Most of us have heard about “Mercury Retrograde,” and mostly in an unfavorable light. In general it’s said to relate to delays, challenges and missteps in Mercury-ruled areas.
These include plans, contracts, agreements, communications — both verbal and written — as well as communications devices (phones, televisions, radios, computers, fax machines, etc.). In addition, cars, trains, bikes and motorcycles — anything related to short-distance or local travel — are all also under the Mercury umbrella and likely to be affected.
Mercury retrograde carries with it so many negative connotations — probably because most of us don’t handle sudden upsets or unexpected changes to our carefully-made plans. But people win lotteries under Mercury retrograde. They fall in love. They get married. They have babies. They launch successful businesses.
In a nutshell, Mercury retrograde means “expect the unexpected.” Plans change or go awry. But that doesn’t mean they change for the worst. Some of the most magical, exciting and life-altering events occur under the “ominous” glare of a Mercury retrograde.
The Roman God (for which Mercury was named) was the lord of commerce, communications, travel, luck and trickery. Like his Greek counterpart Hermes, he led departed souls into the underworld via the River Styx.
He’s sometimes depicted with wings on his helmet or sandals — representing travel, swiftness and flight. He is often also seen holding either a bag of gold (representing money, commerce and finance) or a mythical caduceus (a staff formed of two intertwined snakes, with wings at the top) — the symbol for communications, eloquence, trickery, and negotiations.
The word “Mercurial” refers to the changeable, mutable and inconsistent qualities of Hermes / Mercury in this context. It’s a malleable shape-shifter energy that is impossible to contain. Like the god for which it is named, your natal Mercury placement indicates how you process information, what you think about, what interests you, how you communicate, and in general your metabolism and mental energy.
As Mercury is never more than 28 degrees away from the Sun (from our perspective), your natal Mercury will be either in the same sign as your Sun or in the sign before or after it.
So what can we do to offset some of the more undesirable aspects of Mercury retrograde and take advantage of some of the more favorable ones?
We really can’t just stop living our lives each time Mercury goes retrograde — especially as this happens 3 or 4 times every year. Every time it does, it stays in retrograde motion for about 3 weeks, and if you count the shadow period, you can tack on another 3 or 4 weeks. That’s an awful lot of time to put your life on hold or fret about the possibility of things going “wrong.”
Where it goes retrograde (zodiacally) and the aspects it forms with other planets during that time will determine the specific nature of a particular retrograde cycle. For example, Mercury stationing — slowing down to the point where it appears to stop before changing direction — in favorable aspect to other planets, will typically indicate a rather benign retrograde cycle. But if it’s involved in stressful aspect to other planets at that point, you can expect Mercury-ruled areas to go a little more haywire.
Mercury of course doesn’t really stop (station), or start moving backwards (retrograde). We know that the planets don’t really change direction. They orbit the Sun in one direction only, along what we refer to as the “ecliptic,” or apparent path of the planets. But it is this apparent motion — the planets appearing to traverse the night sky from East to West (from our Earthly perspective) — that’s responsible for the phenomenon of “Mercury Retrograde.”
By the way, Mercury is not the only planet that goes retrograde. They all do. But it goes retrograde more frequently than any of the other planets and is the one that lay-people are most familiar with.
Since we know that planets only appear to be changing direction (and we can trace their movements backwards through the zodiac when they do), what causes this to happen? It has to do with the Sun overtaking the planet — from our perspective, through the zodiac — much like a slower moving train appears to be going in reverse from the perspective of passengers on a faster moving train.
Each planet takes a different amount of time to orbit the Sun. The planets closest to the Sun take less time (Mercury’s cycle is only about 88 days, while the Earth takes approximately 365 days). With that in mind, Mercury will periodically act like that slower moving train and appear to be moving in reverse through the zodiac.
If you tracked Mercury’s apparent motion from the earth, it would look something like this. You can see it moving from east to west, one step at a time, only to “stop” (A) and move backwards for several degrees (B) before it turns around and continues its westward journey through the night sky.
