Stationing Planets: The Retrograde’s Shadow, Explained

Why do retrogrades begin AND end on such a stressful note? The effects of a retrograde can linger for a few weeks (or months) in what is called a “shadow period” after a planet stations (corrects course) and turns direct. Stationing planets, explained.

Let’s demystify the astro-jargon behind this phenomenon with an exploration of stationing planets.

Beware the retroshade.” When a planet ends its retrograde—a chaotic period where it appears to go “backward” as it passes the earth in its travels—we’re all supposed to rejoice, right? Finally, the signal scrambling and backtracking should come to an end, launching us back into the progress zone. Huzzah, huzzah!

But that’s not exactly how it works; in fact, the day a retrograde is over—or the period before it begins—may seem even MORE stressful than the retrograde itself.

The shadow periods, which happen before and after a planet’s retrograde, last for the same amount of time (on either end) as the retrograde itself. While they’re not as strong as the actual retrograde, they’re like a warmup and a cooldown. You may experience their effects more acutely as the actual retrograde period approaches.

Stationing planets and the end of the retrograde

When a planet is retrograde it appears to be moving backwards from our vantage point here on earth.

And when it’s in direct motion it seems to be zipping along in drive.

But in between these U-turns is a phase called a station when the planet actually appears to be standing still.

Picture yourself waking up from anesthesia after a successful surgery. You’re groggy, disoriented and unable to move; yet slowly, the awareness dawns that the procedure is over and healing and recovery can get underway. But that wakeup moment can also be super painful as you return to your body and the sensations sink in. Nurse! Pain meds. NOW!

That’s kind of how a station works when a planet ends its retrograde: disorientation fading to awareness. The reverse is true too. When a planet slips into retrograde from direct motion it’s kind of like fading to black after you’ve been giving your pre-surgery IV. Everything feels fuzzy and you might just say some crazy s*** that you pray no one puts on YouTube (viral click-bait though it would probably be).

For example, during a recent Mars station—the planet that rules anxiety, momentum and sex drive—a friend’s dog ran away for a night, and a player from Tali’s past tried to put the moves on her (sorry dude, but ya should have put a ring on it!). With 48 hours everything started to smooth over, and the awkward vibes made for comic relief. 

On a broader plane, stationing planets can also cause global unrest and shakeups. While we don’t advocate fear-based astrology, we’ve noticed that some of the craziest news stories tend to come out right at the end of a retrograde. It’s as if all the energy that was repressed or concealed while the planet was in reverse comes flying up to the surface during the station. These are definitely days to be more cautious when dealing with the general public. Remember: An ounce of astrological prevention is worth a pound of cure!

The shadow period: The lingering effects

Basically, you shouldn’t jump back into your routine too quickly just because a planet turns direct. The retrograde’s effects can linger on for a few weeks (or months) in the shadow period. This is the time the direct planet needs to recover the distance that it retreated through while in retrograde. It’s a bit like retracing steps, which can be a powerful time for integrating lessons that we learned during the retrograde fog—but we may still be integrating the wisdom and unable to rush ahead with clarity.

For example, on January 7, 2016, Jupiter turned retrograde at 23Âş14 Virgo and retreated all the way back to 13Âş15 Virgo, before turning direct on May 9, 2016. Easy math: Basically, Jupiter slid back 10 degrees during the retrograde. The shadow period lasts until Jupiter has retraced those 10 degrees.

Then on August 11, 2016, Jupiter landed back at 23Âş14 Virgo (the degree at which it stationed retrograde in January). While Jupiter governs our gambling instincts, its direct turn on May 9 certainly paved the way for more venturesome moves. But since the shadow lingered on for three whole months, it was advisable to wait until AFTER the shadow had dissipated on August 11 of the previous year before taking a Vegas-sized risk.

To find the planetary degrees, consult an ephemeris, which is like an astrological almanac that tracks their micro movements. We are fans of the Llewellyn’s Pocket Planners for tracking these. You can also find an ephemeris for any year with a quick Google search.

