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Mercury Retrograde... Oh No! WTF?!

Posted by Sherry Whitfield on

Ok, so Mercury is Retrograde again.
It happens a few times a year... 
Each time I hear stuff about how horrible it will be/is.

It's become normal to blame Mercury Retrograde for all kinds of issues in your life. I read and hear the most ridiculous things about it - and about what it means.

I started studying astrology in 1973. In the more than four decades I've been learning, I've had three great teachers. Each had a different approach and different insights; they had different strength and weaknesses. Each were very valuable to me.

My first teacher had an MD, a PhD and was also a Chiropractic Doctor. He gently showed me how ignorant I was in the first few minutes after I met him.
The nice thing about ignorance - it's easily fixable when you decide to open your mind and learn about something. I've been interested in the psycho-spiritual uses for astrology every since. I find it useful and fascinating. It's given me valuable insights into myself. I am not interested in prediction or doomsday readings. I have seen people I respect and love get all twisted up with fear focusing on what the planets seem to be showing them. When you approach anything out of fear, it's usually lacking in clarity. 

I don't run my life on astrology.  Far from it.
I don't stay in bed when the aspects are 'bad.'  
I don't pick my friends on what their chart looks like.
I have (gasp) actually signed contracts when Mercury was retrograde or the Moon was Void of Course. 
I also travel often when the aspects are supposed to be terrible for traveling - including last summer/Fall. When I know Mercury is going to be retro during that time, I do pay attention. I take responsibility for my own thoughts, feelings and behavior. I bring a little extra money. If I'm driving, I make sure I have my AAA card, a toolbox and an extra spare tire, if possible. If I'm flying or taking a train, I make darn sure I know the schedule, keep up with it and am sure I am at the right gate or on the right platform.  I try really hard to communicate more often and as clearly as possible. 

Yes, sometimes things go wrong. They can and do go wrong even when Mercury isn't retrograde!  I pay attention to the energies that are happening - and I make sure that I try to stay aware of what's going on around me.

Sometimes I travel with groups of people and if Mercury is retrograde, then I realize some people may not communicate as well during that period of time. I do my best to make sure that communicate as clearly as possible and don't assume anything.

In a certain way, Astrology is a calendar of your life patterns. You're likely to do certain things and feel certain ways, during certain planetary transits. Astrology is a great tool to use, to watch out for those time periods and increase your awareness.

I mostly see people associate Mercury retrograde with frustration and delays. In fact, I've been quite surprised to learn through Facebook posts that anything that can go wrong in your life can be blamed on Mercury Retrograde! (BTW - Mercury is not "in" retrograde."  It's either retrograde or it isn't.)

The most common superstitions of Mercury retrograde are well known.
Don't travel or expect anything to happen according to schedule.
Don't sign contracts.
Don't start new projects.
Don't buy electronics.
These are all generalizations based on topics that traditionally relate to Mercury. It is the planet that rules communication, logic, information, movement, and commerce.

Point of fact - retrogrades of any planet can be an incredibly productive time to slow down,  review your past, and take a close look at the direction you are headed in. 

Mercury goes retrograde about 3-4 times per year.  These occurrences are not random or rare.  We know when it's going to happen. Other planets retrograde, also.
Mercury isn't really going backwards. No planet goes backwards. That's an optical illusion that's created when the Earth and another planet move at different speeds.

Astrologically, when a planet is retrograde it's a time to stop and take stock. To take some time to consider where you are going. Maybe look at a new perspective. Your life WILL move forward but it can't hurt to take a good look at where you are going and decide if that's what you really want or not. The area of your life that is affected - where you take stock of your situation - depends on the planet that is retrograde and how it relates to other things in your birth chart.

In general we could say...
Mars is vitality, action, disagreements, energy, passions
Venus is associated with love, beauty, luxury, the Arts
Jupiter is the energy of expansion, philosophy, growth, abundance
Saturn is responsibility, structure, duty
Neptune is fantasy, inspiration, dreams, spirituality, illusion, confusion, spirituality
Pluto is transformation, renewal, rebirth
Uranus is a rebellious energy, the unexpected, changes, originality
You can expect themes surrounding these planets to get turned upside down when a retrograde of one of these planets kicks in.

