The retrogrades of the outer planets occur frequently, some staying in retrograde for months in a time each year. This is part of their transiting work in the chart, repeatedly moving over the same degree over a number of years and presenting the lessons for that particular point in waves. One step forward, two steps back.
Neptune has been in ruling sign Pisces since 2012 and will inch through the sign until 2025. It can be hard to put a finger on what Neptune actually does in the chart. Experiencing a transit may just feel like an inexplicable fogginess or unsteadiness. Neptune can symbolise illusion and thus the potential for disillusion. A Neptunian person (with a highly aspected Neptune or many Pisces placements) can be chameleonlike and reflective of their surroundings in a way that defies the idea of a static, cohesive identity. The concept of boundaries is incompatible with Neptunian energy, as it attempts to reconcile the material with the immaterial. It is always trying to transcend, for better or worse. Neptune energy gives us an extra layer of consciousness over the mundane realities of existence — it rules spiritual peak experiences, compassion and interconnectedness, nature in its complexity, the liminal, unknown and unspeakable.
These energies struggle in modern Western society. The idea of the separate, rational self-interested individual, the degradation of nature (a source of Neptunian experience) and the violence of oppressive structures don’t give much room for Neptune to speak through in a way that heals. Neptune’s common association with escapism and addiction arise in these contexts where healing is made inaccessible. Suffering is not part of Neptune’s essence as a planet, but how it is forced to operate with logics of capitalism, white supremacy, colonialism, antiblackness, cishetero patriarchy and ableism.
Outer planets point to collective energies. At school and university, we may have been surrounded by people with the exact same Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus and Pluto placements. While house and inner planet placements differ, these common placements can feel like a buzzing synchronicity, a push towards shared goals. People with personal aspects to these planets may bring out the collective focus in others, as their Sun or Moon conjuncts their outer planets in synastry.
As Neptune goes direct in your chart, you can imagine it lighting up, corresponding with Pisces placements and your natal Neptune, illuminating what these placements might be doing for you in the world, whether it is unconsciously trying to protect you from needless cruelty through escape, giving you moments of insight, or putting you in touch with groundlessness and limitlessness.
Some forms of suffering in the world are needless — the suffering that results from corporate greed, capitalist expansion, colonial exploitation. But Neptune also acts to remind us that we cannot seek a world completely without pain, and that moments of feeling wretched and vulnerable are the moments we can use to connect to others. We all experience loss, insecurity, fear and anxiety, as part of the condition of life and living. These feelings are hard. Compassion is not a balm to take the feelings away, but to accept those feelings in both ourselves and others. This acceptance is not something that can be achieved, put away and finished, but a continual practice of leaning into hard feelings. We come to terms with this pain as healing, as a point of reconnecting, again and again. Neptune may force us to sacrifice something to learn these lessons, where sacrifice can mean loss but also to make something sacred.
Other things that resonate with Neptune include cinema:
As well as My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins, impressionist art, clubbing and group dancing, not wearing your glasses even when you need them, looking for your glasses when they’re on top of your head. Neptunian people are often heralded by graceful messiness and forgetfulness. Some Mercurial types are also forgetful but in a frenetic, distracted way, whereas Neptunians float through life, letting car keys and borrowed items of clothing slip through their fingers. Jupiterians do the same except they somehow find as much as they lose.
In many ways we are blessed to live through Neptune in Pisces, despite the struggle and confusion it might bring us. There might be a feeling of truth in the unsettled feelings, something that indicates that this is where you need to be, regardless of what you might wish.