“Mercury retrograde” is an expression that has burst the bonds of conventional western astrology and become almost a commonplace term. It’s so common that people do a reverse-inference now; if electronic communication devices aren’t working, if satellites go down, if someone “mis-speaks” on TV, if Google goes down, we all say, “Is Mercury retrograde or something?”
In Western astrology, Mercury is the planet that influences communication, thought, and intellectual energy (sometimes it’s said to govern education). There is a definitely a belief that when Mercury is “retrograde” (appears to be moving backward in our skies), communication and transportation, deliveries and documents can all be at risk.
It’s like this; you reconnect with an old high school friend, who, it turns out, lives in the same town as you. The two of you make plans to meet at a local coffee place. At the chosen time, you show up, and wait. And wait. You try to call or text your friend, but you forgot your phone. Or, your phone is dead. Or, for some reason, you can’t get any bars. You get home and fire off an angry instant message – only to see you have an angry message from the friend, who sat waiting for you for nearly an hour. Neither of you bothered to check. There are two coffee places with the same name in your town.
Or, you forget to back-up the important document you are working on, and it gets corrupted. Or, an offhanded comment you make sends your partner into a rage of hurt feelings; or your partner says something incredibly hurtful to you, and can’t seem to understand why you’re upset. “Is Mercury retrograde?” you wonder.
Mercury takes about 88 earth-days to travel around the sun; earth takes 365. Because of the positions of the two planets relative to each other at various times in the orbit, in our skies, Mercury sometimes appears to be moving backwards, retracing its progress across the sky. We call this Mercury going retrograde although it’s really no such thing. Remember that astrology is a geocentric system that has nothing to do with the real solar system. It uses planets and constellation as they appear to us from earth as symbols for inner growth.
In the latest issues of Witches and Pagans, columnist Diotima Mantineia discusses ways to work with Mercury retrograde. (She recommends backing up your documents, just as a good practice.) She suggests turning the principals of the planet inward; using Mercury retrograde, for example, as a way to quietly listen to impulses and messages from what she calls the Deep Self. Follow those impulses and go outside for a walk instead of hunching over your computer or tablet. Drive home a different way. Focus and listen for the signal through the noise. She also recommends using this time period (it’s usually about two weeks) to examine your own assumptions about what you want in your life. This is the internal signal-to-noise ratio.
You can find out in advance when Mercury is next slated to appear retrograde (it happens about three times a year) and calendar it. Then you can batten down the hatches and decide whether you want to sign that important business contract right then. Or here’s something else you can do. You can make a note of the dates somewhere (not on your calendar) and put that file out of sight. Then, for the rest of the year, keep a journal; just four or five lines at the end of each day, about the key issue of the day. In 2016, you can pull up your Mercury retrograde file and check it against your journal. Were there really communication issues? Or did it make no difference at all? I have no idea what the answer to that question would be.
I am so easily distracted these days; haring off after internet tidbits, plumping up with outrage over something on Facebook, running around on errands as if they were important. I like the idea of using the Mercury retrograde period as a time to reflect on the signal, instead of the noise.