Past Mars, the planets are retrograde for months on end, and the whole matter becomes unimportant. Most of the time, there's no reason to get bent out of shape about retrograde planets beyond Mars.
I recommend paying attention to the retrograde motion of the outer planets under only two circumstances:
1 When five or six planets are retrograde at once. Those are times when new endeavors inch forward at glacial speed. How do you know when planets are retrograde? I regret to say that this book can't help you. But any good astrological calendar can. The best ones are Llewellyn's Astrological Calendars (I'm partial to the Daily Planetary Guide) and the Celestial Guide and Celestial Influences calendars published by Jim Maynard.
1 When a planet turns retrograde or direct right on top of (or opposite to) your birth planet. For instance, if Saturn (or any other planet) goes retrograde at 10° Leo and you happen to have a planet right there, you can expect to suffer the consequences. A problem from the past, something you thought was totally over, could arise. You'll have to contend with the same issues all over again. Your best and only move, taking your cue from Saturn, is to face reality.
Retrograde Mercury, Venus, and Mars in the birth chart
Years ago, I was under the impression that when a planet was retrograde, its energy was weakened. I changed my opinion when I noticed that some of the smartest, most articulate people I know have Mercury retrograde in their birth charts, as do some of my favorite writers — icons like M. F. K. Fisher, Robert Frost, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Henry Miller, Philip Roth, Dylan Thomas, and J. R. R. Tolkien. Clearly, Mercury retrograde in a birth chart doesn't negate the ability to communicate. Rather, it bends your intellect inward, deepens it, increases your need for reflection, causes greater concern about exactly how you're communicating, and makes you a more independent and contemplative thinker. My guess is that writers with Mercury retrograde spend more time mulling things over and revising than other writers.
If you have retrograde Venus in your birth chart, you may be shy, uncertain, and hesitant to express affection, especially around potential partners. Romance isn't a lighthearted romp for you — much as you wish it were. It's complex and problematic, a matter for serious reflection, and as a result, you may hold yourself back in romantic situations. But don't despair. Venus retrograde doesn't deny romance. It merely slows it down. For instance, I know a good-hearted man with Venus retrograde who married a woman from another country — but never lived with or slept with her — simply to help her get a visa. He later found his true love — and his first "wife" was a guest at his second wedding.
Retrograde Mars makes an issue of aggression by forcing you to acknowledge your anger and focus it constructively. Some people with a retrograde Mars — Lizzie Borden comes to mind — never find a way to do this. Others succeed triumphantly. This list of world-class warriors speaks for itself: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Billie Jean King, Jesse Jackson, and Martin Luther King, Jr. They all have Mars retrograde.
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