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Astro*Dictionary by Michael Erlewine





6 articles for "Retrograde"

Retrograde [DeVore]

The term applied to an apparent backward motion in the Zodiac of certain planets when decreasing in longitude as viewed from the Earth. It can be compared to the effect of a slow-moving train as viewed from another train traveling parallel to it but at a more rapid rate, wherein the slower train appears to be moving backwards. However, in the case of the celestial bodies it is not a matter of their actual speed or travel, but of the rate at which they change their angular relationship.

Retrograde planets in a birth map were anciently said to be weak or debilitated, but a more logical interpretation would seem to indicate that the influence is rendered stronger, which in the case of a malefic planet is definitely unfortunate. That it continues to retrograde for a period after birth might detract from its capacity to incite progress, but if so the extent of retardation must be judged from its relative nearness to its second station.

It is averred by some astrologers that a planet in retrograde motion partakes of the nature of the Mars end of the spectrum. This hardly appears a safe generalization, for according to the laws of spectroscopy a planet moving away from us -- the distance between it and the Earth increasing -- produces a slight shift of frequences toward the red end of the spectrum, and with diminishing distance a relative shift towards the red end begins immediately after the opposition of a major planet to the Sun, and continues until just before the conjunction; and that it can hardly be said to apply at all to a minor planet.

It would appear that consideration of this factor involves the direction of the planet's motion, whether toward or away from the Earth, rather than the character of the motion as either direct or retrograde. In fact it appears to have bearing on the doctrine of orientality. This Doppler displacement has been noted in observations of Venus, which indicated that a differentiation of influence should be studied as between Venus when in motion away from the Earth, and when moving toward it.

To be able to visualize and thus thoroughly understand the phenomenon of retrograde motion it is advisable to study the cycles of two groups of planets: the minor planets, those between the Earth and the Sun; and the major planets, those whose orbits lie outside that of the Earth.

Analyzing the cycle of Mercury, as typical of the orbits of the minor planets, shows this succession of phenomena:

Superior conjunction, when it passes on the far side of the Sun in direct motion, at which time it is invisible. Since thereafter it rises after the Sun and remains invisible during the daylight hours, it becomes visible only after the Sun has set in the west: the Evening Star. About fifteen days after the Superior conjunction it is at its smallest, a small circular orb.

Greatest Elongation East: Some six months later it reaches the point of the greatest distance ahead of the Sun in its counterclockwise direct motion in orbit, hence East. At this time it passes out of its gibbous phase, showing only half of its surface illuminated, yet seemingly larger and brighter because it comes closer to the Earth.

Enters Retrograde Arc: Some two weeks later it enters the arc over which it will shortly retrograde.

Maximum Brilliance as Evening Star: Even though reduced to a crescent of illumination it appears still larger, and with its elevation it remains longer above the horizon and is at its greatest brilliance.

First Station: Another two weeks and it becomes stationary, in preparation for retrograde (S.R.) motion. In another two weeks, about six days before the Inferior conjunction, it becomes a slender crescent.

Inferior Conjunction, when it passes in retrograde between the Earth and the Sun and is lost from sight in the Sun's rays. This conjunction is shorter in duration. They separate faster because Mercury's motion is opposite to the apparent motion of the Sun. In another five days it again becomes visible on the other side of the Sun, the West, when as the Morning Star it appears before sunrise as a slender crescent, but turned in the opposite direction.

Second Station: Another six days and it again becomes stationary, in preparation to resume its direct, or re-direct motion.

Maximum Brilliance as Morning Star: Some fifteen days later it is reduced to a broad crescent and is again at its brightest, now as a morning star.

Emerges from Retrograde Arc: As it advances beyond the degree of its First Station it leaves the retrograde arc and enters territory over which it will not retrograde during this cycle.

Greatest Elongation West: Although no longer in retrograde it has not yet accelerated to the extent that it equals the Sun's motion, hence it continues to increase behind the Sun in elongation and elevation for some ten or twelve days to the point of greatest elevation West just before it commences its gibbous phase.

