Mercury Retro: Not Just a Fashion Statement

Every three months, the planet Mercury stations (stops) and retrogrades (reverses) through the Zodiac for three weeks. Planets don’t put on the breaks and shift into reverse, but it appears that way from our spectator’s box here on Earth. The Zodiac is our peripheral view of the sky, which moves with us as we orbit the Sun along with the other planets. Mercury is much closer to the Sun and usually just ahead of or behind the Sun in the Zodiac. From our perspective, Mercury appears to pass the Sun only to slow down and be passed by it. Once it falls behind a bit, it picks up speed to get in front of the Sun and start the process over again.

Mercury represents the Messenger God in all of us, our mercurial minds. This is our linear mind that deals with everyday activities and communication. We want our minds to be as fast as lightning, with zero latency and no impedance. We also want our mercurial tools to be fast and efficient, like our computers and smartphones. But it is possible to move too quickly and miss important details along the way, which is precisely what Mercury does and why it must go back and tie up those loose ends. But there is a part of us that never wants to slow down or go backwards, and that part is our mercurial mind.

We understand these cycles on a much deeper level and how they ebb and flow with the natural order. But we tend to resent being hindered, pulled back, or slowed down in any way. Our messenger gods have so much to do and so little time to do it. We’d like to complete everything on our To-do list, so we have more time for rest and leisure. And Mercury usually moves so quickly; we have good reason to expect that things will go relatively smoothly. Sometimes, we finish our chores early and then move on to activities we’d rather do. But other times, we feel like we’re swimming upstream and waste half the day trying to check the first thing off our list.

Our frustration is warranted in a world that tells us that every day is basically the same, and there’s no reason we can’t do the same work today that we did yesterday. If we believe our most productive time will always be between 9am and 5pm Monday through Friday, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and confusion. But if we understand Mercury’s cycle, we can begin to move with it, even if that means going

backwards sometimes. We simply need to understand the frantic pace of Mercury and how we, too, need to slow down to do our best work. Mercury retrograde periods may make our lives a bit more complicated, but there are some basic rules of thumb to follow.


Just like Mercury, we tend to rush through our work. Maybe it’s dull, or we have deadlines, or we just get sloppy and don’t give our work the attention to detail that it requires. Not everything we do is set in stone, and some things are never really done. When Mercury is retrograde, we can go back and give these things the time we couldn’t spare when we were too busy. Think of “retro” as “re-try” or “re-do.” Or just add the prefix “re” to any verb and look to the recent past for anything that needs our attention. Don’t worry about today’s “to-do” list. Instead, we can pick up the lists with everything checked off and ask ourselves if everything was done properly. Then we can make a “re-do” list and start working on that.

Whether we actively observe Mercury’s retrograde phases or simply play it by ear, we will find ourselves retreading territory that we thought was behind us. We may be going through old letters, going back home to visit family, or returning to school to retake a course. Even if we’re not in school, we may feel as if we’re being held back a grade, a literal manifestation of “retrograde.” We often resent being forced to repeat our lessons, but an honest evaluation would reveal that we failed the tests that were given. We’re being given a second chance to review the course and retake the test, and most importantly, to learn the lessons provided.

Mercury must strike a balance between speed and accuracy. On the collective level, Mercury represents the media, and especially the news. If the Sun is where it’s at, Mercury is always right on the scene, ready for breaking news. Whatever the Sun is doing today, you heard it first from Mercury. There’s such a rush to break a big story that sometimes accuracy is sacrificed for timeliness. That’s why this busy reporter must go back and make sure he has his facts straight. It doesn’t make him a lousy reporter; it just comes with the terrain. In the rush of excitement, we’re bound to get a few things wrong. And when things slow down a bit, we have a chance to re-evaluate the situation in light of new information.

Rule of Threes

Every three months, Mercury retrogrades for three weeks, three times a year; you could say that they come in threes. We often associate a “rule of three” with seemingly unconnected events in the news, like celebrity deaths and plane crashes. We may hear of a plane crash or some other disaster during an ominous transit between Mercury and Uranus. Mercury then stations retrograde and revisits that transit within a week or two. Just as the news coverage of the first plane crash subsides, news of a second plane crash emerges from a different part of the world. Mercury then stations direct and revisits the same transit for a third and final pass as a third tragic plane crash is reported in the news. Of course, tragic events happen all the time, but Mercury represents only those events that capture our attention.

Mercury retrograde phases more often affect the mundane activities of our daily lives and may help us understand the meaning of the phrase, “third time’s a charm.” First, let’s consider the phrase, “two steps forward and one step back.” For Mercury, it’s more like five steps forward and one step back. Imagine taking four steps forward, knowing that whatever we do in that period won’t need to be repeated. But what we do in the fifth step will be repeated a second time when we take a step back and a third time when we take our first step forward again. When we take this territorial view of an otherwise abstract progression of time, we can see that the third time isn’t just the charm; it’s the only way forward.

Mercury’s retrogrades are timed so that they usually fall in the same element over the course of a year or a Sun cycle. Mercury can establish annual themes as it retrogrades in air signs one year, and then in Earth signs the next. We can make general predictions about which life domain will be more challenging and which will likely move forward without a hitch. Sometimes when Mercury Retrogrades in Earth signs, the economy seems to contract. In Water Signs, we may feel emotional blockages or regressive patterns reemerging in our relationships. Retrogrades in Air Signs are often a year when we reevaluate our principles and positions. In Fire Signs, we may re-spark our passions or rekindle our source of inspiration.

There is always something worth retreading in our lives. Mercury’s cycle gives us the timing and the nature of these critical phases. While some Mercury retrogrades are particularly difficult, this often has more to do with the transits surrounding that period. Every Mercury retrograde is unique, and some can be very pleasant. We simply need to understand that there are times when we must go back to move forward. We’re always progressing, though, at times, it may not feel like it. If life were just the most efficient route between birth and death, Mercury would take that route just to save time. But life is more like a dance, and dancing is totally irrational behavior to our linear minds.

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