Retrogradation and individual destiny

Italian version

The conviction arises from the very concept of “retrograde”, which, applied to planetary reality, is perceived as “adverse” to the normal anticlockwise direction of the planets when in direct motion and consequently to the linear unfolding of one’s destiny. However, the interpretative implications of retrogradation are not as simple as they seem.

We say a planet is in retrograde motion when – due to the different angular velocity of the Earth – it appears to proceed backwards along the ecliptic (the zodiacal belt). Generally speaking, and concerning the interpretation of the birth chart, both ancient and modern astrological literature is critical of the meanings of retrogradation.

William Lilly – paraphrasing Guido Bonatti – in his Anima Astrologiae states that retrograde planets mean “damage, discord, contradiction” [1]; on the contrary, dealing with the discovery of stolen objects in his aphorisms of horary astrology, the same author informs us that if the ruler of the question is retrograde on the Moon or the Lord of the Ascendant, the finding will be rapid [2]. Here we see a shift in orientation on the meaning of the retrograde planet based on the application field, in this case, horary astrology.

The modern astrological interpretation does not differ much from the judgment of the ancient authors on the often-negative influences of the retrograde planets, considering them capable of weakening their normal dynamics. Let’s take the statistical results for granted. In this case, it seems that the frequency of retrograde planets in the charts of famous people or with particular artistic, scientific skills, etc., is lower than the general average; however, in the case of centenarians, there is a prevalence of Saturn retrograde [3].

If we talk about transits, the retrograde planet arouses an interpretative meaning when – after the direct motion on the natal planet – it makes a further passage in the opposite direction and then resumes its usual path. In this case, there are three transits: the first symbolises the activation of an inner dynamic or an event; in the second retrograde passage, we have as an afterthought or a setback due to an incorrect initial setting regarding the event itself; the third step again in direct motion establishes success if we have been able to correct our mistakes, or if not, we need to start over.

As for slow planets, the critical impact is more profound because personal destiny is often intertwined with the social and generational environment in the long run (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto each year are retrograde for four to five months). Of course, a lot depends on the accompanying aspects and the general state of the theme; this also applies to transits.

In the so-called karmic astrology, things do not change. The only difference is given by the consideration that the negative traits brought about by retrogradations would originate from behaviours inherited in previous lives; in the case of retrograde planets with concomitant positive aspects, the negative characters are not so difficult to transform; vice versa – with negative traits – they become an integral part of the personality and are challenging to eradicate [4].

What conclusions can we draw from all this? Suppose we avoid dwelling solely on the adverse results of retrogradation. In this case, we discover that we have a powerful tool of evolutionary development in our hands, set in motion by the even complex tests that it forces us to face. Let us remember that the target of astrological configurations is always the human being, solely responsible for their destiny. By resolving the retrogradations, we bring light into the labyrinth of our unconscious, which otherwise remains an obstacle to fully understanding our inner being and future.