by Robert Wilkinson
Remember that Mercury is already slowing down, so the retrograde effect has already begun to be experienced, at least if the feedback I've gotten over the years is any indicator of the phenomenon. So just what is "Mercury Retrograde?"
Many have heard of Mercury retrograde, but don’t know what it means, or how to use these misunderstood recurring periods reminds us of what it is and isn't and what it's all about, where we'll take a new look at how to position ourselves to make the most of the coming retrograde period.
As usual, I'll also be doing my usual series of articles over the next 3 weeks on what it means in general, what it means for each sign specifically, and how it relates to past Mercury retrograde themes. We’ll also explore Inferior and Superior conjunctions, and other facets of the mystery of Mercury retrograde.
I originally composed this about 10 years ago, and today am reprinting it since it contains core material for those who want to understand more about this event that happens several times a year. The entire subject of Mercury retrograde is so full of suppositions and superstitions that I had to write this (and my book “A New Look At Mercury Retrograde”) so that we can examine this recurring phenomenon for the good it can bring rather than the dread so many feel.
There are a lot of myths, suppositions, and confusion about Mercury retrograde. I have found there are many things one can achieve during these periods that occur three (and sometimes four) times a year. Since Mercury is the Cosmic Magician, the Trickster, and was regarded for centuries as “The Guide of Souls,” Mercury retrograde periods are great times to examine the Cosmic Magician and figure out some things that are not evident or may be obscured when Mercury is direct in motion.
I offered many insights into how we can use these times productively in my ground-breaking book, "A New Look At Mercury Retrograde," first published in 1997 but now out of print. I am now almost done with a total rewrite and re-edit, and the second edition will be a far better work than the first edition was.
There are a few copies of the first edition available via the web, and so you may want to get a copy to investigate more about this oft-recurring phenomenon and get major insights how best to use these times. As I have done since this was first published, I'll post some relevant sections over the next few weeks that will help you understand what's up when Mercury, or Hermes, "the guide of Souls," is slow in motion, which is really the meaning of a retrograde.
Many want to act productively during these times but don’t know how, usually due to paralysis induced by indecision, ambivalence, or second-guessing. Actually, despite the superstition and fluff of most commercial astrological explanations about how to approach these times, they're really not so bad
Briefly, it's a time to take a new look at information, insights, and perceptions, and rework interpretations to prepare for the four month period that follows a Mercury retrograde. While retrograde, Mercury goes back over ground it's just traversed, but during the retrograde there is an entirely new angle of view that presents itself so that some things previously unknown or unnoticed can be factored in for the future. There are curious returns that allow us to re-think some things, and find a new rhythm of coordinating our life affairs.
It may be helpful to explain the concept of retrogradation. All the planets go retrograde due to the way perception works from our angle of vision here on Earth. Planets obviously do not go backwards, but they do slow down and speed up in their orbits relative to the Sun, and this creates interesting perspectives here on Earth. A retrograde only appears to be going backwards, much like a slow train appears to be going backwards relative to an express train.
We won’t explore the physics of the process, since the fact that motion changes within a planet’s orbit around the Sun relative to other planets is not really important unless you’re an astrophysicist. However, since those who come to this site are looking for meaning about such things, and how to be effective in these recurring periods, we will now explore how we can best use these periods for maximum effectiveness without being deflected or hindered by the superstition and mythology surrounding "Mercury retrograde."
As I noted in the book,
... retrograde periods offer us a chance to slow down certain parts of our life for closer examination, preparing for a change that inevitably occurs. This is part of a larger cyclic process of unfoldment when the planet speeds up again in forward motion. Life always speeds up again after a time of reflection, contemplation, and transitional change. One of the benefits of Mercury retrograde is that it provides the time for reflection, which can lead to revitalization after a symbolic fallow period...
Periods of reflection, meditation, and contemplation allow us to take a needed break from routine or inertia. Retrogrades are the natural time to do this. When we turn inward, our Soul connection assists our growth by allowing us to focus on that which we would not address if we were preoccupied with mundane affairs...
When a planet goes retrograde, the areas of life that it symbolizes need to be re-examined. It is metaphorically an in-breathing or dreaming, a retracing and reexamining of steps already traversed, digesting and assimilating previous experience…. This is a time when we can examine the effect that our personal subconscious and the Collective Unconscious has upon us...
While it seems as though Mercury retrograde is associated with things that malfunction and miscommunications and delays, we must remember that in actuality, no planet or its influence is good or bad unto itself. We are the ones who determine our "destiny," based on our choices, which shape our character. In that sense, "character is destiny," and so we have the responsibility to determine whether we will be active or passive in responding to life’s challenges.
We have free will and no planet or star "makes" anything happen. They merely indicate the larger patterns we live within, and so by understanding these patterns and what they symbolize, we are in a position to be in harmony or disharmony with inner and outer "reality." This is the power of our individuality to rise above inertia, superstition, and belief systems that are obsolete, inadequate, or fear-based.
Mercury retrograde has been with us, and will be with us, for a long, long, time, as long as the planets have their present orbits around the Sun. So the more we learn about this recurring phenomenon, the more able we will be to take advantage of our ability not to get lost or bogged down during Mercury retrograde periods. We may experience delays or confusions or deflections, but we do not have to suffer while making our way through such things.
By learning how to use Mercury retrograde periods wisely and consciously, even if our affairs are momentarily diverted in strange directions, coordinated in some unusual ways, or take some peculiar twists and turns, they often turn out for the best over the long run, whether we knew that or not during the retrograde period. Often we get useful information and insights we overlooked before the retrograde, and these times help us factor in different pieces of our life's puzzles so we can operate more effectively after the retrograde period ends.
Sometimes it may seem like it's two steps forward, one to the side, one back, two to the side, and three forward. It's all okay, since it's showing you a different way to be guided to your truth and more effective way of being in the world. Often things don't turn out the way we suspect, but that can be as good as it can be difficult.
Still, due to the different rhythm of events and perspectives that send things off on strange or unexpected tangents, it is always useful to get your affairs in order before the retrograde. Then while in the three week period and things are slowed down or seemingly moving in a different direction or even backwards, turn to whatever has been neglected and needs attention, finishing them up so that you can get on with new business when the retrograde ends.
I have found over the years that many good things can be accomplished during these periods. Sometimes there are extremely fortuitous connections made, whether renewing something from this life or another one. Sometimes we get insights about past things and people that allow us a more well-rounded perspective about how they “guided us to our Soul.” And of course, reviewing the past and reflecting on recent developments is often necessary if we are to move into the future without getting hung up on the past.
We’ll discuss more about the coming Mercury retrograde, as well as how it affects each sign, in future articles.
Previous articles in this series:
© Copyright 2005, 2014 Robert Wilkinson