The Gaia 2018 Retrograde Planet Survival Guide

retrograde meta image

“Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear?” ~ Lao Tzu

Astrology can be cryptic and subject to interpretation. That said, there are some celestial conventions you can take to the bank whether you believe or not. Many a skeptic has been swayed by  the effects of Mercury Rx, coming to respect the tiny planet’s power to delay and render well-laid plans null and void. 2018 is a veritable minefield of retrogrades, with five planets in apparent backward motion by August and more coming in the Fall. 

  • Mercury: 26 July to 19 August
    16 November to 6 December
  • Mars: 27 June to 27 August
  • Venus: 5 October to 16 November
  • Saturn: 18 April to 6 September
  • Neptune: 19 June to 25 November
  • Pluto: 22 April to 1 October


What is a Retrograde?

A retrograde is a powerful illusion from our Earthly perspective. The best way to explain it is with a metaphor.

If you’ve ever ridden in a car travelling faster than a train running parallel to the road, you may have noticed that when the car overtakes and passes the train, the train appears to be travelling backwards, with the key word being ‘appears.’

The mind knows that the train isn’t travelling backwards, but the eye perceives it as such. So it is with retrograde planets — if the Earth overtakes and passes another planet in its own orbit, from our geospatial perspective, the other planet appears to be travelling backwards, even though it is still in its true forward motion. Planets do not literally stop and reverse course, but they can appear to.

So we experience this apparent backward planetary track as a retrograde. And while it is simply an optical impression, hindsight shows that there can be profound implications for phenomenal world. In the case of Mercury, which retrogrades three to four times a year, it’s about communication, short-range travel, phones, text messages, snail mail, schedules, and often, agreements and contracts.  Since its impacts are so relevant to everyday life, we’ll start with the messenger god.

Mercury, a.k.a. quicksilver, ruled by the planet Mercury.

Mercury Rx:
26 July to 19 August
16 November to 6 December

“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” The White Rabbit, “Alice in Wonderland”

Mercury retrograde can lead to a deep sense of gratitude and relief when it’s over. When the things we take for granted, like mail, phones, and cars, work smoothly again, it’s gratifying. Three-plus weeks of lost keys, pens and glasses, incorrect instructions, misunderstandings, cancellations and schedule changes, late and cancelled flights, technology malfunctions, MIA snail mail, do-overs, and false starts begin to wear thin. Your calculator app becomes a pathological liar, and your contact list turns into tossed salad. 

Because the Roman god Mercury rules every form of communication, written and spoken, as well as commerce, business, contracts, and technology, those things take the brunt of the backward “illusion.” Tempers grow short and blame is hard to assign, as the trail of breadcrumbs leads nowhere. Try to remember, when dealing with colleagues, friends, and family; this is not about incompetence or intentional sabotage, it’s about Mercury on vacay. Ignore the impulse to place blame. 

Things that have been waiting to break, expire, or go wrong, like mechanical stuff, timing belts and chains, slow tire leaks, library cards, etc. tend to fail when you need them most. You may observe mute screams of frustration  (closed windows) during traffic jams. Don’t stare; they don’t need the provocation.

Things will get back on the rails after Mercury goes direct, but it may take a couple of days. Wait three days, then heave a sigh of relief.

Mercury Rx Don’t List

During the two days before, the entire retrograde period, and three days after, do not:

  • Sign contracts.
  • Buy expensive new modes of transportation. No new cars.
  • Make long term plans.
  • Book airline tickets, unless travel was planned before the retrograde season.
  • Purchase computers, printers, the newest iPhone, etc. — technology. 
  • Forget to proof read every communication, email, text, etc. prior to hitting send. In fact, wait an hour and re-read to be on the safe side.  
  • Make promises.


Here’s the thing with Mercury Rx — hidden or unavailable information will tend to surface during the retrograde and shortly after. If you’ve been eyeing a property with plans to make an offer, wait. If the house has mold or asbestos or needs expensive repairs, you’ll find out by the end of the retrograde.

Mercury Rx DO List

It’s a RE-trograde. Do things that begin with the letters “RE.”

  • Review
  • Reaffirm
  • Reconsider
  • Reality check
  • Rearview mirror — cast a glance.
  • Reassign
  • Reboot
  • Rebound
  • Revoke
  • Recover
  • Reciprocate
  • Reconnect
  • Reconnaissance
  • Reply
  • Recycle
  • Reinforce
  • Reflect
  • Rest

You get the idea. Step back, pause, and review. REsist the impulse to acquire expensive new technology or cars. Take care of yourself, and proofread everything. Kick back, RElax, and let the world turn inside out for a few weeks. That goes double for Virgos and Geminis who are ruled by Mercury.

