Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mercury Retrograde Action

We currently have Mercury retrograde in Taurus (May 6 - May 30). Mercury Rx conjuncted the Sun at 27 degrees Taurus on May 18, signalling the beginning a new intellectual/communication/information cycle. However, Mercury will remain retrograde until May 30 when it turns direct at 22 degrees Taurus.

Mercury will not enter brand new territory until June 14 at 1 degree Gemini (after sextiling Uranus and squaring the Aquarius bodies yet again), so I thought I would post an old informational article I wrote on Mercury retrograde.

When we say a planet is retrograde, it means that because of the speed and motion of the orbiting planet in relation to Earth’s speed and orbit, the planet appears to be moving backward through the zodiac. It doesn’t actually move backward, but it appears to do so. All planets except for the Sun, Earth, and Moon go retrograde.

The effect of a planet in retrograde differs based on the particular planet and sign involved (and the astrologer interpreting it), but in general, a planet in retrograde signifies a period of recalibration when we’re detaching from a previous period of forward motion and preparing for the next one.

When a planet is direct, it moves through an area of the zodiac, and we make external progress. During a retrograde, the planet moves back over that same territory, and we internally adjust/shift gears as we prepare to fully engage in a new cycle (while disengaging from the previous one).

Mercury goes retrograde the most - three to four times per year for about three weeks each time. This is why it's the retrograde most people are aware of. Mercury is the messenger of the sky and relates to communication, intellect, information, transportation, connections and thought processes.

For the most part, people experience Mercury retrograde "symptoms" when they are attempting to move full speed ahead, business as usual. Retrogrades are periods of going back over important degrees to gain and apply insight. As with all retrogrades, when Mercury is retrograde, we have to adjust to the slower rhythms. There's a strong element of "cosmic timing," more noticeable than usual.

If we don't listen to Mercury retrograde, slow down and pay more attention, we can experience some of these classic symptoms:

** Communication problems, delays, glitches, mistakes, misinformation. (Written and verbal)
** Telephone lines, internet, TV, radio, faxes, electronics/computers going haywire - delayed connections, e-mails that don’t go through, messages sent to the wrong people or ones that seem to disappear into thin air, slow or no internet connections, programs that refuse to work, cable TV and telephone problems…basically anything that involves getting a message or information between two parties will be subject to this.
** Transportation problems, especially public transportation - late, missing, getting on the wrong bus or train, lights going haywire, confusion about where to go.
** People just having a hard time understanding each other. Being forced to slow down and make an effort to be understood. Having to repeat yourself.
** A feeling of déjà vu - Didn’t I just say that? Didn’t we already talk about this? Things come back up for review and revision during Mercury retrograde. Old conversations, ideas, information coming up for completion. We rediscover crucial information that perhaps we didn’t realize was important before and receive missing information before moving forward with plans. A time to cross our Ts and dot our Is. Mental preparation for what is to come.
** A lot of mental processing related to what is going on in your life. ("My brain hurts.")
** Delays, delays, delays - remember, this is a time of rewiring, not necessarily of forward progress. It is a time of preparing, making sure the connections are sound, the information is available, everything is ship shape. A feeling of slowness, having to wait on things that you wouldn’t normally have to. We also have to allow ourselves to be directed a little more than usual regarding what we focus on.

Traditionally, Mercury retrograde is not a good time to sign contracts, make deals or make big purchases.

Mercury retrograde happens at the point when Mercury is ahead of the Sun in the zodiac by about 15 degrees. This means that our minds, ideas and communications (Mercury) are ahead of our conscious current moment (Sun) and eventually, Mercury has to slow down and go back to touch base with the Sun. Mercury collects and processes information that we need to deal with our current moment, so it has to stay in relatively close contact.

Basically, we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves or become too mentally excited by our ideas and plans, or we’ll crash and burn! We all know a real life example of how this happens. You get really excited about something you decide to do - say getting married. So you’ve made up your mind to get married. You tell all your friends and family and start getting ideas about what you want your wedding to be like. Cake, flowers, venue, guest list, food, vows, dress, you name it. You talk about it ad nauseum. After a while, it’s all you’re thinking about. You’ve basically mentally projected yourself into the future. But wait a minute! You still have to rent, buy, plan, organize, and have about a million interactions related to the day, not to mention prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for becoming someone's wife/husband. You need time to wrap your brain around the reality of being hitched (along with everything that goes with it) before it actually happens. You have to slow yourself down before you burn yourself out through mental overload.

That’s what Mercury retrograde is for. During this period, Mercury slows down and then goes back over mental territory we’ve just been through for a rewiring process. At this time, external communications can slow, snag, and snafu for aforementioned reasons. Our attempts at further progress are thwarted, which can be frustrating until we accept the "go with the flow" aspect.

All this, of course, so that we are forced to communicate with ourselves about what is going on in our lives - so that we pay attention and don’t skip over anything important.


For about two weeks before the retrograde begins, Mercury travels through what is called its shadow. This means that Mercury goes through the degrees of the zodiac (for the first time) that it will revisit during the retrograde period. During the shadow time, it’s useful to make note of the things coming up - information, conversations, ideas, things you’re trying to do, etc. These things will be revisited in the coming weeks. Near the end of the two-week shadow, Mercury starts to slow down to get ready for the retrograde. The period of time surrounding a planet turning retrograde is called the station. At the point of its station, Mercury will basically appear motionless in the sky. This is generally a time when nothing much seems to be moving. Communication is a little heavy and difficult. At this time, communication that does go on will generally be potent.

