I’m sat here in the eye of the hurricane….. we are mid Mercury retrograde betwixt dreamy ambiguous Pisces and revolutionary Aquarius as we get our faculties and houses (no pun intended) in order to continue ever onward into a new age. Guess what? It’s absolutely fine.
As an astrologer retrogrades are my soft spot, they have a very dear space in my soul but then I always have championed the underdog. This might have something to do with the fact that I have Mercury, Neptune and Uranus all retrograde in my natal chart, ever since I first saw my birth chart (quite a while ago now) that little ‘r’ has always held me enthralled. Given this, I would dearly like to begin debunking the fear we have become accustomed to where retrograde motion in the skies is concerned- in order to work with retrogrades we need to understand them. Once we understand the energy at play, fear of the misunderstood and confusing can be replaced with something altogether a little deeper and yet higher at the same time. It is worth taking the time to get to know both the natal retrograde as well as the transitioning one (by that we mean looking at both the birth chart as well as the current movement of the planets in the sky) in order to work with the energies they bring forth to us.
So, without further delay- meet Mercury!
Rather beautiful isn’t he? The smallest planet and closest to the sun (many of us have the sun and mercury close together in our natal charts) with an orbit period of 88 days. Mercury was first discovered by Assyrian astronomers way back in the 1300’s and is the ruler of both Gemini and Virgo, the 3rd and 6th houses.
Mercury is associated with cerebral activity of a left brained nature in fact he is one of the 2 rulers of the brain and nervous system. When balanced he affords analytical skill and structure based thinking in order to make sense of a phenomenological reality. What we mean here is that Mercury helps us structure and order our experience in a linear fashion. This then gives rise to speech and communication, a way to express and share with others our experience of life through the intellectual thought process. This communication itself creates further knowledge and understanding. When imbalanced he is frenetic, nervous, jumpy or exhausted and overwhelmed unable to make sense of his surroundings and constantly ‘on edge’ or so flat out and numb he is unable to get out of bed and function if that short circuiting has truly taken a hold. We quite often see that slightly agitated nervous or frenetic energy displayed in somebody with prominent Gemini or Virgoan aspects within their chart during a particular transiting aspect or personal challenge of some sort.
What is Mercury retrograde?
In a nutshell retrograde motion can be defined as a planet appearing to be moving backwards in the sky- ‘apparent retrograde motion’. It looks this way as there is a difference in how fast a planet is travelling coupled with how close they are to the Earth on their own path around the sun. This proximity creates the illusion of the other planet slowing down, coming to a standstill (stationary retrograde) and then moving backwards. After a time of moving backwards they once again appear to come to a standstill (stationary direct) then rev up and go on their merry way again. Mercury Retrograde is quite common, occurring roughly 3 times a year for 3 weeks.
There is no hard and set rule as to when and how you will feel the effects of a transiting retrograde. This will be entirely dependent upon the following;
Where in your chart it is moving through: Which house/s is Mercury moving through and which signs rule those houses in your chart? Mercury retrograde will be felt very differently by Gemini in the 6th house compared to Leo in the first for example.
What aspects are being made during this time: Is Mercury travelling over a cusp? Is it aspecting any of your natal planets? All of this will add to the energetic fingerprint of a retrograde period and totally individualize this for you.
Which houses are being traversed and you know, how sensitive you are generally to planetary motion: Different retrograde periods will affect us all differently as we have seen. Interestingly I have noted that those born under a Mercury retrograde seem more able to surf the energy than most which in probability is due to this frequency being an inherent part of their day to day lives though this is not a hard and fast rule at all.
If we take all of this into consideration it is clear that each retrograde is unique to us all just as we are all unique to this planet. Don’t buy what the astrology cook books and social media astro gurus try to sell you. One size does not fit all, it never has done and it never will do. Close examination of your natal energetic fingerprint is the only way to better understand your personal relationship Mercury.
What we can say for sure however is that traditionally there are certain parts of the Mercury retrograde which throw over to us a stronger and more intense energy in a defined pattern or rhythm, this will of course be of the nature of the signs it passes through and filtered for you personally through the lens of your natal chart.
We first encounter the retrograde during the shadow period which is just before Mercury turns stationary retrograde and is passing through the exact degree it will return to when it decides it is done with going backwards and wants to return to its forward motion way of moving. Here our energetic tentacles begin to twitch a little at the change in frequency if we are feeling this particular motion, certainly when it hits its first storm period (as it moves less than 40 minutes per day). When we have our stationary retrograde this is when the energy of the retrograde is quite concentrated, see it like a floodlight sat in the sky beaming out this energy. We are now truly in the realm of the retrograde vibe during which we have the second storm period (seriously though, don’t panic at this term) which is Mercury at it’s slowest during the actual retrograde itself. It then starts to speed up again until we become stationary direct, giving us a final blast of the retrograde horn echoed in the shadow period until it shakes itself off, dusts itself down and thus ends the backwards motion of Mercury.
As alluded to earlier, lots of people genuinely live in fear of this perfectly natural cycle. From a conservative refusal to sign contracts, make big decisions or switch jobs to out and out hiding under the bed until it’s all over we see the retrograde perceived as negative almost superstitious in its undertones. This all has its roots in genuine aspects of retrograde energy but it is also a sadly distorted lens through which to view a very important time of insular growth and renewal. I am making the presumption that if you are here you already have a good grasp on the fear based perspective many share with a Mercury retrograde. Regardless, you don’t need to worry because as far as I am concerned there is a different way we should be looking at the retrogrades entirely and the way it is viewed by many is a sad indictment of imbalance and lack of natural rhythm found within today’s society. Boo.
