Updated: Jul 14, 2019
How often have I heard someone cry out, “My computer crashed and I lost all of my files! Mercury must be retrograde!”
(this article was originally published in The Elephant Journal and was just edited and updated).
Mercury retrograde has long been blamed for so much: communication breakdowns, loss of data, mixed messages, computer failures, printer malfunctions and other communication related problems.
Are these events coincidence, or simply an easy way to blame some unforeseen universal force? Or is it something else?
This is part one of series of articles that will explain retrograde Mercury and other retrograde planets. Their potential impact in the horoscope, and how retrograde planets can influence our life experience at its very core.
First, let’s define the astronomical term retrograde as it relates to the planets. When a planet goes retrograde it seemingly appears to change direction when viewed from earth.
The key part of this last sentence is as viewed from earth or from a geocentric perspective and how we view planets from earth. All retrograde phases are created from an illusion by the march of planets around the Sun, as viewed from earth.
Thousands of years ago when the ancient Rishis of India were divining the system of Jyotish (Vedic Astrology) they observed closely the movements of planets in the night sky. Retrograde planets appeared incredibly bright to the naked eye as viewed from earth, as they still do today. That is because retrograde planets are actually closer to earth during this phase. The brightness, or magnitude and implied speed conveys their strength and their influence upon us.
It is this power that affects our lives and our karmas as seen through the lens of the ancient Indian astrological science of Jyotish or Vedic Astrology.
Are retrograde planets really that important?
From the Eastern spiritual philosophy, we have many lifetimes. Retrograde planets are a keystone in the horoscope that point to our souls objectives in this lifetime. They also show where we have significant karma, and tremendous desire that will be experienced.
“We are desire. It is the essence of the human Soul, the secret of our existence. Absolutely nothing of human greatness is ever accomplished without it. Not a symphony has been written, a mountain climbed, an injustice fought, or a love sustained apart from desire. Desire fuels our search for the life we prize.” ~ John Elderidge.
So, what does it mean when a planet is retrograde in a horoscope?
Before I answer this question there are a few key astronomical facts to consider: Sun and Moon never go retrograde. Rahu and Ketu (the north and south nodes of the Moon) are always retrograde. Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn all experience an apparent retrograde phase.
What are Rahu and Ketu, and why are they so important? Rahu and Ketu are shadow planets. Technically they don’t exist, but that is a story for another day.
Originally they were just a single entity, an Asura or serpent. In other words, celestial beings that are considered to be somewhat selfish as they are constantly battling with the Devas (divine beings) for control of the universe!
They tricked the Devas and snatched the Amrita (the nectar of immortality) and managed to drink one drop before they were cast out forever by Vishnu. Since the Asura had already drank the drop of Amrita, they became immortal, albeit in two halves since Vishnu threw his discus and cut them off at the neck before casting them out.
In the horoscope, Rahu (north node) is the head and Ketu (south node) is the tail. Rahu has a head and a mouth but he has no stomach. He can never get full and therefore has unquenchable desire. And wherever he is in the horoscope signifies this phenomenal desire in our lives.
Conversely Ketu has no head but instead has just a heart. He is mostly concerned with moksha (spirituality) and he is very detached. Ketu is completely the opposite of Rahu. Furthermore, Rahu and Ketu are always directly opposite one another in the horoscope.
Together, Rahu and Ketu are archetypes of the polarities that we all face in our lives.
Is it to be a spiritually focused life (Ketu), or is the emphasis on material gain (Rahu)?
Do we have to first experience Rahu in our horoscope to get to Ketu and spiritual liberation/peace of mind?
Can’t we have both in a balanced harmonious way? How might Rahu and the retrograde planets in our horoscope light the way and help us answer these questions?
Rahu is doubly important because of his full-time retrograde status. He becomes the leader of all retrograde planets in the chart—a little like the Pied Piper of the retrograde planets.
Check out part two of this series, where we will explore the key meanings of the planets, as well as how a retrograde planet in the karmic pattern of the horoscope can influence us directly and why they are so important.
Learn about the retrograde planet in your birth chart - schedule a consultation with Pamela. today