Posted by: Donna Cunningham | March 3, 2011

The Retrograde Planet as Maverick

©2011 by guest blogger, Erin Sullivan

 Note: Internationally-known astrologer, author, and teacher, Erin Sullivan will be leading a Question and Answer session about retrograde planets in the natal chart on Skywriter Saturday, March 5th, beginning at 1:00 PM Pacific time. This excerpt from her book, RETROGRADE PLANETS: Traversing the Inner Landscape is reprinted with permission from the publisher, RedWheel/Weiser.

In and of itself no single planet is more powerful than another. Each has a unique property that must be made manifest, and a retrograde planet is no different. Planets could be viewed as individual members of a family system – the solar system – each performing its unique  function, synthesized and focused through the paternal Sun. Each planet has a personality and a role, which contribute to the integrity of the whole ‘family’- the horoscope.

What Extraversion and Introversion Teach Us About Retrograde Planets

A retrograde planet does not seem to be weaker or more repressed, neither do retrogrades in themselves have to do with consciousness or unconsciousness. Retrogrades alone do not indicate introversion (or extraversion) as a dominant personality type. Yet retrogression does seem to indicate a degree of internalization around the principles of the retrograde planet.

 With respect to introversion and extraversion, some comparisons  might be made between retrograde planets and direct planets and how one experiences  their energies as they interact in  the horoscope to catalyze stages of evolution in the ever-changing personality. In Boundaries of the Soul, June Singer talks about these two psychological types.

The introverted nature is Platonic in that it is mystical, spiritualized, and perceives in symbolic forms, while the extraverted nature is Aristotelian in that it is practical, a builder of a solid system from the Platonic ideal. The introvert is directed primarily toward an understanding  of what he perceives, while the extravert naturally seeks means of expression and communication. In the introvert, the subject, his own being, is the center of every interest and the importance of the object lies in the way in which it affects the subject. The introvert’s interest in self-knowledge prevents him from being overpowered by the influence of his objective surroundings.

The extravert has a tendency to abandon concern for himself to his interest in others. Hence, the concern of the introvert is in the direction of development of his individual potential while that of the extravert is more socially oriented. The introvert tends to set him and subjective psychic processes above achievement in the public domain, while the extravert seeks the recognition of others as a predominant value.

If we substitute for  ‘introvert’ the term ‘retrograde planet’, and ‘extravert’ ‘direct planet’, we come closer  to understanding how a retrograde planet operates as  an individual within its society.

Thinking in terms of planets as individuals in a family or social system, a retrograde planet operates as an introvert. Whereas a direct planet interacts with the other planets, demanding recognition, encountering and delivering challenge, relating, accommodating, and compromising, the retrograde planet operates in a sphere of its own, either so alienated from (in the case of the superior planets)  or so fused with (in the case of the inferiors) the solar agent, it has no perspective beyond its own  integrity; it requires conscious effort to prevent the  dilution of its energies with cosmic, rather than personal, meaning.

Retrogression: How it Works

A retrograde planet develops according to some mysterious inner principle, completely disregarding the social rules established by the other members of the solar system. It can, therefore, deviate widely from what the consensus of the super-ego deems socially correct, acting, say, as a maverick energy, not cooperating with the totality in the process of self-consciousness,  erupting or imploding erratically because its development is not contingent  upon the development of the other planets or upon the integrity of the whole horoscope.

If the individual is an extraverted type, and the horoscope as a whole has lots of fire, or angularity, or upper hemispheric dominance with strong cardinality, a, single retrograde planet can cause more of a psychological split. It can encapsulate the energy of the planet more than if the weight of the horoscope lies with Earth or Water, or the majority of planets is in fixed or cadent houses, all of which support a more introverted world-view.

For example, an otherwise highly social and extraverted person with only Mars retrograde might find it very difficult to focus on achieving practical ends, instead feeling rather undirected except when faced with an absolute or a concrete purpose.

The  ego as an agent for self-expression is a system  in itself, made up  of all the planets and their interaction,  but in this case, Mars retrograde (contra the Sun) acts like an introvert, that is, not feeling compelled to dramatize itself within the family of planets, acting in a renegade fashion, and distancing  itself from the gestalt, which might result in specific types of antisocial behaviour. In doing this, Mars fails to assist the ego by integrating itself with the rest of the planets.

Mars is absorbed primarily in the job of sorting out its priorities in relation to the Sun, and secondarily in cringing from aspects it receives from other planets. Inherently its retrograde position discourages participation in the process of firing up other planets into action or experiencing moderation through their influences.

Inadvertently much of individuals’ undifferentiated retrograde Mars energy may be fobbed off on  to others – partners, friends, lovers – who may carry it for them either by actually  doing things for them or  by representing their anger or drive.

Conversely, an introverted type with no retrograde planets will find his or her environment very mysterious indeed, and may develop a philosophy of observation and analysis to assist in understanding the hidden meaning behind overt behaviour. In a case like this, having no retrograde planets is the cause of a split between what the individual knows to be true subjectively and what he or she sees in action objectively.

Until a natal planet turns retrograde by secondary progression it might be difficult for the person to find a proper vehicle through which to develop and express his or her unique values or insight. Those introverted insights may remain unexpressed until such time as retrogression supports the personality-type as a whole.

More of Erin’s thoughts on retrograde planets:

 Note: Erin Sullivan’s major text, RETROGRADE PLANETS: Traversing the Inner Landscape is available at -Buy Now!  in both paperback and Kindle Edition.  You will also find several MP3 recordings including Venus Retrograde Cycles on her website, along with information about her books and special appearances.

About the Author: Erin Sullivan is an internationally renowned astrologer and author since the late 1960’s. Canadian born, she has traveled widely and in 1988 moved to London where she spent ten years. While in London she was the Series Editor for the Contemporary Astrology series, published by Arkana-Penguin, and taught for the Centre for Psychological Astrology in London, where she remains a faculty member. She has written numerous books, including “Saturn in Transit” and “Dynasty: The Astrology of Family Dynamics”. Erin Sullivan lives and practices in Victoria, BC but conducts consultations by phone worldwide through Skype. You can contact her directly at her website  

Write to her at  or SKYPE:  erinsullivanwork for an appointment.


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