Planet Waves | Mercury Retrograde



Mercury as seen from Mariner spacecraft, late 20th century, courtesy of APOD

Cosmic Tofu
Spicing Up Your Mercury Retrograde

By Eric Francis
Courtesy of

Lots has been written about Mercury retrograde, but as you probably guessed, most of it never made it to the printer. And this article will prove to be very difficult to create because my secretaries called in sick, all of my astrology books except for two are packed in a storage locker in Seattle, and the entire Internet is running at an average of eleven Baud, fast enough to load a StarIQ page in three days. Plus, I'm running late and I really don't feel like doing this.

But I can wing it. I'm a pro.

One thing I've never seen written about Mercury retrograde is that each one of these experiences is different, since the aspects to Mercury are different at any given time of year, and anyway Mercury never stays the same for longer than it takes for two people to agree on any minor point. Also, the quality of a Mercury retrograde experience will be shaped by the way it slides, bangs, scratches or dances triumphantly around one's natal configuration.

But whatever the causes or consequences, which astrologers only pretend to understand, some retrograde phases seem to turn computer hardware to toast, especially for people who don't believe in astrology. Others eat only financial databases only while you're backing them up. Others are mean just to Macintoshes (the PC was both invented and patented with Mercury retrograde, so you can't tell the difference). One weird time, my telephone started acting like a microwave oven, and simultaneously the FedEx guy showed up with 100 pounds of organic yak butter. In fact, I had ordered 75 pounds.

Other retrograde phases make a great big sucking sound. Once I noticed that my dog grooming service accidentally charged me $3,546.99 to wash my poodle on the very day I needed about that much cash to buy a plane ticket to Honolulu, but as it worked out, that conference was moved to San Diego, which I found out because I ended up with a load of somebody else's e-mail, plus there was a seat sale for San Diego that I discovered thanks to some spam, marking the first time in galactic history that someone actually benefited from e-marketing.

Then the dog groomer credited my card $5,346.00, but the poodle meet a skunk. This really happened.

Once, all these people claiming to be my ex-girlfriends called, but that was because for one very long afternoon my phone number was connected to 153 different peoples' names in the Directory Assistance database, all of whom were named Antonio.

In one of my two astrology books not currently in storage, Christian Astrology by William Lilly (the first astrology text in English, published in 1647), there is some interesting commentary on Mercury. Writes old Billy Lilly, "We cannot call him either masculine or feminine, for he is either the one or other as joined to any planets with the good he is good, with the evil planets ill [and] he is the author of subtlety, tricks, devices, perjury, etc." In other words, Mercury takes on the characteristics of the signs, houses and circumstances in which he finds himself; he changes a lot. You could say he's subject to peer pressure, just like a teenager or child (Mercury represents those people).

Or, you could say that Mercury is cosmic tofu, normally bland and slippery, but conveniently absorbing the flavors of the sauces in the casserole around him. Mercury is now retrograde in Cancer, the sign of cupcakes (I know I'm mixing metaphors here, but Mercury is retrograde). Plenty of other stuff is going on in Cancer now, with Venus, Mars and the Sun all bouncing around, with an eclipse coming, and with solstice revelries still a recent, if blurry, memory.

Put it all together? Unpredictable. Sensitive. And Venus and Mars in Cancer sounds pretty sexy to me. It's not sexy like porno (that would be Scorpio, the next retrograde), it's not sexy like a Harem ritual at a Tantra conference in northern California (that would be Pisces, the most recent one); rather, it's sexy like those early experiences in high school, when people still drank milk and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made by Mom wearing a ruffly apron, and Viagara was distinctly not a necessary life ingredient. It's sexy in a cozy, warm and sweetly kinky way.

Did I say kinky? I meant cuddly. It's an especially good time to talk about all those feelings you're ordinarily too embarrassed to even think about except six seconds before you fall off to sleep.

Note that all the Mercury retrogrades this year occur in the water signs, so it will spend about half the year in those deep and sensitive regions of everyone's chart. We are a very mental culture. We are often totally wrapped up in our brains. These experiences seem designed to teach us to learn how to feel, to express how we feel, to ask others what's going on, and listen.

In my other astrology book, the incredibly influential Esoteric Astrology by Alice A. Bailey (start reading it today and you'll understand it by 2005), she describes Mercury as the "star of conflict" and notes that it's "the major planet of relationships, for it governs and 'engineers' (if I may use such a term) the interplay between our Earth with its conditioning constellations."

Mercury is the cosmic modem. So with that kind of job, you can't blame the whole universe for going a little off-the-beam when Mercury seems to pick up and run backwards just when you were least expecting it.++

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