Smallest Phase: Some seven months later, about fifteen days before the superior conjunction, it has decreased in visible size until it appears as a small but fully illuminated disc of less than one-third the diameter it had at its brightest phase. Then comes the next superior conjunction and invisibility, completing one cycle from one superior conjunction to the next.

Venus' motion is entirely similar, although the intervals are longer. Where the Mercury sidereal period is approx. 88 d. and its synodic period is 116 d. the Venus orbit of 225 days has a synodic period of 584 days.

The cycle of the major planets is not greatly different, except that at the opposition, the Sun and the planet arc on opposite sides of the Earth. Figure 2, a comparative illustration of the motion of Venus as an inside planet and Mars as an outside planet, in reference to the motion of the Earth, facilitates a ready understanding of the relationship of the orbits which produces the phenomenon known as retrograde motion.

While the Inferior Conjunctions with a minor planet, and the oppositions to a major planet always occur during the retrograde; the similarity ceases when gravitation is considered, since at the opposition of the major planet the Earth is in between, hence the planet and the Sun are exercising a gravitational pull upon the Earth from opposite sides; while at both conjunctions of a minor planet the gravitational pull from the Sun and the planet are always in the same direction.

It is generally considered that a transiting planet is more likely to develop its negative qualities when it is in retrograde. That it is turning back for a recheck of ground already covered need not necessarily be bad, except for the fact that the future is held in abeyance. Some people look upon any delay as a tragedy, but the real difference has to do with whose neck is in the noose when the postponement of execution is decreed. In some cases it may mean only a temporary delay that is compensated for when the planet resumes its direct motion.

This proximity of Mars to the Earth may be one of the most important of considerations, since it considerably augments the strength of its reception -- what the radio engineer calls signal strength. Wilson speaks of Mars Retrograde as Mars perigee, and attributes to it a wave of robberies, vicious murders and calamities. At the Sun-Mars opposition of August 1924 Mars was closer to the Earth than it had been for 800 years.

It should be found, however, that the period of slower motion and of increasing intensity when the transiting planet is approaching its First Station, and of slower but accelerating motion after it passes its Second Station, are important arcs, because any birth planet which falls within the arc over which the transiting planet will retrograde will receive three separate and successive accents, of the combined nature of the radical and the transiting planet.

When Mars in transit retrogrades over a birth Saturn position, it means that this is already the second transit of Mars over the birth Saturn position, and that when it resumes Redirect motion there will occur a third contact. If a contact can be expected to crystalize into an event, then three contacts can mean three events. Even if one resists the temptations, three are certainly worse than one -- particularly three slow ones that linger and thus burn more deeply. There is the further and important consideration of declination to be taken into account, and a parallel of Latitude reinforcing the first or third contact may render one of them more effective even than the retrograde contact. Thus it would appear that the impor- tant differentiation of a transiting planet's influence requires the dividing of its apparent orbit into two arcs: that over which the planet will traverse but once, and that which it will traverse three times in one cycle. These two arcs might be termed the Arc of Advance, and the Arc of Retrograde. This distinction emphasizes the fact that it is not merely the slow motion of the Retrograde which is involved, or the matter of replacing steps over territory previously traversed, but that there will be three separate contacts with each degree within the Arc of Retrograde, as compared to one brief contact with each degree within the Arc of Advance.

The Arc of Retrograde is thus marked by four points: (a) the Pre-First-Station point at which the arc begins, when it first passes the degree which later marks the Second Station; (b) the First Station, where the motion turns Retrograde; (c) the Second Station, where the motion turns direct; and (d) the Post-Second-Station point, where the arc ends, marked by the passing of the degree of the First Station.

A further consideration is in the fact that with the major planets the opposition to the Sun occurs always in the middle of the Arc of Retrograde, while the conjunction occurs in the middle of the Arc of Advance. Also, that at the opposition the Earth is nearer to the planet, by the length of the diameter of its own orbit. This is for the reason that at any planet's opposition to the Sun, the Earth is between that planet and the Sun: while at the conjunction the Earth is on the far side of the Sun opposite the planet.

