Every time we approach a Mercury retrograde cycle, the internet’s abuzz with memes and warnings about the few weeks ahead. British rock band Bloc Party even wrote a song about the planet's unruly behaviour, but does it deserve its bad reputation? Let’s look at what it means, why you don’t need to panic and how to use this time most effectively.
Mercury is the fastest moving planet in the solar system and can only be seen for relatively short periods of time. In ancient eras when people saw the planets as living gods, this was interpreted as being unreliable and elusive. Thankfully in modern times, we know that planets don’t simply disappear.
During retrograde motion, planets seem to be moving backwards as viewed from Earth, but this doesn’t really happen – it’s an optical illusion experienced from the path of our orbit around the Sun. When a planet is seen to slow down then come to a standstill, loop back in direction then stop and resume its normal course, it’s seen as very significant astrologically. All the planets in our solar system do this. So what makes Mercury retrograde unique?
Mercury is known as the messenger of the Gods and rules over the domains of communication, education and travel…and also has quite the reputation for mischief. Mercury from the Roman tradition parallels with Coyote of North America, Raven of the Inuit, Egyptian Thoth and Greek Hermes. Hermes was a guide of souls to the underworld and so was able to move freely between the worlds of gods, of men and the deep, mysterious depths of the unknown.
When we see the universe as an interconnected, living, breathing world soul, we can see the movements of the planets as setting the quality of time experienced here on Earth. So when Mercury turns retrograde, everything that comes under his domain can seem to need more effort on our part.
It’s a time known for errors in communication, mixed messages, disagreements and travel delays. We’re often advised not to sign contracts, purchase big ticket items or make big commitments during this phase. When Mercury turns direct again, it’s said that more information or hidden details may come to light that can cause a rework or change of plan. A time to review, re-think, readjust.
But because of its small orbit, Mercury retrogrades more than three times every thirteen months and spends 20% of its cycle doing this! And that’s not including the pre and post-retrograde shadows, each lasting around two weeks. In our busy world, it can be really, really hard not to initiate important things during that length of time.
Mercury retrograde can also signify a time with a more subtle, introverted quality of thinking and communicating. Astrology should be self-empowering, so instead of worrying about what could go wrong, let’s look at how we can use Mercury retrograde constructively.
Preparation – when we can’t delay making decisions about important aspects of our lives, it’s reassuring to pay close attention to the details. Check and double check.
Contemplation – Use this as an opportunity to think things through before rushing ahead. Is there something you’re feeling unsure about? Taking time out from a project or situation can inspire us with a whole new light.
Introspection - As Psychologist Carl Jung said, “who looks outside, dreams; who look within, awakes”. Get to know yourself better and spend time with your inner world. Explore your own depths through astrology, journaling or keeping a dream diary.
Reflection – Have a check-in with yourself. Are you feeling balanced and in alignment with your aspirations? As our priorities change, sometimes we need to leave behind situations that no longer work for us and make room for new opportunities. Take time to think about what’s making you happy and what’s holding you back.
Yin Vibes – In our fast-paced lives we’re often in masculine, assertive, yang-based energy which can be exhausting over long periods of time. Introvert your energy and carve out space for downtime. Give your brain a rest through mindfulness activities like meditation or breathing exercises.
Re-visit – Is there someone you’ve been meaning to reach out to for a while? Or have you abandoned an old project or idea because it felt too difficult? Retrogrades are known for bringing things back from the past along with opportunities to reconnect and re-engage.
Here’s an example of Mercury retrograde playing its tricks with a great outcome. A friend messaged me on the first day of the current retrograde cycle to tell me she’d dropped her credit card on the way to the gym. Before she could cancel it, $150 had been spent. She knew she’d get the money back, so seeing the best in the situation she used the opportunity to review all monthly subscriptions on her card.
Will Mercury give you a nudge to review something in your life too?
If you’ve studied your birth chart, you’ll know which astrological house or area of life Mercury is currently transiting. If you’d like to find out more about Mercury in your chart, sign up for a written birth chart analysis or join a class to study further.