The point from B to C — which begins before Mercury even goes retrograde and ends well after it goes direct — is called the “shadow” period. This starts at the degree that Mercury will return to while in retrograde motion (B) and ends at the degree at which it first went retrograde (C). Even though this particular retrograde cycle only lasts from June 26th/27th to July 20/21st (depending on where in the world you’re located), the entire cycle — including its shadow period — is 7 weeks long! This cycle’s shadow period lasts from June 9th until August 4th.
It’s been said that those born under a Mercury retrograde are not affected by it when it happens again. I’m personally not convinced of that. It’s more likely a matter of being so accustomed to plans going awry that those of us who are born with Mercury retrograde have just gotten used to always having to come up with a “plan B.” In my experience the influence is still there — particularly when one of Mercury’s stations aspects a planet in our own natal charts.
So what should you do (or not do) in the midst of this upcoming Mercury retrograde cycle? In general, it’s best to not sign contracts, make major purchases, plan travel or make repairs to Mercury-ruled things: computers, phones, automobiles, electronic devices, etc.
But in this particular cycle, Mercury stations and turns retrograde at 23° Cancer — right on the fixed star Pollux. It’s in a wide conjunction to Venus and is ahead of two other Cancer planets (the Sun and Jupiter). There’s also an almost perfect grand water trine that day, involving the Sun, Saturn and Neptune.
Although this appears to be a relatively easy start to the Mercury retrograde cycle, the area in your natal chart where this degree falls will most likely be affected by typical Mercury retrograde themes. In general Cancer relates to home, family, children, mother, roots, and property. These areas will be emphasized during the onset of this cycle.
Mercury stations again on July 21st at 13° Cancer. At that point, it’ll have moved 10° (backwards) from its starting point and will be turning direct again. This time though, the aspects are not so friendly. Mercury and Uranus are in a tight “square” configuration on that day and for a few days on either side of it. This is the classic signature for arguments, disagreements, differing opinions, etc. It’s definitely not a time to engage in a heated debate with someone you care about. It’s also not a good time to make plans that you expect to stick — as chances are good they will not.
On August 4th (or 3rd depending on where in the world you happen to be), Mercury finally crosses its shadow point and completes this retrograde cycle. The next one won’t occur until October 22nd.
What you can expect in any Mercury retrograde cycle is for things to not go exactly as planned. Communications go awry, misunderstandings erupt and electrical or communications devices fail. Schedules get interrupted or switched around. Unexpected obstacles or delays occur. Issues, concerns and problems — and sometimes wonderful surprises — develop in the area that the retrograde cycle occurs in your own chart.
The following is a brief (and simplified) synopsis of the areas most likely to be affected under this particular Mercury retrograde cycle, based on your natal Sun sign. A timed birth chart will change or add to this placement but will not necessarily replace it.
Aries: Home, family, mother, land, heritage, roots, breasts, womb, ovaries, stomach
Taurus: Siblings, neighbors, local travel, cars, computers, electronics, arms, hands, lungs, nervous system
Gemini: Money, possessions, earnings, financial security, ears, nose, throat, vocal chords
Cancer: Self, personality, appearance, health and vitality, head, face, eyes, brain
Leo: Dreams, fantasies, secrets, psychic impressions, hidden enemies, addictions, feet, toes, lymphatic system
Virgo: Friends, acquaintances, groups, social and community involvement, ankles, calves, shins, circulation
Libra: Career, reputation, aspirations, authority figures, father, knees, joints, bones, lower back
Scorpio: Education, foreign affairs, legal affairs, travel, spirituality, liver, blood, hips and thighs
Sagittarius: Sex, death, loss, endings, joint resources, colon, bowels, reproductive organs
Capricorn: Relationships, partnerships, open enemies, lawyers, counselors, kidneys, bladder, skin
Aquarius: Work, health, improvement, diet, colleagues, pets, digestive system, intestines, spleen
Pisces: Children, lovers, self-expression, creativity, gambling, heart, chest, spine, upper back
If you would like to know where your natal Mercury is — and where this current retrograde falls in your natal chart — please feel free to post your birth information (month spelled out — please!) in the comments section below. If you know your birth time, please include that as well as your birth place. I will gladly edit out any identifiable information and let you know where yours is.
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written by Melodie Sheppard
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