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Anapodismos: Walking backward (otherwise known as retrograde)

Ancient philosophers believed the Earth sat in the centre of an ordered system where seven stars wandered between a plethora of fixed stars and the Earth. These seven celestial bodies were considered divine archetypes, Gods, whose movements, representing divine will, had a direct relationship with the mortals who populated the Earth.

The wandering stars didn't move in regular motion, they went backwards and forwards, north and south across the sky and sometimes disappeared from sight altogether. These "planetary Gods were rollicking about the heavens, travelling to different celestial palaces, engaging in friendly and adversarial relations, and ever negotiating about the fates of the mortals below, whose lives were under their jurisdiction." [excerpt from Demetra George's, Ancient Astrology in theory and practice]

When the Gods appeared in the night sky it was believed they were professing their desires to humanity. The role of the astrologer was to carefully interpret what the Gods were saying and communicate their wishes and intentions to the leaders of the time so they could rule in accordance with divine will.


Science tells us that "retrograde motion is the apparent motion of a planet in a direction opposite to that of other bodies within its system, as observed from a particular vantage point. Ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy (150 AD) believed that the Earth was the centre of the Solar System and therefore used the terms retrograde and prograde (direct motion) to describe the movement of the planets in relation to the stars as they are observed from Earth. Like the Sun, the planets appear to rise in the East and set in the West. When a planet travels eastward in relation to the stars, it is called prograde. When the planet travels westward in relation to the stars (opposite path) it is called retrograde." [Wikipedia]

We now understand that retrograde motion is an illusion. Retrogrades occur when the Earth is passing, or being passed, by other planets. The appearance of retrograde motion happens due to the relative difference in the speed of orbit around the Sun.

image of the sun and the planets
Retrograde motion

Diagram: The Earth (blue) passes a superior planet such as Mars (red), the superior planet will temporarily appear to reverse its motion across the sky. [Wikipedia]

Retrograde, from the Latin 'retrogradus' means going backward.

Astrology stems from ancient teachings whose practitioners saw the world as it is, and learned to interpret it as it is.

We all have a unique perspective. We are all experiencing our own universes and every universe looks a little different. Does what is happening within our wider universe have the capacity to affect us? Can an illusory planetary effect have any bearing on our experience? In order to determine this, to form our own conclusions and make our own judgements, we need to have an expectation of what might happen, of how we may be affected.

If a God appears to be walking backward then how can that be interpreted?

There isn't a great deal of discourse amongst the surviving Hellenistic texts concerning the meaning of the backward motion of the Gods, however most agree that there is a detrimental effect on their power, indicating delays in the manifestation of their will.

Vettius Valens (c.120 CE to c.175 CE), 'the single most important source for studying the Hellenistic tradition, said that when planets are stationing retrograde "they delay expectations, actions, profits and enterprises." When planets are in the retrograde phase they are "weakened", "restrained" or "hindered" giving only "appearances", or "hopes" which he seemed to imply are illusory. When a planet moves direct it "removes the hindrances and restores and leads to the stability and rectification of life".' [Hellenistic Astrology by Chris Brennan]

If we were to contemplate what the meaning could be, based on what we can witness ourselves and how that may be considered symbolically, we may come up with similar significations. We may conclude that as a God slows down and then stops, their will is affected. They may be taking pause to reconsider, or rethink. Something about the direction of forward action is wrong and needs some revision. As they move backwards in motion we may see this as something they need to go back and have another look at. Just as we may pass by something that catches our eye and then return to take a closer look, the God is reversing their trajectory and going back over space they've already travelled through.

Perhaps we too need to take pause and take another look at something? Perhaps we need to tread some old ground in order to refresh our perspective in order to be able to move forward anew?

Retrograde = Revisions and Reversals

Signs with mercury retrograde and proceed with caution

13 December 2023 – 1 January 2024 in Sagittarius

1st April 2024 - 25th April 2024 in Aries.

In August 2024 Mercury goes retrograde in Virgo.

In December 2024 Mercury goes retrograde in Sagittarius.

We are currently approaching the first full Mercury Retrograde of the year, taking place in Aries from April 1st to the 25th.

Statue of Hermes
Hermes (Mercury): Messenger of the Gods

In order to interpret how this Mercury retrograde may affect our experiences here on Earth, we need to put the symbolism of walking backward within the context of what Mercury represents and has dominion over, and where They are currently residing in the zodiac. The house in which they are situated in your chart will have bearing on the experiences affected and the area of life they are likely to land in.

Pictured is Mercury's Cazimi, the rebirth moment of the cycle when Mercury is in the heart of the Sun. Mercury will continue walking backward until the 25th of April.

Horoscope 12-04-2024
Mercury Cazimi: Mercury in the heart of The Sun

Mercury, messenger of the Gods, is the God of thought and communication, our faculties of perception and insight, teaching and learning, commerce, travellers, trickery, and thieves. They are currently resident in Mars' palace of Aries, The Ram.

Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, representing the beginning of the astrological year and symbolising initiation, action, and courage. Aries is ruled by Mars, the fiery planet associated with energy, passion, and assertiveness. Mars lends Aries its dynamic and sometimes aggressive qualities. Aries is a cardinal fire sign. As a cardinal sign, Aries is associated with initiation, leadership, and assertiveness. Being a fire sign, Aries embodies qualities of enthusiasm, inspiration, and courage. The symbol for Aries is the Ram, representing power, strength, and determination. Rams are known for their ability to charge ahead fearlessly. Aries Individuals with strong Aries placements in their charts are often dynamic, independent, and adventurous. They possess a strong sense of self and are not afraid to pursue their goals with enthusiasm and vigour. However, they can also be impulsive, impatient, and prone to acting before thinking things through.

Mercury in Aries speaks to the grand themes of clear thinking and decision making. Mercury in Aries knows its own mind and has focus, drive and purpose. Communication is forthright and direct and we have the ability to cut to the chase.

What could this mean for us practically speaking?

Google Mercury retrograde and you will be swamped by thousands of articles, videos and memes telling you to be afraid of the dreaded impact this illusion will have on your life, and be given tips on how to survive the next few weeks. You'll probably learn that you should backup your computer and phone in advance, because Mercury retrograde periods are notorious for causing computers to crash and for machines, appliances, and other electronic devices to show signs of wear, requiring urgent repair. You'll be told to avoid making big decisions and avoid signing contracts.

Mercury in Aries, will have a defined job to do during this retrograde. They will be effecting a rewrite of a story around what and how we think and how we stand up for ourselves. The process may feel a little chaotic and confusing whilst Mercury is in their backward motion. Things will likely get clearer when they re-tread the path they walked backward through, between the 25th of April and the 12th of May, and when they break new ground on the 13th of May we will be at the beginning of something new.

I propose that we let go of what we think might happen or not happen, and just step back and observe.

What if we take this time to pause, and reflect, on how we interact with our mind and our environment and just witness what arises and what this might mean to us? What if we just see what happens and then make sense of it?

Perhaps nothing will happen and there will be no impact on your life or, perhaps something will occur which causes you to wonder. Perhaps you will discover that what happens serves you in some way and, rather than being a difficult period you need to survive, you end up getting a new perspective on an area of your life that was in need of a refresh.

And any negative impacts that Mercury retrograde brings may ultimately have a positive result.

I give you an example I read last Mercury retrograde on one of the astrology forums I'm in on Facebook:

Here’s my story. Had vacation all set - leaving for Nice (France, from USA) today, then on to Istanbul. Had airfare, hotels and car rentals all lined up. Then - foot injury happened. Tried to go through Expedia to see if I could just move entire trip to July. Nope - and no refunds. Then they call me at 5AM while I’m in Montana, and tell me an audit has revealed that I was “misinformed” that while I cannot get a refund or an airline credit I can reschedule the trip. (For a $135.00 svc fee plus any airfare increase). So I try to start doing that and they tell me that I will lose my hotel, and that there’s an airfare increase of $3,000.00 to travel in July. This is just airfare. So I call France (at 2am our time) - the hotel manager is lovely and tells me they’re happy to move the reservation to July they have the space available for the same rate. But they cannot make the change on their end - Expedia has to do it. I get back with Expedia, they call hotel, get same answer but the dates I want are not approved for what they have in their block. So they ask me if I will SETTLE FOR A FULL REFUND and reschedule it myself. Of course I say yes, especially after discovering the refund is around $2,500.00. Next, I cancel the car - because there’s no penalty to do that within 24 hours of pick up - which I am well within. Now there’s just the airfare and they’re not budging. Turkish Air says they’re willing to work with me if I have a medical excuse but can’t do anything without Expedia. I have my doctor write the medical excuse - now we’re fast approaching the 24 hour deadline with Expedia, to make changes - and they say they can’t get a Turkish Air rep to answer the phone. So, yesterday, I just sort of let go of ever seeing that money again and vowed to be content that at least I recovered the $2,500.00. I light some incense, put out an offering bowl and just let it slide away. This morning - literally 1 hour before I’m supposed to board the flight I get spammed with texts and emails that the flight has been delayed 3 hours, and do I accept or decline the new flight time. I see that, that three hours will cause me to miss my connection, so I decline the change - and guess what??? I get a full refund on the flight. Both tickets. Mercury Retrograde is being kind to me. Jeebus!

Let me know how the Mercury Retrograde is for you in the comments or tell me any mercury retrograde stories that could help inspire us to look at the bigger picture next time we arrive in this energy reconfiguration!

If you would like to learn more about how Mercury Retrograde might affect you specifically, by looking at the area it falls within your chart and the relationships it makes with your placements, please get in touch via my contact form or book in with me using my online booking service. I recommend a birth chart reading so that we can take a look at your chart and then analyse it in the context of the retrograde and where it's affecting you and what you might be revisiting or revising over this period.


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