astronomy is an apparent motion of a planet in a direction opposite to that of the motions of most other planets of the solar system.

The term “retrograde” comes from the Latin word “retrogradus,” which is a combination of the “retro-“, which means “backward,” and “gradus,” which means “step.” The ancient Greeks used the word “anapodizō,” meaning “to step or go back.”.

Claudius Ptolemy, an ancient Greek astronomer, had one of the first written records of explaining retrograde motion in the second century A.D. The Ptolemaic model depicted planets moving around Earth in a big circle, known as a deferent, then going around a smaller circle while retrograding, called an epicycle.

Though ancient astronomers didn’t quite understand how the solar system was organized from a scientific perspective, astrologers assigned meaning to the planets and their movement through the skies, including their speed and direction.

Hellenistic astrologer Vettius Valens wrote “The Anthology” around the same time as Ptolemy was studying astronomy, the longest, most detailed treatise on astrology from that time period. In it he wrote, “If the star is setting or proceeding with a retrograde motion, it will be harmful and hazardous.”.

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Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra, a medieval astrologer, wrote “The Beginning of Wisdom” in 1148 A.D. As a basic introduction to astrology. In it, he wrote, “A planet about to turn retrograde is like a frightened person, fearing adversities that are coming to him.”.

Modern astrologers have a more gentle approach to describing planetary retrogrades, saying they’re “an internalization of that planetary function.” Because Mercury rules the mind and communication, Mercury retrograde can be a time for mental reflection.

Mercury retrograde

Mercury completes its orbit in about 88 days, which is why we typically experience three to four Mercury retrogrades each year.

According to astrologers: Along with ruling the mind and communication, Mercury also rules travel, commerce and technology. This is why it can be blamed for travel delays, technology problems and people from your past coming back into the picture.

  • Dec. 29, 2022-Jan. 18, 2023 – In Capricorn (completed).
  • April 21-May 14 – In Taurus.
  • Aug. 23-Sept. 15 – In Virgo.
  • Dec. 13-Jan. 1, 2024 – In Capricorn and Sagittarius.
  • Venus retrograde

    Venus takes about 225 days to orbit the sun and retrogrades once every 18 months for about six weeks. It retrogrades the least amount of time of any of the other planets.

    According to astrologers: Venus rules your love, values and what you find beautiful. While in retrograde, it can test your relationships, inspire you to redecorate your home and encourage you to love yourself more.

  • July 22-Sept. 3 – In Leo.
  • Mars retrograde

    Mars takes around 687 days to orbit the sun and retrogrades once every 26 months for about 2½ months.

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    According to astrologers: Mars rules action, ambition and passion. While in retrograde, it may be hard to get work done because it can make you less energetic and impulsive.

  • Oct. 30, 2022-Jan. 12, 2023 – In Gemini.
  • This composite of images spaced five to nine days apart, from late April (bottom right) through Nov. 5 (top left) in 2018, traces the retrograde motion of ruddy-colored Mars through Earth's night sky.
    This composite of images spaced five to nine days apart, from late April (bottom right) through Nov. 5 (top left) in 2018, traces the retrograde motion of ruddy-colored Mars through Earth’s night sky. PHOTO Tunc Tezel (TWAN)

    Jupiter retrograde

    Jupiter takes about 12 years to orbit the sun and retrogrades once every nine months for about four months.

    According to astrologers: Jupiter rules luck, expansion, philosophy and spirituality. While in retrograde, it can be a time to pause and examine how you’re aligning with the big-picture goals of your life.

  • Sept. 4-Dec. 30 – In Taurus.
  • Saturn retrograde

    Saturn takes about 29 years to orbit the sun and retrogrades once every year for about 4½ months.

    According to astrologers: Saturn rules boundaries, time and responsibility. While in retrograde, it can balance out karmic debts and bring reality checks.

  • June 17-Nov. 4 – In Pisces.
  • Uranus retrograde

    Uranus takes about 84 years to orbit the sun and retrogrades once every year for five to six months.

    According to astrologers: Uranus rules disruption, revolution and innovation. It may be more difficult to come up with new ideas during its retrograde.

    Because it spends about half the year in retrograde like Neptune and Pluto, its retrograde effects may not be felt as strongly as those of the planets closer to Earth.

  • Aug. 24, 2022-Jan. 22, 2023 – In Taurus.
  • Aug. 28-Jan. 27 – In Taurus.
  • Neptune retrograde

    Neptune takes about 165 years to orbit the sun and retrogrades once every year for five to six months.

    According to astrologers: Neptune rules dreams, illusions and dissolution. While in retrograde, reality may seem clearer and harsher.

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  • June 30-Dec. 6 – In Pisces.
  • Pluto retrograde

    Pluto takes about 248 years to orbit the sun and retrogrades once every year for five to six months.

    Pluto was once considered the ninth planet. Pluto is the largest planet in the Kuiper belt and the most well-known of a new category of worlds known as dwarf planets.

    According to astrologers:Pluto rules transformation, initiation and subconscious forces. While in retrograde, it may be easier to acquaint yourself with your subconscious.

  • May 1-Oct. 10 – In Aquarius and Capricorn.
  • Published 11:03 am UTC Apr. 19, 2023 Updated 8:02 pm UTC Jul. 31, 2023.

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