Watch Astrologer and Scholar Rick Levine explain the purpose, predictions, and philosophy of the study of astrology on this episode of Deep Astrology:

Mars Retrograde 27 June to 27 August

“He who knows when he can fight, and when he cannot, will be victorious.” ~ Sun Tzu

During Mars Rx, the overarching theme is “he who initiates, loses.” Every couple of years (two years, two months to be exact), Mars, named for the Roman god of war, appears to stop for a minute, then shift into reverse for four weeks. The wise — the Steve Jobs, the Warren Buffets, the Oprah Winfreys and Elon Musks — know Mars is making a move many fiscal quarters in advance. These guys and gals pay big quan to get the downlow from the best astrologers in the world. But you don’t have to. Just consult your Gaia Retrograde Planet Survival Guide.

First-world citizens live in aggressively consumerist paradigms and the world’s multinational corporations are continually at war for market share. While you may not see blood on expensive suits, make no mistake — they’re fully engaged in battle, fighting for a bigger slice of their industry pie. Overly simple, but the point is that when Mars goes backwards, so do the best laid campaigns, profit, and growth plans. Add Mercury Rx to the mix (commerce, communications, trade, etc.) and voilà; short-term corporate kryptonite.

The backward-moving Mars energy can throw obstacles on smaller scales as well, from customer services to fulfillment, and like a tornado spawns hail, Mars Rx can provoke nasty fights and arguments. Folks are cranky. Normal energy is depleted and self-doubt is rampant.

Mars rules war, violence, heat, combustion and explosions, as well as metals; iron in particular. Mars’ quality is “forward” like an arrow flying toward the target; he loathes being retrograde. He hates retreat. If he’s unhappy, he can take it out on Earth. Maybe Venus as well; who knows? Scorpio and Aries people, take it extra easy. You could probably use the rest.

Mars Retrograde Don’t List

  • Fight and argue. Don’t take the bait. And if you do, snap outta it and exit as fast as you can. This includes wars. During Mars Rx, the aggressor loses.
  • Don’t invade other countries. Mars was retrograde when the U.S. entered the Vietnam war.
  • File lawsuits. The odds for winning are much reduced, to put it mildly. Don’t file for divorce either. 
  • Initiate new campaigns of any kind. No aggressive “bold” moves.
  • Have elective medical procedures — Mars rules surgery and surgeons, and sharp edges like knives, scissors and scalpels. Any one of those things could be having a bad day during Mars Rx.
  • Don’t try out new barbers and hairstylists. Scissors.
  • Hang around dark alleys in sketchy parts of town.
  • The stars say that entering new  relationships, professional or otherwise, with men you’ve met during the Rx, should be avoided. Likely there are thousands of happy couples that met during Mars Rx, but a small bit of extra wariness could be in order. 
  • Resume relationships with exes or former friends. They can appear out of nowhere. And you’ll remember why you ditched them in the first place.
  • Adopt male pets. They’ll eat your couch.
  • Worry about your libido. It’ll be ok. ‘Nuff said.
  • Commission ironwork. Don’t get the horses shod.
  • Indulge in excessive schadenfreude when somebody who’s got it coming gets it.

Metal knight swords background

Mars Retrograde Do List

  • Be extra-cautious and vigilant. Be careful with razors. Watch out for accidents, and avoid places and events known for violent activity, like little league baseball games. Don’t run with scissors.
  • Compromise. Proactively look for win/win solutions without fussing or fuming.
  • Take time to reassess (there’s that “RE” again) your heart’s burning desires or goals with a willingness to delay conclusions for a few weeks.
  • Be courteous and kind. Brush up on your etiquette. Count to three before speaking.
  • Get your brakes checked.
  • Contemplate the ways you handle anger and self-defense. Mars also rules sex, so you can contemplate that if you like.
  • Expect blowback if you’ve recently wronged or angered another.
  • If you must defend yourself, stall or delay if possible until Mars goes forward again.
  • Exercise to burn off frustration and anger.
Venus fresco in the Temple of Venus, Pompeii, Italy

Venus fresco in the Temple of Venus, Pompeii, Italy

Venus Retrograde:
5 October to 16 November

“Photo beauty gets attention
Then her eye paint’s running down
She’s got a rose in her teeth
And a lampshade crown.

~ Joni Mitchell, “People’s Parties”

The Japanese have cautionary legends about “fox magic.” In essence, one is invited to join the elegant fox spirits for revelry and delight — captivated by their grace and beauty, one enters their world, losing all sense of time and place. But temporal world returns; waking up from the dream of fox magic, one finds oneself  mired in filth, like a badly neglected animal cage, reeking of excrement and humiliation. Welcome to Venus Rx.

Venus, like her Hindu counterpart Lakshmi, rules love, beauty, relationships, partnerships, expensive non-essentials (think precious gems and jewelry), pleasure, and cash. We generally think of her as benevolent, but when she retrogrades every 18 months, she might show her bitchier side — diminished cash flow, relationship betrayals, hedonism sans values, and perhaps some over-indulgence.

When Venus travels backwards, it’s time to review personal and organizational values. Really look — what are our intangible values? And where have we ignored them? Have we acted self-indulgently? If so, Venus may set her mean girls on us. Venus Rx = heartless beauty — la belle dame sans merci. Remember the classic German “Blue Angel” film of 1930? With her beauty and indifference, cabaret singer Lola, played by Marlene Dietrich, leads respectable boy’s school instructor Immanuel Rath down a dark garden path to his personal and professional destruction. He ends up as a disgraced cabaret clown selling naughty postcards, and she cares not a whit. This is the cruelty of the beautiful woman without mercy — the quintessential “mean girl.”

Imagine a former beauty clinging to a prom queen persona with inappropriate makeup and clothing, too much cosmetic surgery etc. — this is the dark side of Venus, who knows that true beauty (values) survives superficial attractiveness, which has a cruelly short shelf life — hard lessons come when we build identities based on fleeting appearances. All is vanity, nothing is fair.

Lovers from the past may appear. Romance may beckon like it will never come again. Investment “opportunities” may claim to be “once-in-a-lifetime.” In the blink of an eye, bank accounts turn upside down. Requested raises are denied. Friends may move to frenemy status. And that makeover didn’t do you any favors. So heed well the Venus Rx dos and don’t list below.

Venus Rx Do List

  • Resist temptation, especially when it comes in the form of luxury items. They might be knockoffs, or could be the purchase that disrupts cashflow in unwelcome ways.
  • Turn to your favorite creative pursuits for gratification (rather than over-indulgence in food, drugs, or shopping). Look to yourself as the source of beauty and value, rather than externally. Write, paint, draw, whatever.
  • Review how you’ve been using cash resources. Do you have items that once beckoned, but are now just one more thing to dust? If you don’t love it, get rid of it.
  • Get rid of clothes you haven’t worn in a couple years. Same with makeup, etc.
  • Donate to nonprofits that benefit women and/or girls. This will please Venus.
  • WAIT before making big new investments, luxury purchases, etc. If it’s not essential to life, put it on hold till December if possible.

Venus Rx Don’t List

  • Go home with impossibly captivating humans you met at a party or bar or on a blind date or wherever. Just don’t. Don’t even give them your phone number. If you must, try to not exchange bodily fluids till after mid-November.
  • Enter important partnerships, business or personal. Autumn weddings are nice, but December commitments could prove more resilient. No guarantees though.
  • Shop for art, decor, jewelry, makeup, clothes, expensive cars, luxury items, or first-world trinkets. If it’s self-indulgent or impulsive, put it back.
  • Try to revive relationships with past lovers or friends. They could show up, and seem “long lost,” but you’ll remember why it ended in the first place. Need to relive that?
  • Start an investment program. Or change one you’ve got. Or dive into new programs, schemes, etc. If it’s real, it will still be real after November 16, or later to be on the safe side.
  • Give your heart away.
  • Judge others superficially, lest ye be judged. And you will be.
  • Make or ask for loans, promotions or raises.

Saturn rules ravens, crows, bears, and things that live underground.

Saturn Retrograde 18 April to 6 September

“Time wounds all heels.” ~ John Lennon

Strangely, Saturn doesn’t mind going backwards for a while. Since Saturn is the lord of karma and time, the Rx is a period of ravens, Saturn’s favorite birds, coming home to roost — lessons to be completed. As the lord of time, Saturn doesn’t care how many days, months, or years  it takes; he plays a long game, and he never forgets, so there’s no getting around unfinished karmic business.

The places where you’ve shirked responsibility and discipline are Saturn’s tactical areas of operation. He’s wants to help you step up and be accountable. Harsh? Sometimes. Valuable life skills? Absolutely. If you’ve got your work ethic straight, and have been practicing the golden rule, Saturn may reward you.

Saturn Rx can be a time of limitations and restructuring, creating detours and roadblocks. Stay patient, there may be new, better structures emerging — the lord of time, karma, and ravens — also rules frameworks and underpinnings, like your skeleton, or the foundation of your house. And because things tend to slow down during this period, particularly in combination with other Rx planets, it’s an excellent time to evaluate systems, flow charts and standard operating procedures. Saturn rules Capricorn — you can try to tell them to kick back, but they’ll ignore you. 

Saturn Retrograde Don’t List

  • Shirk responsibility or accountability.
  • Sign big contracts, if possible. If you do, they may carry some karmic lessons.
  • Start a business — well, you can if you want to, but likely you’ll be doing lots of restructuring later.
  • Get into arguments with authority figures, including Dad.

