Been feeling a little strange lately? Jittery, possibly paranoid? Had some shocking revelations in your personal life? If you’ve spent the past three weeks convinced that you were walking through a thick fog, it’s not just because you’re enduring a dreary summer in San Francisco. Since May 31, 2010, Neptune—the planet of illusions, obscurity, and dreams—has been in retrograde.
Planets don’t actually move in reverse, of course. They’re all on their own individual forward orbits around the sun, and sometimes, in contrast with the orbits of the other planets, it can seem as if they’re traveling backward. It’s almost as if you were riding in a car, moving faster than the car next to you: the other car might seem like it’s moving backward, but it’s really just moving more slowly.
All planets except the sun and the moon spend some time in retrograde, during which time their usual influences are lifted. Mercury goes into retrograde about three times per year for about three weeks each time, wreaking all sorts of communication havoc; Saturn’s yearly retrograde leads to difficulty in making appropriate commitments and plans; and Neptune’s retrograde lasts for about half of each year.
As the farthest planet from the sun (sorry, Pluto), Neptune has an incredibly long orbit, and because it lies in the darkest, coldest, and most remote nether regions of our galaxy, it rules obfuscation, secrets, and denial. If life is a camera, Neptune is the smear of Vaseline that makes everything seem a little dreamy and hazy—it’s the Barbara Walters Special of planets.
Normally, Neptune enhances our dream life and enables us to live in a fantasy world where we can escape some of the harsh realities of our lives. It enables us to see that less-than-perfect boyfriend as marriage material, and it aids and abets us as we delude ourselves into pursuing the wrong career path. But when Neptune goes into retrograde, this veil is lifted and reality becomes sharply clear; life goes from soft focus to HD in an instant.
Clarity, Thy Name Is Neptune
During times of Neptune retrograde, our senses are heightened and our perception becomes more acute; we’re able to see what really exists instead of what we wish existed. It’s an exciting time, full of the possibility of important realizations about career, relationships, love, and personal fulfillment. Something that once was opaque could suddenly become apparent; secrets are revealed; what was hidden is now blindingly obvious. Neptune may reveal that there are areas of our lives that need work or are due for a change, and makes us more sensitive not just to our own thoughts and feelings, but also to others’. Since Neptune also rules creativity, dreaming, and imagination, it’s a time of heightened artistic expression and awareness as well. Artists, writers, and other creative types may find that the next several months, until the planet regains its usual motion (on November 6), are particularly fruitful ones.
Alas, like most things astrological, this zodiacal wake-up call is not without its caveats. All this newfound clarity and insight can itself seem to cause confusion. It takes some work to sort out reality from fantasy, and the flood of new feelings and sensations can leave some people in a haze. Depending on a person’s exact natal chart, those who are most sensitive to planetary rumblings may also find that the increased susceptibility to thoughts and vibrations can leave them feeling jittery and out of balance. In this heightened state of perception, it’s possible to absorb the moods and feelings of people around you, so take care during this period to avoid the company of anyone known to emit negative energy, or who is overwhelming, high-strung, or overly emotional.
Another danger is the temptation of drugs and alcohol: Neptune’s retrograde is a gift of psychic clarity, so to dampen it with mind-altering substances is to risk never exposing those true thoughts and wishes. It’s tough enough to try to sort through the real and the imaginary without adding extra confusion and chaos into the mix. The wise will avoid overindulging in any intoxicants until Neptune regains its normal path.
Neptune’s yearly retrograde is a great opportunity to clearly and rationally make changes, but the planet’s dreamy, escapist influence is a benefit throughout the entire year. Neptune prevents us from keeping our feet planted too firmly on the ground; it enables us to ruminate, daydream, and, yes, sometimes put a soft-focus gloss on the things in our lives that are less than pleasant. It sees beyond boundaries and walls into the realm of possibility. Mystical Neptune doesn’t just facilitate illusions, it enhances our consciousness. Don’t just get lost in the fog—take advantage of this period of retrograde to do a little astrological and psychological house cleaning, and once November rolls around, it’ll be okay to drift back into Neptune’s dreamland for another six months.
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons