In the ancient world there are moments in some of the better known stories and plays when the rivers begin to run backward. The seasoned reader knows that whenever that occurs something profound, and usually quite challenging, is about to happen. The event may be sudden but most often it is more gradual. The one sure thing is that once the rivers are running backward things are going to change and they won’t go back to the way things were before – they can’t. To my mind, this is an excellent illustration of what happens when the planet and holy helper Neptune goes retrograde.
First we must note that it is not uncommon for Neptune to spend as much or even more time retrograde as it spends moving directly. As one of the outermost planets its orbit is incredibly long and it takes its time moving through the sky – one of the aspects of this celestial helper we will return to in a moment. Neptune experiences a retrograde every year and that retrograde lasts between 6 and 7 months.
As I have written elsewhere, retrogrades of the outer planets are generally not believed to affect individuals as much as they are understood to give shape to global events. However, my personal and professional findings indicate something slightly different. What I have found is that we are all affected by outer planet retrogrades in different ways. There are those who can experience one outer planet retrograde and not even know that anything is happening. Those same people can experience another outer planet retrograde and be deeply affected by it. This speaks to something I have termed planet-sensitivities. We are especially sensitive to a planet when it is strongly aspected in our charts. So for instance, the planets that rule your Sun and Moon signs as well as your Ascendant, are all planets to watch. The planets that have strong aspects in your chart are also planets to pay attention to.
This means that when it comes to working with Neptune’s retrograde we have to look at both the global and potential personal effects.
Neptune is a planet strongly associated with the qualities of healing, spirituality, unconditional love, art and beauty, fantasy, romance, and the past. There is an otherworldly quality to Neptune (accentuated by the fact that the planet is retrograde for so long) that makes those born under its influence seem especially beautiful, magical, alluring, elusive, and also not quite of this world. The greatest challenge we find with the Neptunian flow is that of practical thinking and sound foundations. The visionary capacity we all possess is expanded by Neptune to a great degree but this is not the planet to remind us to put a foundation on those castles we have been building in the sky.
When Neptune retrogrades we collectively and globally have the opportunity to:
Review any fantasy-making that we have been engaged in and determine whether those fantasies can be turned into reality or whether they need to be banished altogether. Here we should think about collective fantasies that countries and nations are working with. Some endeavors may be called “fantastic” to deprive them of momentum and support while other agreements really are based on make-believe fantasy that needs to be sharply addressed and brought into line with reality.
Reflect on history, the mistakes, and the learnings from the past. Neptune’s retrograde can both encourage this reflection and also make it more difficult to glean the most useful insights from history. This is also a period of time when we may find our leaders or the leaders of other countries re-writing history to make it more acceptable or palatable.
Reconsider our attitudes towards healing. This includes mandates around health care and the status provided to health care providers, as well as access to basic necessities that promote health and healing worldwide. This period of time can also provide a useful review for new health and healing technologies and often the missing pieces that make such new methods possible are found during Neptune retrogrades.
Reengage global awareness around water and water rights. Water is the element of this planet and so issues around water and access to water are often first and foremost when we go into Neptune retrograde periods. Learning where your individual water comes from is a great start.
Refuse to dull our senses. Neptune’s influence can encourage more than one kind of fantasy making. Refusing to engage in fantasies that are harmful or going nowhere, refusing to let drugs, alcohol, or other poisons take precedent over what we collectively know to be good and healthy and useful, is a powerful move to make during Neptune Retrograde. We can also see the temptation to go in the opposite direction wax in strength during these periods. Staying sober, especially during these times, is the sound choice.
Re-investigate the stories that sound suspect. Neptune can bring the gifts of fiction into everyone’s life in positive and not so positive ways. Stories that sound suspect, dodgy, or have bad sources should be examined closely during these retrograde periods as their fault lines are most likely to show.
On a more personal level, when Neptune retrogrades we find that we are best able to:
Recommit to any artistic endeavor that is ready to be completed and shared with the world. This can also be a more general recommitting to your own personal creativity and the role that art plays in your life.
Re-examine any fantasies or delusions that are siphoning life force and vitality from you and giving nothing of real value back in return. (Obviously, if and when you identify them, you then banish them!) Pay special attention to the areas of love and money as Neptune retrogrades can really aggravate those two arenas.
Reflect on our own history, including our ancestors and our lineage, for valuable teachings. This is also an ideal time to do healing work on behalf of Ancestors and lineage.
Reconcile any deceptions we have been told or told ourselves with what is actually true. Neptune retrograde is an ideal time to “come clean”.
Recognize our capacity to be both healers and healed, and to work from a place of deep, abiding, and unconditional love.
Remember and work with our dreams and the wisdom they contain.
Neptune retrogrades are long periods of time, incredibly well-suited to sincere reflection. Work with this period of each year in a conscious and proactive manner in order to go deep and move the things that need to be moved with incredible swiftness. Neptune is not a speedy planet as we saw above, but it is deep and thorough, and the endeavors we take on under its auspices are endeavors that stay with us throughout our lives.