Pre-retrograde shadow and post-retrograde shadow

The pre-retrograde shadow period begins when the first planet reaches the same degree and minute (which is how the planets are measured in astrology) that it will when its retrograde ends and it turns “direct.” For example, say Mercury will end its three-week retrograde at 11°11 Taurus on May 30. We find the date when Mercury first arrives at 11°11 Taurus, which was likely around three weeks prior to the retrograde (say April 21).

If you ever wonder why you start to feel Venus or Mercury retrograde a few weeks before the actual event, this is why!

The post-retrograde shadow happens when the planet returns to the degree and minute it was at when its retrograde began, as explained above.

How stationing planets might affect your days

Mercury as a stationing planet

Mental Mercury is the communication planet that rules chatty Gemini and analytical Virgo. When Mercury stations direct or during its pre-retrograde shadow, you might find yourself: 

  • Unable to form a decent sentence.
  • Sending emails or Snapchats to the wrong person—EEK!
  • Wishy-washiness; inability to make a decision.
  • Forgetting promises…or making ones you can’t keep!      

Venus as a stationing planet

Sensual Venus is the love planet that governs goddess energy and rules earthy Taurus and peaceful Libra. When Venus stations direct after a retrograde or during its pre-retrograde shadow, you might indulge in:

  • Foolish retail therapy splurges (you bought WHAT on Instagram?!).
  • Getting taken for a ride by a player.
  • Being a sucker for flattery or slick sales pitches.
  • Low self-image; not seeing your own beauty and worth.

Mars as a stationing planet

Passionate Mars is the red love planet that fuels us with desire, drive and ambition, and is the celestial ruler of hot-headed Aries. When Mars stations direct or during its pre-retrograde shadow you might possess:

  • Extreme anxiety that clouds judgment.
  • Anger or blind rage and bottled up aggression.
  • Derailed ambitions.
  • Utter exhaustion from racing around.

Jupiter as a stationing planet

Excessive Jupiter encourages us to expand our horizons and take a risk, and is the planetary guardian of worldly Sagittarius. When Jupiter stations direct or during its pre-retrograde shadow, you could:

  • Take foolish gambles and risks.
  • Assert your “truth” without knowing what you’re talking about.
  • Fall for a guru’s manipulations.
  • Make unwise travel plans.
  • Be mistakenly prejudice.

Saturn as a stationing planet

Stern Saturn, also known as “Father Karma,” is the zodiac’s tough teacher planet and ruler of structured Capricorn. When Saturn stations direct or during its pre-retrograde shadow, you could realize that: 

  • Plans have fallen apart temporarily or need to be changed last minute.
  • You cheated on your diet or fell off the 12-step wagon.
  • A supportive person or authority figure is suddenly unavailable.
  • Control issues are rearing their head and you’re alienating others.

Uranus as a stationing planet

Rebel-rouser Uranus governs technology and future-forward thinking, and is the celestial ruler of freedom fighter Aquarius. When Uranus stations direct or during its pre-retrograde shadow, there could be:

  • Rebellion against authority or structure.
  • Destructive urges, especially with anything confining.
  • A f**k it attitude towards everyone and everything!
  • Total annoyance within your group or community, or a sense of feeling left out.

Neptune as a stationing planet

Spiritual Neptune is the zodiac’s psychic, governing the subconscious realm and the dreamy, watery sign of ethereal Pisces. When Neptune stations direct or during its pre-retrograde shadow, there is a tendency to:

  • Feel overwhelmed by emotional issues and past pain.
  • Want to escape.
  • Turn to addictive substances and behaviors.
  • Make decisions out of guilt or being “nice.”

Pluto as a stationing planet

Power-monger Pluto has a bit of Napoleon Syndrome. The dwarf planet rules banks and government, and also governs secretive Scorpio. When Pluto stations direct or during its pre-retrograde shadow, there could be:

  • Intense jealousy and possessiveness.
  • Power struggles
  • Depressing (even suicidal) thoughts
  • A discovery of someone’s secret or nefarious moves.
  • Confusing sexual urges.

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Identical twin sisters Ophira and Tali Edut, known as The AstroTwins, are the founders of and the authors of multiple bestselling astrology books. Their horoscopes reach millions here and through their resident astrologer column at ELLE Magazine.