Try not to worry too much about Mercury retrograde. Mercury rules thinking and logic. Some people do feel a retrograde more than others. If a retrograde hits you hard, your thinking may not be as clear as normal. However, if you let your fear of Mercury retrograde guide your behavior, your life will be almost impossible. And you might be pretty impossible to live with.

You can learn to work with the energies. For example, you can avoid making big commitments during Mercury retrograde, unless it's about something that's already been established. If you have to sign a new lease, or a contract or you are about to accept a new job - it's unlikely that you will be able to ask if you can wait to sign until Mercury is direct again.

In a very real way, Mercury retrograde presents 'Bear Medicine.' Gather your life experiences, but be sure you take the time to process what you have experienced. Without taking time to 'go to your cave' and take a break, you will just keep rushing headlong into one thing after another with no time to think. Take your time, reflect on your life and your direction. Have a sense of humor about things. Try laughing at the blunders Mercury retrograde brings your way.

An astrologer I once knew told me this:
Instead of saying, "Oh no, with Mercury retrograde everyone will be running late!"
Try saying "Hey, it's Mercury retrograde, go ahead and take your time!"
Maybe it should be an excuse to leave work early (or arrive late), to chill out, get together with old friend and reminisce, reconnect, and reflect.
Mercury retrograde shouldn't be a disaster.

I've noticed that the shadow periods before and after a retrograde aren't discussed much anymore. In many ways, these times are arguably as significant as a retrograde itself.
The shadow period before Mercury retrograde - the pre-shadow - is said to give you indications or hints about what areas of your life you can expect to be dealing with during the coming retrograde. The shadow period after the retrograde - the post shadow - offers you another opportunity to get clear about any lingering issues or confusion, to reconsider situations and to make changes or tie up any loose ends.

There's an old saying that says that whatever you lose during Mercury retrograde will be returned to you.
The pre-shadow period reveals what the issue might be that is about to come out and the post-shadow period resolves the issue.
The classic example is that you and your significant other start fighting a lot during the pre-shadow period. Then you break up or come very close to it during the retrograde. During the post-shadow period you realize that you don't want to lose your relationship. You start to communicate more effectively with your partner to resolve it and as a result, you get back together.

Live your life and do what you need to do, whenever you have to do it. Things are going to work out one way or another.
Don't let Mercury retrograde rule your life.
Don't let anything rule your life or stop you from doing what you need to do. 
Don't use Mercury retrograde as an excuse to be disorganized or irresponsible. It's never an excuse for bad behavior.
The stars don't hold some kind of absolute power over you. You have free will. Use it!

Lastly, traditionally, people who are born during a Mercury retrograde do very well and even thrive during a retrograde period.
Maybe you are one of those people?  Google the Mercury retrograde dates for your year of birth and find out.
If you do have Mercury retrograde in your birth chart and you have been freaking out about Mercury retrograde... well it may give you something to think about.  ;-D


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  • Thank you for this excellent article which has shown me we should be thankful for these times
    when we can be extra awake and truly take responsibility for what we are doing!

    Rose Shuttleworth on
  • I really enjoyed this article and it makes a lot of sense. I did go check if I was born in Mercury Retrograde and it does not appear that I was. I did find this little tidbit which backs up and puts into different words what you are trying to tell us. Hope this is ok:

    First, no retrograde period has “a negative affect on the calendar year.” Retrogrades are part of a cycle, it is only when we try to go against the cycle that they seem to express as negatives.

    For example, let’s take Mercury. During its retrograde, the universe is trying to get us to do all sorts of things that begins with the prefix re-. It is a great time to do REsearch, REstructure, REcharge, REfinance, REinspect, REopen, REpair, REread, REsurface, and in general, REdo things. Looking over things that were done before the retrograde period will often show up mistakes and problems you didn’t see then. It is only when we try to move against the flow that Mercury Retrograde comes across as negative.

    Katrina Carnagey on

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