People often struggle to make sense of retrograde cycles. What do they really mean? What’s all this going inwards, things moving backwards, internalisation, slowing down etc. anyway? Honestly, can Saturn really make things drag anymore? I’m already feeling like I’m in slow motion, one step behind, carrying too much responsibility, obliged, overwhelmed…moan… moan…
Ok, so here’s the thing that really helped me to understand the meaning of retrograde cycles and it’s all thanks to Erin Sullivan in her amazing book Retrograde Planets: Traversing the Inner LandscapeErin describes everything in intricate detail but I’m going to attempt to simplify what it all means along with my own reflections upon the stages in the cycle.
The retrograde cycles are connected to our relationship to the Sun. This goes for all the retrograde cycles. As we know, Earth revolves around the Sun (although occasionally my Leo Ascendant will tell me that the world revolves around me) but I digress…
So – Earth is in a basically circular orbit around the Sun as are the rest of the planets in our solar system. Earth takes one year to revolve around the Sun. The other planets moving at different speeds and either closer or further away to the Sun from Earth, take a different amount of time to complete the circuit.
And just as if you were on a racetrack with your foot down on the accelerator in your Porsche, if you sped past Saturn trundling along in his 1968 Morris Minor, there would be a moment when it seems as though Saturn moves backwards as you overtake him. The video below shows this very well.
The example is Mars in this case but the principle is exactly the same. As you watch the video you will see the optical illusion of Mars moving backwards as Earth speeds past.
So as retrograde motion is directly related to our positions in our passage around the Sun, it stands to reason that the aspects between the Sun and the retrograde planet are very important.
The Sun acts like a highlighter pen, emphasizing the particular issues, areas of life and experience that are triggered during the retrograde cycle. By following the journey of these aspects, the retrograde cycle as a whole begins to make more sense.
The Retrograde Cycle – Saturn
Saturn Stationary Retrograde
As Earth catches up with Saturn along its orbit, Saturn seems to slow down in the sky to a point where it is stationary.
As Saturn stops it is as if Time stops. If it is within 1 – 2 degrees of an aspect to a natal planet or angle, Saturn labours over the point. Erin Sullivan suggests that Saturn “encapsulates the planet, sealing it off, preventing any contamination by external influence”. A station over a planet or point is like the point of conception. The whole retrograde cycle equates to nine months. Much like the dividing cells just after the conception of a baby bares little similarity to the bouncing new arrival nine months later, it is difficult to see at the beginning of the cycle how the end will manifest. But there is a connection that is understood in the end – a sense of completion and new beginnings. The weight is cast off, there are new responsibilities (normally found in the area of life represented by the house that Saturn is transiting) but we have been fortified to deal with them.
Even if the station isn’t aspecting any important points in the natal chart, you may still experience a sense of slowing down in the area of life represented by the house in which Saturn is transiting. There may be lethargy or depression, a feeling of being stuck, an ending or a inkling that you don’t have control. Alternatively you may have a sense of needing to ‘get serious’ about the area of life concerned.
Sun trine Saturn Retrograde
If you didn’t notice what was happening before, the Sun acts as a trigger at the trine. Erin says that “the sun collects the energy of the stationing planet and manifests it”. At the trine we get a sense of what we need to work on and what might be possible. Sun trine Saturn is a creative force but we must be patient.
Sun sesquiquadrate Saturn Retrograde
The waxing sesquiquadrate I liken to the build up of an argument. Tension is mounting, words are bitten back but something needs to be said. Whatever the issue is, it isn’t going to go away.
Look to where the Sun is now in your chart as it illuminates the area of life affected. For Saturn to do his job, the ego may need to give way or at least come to some kind of compromise but at this point we may struggle to hold onto our own point of view. We may experience resistance, associated with Saturn.
Sun quincunx Saturn Retrograde
The house position of the Sun will highlight what areas need to be attended to allow Saturn to do its work. Erin Sullivan says “the ego makes all attempt to rally and regain control, madly re-organising priorities, often going back on the self and accepting less than was originally on one’s mind”.
I see the quincunx as a kind of fated aspect. For example you make a decision to do something and then Fate/the Universe/God puts something else in your line of sight that captures your attention. A struggle ensues between what you thought you wanted to do and the new information presented to you. Adjustments need to be made. Along with a spark of purpose and ambition comes irritation as Saturn and the Sun seek to come to some kind of agreement. The house positions of the two will give you an indication of where fate may step in to give you a cosmic clue along the way.