In the case of the minor planets, the Earth never passes between them and the Sun, hence they never oppose the Sun. However, the Superior conjunction which occurs when the earth and the planet are on opposite sides of the Sun, falls in the middle of the Arc of Advance, and the Inferior Conjunction, when the planet passes between the Earth and the Sun, is midway in the Arc of Retrograde.

Modern students take these various factors into consideration in analyzing the influence of a transiting planet in different portions of its orbit, and in different relationships to the position of the Earth in its orbit.

By way of illustrating the Retrograde Arc, the data on two cycles of Mars is given:


Enters Arc194510-0314°CA06'     194711-03 18°LE06'
First Station SR194712-05LE14'     19481-09VI36'
Second Station SD     19462-2214°CA06'3-30 18°LE06'
Leaves Arc4-30LE14'6-05VI36'


See also:
♦ Station ♦ Retrograde Motion ♦ Retrograde Application ♦ Retrograde Shadow ♦ Shadow Point ♦ Stationary ♦ Burn Rate ♦ Antisedentia ♦ Disjoining ♦ Application ♦ Mutual Application ♦ Direct ♦ Void of Course ♦ Refranation ♦ Mutual Application
Retrograde Application [DeVore]

Said of a planet which during and by virtue of its retrograde motion is applying to an aspect with another planet; or of two planets, both in retrograde motion, which nevertheless are applying to an aspect to each other.


See also:
♦ Applying Aspect ♦ Aspect ♦ Mutual Application
Retrograde Motion [Astro*Index]

The apparent westerly or backward motion of a planet relative to the fixed stars, as viewed from the Earth. This is caused by the different speeds of the planets in their orbits, and can be likened to the apparent backward motion of a car one's own vehicle is passing. All planets appear retrograde when their orbits bring them closest to the Earth. Planets outside of the Earth's orbit (except Mars) retrograde 4-5.5 months each year when the Earth is between them and the Sun (in opposition to the Sun). Mars retrogrades for an average of 10.5 weeks in a mean cycle of 25.5 months. Inner planets, Mercury and Venus retrograde when their orbits place them between the Earth and the Sun. Venus retrogrades for 6 weeks every 19+ months, and Mercury retrogrades 3 times per year for approximately 3 weeks.


See also:
♦ Fixed Stars ♦ Direct Motion ♦ Geocentric
Retrograde Motion [Prima]

All planets revolve around the Sun, from west to east. This is called direct motion. However, due to the rotation of the Earth on its axis and the fact that each of the planets travels at a different speed, the planets sometimes appear gradually to slow down, stop, and reverse direction. When a planet moves in this reverse direction, it is said to be retrograde. When a planet appears to be motionless, it is at its "station" and is said to be stationary.

Retrograde motion is a kind of optical illusion caused by the viewing point (geocentric) and the motion of the planets involved. All of the planets appear to be in retrograde motion at one time or another (except for the Sun and the Moon, which are never retrograde).

When a planet does go retrograde, its principles are said to be more introverted and less easily express- ed. During Mercury-retrograde periods, for example, communication problems and information mixups are legendary. But a planet's retrograde period can also be seen as offering an opportunity to review the va- rious themes or issues associated with that planet, and Mercury-retrograde periods can thus also be use- ful times for rethinking old ideas.

The length of the planets' retrograde periods varies considerably:


Retrograde Periods in days (appr.)


See also:
♦ Fixed Stars ♦ Direct Motion ♦ Geocentric
Retrograde Motion [Munkasey M.]

The apparent backwards movement of a body inzodiacal longitude. This is due to the fact that the Earth is relatively moving faster than the body during this period.


See also:
♦ Fixed Stars ♦ Direct Motion ♦ Geocentric
Retrograde Shadow [Astro*Index]

The section of the zodiac traversed by a planet while in its retrograde mode.


See also:
♦ Retrograde Motion ♦ Zodiac


Astro*Index Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine