by Estelle Daniels
In most astrological ephemerides and almanacs, there is a section detailing planetary stations. If you look in an ephemeris, you can occasionally see an R or D with a planet on certain days. What are those and how can you use them?
Our solar system consists of the sun with the planets revolving around the sun. We live upon the Earth, which revolves around the sun. The Earth has a satellite, called the Moon which revolves around the Earth. To observers on Earth, it is not apparent that all this revolves around the sun. That wasn't officially discovered until around 1514 (but some societies had figured it out before then—it just never got widely disseminated.). Because we are revolving around the sun, along with the other planets, it creates an optical illusion, retrograde motion. This occurs when a planet in the sky appears to first slow, then stop and then move backward against the stars. After a time it will again slow, stop and then begin to move forward again. The Sun and Moon never retrograde. All the other planets do.
An analogy is that of two cars on a highway. Both are moving forward, but one is moving faster than the other. The faster one appears to overtake the slower. If you view the cars against the background, the slower car would seem to be moving backward relative to the background. Also we cannot see the curved orbits of the planets, we only see them against the relatively immobile starry background. So Mercury and Venus, which revolve around the sun inside Earth's orbit, only seem to be moving back and forth relative to the sun.
The degrees where a planet turns retrograde (R or Rx) and also turns direct (D), are sensitized degrees. Rather than just passing over that particular degree, the planet actually stops and changes direction there. So that degree is given an extra hit of energy by that planet. It energizes that degree in a way that is similar to an eclipse. The days a planet stations (either retrogrades or turns direct) are high energy days, similar to eclipse days.
How can we take advantage of these energies?
First and easiest is to note the days of these stations. They are emphasized. Things which happen on those days or within a day or two may become prominent or important. Like eclipses they intensify action, and it is best to keep to routine as much as possible, unless you want chaos, change and unexpected surprises, good or bad. The planet is changing gears and the things that the planet rules are about to change direction and focus.
The planet with the most frequent and shortest retrograde period is Mercury. Every four months or so (about three times a year) Mercury stations, goes backward for about three weeks, then stations and moves forward again until the next retrograde. Mercury being the planet of everyday communications and short travel, it can disrupt mail, telephone and cars. It's a good time to get to tasks you have been putting off until a rainy day, clean out closets, answer correspondence that has been piling up etc. It isn't a good time to start anything new, sign any contract, or buy a car or computer. It can cause weird computer problems that clear up after Mercury goes direct. Try to avoid installing new software or a new computer system while Mercury is retrograde. You will be happier with your system in the long run if you wait. Really.
This illustrates the next way to use retrogrades. While each planet is retrograde, its energies are turned inward. You can't see its effects that well, but you can sure feel them. It is also a good time to catch up on old matters in relation to that planet. The outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, retrograde four to five months each year. Their retrograde periods aren't as big a deal as Mercury, Venus and Mars, but they have an effect nonetheless. Retrograde in general tends to rule anything which starts with re- Restart, renew, recall, renovate, recreate etc. The concept of doing over or reviewing is in tune with retrograde energies. If you want to reinforce a spell, use a retrograde period for the planet that rules the matter. Or just Mercury retrograde in general. The things ruled by that planet may not operate as smoothly during retrograde periods, but unexpected ideas, applications and correspondences may spring up. What retrogrades do is offer opportunities to go over, review and change what we have done. We can take a rest, look back, re-evaluate, see what worked and what didn't and then think about plans for the future. Wait for the direct motion to do new things. Retrograde is for finishing up old business.
Keep track of which planets are retrograde, and you can modify your activities accordingly. At the very least, watch out for those days when planets station. I have found they are usually chaotic, rarely go pleasantly, and anything started or signed on those days is screwed up, flawed, or requires some massive changes and revisions.
Third: track stations with respect to your personal horoscope. Just as an eclipse conjunct or opposite a planet or point (within three degrees) energizes and highlights it, the house it's in and the matters and house(s) it rules, so will a station. If Venus stations on your Moon, watch out for romance, some sort of sentimental dealings with your mother, a friend from the past, an ex-spouse etc. to come into your life around the time of the station. The timing may be within a week either side of the station, but something will be highlighted. Find which houses in your natal chart are ruled by the Moon (Cancer) and Venus (Taurus and Libra) in your chart. Matters pertaining to those houses will also be highlighted. The three outermost planets, Uranus Neptune and Pluto have more subtle and less dramatic effect when they station. That's because they move slowly, and retrograde longer, around five months. Just their passage over a degree is enough to cause change. With the station degrees themselves, look only to Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn for dramatic effects.
The stations of Venus and Mars were considered important in the ancient world. Venus stations roughly every 17 months for about 6 weeks. Mars stations roughly every 25 1/2 months for about 2 1/3 months, the least frequent station. People born with retrograde planets, especially Mercury, Venus and/or Mars see the world a bit differently, from inside out so to speak. Retrograde placements in a natal chart can also indicate karmic issues and lessons brought from past lives. A chart with no retrograde planets (less common than it seems) shows a person starting life with a clean slate. But they also have trouble with introspection and retrospection. Times when there are five or more planets retrograde (rare) are times of cosmic looking back, and when people should think about the past and where it can lead us, rather than just blithely moving forward. Take time during retrogrades to sit down and think about things, reflect and evaluate.
Doing work with past lives, history, research, psychometry etc. can be enhanced during a retrograde, especially Mercury. Doing a working to get in touch with the lessons you need to learn, done during a time a retrograde planet in your natal chart is retrograde in the sky (not even in the same degree or sign) can give insight into those issues.
Fourth you can track the entire retrograde cycle. This can manifest in several ways. First as tracking the cycle of the planet from one direct station through station and retrograde to the next direct station or one specific retrograde cycle. Second, you can track each planet as it moves around the entire zodiac from Aries to Pisces and back to Aries, but for Uranus and beyond, that may be more than a lifetime's work. Third, you can track a specific retrograde cycle. This starts before the retrograde station when the planet reaches the degree it will eventually go direct (you have to look ahead), through the slowing of motion, to the retrograde degree, back through the retrograde period, through the direct station and ends when the planet reaches the degree it started retrograde at. I'll Illustrate with Mercury. On January 20, 2001 Mercury hits 15AQ26, the degree of the direct station, it then slows and turns retrograde on February 4, at 0PI47. Then it retrogrades back and makes the direct station on February 25 at 15AQ26. Then it moves forward and hits 0PI47 on March 17, 2001. So the whole cycle lasts about two months. The actual retrograde period is only three weeks, but the cycle is longer than that. With the outer planets this cycle can last the greater portion of a year.
Retrograde is a part of the natural cycle of the planets as we experience them living on Earth. Start becoming aware of retrogrades, and see how their energies work with your magickal activities.