by Boots Hart, CAP

Friday, June 3, 2011

Neptune Goes Retrograde

 Le Reve de Parsifal by Margret Hofheinz-Döring (1977)

Neptune goes retrograde once every year. It’s part of life. Physically, retrograde is all about simple solar system mechanics…as the Earth goes orbiting around the Sun, during parts of every year other planets will “disappear” behind the Sun.

That’s what we call retrograde. The “backing up” through the zodiac part…? That’s all about astrology being geo(Earth)-centric(centered). In other words, astrology is all about how the universe looks from here on Earth. 

Yes, there is heliocentric astrology. ‘Helio’ being related to ‘Helios’ the Greek god associated with the actual disc of the Sun (as opposed to Apollo as god of light and hence enlightenment)…there is some ‘sun-centric’ astrology out there.

But let’s be real. How many of us are going to live a life standing on the surface of the Sun? That’s so hard on the tootsies!

The reason why some astrologers like heliocentric astrology though…? That says something important.

The Sun is our source of energy-as-life. That’s just a fact. So metaphysically (and if we consider the solar system as our metaphysical ‘life system’) the Sun is at the center. It’s our “us,” if you will. And in that sense, the Earth is our…world! And our world…yes, it revolves around “us” (the Sun).

Just don’t tell the egotists and narcissists out there, okay? I know a few, and that ‘it’s all about me’ stuff is entirely irritating!

But getting back to the point…if retrograde is when the planet ‘vanishes’ behind the Sun as seen from Earth, that’s a rather good metaphysical-metaphorical picture of retrograde as a function all about planets (or other objects) functioning “out of sight” and within us …not “out there in the world” when they’re in retrograde.

So now that we’re all going ‘ohhhhh…I get it now…’ let’s just get to the Neptune stuff of el momento.

Neptune will go retrograde on June 3rd at 7:29am, UT/+0. That makes the period from June 1st through 5th a period in which Neptune hopes will run high, when Neptune disappointments will leave you feeling particularly low, and where we are all likely to get yet another lesson in why expectations and lack of realism doesn’t work.

Oh yes – and let’s not forget that ‘some things are better left as fantasies’ Neptune thing. While Neptune supports fantasy, knowing what is fantasy or what is best left as fantasy is the flip side of that Neptune lesson. As is knowing what to believe in and knowing when believing and just ‘having faith’ or ‘thinking good thoughts’ is simple silliness.

 A postcard about Parsifal from around 1900 (artist unknown)

We all get lessons about this throughout our life. We all have those ‘boy, I really should’a known better…’ moments. And the ‘Neptune Lesson’ (if you will) does not mean that we should never believe. Or be motivated. Or trust. Or have a bit of faith, particularly in ourselves.

Let’s remember where Neptune – the planet – lives: it lives way out there in our solar system at the end of the line of known planets. Here I’m differentiating very clearly between ‘planets’ and other objects – be they dwarf planets, TNO’s, comets, asteroids or what have you.

And part of this is (yes,) about size. Neptune is a big giant planet. It’s 3.88 (almost 4 times) the size of Earth. And popular though it may be, Pluto is not even 20% the size of Earth. Put another way, Neptune – though not nearly as big as Saturn or Jupiter is both big enough and quirky enough to control the orbits of a whole squadron of celestial bodies orbiting beyond Neptune…one of which is Pluto.

Anyway…particularly if this station aspects your chart you’re likely to feel a large dose of either ‘wow!’ or ‘huh? I’m confused!’ in your life. There are also those who will get all ‘but, but…!’ as something they’ve worked for or feel entitled to gets taken away.

But remember: Neptune is a tricky planet to understand the reality of – because it represents where reality ends. Where Neptune is concerned, that we think most likely to be isn’t…and that we would have bet good money on not being the truth becomes our reality. The great ‘coping mechanism’ where Neptune is concerned is astrologer Rob Hand’s immortal suggestion that we allow ourselves not to know. 

Or…thinking in the ‘astrological rule’ term on how  connections between tricky Neptune and trickster Mercury often indicate ‘the lie’…from that we extrapolate Mercury as the mental part of the lying and Neptune as the squishy emotional stance which makes us think we can ‘get away’ with something.

Put more concretely, that you think has vanished now may or may not be really gone. That you think is ‘yours’ may in fact not be yours for long. Or it may not be what you think – as wonderful or terrible as you think.

