Retrograde Shadow Periods - Just when you thought it was safe to make decisions.

Retrograde Shadow Periods

If you have even a passing interest in astrology you have no doubt heard of retrograde planets and Mercury retrograde in particular. When, from our perspective on earth, a planet looks to be going backward, it is said to be retrograde. All the planets (but not the sun and moon) are capable of retrograde motion for various amounts of time.

Retrograde periods of the planets. When Mercury, which rules communication and transport among other things, turns retrograde, we are told to act on the words with re as a prefix. Such words as redo, reapply, review, retrace, repair, recheck all apply. This is a time when going back over (just as the planet is going back over where it has just been) is advised, rather than moving forward.

With Mercury, the retrograde period lasts about 3 weeks. After that three-week period, you may think that it is now fine to move ahead with plans you may have put off because of the retrograde period.  However, it may not be smooth sailing just yet, as the retrograde planets have what are called shadow periods.

I myself have been caught in retrograde shadow periods, as I am sure many others have. You get through the retrograde period with no real mess ups and breathe a sigh of relief, and then, it happens! Something that seems to conform to the retrograde period happens and you shake your head and wonder why it is happening now; after all the retrograde period has just passed. You’ve likely just been caught in its shadow.

The shadow period takes into account at what degree a planet went retrograde, and the shadow period does not end until the planet has moved across that degree again. Likewise, the planet will retrograde back to a degree prior to that which it started its retrograde motion and when the planet last passed over that degree is when the shadow period starts.

For example, on December 4, 2017, Mercury turned retrograde at 29 degrees Sagittarius. It then retrograded until the 22nd of December when it stationed direct at 13 degrees of Sagittarius. Mercury last transited 13 degrees of Sagittarius on November 14, 2017. So, we can say that the shadow period started on the 14th of November 2017.

The retrograde shadow period.
Mercury went retrograde at 29 degrees and retrograded back to 13 degrees. Therefore, as it would be retracting the degrees it had already been over, the retrograde shadow period is said to start from the 13th degree and extend until the planet passes where it was when it first went retrograde.

When we look to see when Mercury will actually catch up to the degree it was at when it started its retrograde motion (29 degrees Sagittarius) we see that it will not cross that degree again until the 10th of January 2018. Therefore the shadow period extends the dates that we need to be wary of Mercury being retrograde from November 14th, 2017 to January 10th, 2018. (All dates CST).

So, what about you? Have you found that you have had problems related to retrograde issues, Mercury is the best known and one of the easiest to notice, but this applies to all the planets.






  1. So, If I had this right…I am assuming that the retrograde period is when things occur that are not as favourable to your current goals? After the retrograde period is over , when you breath a sigh of relief but by then the shadow period is present, meaning that things or issues can be lingering ? It is not until the shadow period is over that we can walk in the light ?

    1. Hi Faith, yes you hit the nail on the head. For example, Mercury goes direct next Monday (16th April), it has been retrograde since 22nd March, but the shadow period actually extends it until the 3rd of may. Sometimes you may find that the actual retrograde period goes well, with no foul-ups, you think you are safe – and then BAM! Right in the kisser! Something happens not during the actual retrograde period but just before it started or just after it finished. For the most part though, you can probably move ahead with what you have been planning during the retrograde period (retrograde periods are great for doing research and redoing or rethinking something) when the planet goes direct (16 April) but if you wanted to really play it safe, you would make sure to double check all the details until at least the 3rd of May.

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