Mercury Retrograde in Cancer: Wisdom on the Water


We can't always explain how we know something is 'right' or 'true'. Sometimes, it's just a gut-level thing.

And while we ourselves may be perfectly fine grabbing our final answers off the wind, the water, or the wings of angels… that doesn't necessarily make it very easy to get others on board with such 'irrational' decision-making processes based in our bodies.

Even if they too are 'feelers' or otherwise quite comfortable with relying on their intuitions to guide them, how exactly are they supposed to trust our feelings and intuitions? After all, it's not their guts being hit with a truth; it's ours. There's an inescapable gap in translation.

All this to say… Mercury is approaching its latest retrograde, which officially begins on Friday (Jun 15) and lasts through Jul 9. Many of us who are sensitive to the 'shadow period' (or the phases directly before and after a retrograde, when the planet is already traveling within the affected zone of the zodiac) have already begun to notice the effects over these prior two weeks. Pretty soon, we'll all be aware of it.

Mercury retrograde is one of the pop-astrological phenomena that many non-astro-geeks have heard of. It gets a lot of press because it's easy to blame for all our problems. During these retrograde periods, the normal behaviors of Mercury—processing and transmitting information, handling paperwork and other such everyday business, moving from one place to another within our immediate environment—operate in an altered fashion. Not necessarily better or worse (though you wouldn't believe as much, based on the bad rap it gets), but just differently.

The standard warnings issued during Mercury retrograde include: planning extra travel time, double-checking the fine print on legal documents, backing up your data, going the full distance in trying to clearly communicate your thoughts, and generally embracing patience over hastiness. Beyond all those, I like to offer my own: Beware of trying to 'fix problems' that may not actually exist. Sometimes the computer just burps, but pounding on the keyboard or unplugging the power cord might end up causing the very 'problems' you're trying to avoid. Sometimes we confront a traffic jam, but looking for the 'shortcut' around it often wastes even more of our precious time. (Click here for my 'alternate take' on Mercury retrograde.)

With Mercury in Cancer, we're dealing with a planet/sign combo that doesn't particularly align with what conventional wisdom tells us to expect—that is, a planet of thinking and talking placed in a sign of feeling and non-verbal communication. And now, retrograde to boot. That means, for better and for worse, we must rely on our empathic instincts to help us draw conclusions… and we'll best succeed when our full emotional engrossment, reflected through meaningful eye-contact or subtle bodily expressions or the transmission of psychic vibes, is behind every attempt to deliver a message. Simple logic and straightforward language just won't cut it.

Cancer is a generally slippery place for Mercury, since it's so easily influenced by our ebbing-and-flowing moods. Try to get a clear idea of what makes the most sense or what somebody else is thinking, and you may wind up with widely variable results, based upon whether the tide is high, low, or somewhere in between. Trains of thought are as likely to unfold based on spontaneous association of sense-memories or sentimental yearnings as they are by 'x leads to y' causation chains (which is why my beloved colleague Mystic Medusa has called Merc-retro-in-Cancer 'the Proust transit').

We'd better be okay with honoring the emotional wisdom that often intrinsically underscores our mental processes (whether we are conscious of it or not), or this Merc-retro will be a doozy.

The upside of Mercury's retrograde through Cancer, however, is our freedom to slide away from the pragmatically on-point rationale—and toward the indescribable pull of 'rightness' in the pit of our stomach—just because we feel a certain way. Along with it, we raise the question: What are our most important criteria in choosing one thing over another, in expressing what we think in a certain tone-of-voice, or in assuming what route to follow and how quickly it should take? Is it always about what 'looks good on paper', or can we legitimately allow ourselves to pursue that which offers comfort and solace to ourselves and/or those we love… even if it slows us down, or impels us to nestle deeper in right where we are, rather than incessantly pushing for the pole position?

All the while, we must remain aware that, just as the Moon will continue getting brighter until it starts getting darker until it starts getting brighter again, the slip-sliding can continue indefinitely… and where this flexibility once began as both nurturing and liberating, it can eventually devolve into total indecision due to emotional overwhelm.

Still, for the next three to four weeks at least, we can ride the wave at our leisure (the more relaxed and responsive, the better), knowing our practical intelligibility will remain deferent to larger changes in current or undertow. For the time being, it may be smartest to talk about how you're feeling—with the explicit understanding that it'll continue to change—rather than being cornered into making calls you aren't yet sure about. As I'm interpreting this current Mercury situation, the discussions are still in progress…