After any planet turns to go retrograde (back through the degrees of the zodiac from which it just came), it takes a while for it to regain speed. While Mercury regains its speed, communication and interaction will, again, be a little slow. After a few days, Mercury is again traveling at its regular pace, but it’s now going backward, through territory it has already gone over, on its way to meet the Sun.

About halfway through the retrograde, Mercury and the Sun meet. At this point, our ideas/brains and our conscious moment are together. We’re no longer ahead of ourselves. Mercury spills the beans about all the ideas and information it has, and the Sun has a chance to integrate this into our conscious current reality. At this point, we have detached from the previous Mercury cycle. Mercury has told the Sun everything, and now it’s time (in typical Mercury fashion) to move onto the next thing.

As the Sun moves forward and Mercury continues to move retrograde, Mercury gets ready for a new cycle up ahead. This period is for bolstering our energies, formulating our plans, and mentally preparing ourselves for the new. We’re not fully in the new cycle; we’re still going back over old territory. But we’ve finished what we needed to finish from the old cycle. We’ve disengaged, and we can sense the new ground up ahead. As Mercury completes the retrograde period, we're prepared to launch into the new cycle.

At the end of the three-week retrograde, Mercury again slows and stations - this time to go direct (move forward) and fully enter the new cycle of information, ideas, communication and interaction. Once Mercury goes direct, it still has about two weeks to pass through its shadow before it gets into completely new territory (completely fresh degrees of the zodiac). But at least it’s now moving forward!

Mercury’s actual retrograde motion lasts for about three weeks, but the whole retrograde process takes seven (give or take a few days).

WEEK ONE - Mercury is going full speed ahead through new territory, but it is in its shadow - the territory it will re-cover during the retrograde.
WEEK TWO - Still moving through its shadow, Mercury slows down and stops - making its retrograde station.
WEEK THREE - Mercury now starts moving backward over the degrees of the zodiac it just covered and slowly regains its speed.
WEEK FOUR - Mercury is back up to regular speed, covering old ground and rewiring, reviewing, reconnecting, reworking.
WEEK FIVE - Mercury slows in backward motion and again stations (becomes practically motionless in the sky) to turn direct.
WEEK SIX - Mercury goes direct at the beginning of this week and slowly starts making it way up to full speed, moving in the third and final pass over the same degrees of the zodiac.
WEEK SEVEN - Mercury is back up to its full speed and completes its retrograde, entering new territory and fresh degrees of the zodiac by the end of this week.

So using our current Mercury Retrograde as an example...

April 22 - Mercury enters retrograde shadow degree at 22 Taurus
May 6 - Mercury stations retrograde at 1 degree Gemini and starts appearing to move backward from 1 degree Gemini to 22 degrees Taurus. The Sun is at 16 degrees Taurus, about 15 degrees ahead of Mercury
May 18 - Mercury Rx conjuncts the Sun at 27 degrees Taurus. The Sun then moves ahead of Mercury in the zodiac as Mercury continues to head retro
May 30 - Mercury stations direct
June 14 - Mercury passes over 1 degree Gemini and heads into new territory

All in all, as with all astrological transits, Mercury retrograde is a period when it’s best to let cosmic timing do its thing. You can’t force things to happen that seem to have a mind of their own. The best thing to do is accept the slower pace, even learn to enjoy it, because Mercury doesn’t stay in one place for long.

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto all go retrograde once a year for (approximately) the following numbers of days:

Jupiter: 120 days
Saturn: 140 days
Uranus: 150 days
Neptune: 160 days
Pluto: 160 days

Venus goes retrograde once every 18 months for 42 days, and Mars goes retro once every two years for 80 days.

Thanks to Zane Stein for the data on the other planets' retrogrades.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Mercury retro info. Good to know the dates and what to keep an eye on.

I just read the most outlandish claim about the Mercury retro cycle by another astrologer, who states:

"Mercury retrogrades have a cycle** in which the retrogrades have an exactness of covering the same signs, the same degrees and approximately on the same calendar days. This exactness is seldom thought about Mercury retrograde, with the seemingly chaotic and confusing situations we experience during the retrogrades. The exact Mercury retrogrades we will experience in 2009 were the exact same signs, same degrees and approximately the same calendar days of 1930. This cycle** is seldom talked about in the astrology world, but is the cause of major course corrections for humanity.

**Proprietary Discovery made by Karyl Jackson Alpha Life Trends"

As far as I know, astrologers study the cycles of the heavens, so one astrologer claiming to discover the "cycle of Mercury Retrogrades" sounds pretty farfetched to me.

This reminded me of your article about Evolutionary Astrology, with the different schools of astrology and astrologers' attempts to legitimize it as science. Accordingly, they attempt to claim particular "discoveries."

I just had to laugh at the hubris of this astrologer, and thought I'd share this little gem with you.

Edi said...

Willow, thanks for a great teaching article on Merc Rx. I have never before read it in so much detail and I enjoyed the week-by-week breakdown as well. Good work :)