Astrology in Motion: Mercury Retrograde

When a planet “goes retrograde” it gives the appearance of moving backward through the Zodiac. Naturally this is an optical illusion, but it has an effect nonetheless. Due to the angle from which we view it’s orbit, it will appear to slow down, become stationary, then go in reverse. After a time (depending upon which planet it is), it will again slow down, become stationary and move forward. Mercury is the planet which does this several times a year, and is the one which often takes the blame for certain mishaps which occur under this influence. Mercury rules communication and this is where we most often see these “mishaps” happening. A frequent complaint about the influence of retrograde motion, is that the activities represented by the planet in question, often have to be repeated…the activities represented by the planet in question, often have to be repeated. Symbolically we see this occurring as the planet traces it’s previous course, then comes back yet again covering the same territory.

So, in the case of Mercury it’s often advisable not to finalize contracts or begin new communication oriented activities since quite often, they just don’t seem to work out properly. For example, I knew a couple who bought a house under a retrograde mercury. Six years later, they were still wrestling with grandfather clauses which interfered with plans for remodeling, surprise heirs who showed up from the previous ownership and surveying foul-ups that reduced the size of the property.

People with a strong Mercury in their chart such as Gemini’s and Virgos, may get more rattled by this activity than others. I’m one of those, and have often claimed that when Mercury goes retrograde, so do I. I’ve learned to treat this as something of a funhouse ride though, and can find the humor in it. I’ve had Mercury retrogrades which looked like a Keystone Cops episode, with lots of running, falling down and starting over. Mercury is so strong in my chart that sometimes navigating a doorway requires a map when I’m unprepared for a retrograde. Let me assure you, that most people are not as Mercurial as I, I’m just a funny textbook case.

The best explanation I’ve encountered for the subjective effects of Mercury retrograde, is that we are forced to rely on the less dominant part of the brain. Most of us run our lives from the analytical, linear thought functions of the mind, where 2+2=4, all of the time. The image oriented, abstract part of the mind isn’t confined to these parameters, and our daily lives usually aren’t structured to accomodate this more “flowing” state of perception. So, when we get an intuition during a Mercury retrograde, it may be far more reliable and consistent than a well-reasoned and researched document.

People born under a retrograde Mercury may have to deal with a lot of repetition in their lives. Dyslexia isn’t uncommon, nor is left-handedness. Stuttering may be an issue, or slow speech. On the upside, quite frequently they have better retention of facts and often they can apply what they’ve learned more directly.

During a Mercury retrograde we may need to “take a break” from some of the more ordinary expectations of daily life. Telephone answering machines can lose messages, the postal service may seem extraordinarily inefficient, and our associates may appear peculiarly dense. Learning to experience this with tolerance makes the whole ordeal far more bearable. Mercury has to do with perceptions in general, so making assumptions about why these things are occurring can be counter-productive. All too often, it’s our own perceptions clouding the issue, and we simply don’t see it. Since this does occur so often, I treat it as a change in the weather. I put on my rain hat and wait it out.

Philosophically, it can be to our advantage to explore the changes in reality which are available during these time periods. “Open-mindedness” can take on a whole new meaning. In our linear based civilization, which revolves around man-made measurements of time and space, sometimes the other functions of our psyche can be neglected or ignored. A more organic perception of life can be nurturing and healing and we have the opportunity to pursue this during these times.

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