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Retrograde Planets and Your Karma

When planets are in retrograde it is an opportunity for us to grow and resolve karma. This article is about how to interpret the karmic lesson!

At the time of this article being written, there are five major planets in retrograde (Rx) with a 6th (Mercury) preparing to enter very soon. So I want to take a moment to explain how retrogrades manifest differently in the natal chart than in transit.

First, to clarify how they function in transits. A retrograde transit is an opportunity to release accumulated karma. The energy of the planet is directed inward, towards self relation, rather than outward towards expansion. The reason people feel off during a retrograde is largely because our culture does not take the opportunity to dig up our past. 

There is an attitude of, “what’s done is done”. In some cases this is true and is a good mindset to have but, not in the case of karma. It literally will keep showing up again and again until it has been “corrected” for lack of a better term. 

If you desire to know more after reading this article, a great book which dives deep into Retrogrades is Karmic Astrology: Retrogrades and Reincarnations by Martin Schulman.

Retrogrades in the Natal Chart

Would you be surprised to hear me say it was karmic? When an individual is born with a retrograde planet, and most individuals have at least one, it is tied to their past life karma. The karmic lesson is connected to whichever planets are Rx at time of birth. 

Now don’t go around flaunting your singular Rx planet thinking it means you’re holier than the person with three or four. It just means in this lifetime you are focusing on whatever lessons are associated with that planet. It’s possible you have more karma associated with that area of life. Because of that, your soul choose to devote a whole lifetime to focusing entirely on those karma lessons.

For example, if your Venus is in Rx. It’s likely you mishandled a romantic or business relationship in a past life. The emphasis on this life is to work through whatever was unresolved. The specific karmic act could be anything under the sun. Since you are born with no past life knowledge, you get the joy of a total makeover.

There are many energetic qualities that manifest with an Rx planet. Extending the Venus example, this individual is going to experience constricted sexual expression. They will feel less open in relationships and tend to get hung up on one person for a long time. On average they have fewer romantic partnerships. Men especially are less likely to sleep around and be more devoted to a single partner. Venus Rx tends to make all relationships more serious when in the natal chart. This is because of how the mental state shifts. 

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Image by Gordon Johnson

Energetic Shifts in Retrograde

An Rx planet in the natal chart causes an individual to internalize the Rx process of the planet. For planets, they are first “direct” where they move forward in the night sky. Then they go stationary, where they appear to have stopped moving. Lastly, they go retrograde where they appear to be moving backwards. Oh, and in case you didn’t already know, they don’t actually move backwards. It just appears that way from our place here on Earth..

For the individual, this process becomes the way they interact with the world. First they will expand outward and seek out new experiences. Then they will go through a process of integration. Lastly, they will go through a process of reflection, where they work to pick up anything they may have missed. 

The more planets they have in Rx, the more unusual this person may appear to the outside world. Energetically they are functioning very differently. For those with the same planet not in Rx, they are in a state of constant expansion. The process of introspection may never come unless they consciously choose it. For the Rx individual, introspection is a natural quality.

There are some other benefits too. Individuals with an Rx planet, seem to not be thrown off as much when that planet in transit goes Rx. Sometimes it is even a relief because it’s like the rest of the world is starting to act the way they always do. This is because the energy of the planet is expressing itself the same way the soul internalized it at birth.

Retrograde in Houses

The lessons of an Rx planet are modified by the sign and house it is in. This gives us another clue as to what the individual is resolving from their past life. Rx Venus in the 2nd house individual is more likely to have their issues pertain to business partnerships and money. The same Rx Venus individual with the planet in the 7th house, is having this pop-up in their romantic relationships.

Similar to a direct planet, the house will tell us where the energy is manifesting. The Rx individual will have this area of their life more activated, in regards to introspection and integration. The Rx planet will still color their whole chart through the aspects it makes, but they’re less likely to have it appear in areas unrelated to the house, planet or sign.

Retrograde in Signs

Here we have different steps of the process emphasized. Some signs do better with the expansion part of the Rx process. Others are more adept at introspection. Even more, some planets harmonize with every stage! An example of this is Rx Mercury in Aquarius. 

Not every sign functions well in Rx. On a positive note, the stage the sign functions best in tends to be where the most time is spent (the Rx process is internalized, not necessarily mirrored). If a sign benefits most from expansion, then this is the area where the individual will function from most often. Inevitably they will go through the other stages and during this time may appear unfamiliar to others.

As with normal zodiac incarnations, the lessons that appear are dependent on the sign. More often than not, the zodiac sign tells us what issue went unresolved. Let’s round out the Venus example. If an individual has a Rx Scorpio Venus in the 7th house we can infer in a past life they:

  • Were entangled in a passionate romantic relationship (7th)
  • Which ended in a tragic way they never got over (Scorpio)
  • And influenced every relationship they had after that (Venus)

Obviously this example is incredibly broad. However, without a full natal chart it is misleading to make incredibly specific interpretations. What we do know is this individual is having to resolve the relationship of a previous life. They may not have even done anything people usually associate with “karma”. The lesson here is they can’t let go of the experience which is causing it to replay in their next life.

In Conclusion

Learning how to interpret retrogrades in the natal chart will give deep insight into your readings. Although, it is very much a study in its own right. The nuance between an Rx planet and its Direct counterpart can leave you confused and misinformed. Make sure you have a grasp on both the normal function of a planet and its Rx function before you start making inferences.

Similarly, you can always go to a professional to gain a deeper understanding of Rx functions. Doing so can save you time and energy in addition to providing you with valuable self awareness. My best wishes go out to you and I hope you take advantage of any future retrogrades!

To my fellows, may your seeking be fruitful and your findings bountiful!

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