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Mercury Retrograde

Mercury is a celestial anomaly and a singularly disruptive, tricky character, in both mythical and astrological interpretation. Infinitely clever and full of wiles, Mercury in the natal chart embodies the ways we think, speak, and write, as well as the ways we use our cunning to bend the truth and sidestep responsibility. Every time we pick up a pen, state our case, or travel hither thither, we are in the grips of Mercury.

Unlike other planets, Mercury is not considered feminine or masculine, benefic or malefic, diurnal or nocturnal. Instead, Mercury shapeshifts in relationship to the planets with whom he is in closest contact. Mercury is the ruler of both Gemini and Virgo and is said to be exalted, or strongest, in Virgo; Mercury is considered weakened in Sagittarius and Pisces. Traditionally, Mercury's house of joy is the first house, where he can dance above and below the horizon, like the liminal journeyman that he is (coincidentally, Mercury was said to have been born at dawn, which would place him in the first house).
Planet Mercury is not often visible in the sky due to its ultra-tight orbit with the sun; since Mercury can never be more than twenty-eight degrees away from the sun, it is often eclipsed in the brightness of the sun's rays. For the same reason, the only aspect Mercury can make with the sun is a conjunction, which in turn means that sun-Mercury conjunctions in the natal chart are highly common.

In a sense, Mercury's closeness with the sun also speaks of our profound attachment to the mind: however far we may travel, we are never very far from our thoughts. Just as poignantly, with Mercury's visibility only possible when it is at its furthest from the sun, we learn that with distance comes perspective.

Planet Mercury's themes: the manner of our minds; the ways in which we learn; our brand of intelligence; our rational processes; the speed with which we integrate new information; the ways we write, communicate, or speak; a natural place of play or discovery; our powers of persuasiveness; our connection to curiosity; a place changeability; an area of cunning, transactions, trade, and negotiations; skills of the hands, travel, and journeys; divination, magic, and astrology.

Mercury is often prominent in the charts of speakers, writers, musicians, provocateurs, salespeople, negotiators, tradespeople, astrologers, therapists, and travelers.

All planets save for the sun and moon appear at various times to reverse direction in the sky; in astronomy, this is referred to as 'apparent retrograde motion', but in astrological parlance, this term is shortened simply to 'retrograde.'

Although the word 'retrograde' stems from the Latin meaning 'to go backward,' it's important to note that no planets move backward, they only appear to do so, owing to our Earth-bound perspective. When planets are retrograde, they appear to stand still, then visually retreat backward, tracing curly-cues in the sky; as they station direct, they appear to stand still once again, slowly regaining speed before they amble forward....

Like all other planets, Mercury has a cycle of separation and return between itself and the sun, known as its synodic cycle, from the Greek root synod for 'meeting.' Studied metaphorically, this creates a cyclical experience of Mercury akin to the moon and its cycles of birth, fullness, death, and rebirth and helps to expand our understanding of Mercury beyond simplistic binary periods of retrograde hell and salvation.

Every four months, and roughly three to four times every year, Mercury is in retrograde for approximately twenty-two days. As part of this cycle, Mercury makes four key movements....


During Mercury retrograde, things typically do not go as planned: your airline ticket was never valid for travel, the oh-so-important meeting you cannot miss is rescheduled at last minute, your credit card disappears into the dark recesses of your local ATM. Communication, technology, and travel can be particularly chaotic, and it is not at all unusual for items to mysteriously go missing during Mercury retrograde.

At times, it may feel as if forward movement is impossible during Mercury's retrograde transit; this may be for the best, as arrangements made under the auspices of Mercury in retrograde have a rather infuriating way of unraveling post-retrograde. However well-laid these plans may feel at the time, they may later be waylaid by unexpected information that calls all your decisions into question....

Although the most obvious effects of Mercury in retrograde happen externally, the most important work manifests when we undertake deep internal reviews.

Mercury's retrograde cycles, however disruptive they may be at times, offer us the ability to gain greater objectivity in a particular area of life. In normal waking consciousness, and in an increasingly over-scheduled, distracted world, we have left ourselves precious little time for reflection. For many, once we are on a given path, we can end up myopically married to it, losing all perspective; viewed in the right light, Mercury retrograde becomes an opportunity to re-approach important aspects of our lives with renewed vision....


Re-do, re-think, review
Check and double-check travel plans and schedules
Leverage old contacts
Revisit leads that had previously fizzled out
Approach previous clients for business
Repair old items
Search your closet for forgotten goodies
Back up your computer, phone, etc.
Tie up loose ends

Final negotiations, especially with new/unknown partners
Starting a new job
Launching a new venture
Purchasing electronics or big-ticket items
Sending or receiving shipments (buy insurance!)
Last-minute travel
Highly-detailed tasks, especially numerical/mathematical ones