A Neptuney Case of The Merc-Retro 'Huh?'s


Mercury retrograde's back again…

… and while the typical electronics malfunctions, traffic detours and navigational glitches ought to be watched out for, this go-around will be most especially ripe with communicative misfires.

Any time Mercury goes retrograde (or appears to move backwards in the sky), which usually occurs three times a year for about 3 weeks, all Mercury-ruled matters go a bit haywire. This phenomenon elicits quite a reputation, as even casual astro-watchers nervously wait for their machines to sputter, their tongues to tie, or their paperwork to become lost or improperly filed.

Mercury, always the trickster, doesn't necessarily cause our transactions to mess up, of course, as much merely alter their usual rhythm, instigating what might appear like a problem—which only turns truly problematic when, in a panic, we rush to 'fix' it and instead overcorrect. That's why my golden Mercury-retrograde rule is: When in doubt, stay calm, slow down, step away, regroup, and try again later. Frustrated attempts to make it better usually make it worse. What's so awful about a passing delay, anyhow?

Mercury turns retrograde on Tuesday (Aug 2), less than a week after having moved into rational and reasonable Virgo, a sign it rules. We expect Mercury to function beautifully in Virgo, helping us to grasp the practical logistics and manage the details, crunch the data and convey it with sharp precision. And therefore, since Mercury first entered Virgo last Thursday (Jul 28), many folks have actually been operating under the (mis)perception that a welcome return of grounding common-sense was helping them finally resolve some stuff. Without full awareness of Mercury's actual situation, alas, we could've easily swallowed our own misleading reassurances that 'everything has been accounted for and understood'.

Within hours of hitting Virgo, Mercury formed an opposition to Neptune, its first of three over this next month or so. Whenever Mercury is opposed by another planet, our knack for gaining mental clarity and clearly conveying what we think becomes inhibited or blocked by the opposing planet's energies. In the case of Neptune as opposing factor, the obstruction usually plays out as confusion or blindness to some important 'missing piece'. We cannot accurately see the other side, whether it be an unconsidered fact, a procedural limitation, or a disconnect with another person. We don't know what we don't know. We naturally fill in the blanks with what we want to be true.

Under such potential Mercury/Neptune self-delusion, we could take false confidence in our understandings… setting us up too perfectly for the dreaded miscommunications, as we speak too quickly and surely on a topic we're less up on than we thought, or as we put our foot in our mouth by misjudging our audience and saying what we shouldn't.

Because Mercury's opposition to Neptune occurs right as its apparent orbital speed is slowing to a retrograde station, this planetary aspect persists in relatively suspended animation longer than it otherwise would. As soon as next Mon Aug 8, the opposition forms to exactitude again, for the second time. Throughout this entire couple-week span, Mercury must contend with this double impairment—retrograde snafus and Neptune befuddlement.

This is probably a good time to point out the unfortunately clumsy timing of the current US political standoff regarding the debt ceiling, which must be lifted early this coming week in order to avoid a national financial default, a loss in credit-rating stature, maybe even a global market crash. Or is it already too late? The likelihood that any deal made now, under such rotten deal-making astrology, will prove sturdy and lasting is rather low.

The whole debate does, however, poignantly illustrate what I meant about being blinded to the 'missing piece', and about not clearly seeing the other side. The terms of this political game have been misrepresented: It is not actually about the debt ceiling, which had previously been raised without question many times over by the same party hesitating to do so now. It's a ruse, a rhetorical diversion from politicians' real goal: hacking away at the social benefits our government owes its citizenry as part of the agreement when we pay our taxes. 'The other side' is neither Democrat nor Republican: instead, a plutocracy comprised of both mainstream parties, acting out a public drama over deficits and debt ceilings, trying to milk another few dimes from the working-class and the elderly—from the people—and yet still refusing to hold those who profited big-time from fucking over our economy accountable in any way. What else could the willingness of President Obama (who many of us once imagined to be the next FDR or LBJ) to extend tax cuts to the wealthy while bargaining away Social Security and Medicare be saying to us? (See also: The nonsense battle over the debt ceiling)

Mercury will have slipped backwards into Leo by the time he hits his second Neptune opposition on Mon Aug 8, reminding us to reconsider how 'factual' or 'objective' the thoughts we're offering actually are. There's nothing inherently wrong with having a passionate personal opinion about how you believe things ought to be—as long as you're aware that opinions are not unequivocally true. They're strongly colored by our individual lived experience, and may not work for other people with different experiential frames-of-references.

Neptune, in Pisces since April, also retrogrades back into his prior sign of Aquarius (where he'd been since 1998). In this context, Neptune's return to Aquarius points to potential illusions perpetrated by 'togetherness' ideologies that claim to speak, from a so-called humanitarian place, for everyone's good… though they may gloss over substantive differences between subgroups of individuals.

For these few Mercury-retrograde weeks ahead, we must consciously remember we've all got our glaring blindspots… though, by their very nature, we cannot know what they are. We'll therefore want to be humble in our declarations, open to having alternate angles pointed out to us—maybe even to having our minds changed altogether. It's equally as important to practice compassionate patience with others (since we're all under this same influence) who may unleash a haughty or ignorant monologue on you without noticing your disagreement or discontent. (That doesn't mean you let 'em off the hook; merely present corrective edits kindly, with an extra side-order of empathy.)

On the up-side, this astro-influence can be used deliberately, for creative or self-development purposes, to extract content from the unconscious… perhaps to deliver beautifully unexpected epiphanies or artistic breakthroughs.

Other than that, you probably want to take each communicative step more slowly than usual. The lengthier and more off-the-cuff one's outward expression, the likelier they'll go further than intended… with all the myriad inconvenient side-effects. So, pause after each idea. Confirm you said what you meant. Confirm you were heard correctly. Continue.

Mercury remains retrograde through Aug 26. Mercury forms its third and final opposition to Neptune on Sep 8, and is back in Virgo by the next day.