Retrogrades and Retroshades

Retrogrades and Retroshades

by Sasha Boyle

When navigating your own life’s journey, do you believe forward movement is the only good direction to go? The patterns of nature from the cycle of our breath to the movement of the planets consistently remind us of the value in moving in and out, up and down, forwards and backwards. It’s a deeply rooted sentiment in the 21st century human experience to assign value only to forward action, but perhaps there is value in other directions as well!  

In working with retrograde cycles there is an opportunity to cultivate the art of going deep. A chance to help heal and eradicate the cultural obsession with only feeling productive when active and assertive. To study the spin of celestial bodies, their direction, speed and location is not just astrological theory—it is an astrology practice. One that can be a joyously free therapeutic behavioral technique. 

“Artists, mark me: Don’t try to get better; get deeper.”

-Jerry Saltz, Art Critic


The luminaries, our Sun and Moon, are always in direct motion, shining their light forward in time and space. This forward motion is known as prograde and it is so dependable, you can set a watch to it! The others – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto spend most of their time prograde, but they do take a breather and ‘go retrograde’ from time to time. The cycles of retrograde for these planets have an observable pattern to them, but each retrograde has its own distinct personality. 

A retrograde planet is as close on its path as it gets to the earth and is therefore brighter and more visible, commanding our attention upwards.  This off-planet call is perhaps one to go inward before going out, and asks for a different expression of energy. As the planet slows down it begins to look like it’s looping in the sky, but this is not actually a reversing of the orbital direction. In fact, the reflection of Earth’s motion creates an optical illusion of a reversing planet. 

It’s helpful for me to think of a planet’s retrograde as a time when the planet slows down and makes a u-turn to reverse course, I can almost hear the beep beep beep of a truck backing up now!  Because we can often feel like we are reversing direction when a planet stations retrograde though and it’s like we are cosmically called to slow down, dive deep and revisit the themes of the planet retrograding in the area of our natal chart that the retrograde is occurring in. 

“Retrogrades want us—I always say the rule of Re’s. Review, reassess, reaffirm, recalibrate. It’s about reflecting back. And in order to really have consistent progress, we need to look back at what we’ve done, what isn’t working, what is working, and kind of let the wisdom of time inform us.”

– Astrologer Jessica Lanyadoo

But did you know there are planetary shadow periods (retroshades) before and after the actual retrograde? If you’re feeling tech glitches and communication barriers leading up to, and after a Mercury retrograde, for example, this is totally normal. Why? Retroshade.


The Libra/Virgo Mercury retrograde of 2022 begins on August 22, 2022, when the planet of commerce, communication and travel arrives at 26° Virgo. This is its pre-retrograde Retroshade, the shadow period when Mercury begins to slow down. From August 22 to September 9, 2022, Mercury travels from 26° Virgo to 9° Libra and whatever complicates life in this time frame in this area of your chart is a heads up for what may present itself to you during the retrograde period (September 10 – October 2).


Mercury stations retrograde on September 9, 2022 and appears to make a u-turn, moving backwards through the zodiacal degrees from 9° Libra to 26° Virgo. During this retrograde, pictured above as the mustard yellow line, classic Mercury retrograde antics may occur like delays, recurrences, or reversals of events. What will the trickster have in store for you? On October 2, 2022 Mercury stations Direct and moves prograde from 26° Virgo to 9° Libra. Wait, this seems familiar weren’t we just here? Yes! Yes we were. 


This is the post retrograde Retroshade, October 2 – October 16, Mercury’s third pass in these degrees and a time of retracing steps forward through the zodiacal degrees continuing the process of revising. The Retroshade is over when Mercury moves beyond the degree it was when the Retrograde began, in this case 9° Libra, where Mercury stationed retrograde. 

Mercury is now renewed and equipped with a new mission from the Sun, enriched and empowered from the deep reflection available in this natural process. Be sure to read more of the Mercury Retrograde process in an article coming soon! 

What about the other planets? How often do the planets retrograde? 

  • Mercury retrogrades 2-3 times a year
  • Venus retrogrades every 18 months
  • Mars retrogrades every 2 years
  • Jupiter retrogrades every 9 months
  • Saturn retrogrades about every 12 months
  • Uranus, Neptune and Pluto retrograde every year

The farther out in space from the Sun a planet gets, the larger the retroshade is. By the time we are not using the personal planets and are at Pluto, the retroshade of one year overlaps the retroshade of the next year. 

“Everything in life cannot and is not always forward movement. We have defined retrogrades by what they are not rather than what they are.”

– Lesley Francis, Astrologer the field of astrology, each astrologer handles retrogrades differently. From a horary astrologer’s perspective, a retrograde is a slow and weakened position of a planet, like reversing a car or walking backwards; there is a heightened air of risk about it.  From a vedic astrologer’s perspective, retrograde is a time of karmic clean up where the planet has a very strong presence that demands our tending to. Contemporary astrologers tend to believe retrogradation does not affect a planet’s influence as much as it makes the planet a better match to more specialized situations because multiple storylines are interacting simultaneously. Even though the astrologers handle retrogrades differently in their symbolism, we know it is a time worth noting and charting within our own experience of our own birth chart. 


Knowing what house a retrograde is occurring in your own natal chart is a technique worth exploring in your healing journey. Here is a nifty Wise Skies tool that can help you plot that course 🙂 ! In the retrograde example above, we passed the same path three times.  This is helpful to keep in mind as we, in real time, observe the unique transits a retrograde will bring, especially between a personal planet (Mercury, Venus, Mars) and an outer planet (Juptier, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto). 

We often hear communication issues are a part of Mercury retrograde, but what themes tend to reappear with the other planets?

Sasha Boyle

Astrologer Sasha Boyle facilitates creativity focusing retreats using the power and momentum of Mercury retrogrades in her annual Creativity eShrams. She is a contributing Author to The Creativity Workbook for Coaches and Creatives and Transformational Journaling for Coaches, Therapists, and Clients. You can join Sasha’s mailing list and read her work here.

Tiffany Harelik