About Mercury Retrograde

 About Mercury Retrograde

About three times a year, Mercury goes retrograde for approximately three weeks. First, let’s get the techie stuff out of the way. When a planet is retrograde, from our visual point of view, it appears to be moving backwards through the zodiac. First it slows down, then it stops, which is called a “station.” Then it proceeds to move backwards until it slows down, makes another station and moves forward again. I think we feel the effect of the stations for about one degree of the zodiac before and one degree after the exact station. Planets don’t actually reverse direction in their orbits. They appear to do so because the Earth has temporarily passed them in its own orbit.

So what’s the effect of a station? Stationary planets are stronger and wield more influence than non-stationary ones. For most of us, if you were throwing a ball, you’d probably be more accurate in your aim, and the momentum of the ball would be more powerful, if you were standing still than if you were running when you threw it. Also, a stationary planet spends longer at the same degree of the zodiac, so it has more time to influence whatever part of your chart it’s affecting. As I write up this explanation, Hurricane Dorian has just made landfall in the Bahamas. Because it was moving very, very slowly, meteorologists said that it was “stationary,” and that since the hurricane took much longer than usual to cross the Bahamas, its effects lasted longer and were greater than if it had crossed the Bahamas quickly. It had more time to do its work, so to speak. Stationary planets also have more time to do their work. The stations of Mercury last for about five days before and after the exact degree and minute of the station.

Whatever a retrograde planet rules seems to go “backwards or sideways” during its retrograde periods. Glitches or delays connected to what a planet rules are common during its retrogradations. The Sun and Moon are never retrograde, but the rest of the planets do turn retrograde at some point in their orbits around the Sun. Mercury’s retrogradations happen the most frequently, because Mercury has the fastest planetary orbit around the Sun, about 88 of our days here on Earth. 

What does Mercury rule? Lots of things! Almost all of them have to do with communication and perception, whether we’re using the mind, the faculty of speech, writing, reading, listening, or our physical selves to communicate and perceive. Knowing where your body is in space, whether you’re sitting or standing, whether your arms are raised or lowered, what kind of surface you’re on, and whether you’re keeping your balance or are about to fall, is called proprioception and is a special kind of perception. How and where your body moves, along with the specific muscular effort to move it, is called kinesthetics and is related to proprioception. 

Mercury, then, rules speaking, reading, writing, listening, publishing (with Jupiter), commerce (with Venus), the Internet, the power grid, and all forms of transportation, planes, trains, automobiles, and their schedules. It also rules any work we do with our hands. If you’re a fine arts painter, Venus rules the aesthetics of painting, how it looks, what colors you’re using and the balance among them. But Mercury rules the mechanics of painting, how you hold and move the brush. I think it rules what musicians call “muscle memory,” the work you have to do to memorize a piece and play it without the sheet music and without mistakes. Mercury rules any relatively small tool that you use with your hands, whether it’s an engraving tool, an electric drill or a computer. It rules your calendar app or your appointment book. It rules electronic equipment. It rules your nervous system as a physical, biological entity, as well as your hands, arms, shoulders and lungs. It rules writers, librarians, computer programmers and teachers. It also rules people who use their Mercury function to communicate what they want someone to hear or perceive, not necessarily the whole truth. It rules pickpockets and con artists and stage magicians. 

When Mercury is retrograde, anything it rules can go sideways or backwards somehow. It’s not a jinx or a curse. It’s a call to pay more attention to the details of what it rules, to be mindful of them, not to go on automatic pilot. Confirm your reservations and appointments, and buy trip insurance. Get things in writing. Repeat the information until you’re sure it’s correct, no matter whom you annoy. Double-check your schedule and the flight information boards at the airport. Send important mail by registered mail with a return receipt, and insure any important packages. Proofread that list of your medications that your doctor wanted. Public transportation is somewhat more likely to be late, to have to detour, or to lose your luggage. Allow extra time to get where you’re going. Check your oil. 

Is Mercury retrograde just three weeks of potential hassles? No. Is it good for anything? Yes! It’s great for almost any verb with the prefix “re:” revisit, revise, reflect, and redact—that means edit. It’s good for taking time to think things over, for research, for looking before you leap. It’s good for practicing or reviewing something you’ve learned: irregular Italian verbs, a new song, scales on the piano, studying for a test. If you can delay a Mercury-ruled action that you’re going to do for the first time, do so. Don’t buy a car or a computer or an airbrush unless you absolutely have to. Delay that important conversation until Mercury’s direct. Don’t send in your manuscript yet. 

Mercury tends to be strong in people whose left brain functions are powerful, who are good with logic, reason, order, sequence and details. However, there are ways that we learn or communicate that aren’t left-brained. Some of us are right-brained, more tuned into images, shapes, or metaphorical thinking than into something like science. I’ve found that Mercury retrograde seems to challenge the left-brained to use their right brains more than they usually do, and it seems to challenge the right-brained to use their left brains more. An artist has to do his taxes or set up his wi-fi network. A mathematician wants to write a poem for her husband for Valentine’s Day. 

You may not enjoy the process of using the non-preferred hemisphere of your brain, but doing so can help you be more versatile and more accepting of how other people’s minds work. It can help you be more flexible and adaptable, and those are Mercury traits, too. They’re also survival-positive. Species of animals who can adapt to changing circumstances or environments tend to thrive, while animals who eat only one kind of food, for example, can face extinction if the source of that food vanishes. 

So practice being more mindful, present, resourceful and adaptable during Mercury retrograde. Humanity is facing a rapidly changing environment, and the more adaptable we are as individuals and as a species, the more likely we are to thrive despite those changes.