In these mercurial times Mercury retrograde gets a lot of bad press, it’s one of the few well-known astrological phenomena. But if we treat it with respect and look for moments of serendipity, we can make the most out of this step out of life’s ordinary flow. Please share with us your Mercury retrograde stories in the comments below.
Who is Mercury: In Greek mythology, Mercury was the God of the crossroads- God of choices, the messenger (communicator) of the Gods, and the psychopomp or therapist that went down to the underworld to negotiate for the release of lost souls. He was also God of thieves and liars. He symbolizes an ingenious quality that is a gift when in the service of the Gods but a source of trouble when used to disconnect us from our heart and body or used for personal gain alone.
Mercury expresses as our mental switchboard– how we think, talk, organize- and how we transport, move people, things and ideas. In our private charts it talks about our nervous system, how we think, speak, tell jokes and remember, how we manage time and travel. It affects how we understand one another, where we put our car keys, how we schedule and coordinate with others. In worldly (mundane) astrology, it correlates with travel, publishing, broadcasting, with the electrical neurological networks created between our computer and the web, with navigation, air traffic control and traffic flow. Mercury retrograde can really snafu business as usual; we cannot count on these things going smoothly, they need extra time and attention.
What is Mercury retrograde:Mercury is the toasty planet whirling so close to the Sun that it never appears farther than one sign away, it has 4.15 years, or rotations around the Sun, to each earth year. Because we’re moving in the same direction, although slower, Mercury appears to rotate around the Sun only three times a year (or three times more than we do on earth). Because Mercury is so close to the Sun, we can see it move up to 28 degrees ahead of the Sun as an evening star, and then it appears to circle back on its orbit and looks, from our Earthly perspective, to retrograde — or move backwards against the pattern of the Zodiac behind it– for about three weeks.
From our earthly perspective, all planets turn retrograde sometime (but not the luminaries, our Sun and Moon), but because Mercury is symbolically connected to movement itself, we feel this particular retrograde most acutely. Mercury likes to move, so the days at the beginning and end of this retrograde cycle -when Mercury appears to hold still -are the trickiest; so much hold still here on earth. Mercury disappears into the Sun’s light and reappears on the other side more often than any other visible planet—one reason it corresponds to the magician and the shape-shifter archetypes in mythology.
Mercury’s shadow: Astrologers often hear “Isn’t Mercury retrograde yet? I’m feeling it already.” We can feel it coming a week or more before the stationary points and feel it linger for a week or more afterwards. Mercury is referred to as being in its shadow once it passes the point it returns to in its retrograde cycle. For instance, June 7, 2014, Mercury stations and turns retrograde at 3° of Cancer, and retrogrades back to 24° of Gemini to station and turns direct on July 1. But we can feel Mercury slowing down in its shadow from the time it first touches 24° of Gemini on May 22, and will feel Mercury in this odd slow motion until it clears 3° of Cancer again on July 15. To summarize, we feel mercurial glitches most when Mercury stations, second-most while Mercury is retrograde, and feel a lingering effect of this time when Mercury is in its shadow.
Mercury retrograde surviving/thriving skills–How to make the best of it:
When Mercury appears to dance backwards, all things Mercurial also seem to move backward or in a different pattern. We get a chance to come to a new and deeper understanding, reconnect with our past and bring old work to completion. Mercury encourages us to take time out of our ordinary busy schedule and go within, but our modern world often doesn’t give us room to do this guilt free. It’s hard to let ourselves retreat and renew in the quiet unless our phone’s lost, our car doesn’t work, the train crashed, the reservations mixed up, our toe’s stubbed, the Internet is down, and our friends are so miffed over a misunderstanding they won’t talk to us. Mercury retrograde is happy to help.
It furthers to do anything that begins re-, like remember, re-edit, reconnect, retreat, reorganize, retrofit, or renew. Or do something that is long overdue, and should have been done a long time ago. These things can go unusually well. But let’s not get lost in the past. The glitches can remind us to make life a meditative dance, when we’re moving through the world it pays to be here now.
If there’s any tension in a relationship, look for the misunderstanding. If a situation seems confusing, walk forward slowly and with alert poise, like walking through a fogbound city. Prioritize safety. Confirm all appointments, reservations, or travel itineraries. Keep track of whatever really needs to happen (bills paid, messages sent and received) and let go of the rest. Little importance-filled items seem to wander, so carefully track keys, wallets, phone numbers, credit cards, phones, and power chords. Emails can go to exactly the wrong person, so please check the “To:” line carefully before sending, or admit you really did want the boss to know how you felt.
Truth will come out in strange ways. So notice the letter that flutters to the floor and listen to what people mumble when they’re mad. But do not assume you have the whole picture, as it’s way too easy to read the past upon the present and misunderstand a situation. Confirm facts, ask the tough questions, and don’t let life become a French farce of misconception.
It’s not time to start new projects or make whopping decisions for the future, but it is a great time to complete what is already begun, deal with side issues and projects, or resurrect some connection or work from the past. Pull out that old manuscript and get to work. Go home and get grandma’s stories recorded. Find an old love.
If you need to sign an important contract and have no choice about timing, do not worry but do not rush; read the fine print carefully, take the time to negotiate and make sure it says what you mean. If a contact or beloved is not responding to your urgent missive, don’t go away in a huff, assume the message has been mislaid or waylaid, and try again. If the phone doesn’t work, try email, fb, and a drive-by visit.
It’s usually a good idea to defer electrical work or major technology purchases until Mercury is moving briskly forward, but sometimes you just have to replace the phone that went through the wash. If so, it’s no big deal, just shop carefully and keep the receipt. And don’t kick yourself if you see the same model on sale next month.
Travel, especially back to a place you’ve been before, can go smoothly, but it is always good to make contingency plans and take a good book with you. Keep the schedule as loose as possible, carry valuables on your person, and bring an extra ID.
Notice when old problems rear their head again, but don’t buy into the old scenario; make fresh and more positive choices this time. Drive defensively, as other drivers might drift more than usual, drive with safety in mind and keep an eye on the weather. Forgive everyone their fogginess or mistakes, but keep an eye out for the consequences of their inattention.
Look for the hidden benefits, opportunities that arise when things look bleak. Engage a great conversation while waiting for the delayed ferry. Notice what other wandering items you can find while looking for the lost keys. Check out the new neighborhood discovered while following the detour signs.
Put your feet up if you have five minutes. Take a retreat if you have longer. Take a moment to turn within to retrospect and introspect, the real gift of Mercury retrograde. If we’re too cerebral, our mind may seem to go on strike and ask us to get whole, and take a holistic body-mind-heart-soul approach instead. Rest and be energized for the new chapter afterwards.
But most of all, keep a sense of humor. Enjoy the slapstick, but play it safe.
Before we start a new journey, the stars ask us to stop and review: have we forgotten anything? do we need to compost or complete anything before we head out the door? Mercury retrograde is laced with its own gifts if we take the time and dance with it.
Heather – Thank you for this description of mercury and retrograde. I have always felt uncertain about the meaning of this, but now have a much better understanding. I’ll try to be more aware of things you mention here. It should be interesting! Lisa
Nice – good explanation.
Here’s a good one: Laid off Monday, the day after my birthday. Can’t afford a very long wait, but suppose I shouldn’t accept work before July, if anything happens that fast. Fortunately, the time will probably positively CRAWL by, lol! Can’t believe you wrote ‘The God of the Crossroads’…that’s what I’ve been putting in cover letters! Seeing this time as a crossroads to finding a position that supports doing good in the world; something I align with on the inside. The just-lost position was most definitely not that. Yesterday my Tarot card was the Devil reversed: “Liberation from oppressive forces. You have escaped treachery and deceit. It’s easier to walk away from something now, go before you are turned around…a reversal of bad fortune”
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Well yes… that sums it up… the whole thing.. thank you.. I feel a little at peace knowing that I’m not crazy. I guess the full circle is not quite complete. Looking forward to this feeling being over. As always thank you for shedding light… Tammy