I’ll admit, for better or for worse, that I tend not to care very much about Retrogression of planets in the birth chart. Of course, it is a significant factor in my calculation of the planets ability to have impact (“It’s a part of ṣaḍ-bāla,” for those familiar with Indian calculations), but I don’t get much out of changing my interpretations because of retrogression. I’ve just found it more accurate not to.
First of all, let’s issue a disclaimer that I am talking specifically about retrogression in the birth chart. Retrogression and Station in Transits, and Solar Return (varśaphal) is a whole different topic, obviously important.
But I’m interested to discuss how Retrogression might be useful to read finer details of the symbolism.
My basic theory is that the direction and speed of a planet indicates the direction the “energy” of the planet “flows.” If that direction is towards something unusual, then the astrologer should take note of it, and modify the usual interpretation accordingly.
For example, if a planet is Retrograde in the very early degrees of a sign, it indicates an effort to return to the previous house/sign. I have seen this be accurate (or at least very useful) in the several horoscopes I have encountered it in. This type of planet will be using its energy for the sake of achieving something indicated by the house/sign its trying to return too. Of course the main, normal interpretation should apply, but modify/add this extra information to it.
Moving forward in the late degrees of a sign might mean a similar thing. Being stationary at the cusp (ascendant’s degree) or at the end or beginning of a house might also mean something interpretable in a similar way. Moving towards or notably away from a planet might also mean something recognizable.
I say “might” because, for me, they are untested theories.
Say that Saturn and Venus are in close conjunction, and Saturn is at the earlier degree but is retrograde. This means Saturn is moving away from the conjunction, “avoiding” it. To give an example of a possible way to apply the theory: perhaps it indicates that grief will approach the marriage, but fall away, unable to overtake it.
This is my working theory of how to begin more fully exploring the symbolism of the birth chart, taking retrogression into account. I think its a theory worth testing and refining and working with.
There are other theories that are more general. The one’s I’ve encountered are:
- The idea that retrogression reverses the inherent character of the planet. IE a benefic becomes malefic and visa versa. This seems awfully dramatic to me. I’d really need to be convinced that this is a reasonable theory.
- The idea that retrogression strengthens the planet. That’s completely acceptable, but its already factored into the ṣaḍ-bāla calculation, so it might be overkill to consider it twice.
- The idea that retrogression indicates rebelliousness. Seems reasonable, but I haven’t carefully scrutinized the idea in practice.
- BPHS indicates that retrogression (along with position in the sign) has some affect on the timing of the “busy period” of a planets daśā.
Whatever the theory, I think its important not to focus everything on retrogression. Such there are a few planets retrograde in the chart, it doesn’t mean its a chart from outer space aliens. Just read the chart as you would read any chart, and then refine that basic interpretation with the extra information you can get by considering the significance of retrogression.
What I particularly like about the theory I suggested in this post is that it allows some retrogression to be unimportant — if a planet’s retrogression doesn’t involve it moving notably towards or away something nearby — and that seems to be an important match to the reality of reading birth charts: in a lot of cases the retrogression makes no super important difference. But in some cases it really does. Since this theory accommodates that, I like it.
Please feel free to experiment with it.