That Neptune is ‘outcome ruler’ of Pisces and at 0 Pisces as it goes stations and goes retrograde also adds not just an emotional point but a suggestion that what we are supposed to do is better understand our emotionality. Though we tend to experience Neptune transits as confusion or elation or other things which emotionally “remove” us from our (quote/unquote) normal clarity (and yes, I know that can be a pretty nebulous commodity with some…!) though all such periods or moments ‘alter’ our “sober consciousness” the real theme behind Neptune is understanding what that difference is…and in the case of lying or intoxication or the need not just to enjoy the occasional fantasy but to live in one…?

What IS reality? That’s the biggest of all Neptune questions. This is the last planet moving out through our solar system beyond which lies the unknown and metaphysically ‘unknowable’ – celestial objects which represent forces and ideas we comprehend abstractly, but which come upon us as some sort of epiphany, surprise or shock every time they happen.

Neptune represents all things idealistic and idolized. Everything we escape with and the feelings we are trying to escape from. But at the heart of it, Neptune is really about knowing the difference…and why we choose to escape and when that is a sensible thing to do and when it amounts to self-destruction. 

Addiction, abandonment, grief…these are all Pisces commodities. Neptune represents them as an ‘outcome’ in our life because they are states in which we are ‘parted’ from normal productive clarity and sobriety of sensibility. Why we get to/into these states is the deep emotional waters of the metaphysical Piscean ocean. But let not a one kid you…it’s no better to live life addicted to the non-reality of addiction than it is to live life addicted to the non-reality of uber-optmism or slavish devotion to some belief.

Why? Because they’re ALL versions of not coping with reality. The Pisces lesson – ultimately – is to accept reality because only by accepting facts can we do or build anything with them. Or change them. Change doesn’t happen because you wish it would happen…it happens either because you make it happen, or because it is part of a natural cycle (like spring following winter).

In going retrograde at 0 Pisces, Neptune asks us what we have begun to feel – or whether we are dealing with a basic/base line reality. Events now ‘bring home’ lessons to some, evoking feelings they don’t want to feel. For others, these are days when they feel a lot for all of mankind. Or the planet. Or some cause. Though at times we may be calloused, or living behind some sort of wall (mental, emotional, physical, temporal), Neptune’s ‘turnabout’ serves to strip us of that callousness or protection and leave us bare.

Bare to whom? To ourselves. And for many of us, that’s the hardest thing of all.

I chose ‘Le Reve de Parisfal’ to headline this blog not just because it’s pretty (which counts, let’s face it) but also because of the idea of the thing. A painting is an artist’s rendering of something – layer one of Neptune imagining. ‘Le Reve’ means ‘the dream’ – and whether our dreams are the fancy of nighttime slumber or a yearning or a goal we have not yet reached, the whole concept of the real/unreal which is either our brain processing ideas as we sleep or something we are working towards or something we wish would take us away from the reality of here and now…that’s oh-so very Neptunian. And Piscean, yes.

There’s also the Parsifal part. The reference is to an opera (more Neptunian/Piscean artistry) on the subject of Percival’s quest for the Holy Grail…how much more Piscean do you want to get? The search takes place in reality and the hero holds that the Holy Grail is real. But is it? Or will it become ‘a reality’ in his life?

Parsifal by Hermann Hendrich (1854-1931)

This is the very sort of Neptunian questions many of us – and our world – is now wavering on deciding the realities and non-realities of. That Neptune is going retrograde shy of fixed star Fomalhaut (at 4 Pisces) and Chiron’s current position at 5 Pisces…that should tell us that we are either not yet ready or not yet willing to take on those things we so don’t want to face: our own recognition of how close or far we are from what we deem as proper.

Fomalhaut is one of the great Persian fixed ‘royal’ stars. Like its brethren symbols, Fomalhaut promises success IF one human attribute is avoided. In the case of Fomalhaut, that attribute is corruption…or an idea which is corrupted or corruptive.

Chiron here speaks to the thing we can only learn by doing. Wherever we see Chiron we know there is likely to be a lot of talking about what ‘they’ should do and a hesitancy to look in the mirror. There will be much swearing that ‘I don’t know HOW!’ with the solution – and the lesson of ‘how’ to be found through doing.

We plainly want to know the answer before we start…whatever now. But that’s not forthcoming. There is only the recognition of what we have done here to contemplate. There is only the self-marshaling to deal with reality against the willfulness of ‘I’ll just ignore the part I don’t like’ or retreat from confrontation or the attempt to drown that small voice inside your own head (generally known as your conscience) by yelling ever so loudly about the perceived ills of others.

Modern astrology assigns rulers to every decanate (ten degrees – from the Latin ‘deca’ for ten) in the zodiac.