If mercury retrograde isn’t a period to be feared and cursed what exactly is it?
What we see in this type of transit is a specific state in which data and information of an external nature are specifically relegated in importance to the soul and instead the inner workings and what has been collated thus far are prioritized.
Quite literally the planet of communication, nerves, cerebral activity and mental processes is saying “slow down, stop.” This is a good thing although the experience itself might not necessarily feel comfortable depending upon what it is you are having to revisit and how in touch you are with your inner aspects to begin with, it is a much required internal review. How else do we do that other than drowning out the external noise? Here is the ‘breakdown in communication’ and the going awry people tend to be aware of during this time. It’s actually the disruption of external signals-a deliberate energetic act. Mercury is giving us a helping hand with this.
I feel so often in our harder faster more patriarchal imbalanced society that this reflection time within our inner sacred space is negated and seen as optional- in fact by many an indulgence we are not entitled to. I also think that this is where the distorted lens of the whole retrograde experience of Mercury stems from, it has become demonized by lack of knowledge of the true potential to utilise the ebb and flow of natural universal energetic currents. Divinity and spirituality have been gang pressed into submission, we in turn have become so disenfranchised from our sense of self and autonomy over our own experience on this planet that quite frankly to stop and process as an individual is unacceptable and fear inducing- and doesn’t it just suit ‘the man’ to keep us that way? Hence, Mercury retrograde is very often the scapegoat of a society which is no longer accustomed to a period dedicated to the inner individual world.
The thought of change, particularly that required as part of the retrograde process can be a scary one where our mental structuring is concerned. This is the ordering of life which has kept us safe so far and to change, this would mean a lack of consistency a plunge into the unknown, chaos and confusion? Yes perhaps, but it also offers forward motion (ironically) and a fresh perspective on your life once this assessment and evaluation has taken place. Change IS a scary thing -particularly for individuals with lots of fixed energy in their chart but it is just as necessary an element as established structure and status quo. It is these two dynamics working in tandem which sustains human life and evolution on this planet.
So yes, perhaps your laptop or mobile phone will go haywire during a retrograde (what a fecking cliche though) but do you need that experience? Do you need to be without that form of external communication? Do you need to review when you last upgraded said laptop/mobile phone? What are you being told? Personally, I think Uranus is more likely to interfere here but that’s another story for another day……retrograde energy can take us by surprise particularly if we are ill prepared for the transit but is that not a lesson in itself? In terms of how we attach so readily a sense of security and safety to our outside structured reality that when the rug is pulled we freak out and in actuality our security and grounding needs to come from us and our internal world?
The signing of contracts and initiating new projects under a retrograde gets a tweak in its slant also (revisiting old ones is certainly something to consider). Maybe starting something new isn’t a soul priority when the universal energies are telling you to re assess and review whatever area of your life is under Mercury’s radar? Perhaps to focus solely on that would be preferable before adding more data to your internal world. It doesn’t mean that the sky is going to fall if you have to initiate something new but if it can wait until you’ve enjoyed the natural internal dynamics of Mercury retrograde all the better, certainly given that the volume button on the external world will be put back up to audible levels making communication and digestion of external information clearer and more easier to understand. I am not for one second trying to make every retrograde transit sound like a bed of roses, it isn’t, obviously, as this is life but neither is it a bad omen of ill tidings or any other fatalistic drama. It is a unique time of insular growth, revision and re assessment which, yes, can be startling and surprising as can any other type of transit. I hope you read that in a loud slightly harsh tone all you retrograde nay sayers out there.
In order to maximize the message of Mercury retrograde and the taking of time for your own inner machinations I offer some thoughts. Firstly take time for your time out, have a look at your own chart, your own houses your own planetary positions (or I can do it for you-I’m nice like that) and then see how the energies within the skies match up with it:
Which areas of your life are you being asked to review and revisit? What are the houses being reviewed and who are their rulers in your chart?
Will any important areas in your chart be passed over by Mercury? Key areas such as the north and south node, cusps, ascendant and descendant as well as any natal planetary positions can all receive and react in spectacular fashion to a huge burst of retrograde energy.
I also think its a good idea to pay attention to any recurring or memorable dreams and repeated thought patterns we may not register normally, especially in the shadow period. With the Mercurial energy having a unique slant during the retrograde it can at times play like Jupiter and get all allegorical and metaphorical on us so journaling and meditation or simple deep thunk on these things can also really help us.
As you come out the other side of Mercury retrograde you will in all likelihood have a sense of renewal, internal restructuring and prioritizing which can really lend us some energy and motivation to start afresh in certain areas. You may also feel frazzled and exhausted with a sense of relief and accomplishment or confusion, this too is a valid experience. At the very least a sense of peace and letting go/removal of that which you have had to grapple with can very commonly be felt as Mercury begins to turn direct.
For those of you who physically feel Mercury retrogrades, that invisible weird bubble you’ve been in will pop at this point too. Talking of the physicalities of the retrograde if that is how you experience it, take note of this…. what is going on, are you thirsty? Drink more. Tired? Sleep more. Sensitive? Take alone time. You get the picture, once again Mercury is clearly showing us to take care of our individual world. After all, the external world is a reflection of our internal dynamics. I can’t help but feel that the more in touch with our inner dynamics we are the more we are able to dance cheek to cheek with Mercury through these periods.
Embrace your retrograde, embrace yourself and your innate autonomy over the structural reality of your inner world.