Neptune is often called the planet of illusion, because it rules all things illusory -- the intangible, the ethereal, the abstract and elusive. Dreams and fantasy fall within this planet's realm, as do spirituality and idealism.

It's easier to understand Neptune if you think of it in terms of that which can't be defined -- things that are changeable, that not only have no discernible boundaries, but that you literally can't put your finger on.

This is the planet that can make your day pleasant with daydreams but that can simultaneously confuse your sense of reality. Have you ever fallen asleep and had a dream, only to find when you woke up that you just couldn't be certain whether what you imagined was real or not? That's the filmy curtain of Neptune, drifting slyly between reality and fantasy and blurring the lines between the two.

Neptune makes life both more pleasant and more difficult. This is the planet that makes it easier to be taken in by a con man or a liar, someone who wants to capitalize on your vulnerability to artfully crafted stories that don't contain a lick of truth; but it's also the planet that increases your intuitive skills and your sense of spiritual connectedness to the universe.

Neptune is responsible both for the overwhelming sensation of falling in love, and for the utter disillusionment of finding out that you've been misled.

Neptune rules the dreamy sign of Pisces. Read about Pisces to learn more about this sign and how Neptune influences it.

The planets are: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto

Neptune, one of the two outermost planets, has such a long orbit that it spends fourteen years in one sign! Although we here on Earth can’t see this planet without a powerful telescope, astronomers have plotted its course with extreme accuracy.

Like all other planets, Neptune has a retrograde period; that is, if we could see it with the naked eye, it would appear to slow down, stop and then temporarily turn backward in its orbit. After five months, it slows down again, turns around and resumes its normal direction.

Since Neptune is retrograde forty-three percent of the time, by itself, it’s not an enormously important factor. But the stationary points -- the points at which the planet seems to turn around in its orbit -- are enormously important. It’s at these times when the energy of Neptune are most evident.

Since this pokey planet can spend months at the same Zodiac degree when it is stationary, astrologers look for the span of just a few days that pinpoints when Neptune actually begins moving from the stationary point. It’s on these days when you’re likely to see Neptune’s influence on the news -- drug raids, new developments in the healing arts, magicians and escape artists, criminal activity, the Mafia and the oil industry, to name just a few.

What about on a personal level? Neptune is related to your creativity and spiritual life. When Neptune is retrograde, you’re more likely to be attentive to these areas of your life, and give them voice. You may not present the efforts of your inspirations right away -- that may wait till Neptune has gone direct -- but you will cherish them all the more for waiting.

Keep a dream journal, for your dreams are likely to be vivid and meaningful during Neptune Retrograde, if you take the time to interpret them.

Learn more about the other retrograde planets: Mercury retrograde, Venus retrograde, Mars retrograde, Jupiter retrograde, Saturn retrograde, Uranus retrograde, Neptune retrograde, Pluto retrograde

The second of the three ‘outer planets,’ Neptune is impossible to see with the naked eye, and was not discovered until 1846. Neptune is about the same size as Uranus but is twice as far away from the Sun. It is the outermost of the ‘gas giants’ -- planets composed only of gases, with no solid core.

Neptune orbits the Sun every 165 years, and has a nearly perfect circular orbit. A day on Neptune is roughly sixteen hours. It has eight moons. Like Saturn, it has outer rings, and it also radiates more than twice as much energy as it receives from the Sun, another similarity to Saturn. The ‘blue planet’ has wild storms with the strongest winds of all planets.

From our perspective here on Earth, Neptune appears to be retrograde 44% of the time, and as always, the most important times are the stationary points, when the planet appears to be standing still as it changes direction.

During the stations, it’s best to take stock of your emotional state. Consider your feelings and how you respond to crises. You may need to process your emotions, especially concerning a loss of something or someone in your life.

Neptune’s orbit is longer than the human life span, so astrologers don’t look at Neptune Returns. However, shorter divisions of the Neptune cycle, such as the Neptune Square that occurs around age forty to forty-two years of age, are important milestones.

During the Neptune Square, dreams and illusions get a reality check. No longer following pipe dreams, we tend to go for more realistic goals.