Mercury Retrograde (and any other planetary retrograde) is a significant astrological event that can impact our lives. Mercury Retrograde impacts all forms of communication and the way we think about things. During these periods, we often experience delays, mix-ups, and accidents when it comes to communication, transportation, and technology. Connections of all kinds don’t seem to follow the rules we’ve become accustomed to.
There are many negative associations with Mercury Retrograde, but that’s just one way to look at it. Keep in mind that along with all astrological activity, Mercury Retrograde is not doing something to us. It’s simply reflecting our experience here on Earth – “As above, so below.”
The term “retrograde motion” comes from the illusion that another planet is orbiting the Sun in reverse, which stargazers have observed since ancient times. During planetary retrogrades, we have the opportunity to revisit, reclaim, redefine, and reconnect with the energy represented by the retrograde planet. Retrograde periods invite us to slow down and re-vision how we want to go forward. If we keep pushing in all the same ways we have been, we’ll hit walls of resistance in all forms. This is true personally and collectively. We can’t sustain ourselves and our planet without serious adjustments, and in many cases, complete reinvention.
Mercury Retrograde Technically Speaking
The backward motion of any planet in the zodiac is actually an optical illusion from our perspective on Earth. Mercury can’t be more than 28 degrees from the Sun and it changes direction each time it reaches its furthest distance. The relative positions of Earth and Mercury and how they move around the Sun make it look like Mercury spends time in reverse. Mercury turns retrograde three to four times a year – almost 20% of the time. It spends more time retrograde than any other planet.
You can visualize the retrograde motion illusion like two runners in a race. It’s like you’re sprinting, trying to catch up with the runner ahead of you, and this runner gets tired so he or she starts to slow down. You keep steadily sprinting at the pace you were going and fly past this runner. Even though this person is still moving forward, it appears to you that he or she is moving backward as you run past.
Each retrograde cycle has a “shadow period” before and after the appearance of backward motion. Mercury’s shadow period is approximately two weeks before and two weeks after the retrograde. The shadow period can be understood as an adjustment time, and we can experience Mercury Retrograde effects throughout the transition between “forward” and “reverse” motion.
How Mercury Retrograde Affects Us
Mercury rules all forms of communication, logical thinking, signals, travel, and connections of all kinds. The success of business partnerships, creative projects, friendships, and romances are dependent upon effective communication. So are we fated to conversations, meetings, and everyday exchanges going backward during Mercury Retrograde? Will our cars breakdown and computers crash? Not exactly. It means things can go awry more easily than usual, but there are lessons to be learned during these phases. Astrologers recommend easing off certain pursuits, like starting new projects, signing contracts, completing tasks, and building new relationships. If traveling, it’s a good idea to give yourself extra time, just in case plans “change”.
Mercury Retrograde is one of the best times to pick up old ideas and bring them back to life. Anything you’ve already started in the realms of writing, speaking, teaching, and learning are great things to focus on during this period. Remember: Mercury Retrograde = Revision, Redefine, Reconsider, Reclaim. Reworking existing plans and projects fit with this energy perfectly. You may find that things now come together with new ease and in ways you never would’ve imagined.
Why I Love Mercury Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde is a cosmic do-over. If you want to try again – at a relationship, a project, an idea, a conversation – you get a second chance with Mercury who (from our view) stops, backs up, and gives you another shot. Mercury Retrograde also brings communication from old relationships so I’m often revisited by people who have been out of my life for days, months, or even decades. I love seeing old faces again and hearing familiar voices that for now live only in my memory. So for me, the medicine of Mercury Retrograde is that we can always go home. We can always try again. We can always turn back time.
How to Work WITH Mercury Retrograde
If you’ve been chasing the future in full-steam-ahead mode and stressing yourself out like crazy, Mercury Retrograde says “Let Go!” You don’t control everything. And isn’t that welcome news sometimes?
Generally, take this time to be mindful, stay calm, and reflect. Practice compassion with yourself and everyone else. That way, when Mercury Retrograde comes to an end, you can get back on your path full speed ahead, with few casualties. While pausing certain activities during Mercury Retrograde is good advice, if your heart 100% tells you to go for something, throw out the rule book. You don’t need to miss out on an amazing opportunity waiting on Mercury. You are the best expert on you – just make sure you’re tuned in to your intuition and acting in alignment and integrity.
What to Do when Mercury Turns Direct
During retrogrades, we’re called to stop and be fully present before resuming forward motion. When planets resume their apparent forward motion, we also make a 180 and have a chance to progress with new awareness and direction. When we just keep going, par for the course, it’s easy to go through the motions and not pay attention to major signals trying to get our attention. It’s like falling asleep in the car as it coasts at a steady 50 mph. But when we have to hit the brakes and take a detour for 200 miles in the direction we just came from before getting back on the highway, we wake up! And when the detour is over, we really pay attention to make sure we’re on the right road and going in the right direction.
Are you on course? When it comes to communication, are you speaking your truth clearly? Do you really listen to others? To your inner voice? What’s going on with those thoughts in your head? Are they supporting your true desires or stuck in a negative loop? When Mercury goes direct, check yourself before hitting the accelerator. This is the time to choose your words carefully, spoken and unspoken. Think of The Magician in the Tarot, Mercury’s card. Just like him, you have the power to create reality with your mind. When you reinvent your thoughts, you reinvent your life!
Check out my blog “Managing Mercury Retrograde and What to Do When it Turns Direct” for more information and tips to make the most of these times.