However, in astrology, the significance of a retrograde is much deep and complex than just an apparent motion. Astronomically, retrogrades happen as Earth is passing or being passed by other planets.
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Like the apparent movement of the sun through the zodiac, a planet seemingly moving backward is an illusion, as planets always revolve around the sun in the same direction. The appearance of retrograde motion occurs because of the relative difference in speed. It's something like when you're sitting at a stop light and the car next to you takes off unexpectedly—you may find yourself stomping down on the brakes because of a temporary feeling of moving backward.
Similarly, it's when planets are at their closest approach to Earth that apparent retrograde motion occurs. In short, retrograde motion is an illusory side-effect of planetary proximity. And retrograde motion is not simply a matter of moving backward.
The Ruling Planets
Before and after the retrograde proper, planets actually perform wide looping forays from the ecliptic where their motion varies as much in the vertical dimension as the horizontal. There are eight basic shapes these loops assume, depending on the relationship between the location of the particular retrograde and the location of the planet's nodes the places where the planet's orbit intersects Earth's orbit, or the ecliptic plane.
Astrologically, when we try to understand the meaning of a planet moving backward, the first thing to note is that it's a fairly rare occurrence. The vast majority of planetary motion is direct, so direct becomes "normal. Their direct, blunt approach is most obvious in bed. But, they are not usually patient when sex gets too intricate or serious. Mars in Sagittarius can be a little hard to understand. Sometimes they seem to be the most easy-going of people—they love a good joke and a good time.
Other times they are on fire—intense and impassioned about something or other. They abhor anything that fences them in.
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They need to feel like they have space. When these people argue, they can too easily pick up a moralistic stance that drives everyone around them crazy. More likely than not, however, they jump off their high horse sooner than later, and get back to having fun. Mars in Sagittarius is used to getting their way and persuading others to believe what they believe in. This is when these normally fun-loving people get frustrated.
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See also the Sexuality of Mars in Sagittarius. With fiery Mars in the more orderly sign of Capricorn, natives with this position have a subdued and controlled style of approaching life.
Mars in Capricorn natives like to be on top of things. They are generally goal-oriented and focused people who are not afraid of hard work. Anger is expressed in a rather cool, level-headed way with this position of Mars. Self-control is strong when it comes to expressing anger, drive, energy, and sexuality. Capricorn is a sign that detests waste of any kind. With Mars in Capricorn, there is generally a powerful need to stay in control.
This is not to say that natives of this position are cold in any sense of the word. With Mars in an Earth sign, sensuality is expressed in an earthy way. However, unlike Mars in Taurus, for example, another earth sign , Mars in Capricorn is not self-indulgent by nature. These people are usually quite disciplined.
Capricorn possesses the ability to plan for the future—something that many other signs have difficulty doing. Mars in Capricorn natives are working toward realistic and attainable goals. They are productive people who get off when they see tangible results from their efforts.
Many natives with this position are a little hard on themselves, and sometimes others. They usually can be relied upon because they have an innate sense of responsibility to both themselves and to those they care about. Most of them are very hard-working, and one of their strategies for anger management is to throw themselves even more energetically into their work!
See also the Sexuality of Mars in Capricorn. It can be a little difficult to understand exactly what makes a Mars in Aquarius native tick. The tried-and-true methods of getting things done are far too boring for those born with Mars in this unique and original sign.
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Mars in Aquarius natives often have a rather original view of the world as well. These natives are generally quite proud of their independence. They are not easily pushed around with Mars in this fixed sign. Because Aquarius is progressive and open-minded when it comes to the world at large, it can be surprising that on a personal level, Mars in Aquarius natives can be quite obstinate. If they feel boxed in, they are quite likely to rebel.
With Mars, the planet of energy and drive, in an Air sign , these individuals get off on mental and intellectual pursuits. Projects are taken on with a shotgun-style approach with this position of Mars. Without accomplishing this step, many of the techniques and characteristics of the art seem random and disconnected.
However, once the philosophical and structural systems of astrology have been properly explained, the interconnectedness of the entire art is much more apparent and easier to appreciate. Before that can happen, it is necessary to re-envision the structure of the universe. While science has shown us that the Earth revolves around the Sun which revolves around the center of our galaxy, astrology sees it quite differently. Astrologers consider the geocentric universe that the Sun and other planets revolve around the Earth to be a more practically useful picture.
To be clear, this is not a form of science denial.
Planets In Retrograde: Meanings & More
The two worldviews are not entirely mutually exclusive as heliocentrism with the Earth revolving around the Sun is objective, yet geocentrism is a more accurate representation of our subjective experience from our location in the universe. It is this experience that astrology seeks to explain and that astrological charts depict.
Visible cosmology is a significant component of the medieval universal model. This visible cosmology is the order of the cosmos that can be ascertained with the unaided human eye. While it is clear that there are an innumerable amount of bodies beyond these listed, it is important to remember that the word "planet" originated as a differentiation between stars that appeared to move independently and those that appeared to move as a collective. While this definition has changed to better fit with the current objective viewpoint, it is important to remember its origins and Earth-based beginnings.
The faster moving planets were considered to be closer to the Earth, while those that moved slower were thought of as being further away. The Moon, for example, stays in a sign of the zodiac for only about two and a half days, and was considered the closest planet to the Earth.
Saturn, by contrast, stays in a sign for about two and a half years, placing him furthest from our position on the Earth. The planets were then placed in concentric spheres where superior spheres completely enveloped those below them. Saturn's sphere enveloped Jupiter's, Jupiter's contained Mars's, etc, all the way down to the Earth which was the center that these other spheres revolved around.
The image below is a diagram showing this system. The Sublunar Sphere.
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Before discussing the planetary spheres, it is best to divert our attention back home. The Earth and the space immediately adjacent to it the atmosphere constituted a special place in medieval cosmology that was called the "sublunar sphere"; the sphere beneath the Moon. This sphere had several special properties that distinguished it from the celestial spheres of the planets.
The most significant of these features is that generation and corruption could occur on Earth, but did not occur in the heavens. Beings could be born, grow, diminish, and die on Earth which served a stark contrast to the ever-present and continuously moving planets and stars.
The sublunar sphere also contains the four classical elements earth, water, air, and fire.