Wait, What Does Retrograde *Actually* Mean And How Do I Get Into Astrology?

When something in my life goes wrong, I blame it on the planets. But is Mercury in retrograde really the cause of all my problems? 

Before I begin, I must confess something. I have and always will be a fiend for jumping on a trend or using a catchphrase before I even research or Google what it means. Great journalist, right? I think it’s a combination of FOMO mixed with the stark reality of ageing and sprinkled with the fact that everyone on the internet has already boarded a train that I know nothing about and so, I must quickly join, shapeshift and blend in based off what I see others say and do. In recent times you might have heard me say my food is ‘bussin’, spotted me search the shops for liquid chlorophyll or most recently and dramatically, blame certain planetary retrogrades for my mood, the fight I had with my fella and the constant misplacement of my iPhone, all because that’s what I think people say is the cause, right?

You don’t even have to regularly read your horoscope to have heard and seen the term retrograde all over the internet. Everyone and their mother is talking about how retrograde periods can affect us all differently and over the past year, it has become a major talking point online. But, to save anyone else from the embarrassment of misusing the linked phrases, receiving odd looks for asking their siblings if they’re in retrograde or cursing astrology for missing the bus, I decided it was time I took a break from trying to fast track my way to the cool kids club. Getting an expert to weight in with some important insights, here is what you should know when it comes to understanding the basics of a planetary retrograde.

Why do we constantly hear people talking about Mercury in retrograde? 

“Mercury is the planet of communication and with Mercury being in retrograde, it means there’s a shift in the energy for us,” explains Lára Phillips, a Berlin-based spiritual advisor and intuitive tarot card reader. “A lot of people are a little bit afraid of Mercury retrogrades because of the classic things that you seen online like technology breaking and misunderstandings with communication. But what we’re really supposed to be doing during Mercury retrogrades is to be holding back slightly, evaluating and reflecting. Because if you think about, in the course of the year we can’t always be acting and moving forward. There has to be a push and pull with the energy, so with the planets appearing like they’re travelling backwards, we too are supposed to be taking a step back and evaluating things like our relationships, our communication with others, caution with what we’re signing and what we’re doing and I think with Mercury retrogrades, it ultimately is positive; it calls for a moment of pause and reflection, it’s just hard to see at the time,” explains Lára.

Is every planetary retrograde the same? 

“Retrogrades take place during different times of year and since they’re linked to the signs they occur in, they’re all different,” notes Lára. “The Mercury retrograde that we had from January 30th earlier this year, that was in the sign Aquarius and so, that brought a lot of change and innovation, as well as shakeups in ideals and individuality. Then, the Mercury retrograde coming at us from May 29th, that’s going to be in the sign Gemini and so, all about personal connections and relationships as well as communication. While the final retrograde of the year, that will begin on September 27th and that will be in the sign Libra, focusing on harmony, partnership and relationships. Therefore you can see that each Mercury retrograde will deal with a different area and topic of life depending on when it falls and this is really important to know when trying to understand and prepare yourself for them,” adds Lára.

How often are planets in retrograde? 

“There are only a couple a year,” explains Lára. “There’s three this year and it really depends on the year at hand. But, what I would say is that it’s not just that time period of retrograde that’s important, it’s also the two weeks before and especially the two weeks after, because you’ll still feel it during those times. So, in total, retrogrades can take up a significant amount of time when they occur, especially when you factor in the pre and post retrograde” adds Lara.

Is there a way we can embrace these retrogrades instead of dreading them? 

“It’s all about preparing yourself. Retrogrades are an excellent time to start journalling and getting the reflection going before they begin so you can prepare your energy, your own mind and self,” Lára says. “But it’s also important to know the elements that they’re coming in. For instance, the next retrograde that we talked about beginning on May 29th, that’s an air sign – Gemini is an air sign and so, that’s going to affect us on an intellectual and mental level. Whereas for example, if the retrograde was coming in on a water sign, let’s say Scorpio season, that would affect us on an emotional level. So, they’re going to hit us differently and similarly so, depending on your own sign and element, if they clash it can be a little bit more tricky, but if it occurs in your element, you might find yourself and more in your element,” says Lára.

Reiterating that preparation is key for smooth sailing during periods of retrograde, she notes that they’re not something that should be feared but instead, welcomed and seen as a moment to stop, reflect and reassess, as well as a time to exercise care. Well, we won’t argue with a little bit more me time and a slower pace every now and again.

Astrology for beginners: Lára’s top 3 tips! 

1. Look at your why!

If you’re curious about astrology, think to yourself ‘why are I getting into this?’ Clarify with yourself why you would want to use astrology and remember it’s all about answering the why first. Maybe it’s curiosity or to learn more about yourself and others, but it’s important to first find the reason for your interest.

2. Start doing your own birth chart 

I think this is an excellent starting point for anyone because your birth chart is really unique to you and will show you a great deal about the planets that are important to you and your life – it can be very eye-opening!

3. Find yourself a local astrologer or tarot reader

Once you’ve done your own birth chart, a local astrologer or tarot reader can guide you further and give you more of an in-depth analysis based on their knowledge of your birth chart. Plus, they’ll be able to answer any questions you might have and give a professional opinion. This is something I’d really recommend doing at the beginning because it’s good to have a grounded basis to help you start your journey.

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