Catching Up with Mercury Retrograde


As we move into 2015's first retrograde of Mercury, I'm feeling like I should write you something about it… even while, admittedly, I personally find we often make too much of its importance.

Of course, as I share that personal opinion, I'm reminded of those past instances in which I valiantly tried to downplay the impact of Mercury's retrogrades, only to have this trickster-planet set me up to eat my words, with a devilish twist or two.

Still, I strive not to describe Mercury retrograde as a necessarily aggravating or undesirable occurrence, which merely fuels our unconstructive annoyance with its alternative rhythms. After all, Mercury goes retrograde three times a year, for approximately three weeks or so at a time. That means we spend roughly twenty percent of our time with Mercury retrograde. Who has the luxury to postpone all important communications, travel plans, and pressing detail-oriented business so often? I'm a more commonsensical astrologer than to expect any of us, myself included, to regularly indulge such avoidance techniques.

Mercury's retrograde period is a time to let our minds catch up with the active developments and changes-in-circumstance which have most recently happened… to review our thinking, to re-ask ourselves the critical questions, to conduct follow-up discussions, and, possibly, to change our minds altogether based on additional information or insight which has consequently emerged. The 'misspeaks' known to inadvertently spurt forth during Mercury retrograde may be inconvenient, graceless, and embarrassing, but they also shed light on relevant sentiments which our protective ego-thoughts had been refusing to acknowledge. The 'mishandling' of details—perhaps a nightmarish headache in those initial moments when we encounter the mess-up—is also a golden chance to make sure we do, at the end of it all, get the job done correctly and thoroughly. And the 'delays' or 'detours' just give us more time to double-check our work, reflect on other considerations, or take a few re-centering breaths.

This particular Mercury retrograde begins on Wednesday (Jan 21) and falls entirely within Aquarius, an air-sign known for its hyper-intellectual, systems-level perspectives… and usually thought to be one of the more favorable Mercury sign-placements. (Some modern astrologers even assign Mercury's exaltation to Aquarius.) The only noteworthy aspects this retrograde Mercury in Aquarius forms are gently supportive sextiles to Uranus in Aries and Saturn in Sagittarius, the latter also serving as its dispositor (using the traditional rulership schema). As such, this Merc-retro's job is to bridge any conceptual gaps between (1) our self-liberating impulses to radically do things our own way and (2) our need to ensure what we're doing is well-aligned with what we claim to believe.

With three outer planets now in fire signs (Uranus and Saturn, as well as Jupiter in Leo), it would be understandably easy to 'get ahead of ourselves' in the actions we take. This Mercury retrograde, then, instructs us to step back from—or, to use more properly Aquarian language, to get above—the heat of the action, refreshing our aerial-view awareness of the entire network of interlinking characters and considerations, so we may better take into account how all these different game-pieces interact with one another. When we overlook this sweeping systemic perspective, that's when Mercury-retrograde's wrath is liable to strike… revealing where we didn't responsibly take into account how our singular vantage or unilateral approach might adversely influence some other person, project, or purpose linked (directly or indirectly) to whatever we're up to. Back to the vision-stage drawing-board, then.

As with all Mercury retrogrades, we can seek to minimize the potential upsets by practicing patient due-diligence towards our communications, business dealings, transportation and travel needs, and interactions with electronics and other machinery. The rhythms to these Mercury-ruled activities operate differently than they ordinarily would. In my experience, the worst Mercury-retrograde malfunctions are usually a factor of human error: Rather than wait out a temporary stall or snafu or calmly address the unexpected glitches, we react crudely or carelessly—and end up causing the much-bigger problem we feared. That's why it's wiser to sit in the surprise traffic, for instance, instead of hunting for that substitute 'shortcut' which ends up taking way longer anyhow… and why it's inadvisable to, say, pound on your computer keyboard or throw your cell-phone against the wall if, for a passing moment, your screen appears to have frozen.

Mercury will be retrograde for exactly three weeks, returning to direct motion on February 11. Meanwhile, Mercury stays in Aquarius another full month beyond that, finally moving into Pisces on March 12.