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11/3/2014 BLOG

MERCURY RETRO-PLAGUE (but they're not all bad!)

It's been official for years now - the phrase “Mercury retrograde” has entered the vernacular. Sometimes people are familiar with “Mercury retrograde” but don't know what “Sun Sign” means (the phrase we use to indicate one's birth sign in the West, since modern astrology places primary importance on the tropical sign where the Sun appears at the time of birth). This example reveals the importance that Mercury has in our culture – the desire to radiate one's electrical essence, one's integrated character (the Sun) is often trumped by the need to speak, write, send, and receive messages – to convey information (Mercury). Or really, conveying anything at all, physically or otherwise, because Mercury rules movement as well – that which occurs between any two (or more) points. So it isn't a surprise that Mercury retrograde can mess us up so bad. Thinking, walking, or driving in a straight line, which is what keeps human civilization moving (literally) takes a little more effort than usual. Words and messages miss the mark, or get mixed up, or end up conveyed to, or in, the wrong place. People don't understand each other. Social awkwardness runs rife.

It's easy to use this fairly common astrological occurrence as an excuse too, though, and blame everything that goes wrong on this one factor, when the whole sky still needs to be considered. If it seems like we just had a Mercury retrograde when you hear about a new one coming, that's because we did. Mercury retrogrades occur up to three times a year, each lasting around 21 days. That's 63 days out of the year – more than a sixth of the year! Obviously, not all of those days can be “bad” or cursed. It's the same as saying that Mercury combust (conjunct the Sun) is always bad (a traditional “by the book” rule), when this is also a frequent occurrence and turns up in many natal charts. But it is good to watch the total picture and see what days might be more worrisome than others based on when retrograde Mercury comes into aspect with planets, house cusps, or other important points in someone's birth chart.

Some astrologers think that retrogrades strengthen planetary energies, while others think the planet is weakened when in retrograde. That's really a toss up. The energy definitely behaves differently, but the way it reveals itself is always going to vary from one person to the next and from one retrograde to the next, and needs to be considered in light of the other major astrological factors happening at the time.

People wonder about about the effect of Mercury retrogrades as opposed to the other planets. Wouldn't Venus retrograde, for instance, lend more to social shortcomings than Mercury would? Well, that depends on a lot of factors. How prominent are each of those planets in someone's chart? Are either of those planets “hot” or particularly active in someone's progressed or Solar Return charts? Are either of those planets in aspect with a malefic or unfavorably placed planet in the radix? People are not at their best socially at certain times for different reasons, and the seen or observed result can be the same from the outside, but the root, the origin, can alternate. This is one of the most fantastic insights into human nature and behavior that astrology offers – the nature of cause and effect. A big difference with the Mercury-Venus comparison is that Venus is a benefic planet. Sure, she's going to be a little “off” when she's strolling backwards (which occurs every eighteen months - much, much less frequently than Mercury), but there's only so much harm she can do. Mercury, on the other hand, plays both sides of the fence. As in mythology, he wears two masks – that of the jolly mailman, and that of the thief and mischief-maker.

Speaking of Venus, Mercury was in the sign of Libra for the majority of this retrograde. And indeed, the reflection was rather Venusian. I heard from more than one person that the festivities leading up to Halloween seemed socially skewed. I can only rely on hearsay – Mercury was retrograde in my 5th house of fun and pleasure, so of course I wasn't up for too many parties, especially since this retrograde was NOT particularly pleasant for me! Mercury the thief came to visit me, and I rear ended someone (thankfully, no one was hurt, and there was no serious damage). The chart of the day and time of the car accident is possibly the most straightforward example of a planetary transit in action in someone's natal chart that I've ever seen. Elementary, my dear Watson, but nevertheless, I post it below for illustration and amusement.



The Moon rules the 3rd house in my natal chart, which cars and local transportation fall under. Mercury is the general significator of the same matters in all charts. Check it out! Transiting Mercury is exactly square my 3rd house cusp, almost to the minute. And where is the transiting Moon? Only a couple of degrees from the 3rd house cusp, and square transiting Mercury. I should have been aware of the warning and taken more care, but I had a very Libran/Venusian concern for getting a particular song to play on my phone right when the car in front of me slammed on the brakes. Note that this Moon-Mercury square only lasted for this one day, because the Moon moves about a degree every two hours, so I really could have avoided this particular calamity if I'd been a more observant astrologer and not been driving that day. I get it, Universe! I appreciate the mild warning, and it's all I need, thanks! You'd better believe I'm going to watch it later in the month when Mercury is back at that 25th degree of Libra in a few days...

On that note, Mercury retrogrades actually last longer than the 21 days when he's actually moving backwards. The stations (when the planet stands still before going backwards or forwards) are usually palpable on the day before or after at least. And then there's the “shadow period,” when the planet is retracing its steps through the degrees of the zodiac where it was previously moving backwards. As I write this blog entry, Mercury is still in his “shadow period” and will be until Monday November 10th, when he passes degree 3 of Scorpio. Libra rules romantic partnership. I heard of at least two long term relationships ending, or permanently changing, during this retrograde's shadow period. The shadow period can tie up any loose ends, or things left incomplete or befuddled, from the actual retrograde motion period. When the planet reaches the same degree by direct motion that it was on when something went wrong, the resolution to that problem can present itself. However, there is also potential for lessons not learned to repeat themselves when the shadow degree is reached, sometimes with a vengeance.

One last note – planetary fireworks like retrogrades can be a continuation or an emphasis of other planetary phenomena. Remember, we just had some intense eclipses (ha! I bet some of you will have a hard time forgetting), which denote the end of a six month cycle and the beginning of a new one. This Mercury retrograde occurred in the same sign polarity (Aries/Libra) and stationed direct on 10/25/2014 (just two days after the 10/23/2014 solar eclipse), only two degrees away from the degree of the lunar eclipse that happened on 10/8/2014. This strengthens both the eclipses and this last Mercury retrograde. This also means we should probably look extra carefully at the next Mercury retrograde, which will be stationing both retrograde and direct at degrees which are relevant to these eclipses. To be continued...

I hope this retrograde brought some good things to you (it did, you just may or may not have recognized the good). In general, it's best to spend more time alone than usual during Mercury retrogrades. Meditation, hypnosis, and trance work are favored. It's also a good period to reflect, revise, and generally not do anything that can't be easily undone (but again, this depends on a lot of factors that need to be looked at). We're off the hook until January 20th of next year (seems soon, doesn't it? Haha). Catch you on the flip side, Mercury...