Neptune's station-retrograde, June 2011
(Aries Wheel - Location Not Specific)

As shown above, Neptune is currently in a Neptune decanate – using modern rulerships. Behind this is the fact that always, always, always – when we talk Pisces we are talking first Jupiter we walk in with: the knowing, the understanding, the comprehension. Jupiter in Pisces being the emotional side of Jupiter (knowledge) we are thus talking about knowledge ‘internalized’ – or wisdom.

How wise are you?

In the above chart, you will see Jupiter at 29 Aries. And the Moon at 29 Gemini. Gemini is mentality. In Gemini, the Moon represents the degree of our  personally having absorbed information. Or our willingness to make a choice. Or – of course – own our choices. Aries being the “I Am/I Do” sign of the zodiac, the question is who am I and what am I doing with (or in) my life? 

The angular aspect between these two points – a 60 degree sextile – is one of opportunity. It’s a tool – think of this as pliers….you can get a grip on things…but will you?

Last year’s Neptune retrograde was entirely in Aquarius. We had ‘internalized’ (that being the retrograde part) the problems going on in our world, our Aquarian society and marketplace.

This year’s Neptune retrograde starts in Pisces and retrogrades back into Aquarius. Thus the question is posed: will you do something with your life to better your societal reality? For some this is doing what the world wants, rejoining the world…or even letting go of some part of your ‘world’ which is no longer applicable to your life. For others this will be tackling that ‘thing’ to become what you could be in the world.

And a word to the wise here: once Neptune goes direct in November 2011, it has to come back through the end of Aquarius into Pisces. The last time it did that, as it hit 29 energetic degrees of societal Aquarius (one ‘critical mass’ point) Uranus was at 29 degrees of oceanic Pisces. During the five or so days that this overlap existed, the giant earthquake off Japan’s shores occurred, triggering a devastating tsunami and the associated (and ongoing) nuclear plant disaster.

The earthquake/tsunami occurred during the last 12 hours (or so) that Uranus was in Pisces – in other words, the last moments of this overlap.

When Neptune comes back through 29 Aquarius, Saturn will be at 29 Libra. This is a slightly different dynamic in that Uranus and Neptune are BOTH ‘transpersonal’ planets, meaning they symbolize forces beyond human control (earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, nuclear toxicity).

Saturn is a ‘generational planet’: it represents factors which we work for. In broad stroke terms, Saturn is everything about governments and governance and everything about social systems, from civilization as a concept to energy, plumbing, economics and the global marketplace.

We CAN – with much effort, clarity of mind and determination – deal with all such ‘social systems.’ The question now is will we? Given that Neptune re-enters Pisces on February 3, 2012 at 6:53pm (UT/+0) that makes February 2nd and 3rd of next year a date to circle on our calendar.

And to aim for. For while there is no assurance that everything will go right, for those who have lined their ducks up by that time, Neptune scheduled to re-enter Pisces next February with Jupiter at 3 Taurus and Saturn going on station at 29 Libra to go retrograde…you can bet your bottom dollar more than a few people who have worked to create something will see their efforts crowned with achievements at that time.

For those who haven’t? A sense of having missed your own boat will be the outcome.

Meanwhile…back to the present. Those with planets or chart placements between 25 Aquarius and 5 Pisces are going to feel the current ‘turn of affairs’ most personally. Those with highlighted chart positions between 25 Leo and 5 Virgo will be confronted by something which can no longer be relied upon to remain as it has been.

Those with chart positions between 25 Scorpio and 5 Sagittarius AND/OR 25 Taurus and 5 Gemini are to be sympathized with for a period of confusion. With Mercury currently at 0 Gemini there is a real thread of ‘needing to learn and get more facts’ which applies to us all but this is a far more essential issue in your life than it is for many.

Those with chart positions between 28 Virgo and 2 Libra and/or 28 Cancer and 2 Leo? Adjustments to current methods, aims or relationships are in the works. Or should be!

Planet Neptune
photo credit: NASA/JPL - Caltech

With this station/retrograde happening just a couple of days after a solar eclipse in Gemini, while there may seem to be a veneer of coping in your world there is emotional quicksand beneath what is actually a very thin crust. Tread lightly and be realistic about where you can and cannot go.

Better yet, deal with the quicksand. Those who do will be in better shape for having done so. Rainbows are nice, but in reality, rainbows don’t really last all that long.

Real reality, on the other hand, lasts forever – and can support our efforts, providing us with what we really need…in reality.


  1. I have a hideous neptune placement. 25 capricorn, opposite my moon

  2. I can sympathize with you entirely. Then again, is there anywhere to put Neptune by degree or in a chart which would be entirely reasonable and wonderful?

    You're in for a lot of tests of faith - in what, would be read from the full chart.