Saturn Retrograde Do List

  • Examine your definitions of integrity and accountability. Are they well integrated into your personal ethos?
  • Look at the work flows in your life — schedules, etc. Are they efficient? Do they need to change?
  • Avoid being swamped by too much negative or depressed thinking.
  • Try to embrace learning opportunities, even if they’re uncomfortable. Humility is good.
  • Consider thanking your ancestors for the good qualities and gifts you’ve inherited. This could be as simple as putting a flower in a vase and dedicating it with gratitude.

Neptune rules the oceans, tropical vacations, tiki bars, dreams, and illusion.

Neptune Retrograde 19 June to 25 November

“Illusion is the first of all pleasures.” ~ Voltaire

The third biggest planet, Neptune is a gas giant with no discernable surface below its swirling outer mists. Named for the Roman god of the sea, Neptune rules water, things that live in water, mood-altering substances, “bhakti,” or devotional styles of spirituality; sacrifice, and inspiration. Neptune also rules dreams, illusion, tropical vacations, and rum drinks like mai tais.  He wants us to be compassionate, but he can turn sleazy; his rulership includes con artists, confusion, subterfuge, smoke and mirrors, addiction, escape, and guilt. Neptune rules the places in us that are so painful we’re driven to seek oblivion. He also has a hand in large scale religious or cultural persecution and victimization.

The lord of the sea in reverse is not as personal as other planetary retrogrades. Neptune Rx impacts geopolitics, cultures, and societies.  Mainstream news may expose sleazy activities, cover-ups, and the man behind the curtain running the smoke machine during Neptune Rx. There can be public false accusations and misuse of power.

So while there are not lists of  tactical, granular recommendations for Neptune Rx, consider protecting sensitive information like credit card numbers, check your computer’s security system, and keep your wallet close — Neptune, along with Mercury, rules pickpockets and sleight of hand.

Pluto rules scorched earth-type atomic weapons.

Pluto Retrograde 22 April to 1 October

“Transformation is an acquired taste — not for the faint of heart.” ~ Bob Anderson

Pluto is tiny, cold, and very far away. Its discovery in 1930 ushered us into the atomic age, and nothing has been the same since. Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh, but named for Percival Lowell (initials PL = Pluto), who searched for the planet for 15 years, convinced of its existence. Pluto is also named for the Roman god of the underworld.

Pluto, co-ruler of Scorpio, is the lord of death, rebirth and transformation. Like the great goddess Kali, Pluto will rip away identities, cherished beliefs, vanities, situations and people that have become irrelevant. When he tears off the duct tape, he doesn’t care if it hurts. He’s not a sadist, he’s just doing his job. If he doesn’t kill you, he makes you stronger — but more than that, he can turn you from dirty coal into a sparkling diamond — granted, not without some discomfort.

Pluto’s dark side is obsession, jealousy and subversion. His illuminated side is transformation to higher levels and dimensions, and power subjugated and rededicated to the service of all. He is the ruler of things like “black ops,” but is also the powerful spotlight that throws hidden secrets into stark relief.

Like Neptune and Uranus, Pluto, as an outer planet, expresses himself through big geopolitical activity and reality-changing scientific discoveries and breakthroughs. But his retrogrades can be useful.

For those interested in doing some heavy spiritual and psychological lifting, Pluto Rx is a good time to confront the shadow.

We all have one. We all like to pretend that we don’t. But the shadow is a universal archetype, and when we don’t flush it out it tends to run things, causing shame and self-loathing. There’s an old saying: “If you let the devil ride, he’s gonna want to drive.”

The sneaky shadow can drive us to do things that are at cross-purposes with our better instincts and basic goodness. It can show up as procrastination, indifference, arrogance, or destructive impulses.

When we confront the shadow and bravely look it in the eye, it withers away like Jack Nicholson at the end of “The Witches of Eastwick.” That’s the way it is with demons, personal and otherwise. They shun the light.

It’s not hard to find; just think about the things you’re ashamed of and want to hide from others. Again, we all have them. Do not succumb to the vanity that you are uniquely worse than others, or that your shame is more profound. It’s not. By simply grabbing on and confronting the feelings, and staying with the experience, the shadow begins to fall apart. If you can hang in with with the unpleasant feelings in your body, they’ll start to change. Hang in long enough and they’ll evaporate.

Judgement of others and self, criticism and condemnation, or self-loathing are all aspects of the shadow, and Pluto Rx is standing by to help you do battle. When you score a win, you’ll know Pluto has your back.


Watch this episode of Open Minds in which Monte Farber explains the ancient history of astrology:

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