Sun opposition Saturn Retrograde
Saturn is at its fastest retrograde motion now and whatever has been building since the station is brought to a head. The issues are out in the open. The Sun and Saturn can see each other on opposite sides of the fence. Rigid concepts must be broken down, we can no longer resist what Saturn is trying to teach us. The houses in which the opposition falls shows us where change must occur, where new structures are necessary for us to move forward again. Sometimes there is a sense of feeling trapped, of trying to move a mountain or alternatively we might feel frustrated because now we know what needs to be done and we just want to get on with it. But Saturn says there’s still work to be done. We don’t know it all just yet. He advises we proceed with caution; it will give us a better foundation to work from in the end.
It is likely that our fears and defences must now be restructured to give us room to grow. I liken this phase to a snake shedding its skin. The opposition is like the point where the old skin has gone but the new skin is still soft and sensitive. We don’t quite trust it to protect us just yet.
Sun waning quincunx Saturn Retrograde
Once again we hit a period of adjustment. Perhaps whatever occurred at the waxing quincunx nudges our attention again. We can no longer resist the tide. The waning quincunx offers us an opportunity to start making the necessary changes. No longer resisting, we start to try out our new skin whilst being aware that our old support/defence systems are no longer there which can feel uncomfortable initially. Yet a part of us knows that it is necessary and right and part of the process.
Sun waning sesquiquadrate Saturn Retrograde
If the waxing sesquiquadrate was the build up to the argument and the opposition was the argument itself, the waning sesquiquadrate is that awkward point you reach after the conflict when you are both on speaking terms again. The battle hasn’t been forgotten but a compromise and understanding has been reached. You’re a little older and wiser for the experience. New boundaries have been drawn and you are both working towards forgiving and forgetting. Both parties make an effort to include the other but sometimes it can feel forced or someone goes overboard to make a point.
Internally this is like looking back to see the changes that have occurred since the beginning of the cycle. We know there’s still more to be done but we start to get a feeling of where it’s all going. We still feel a little uncomfortable but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Sun trine Saturn Retrograde
Saturn is now at his slowest in the retrograde cycle as he moves towards the station in twelve days time. This can seem like the longest night (or tunnel to go with the analogy above). We want to move faster, want to feel the Sun on our backs again. Where is the Sun in your chart now? What are you hurrying to do? Erin Sullivan cautions against impatience at this stage.
Remember that at this point we are still only 18 weeks in to our symbolic pregnancy. On average it is around this time that women experience ‘quickening’ which is feeling the movements of the child in the womb. For a pregnant woman, the ‘quickening’ brings home that this is a real experience and there’s a real little person growing inside. The trine is much like that and we are impatient to see what the child of our Saturn transformation will look like.
Saturn Station Direct
From our viewpoint on Earth, Saturn begins to move forward again. Often at this point we are aware that our internal focus has shifted. We emerge from the metaphorical tunnel into a new environment where everything looks a little different to what it did before. Well aware now of the internal shift, we begin to make a conscious effort to rebuild and restructure whatever needs doing. The resistance, the struggle, the interminable waiting, the frustration and arguments (internal or external) start to dissipate as we gain our focus.
By now we understand what Saturn was trying to show us all along but we still won’t know what the final manifestation will be until a few months later. As with all things Saturn, there is a delay before we see the results of our work.
The Culmination of the Cycle
The culmination of the cycle occurs when Saturn reaches the degree it where it originally turned retrograde.
It is at this point we ‘give birth’ so to speak. The long labour is over and we can finally look into the eyes of the new part of ourselves that has been born. Very often with Saturn, something physical is manifested. It could be a job, the completion of a long project, the beginning or end of a relationship. Once again look to the house in which Saturn is transiting for that is that area of life which is being developed and restructured.
As you can see from the aspects made in the retrograde cycle, there are specific developments at each stage. Saturn will break down what isn’t working and rebuild it, pulling the whole house down if he finds it necessary to re-lay the foundations. He points out where we don’t know enough, where our fears hold us back, where our defences are too high. He kindly shows us where we hold ourselves back and how we can become stronger. He always has our best interests at heart. He helps us identity what we truly want to commit to, to complete – what needs completion. If we show willingness to learn and we are prepared to work at it, the Saturn retrograde cycle can transform us in ways we didn’t imagine – but will delight in the end.
Saturn Retrograde – Aspect Dates 2022
04-Jun-22 Saturn stations retrograde
16-Jun-22 Sun trine Saturn
01-Jul-22 Sun sesquiquadrate Saturn
16-Jul-22 Sun quincunx Saturn
14-Aug-22 Sun opposite Saturn
12-Sep-22 Sun quincunx Saturn
27-Sep-22 Sun sesquiquadrate Saturn
12-Oct-22 Sun trine Saturn
23-Oct-22 Saturn stations direct
25-Jan-23 Culmination of cycle (Saturn reaches the degree where it stations retrograde)