Mercury Retrograde: Watch Your Speed

Dear Friend and Reader:

When the dust settles on the wreck of Amtrak 188, and all the facts come out, I think the cause will turn out to be something simple: for example, the train’s driver not paying attention to the speed limit.

Detail of May 2015 page from Raphael’s Ephemeris, which indicates when Mercury turns retrograde — early on May 19, in Greenwich Mean Time. You can see the R symbol, next to the date that the retrograde happens, and at 13 degrees and 8 arc minutes.

Before I cast the chart for the crash, I had a feeling that Mercury was going to be prominent. Then I saw the chart and it was one of those astrology moments when I had to rub my eyes and blink a few times. Mercury was hovering right above the western horizon — describing some blatant message that was missed or ignored.

Something like a speed limit sign.

Something like the obviously safe speed for a stretch of track just a few minutes north of Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. The curve where the train derailed was rated at 50 mph. The stretches of track before and after the curve were rated at 70 mph. The train was doing 106 mph when it went off the rails, killing eight and injuring more than 200 people, many of them critically.

The train’s engineer, Brandon Bostian, is probably going to take all the blame. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has lapses of attention. It’s just that the stakes are a lot higher when you’re driving a train than driving a car, though one lapse of attention behind the wheel can easily kill and injure many people.

Mercury is slow and powerful right now, in one of its signs of rulership — Gemini — about to station retrograde. It’s doing all of this in a square to Neptune in Pisces. That could indicate the influence of drugs or alcohol, which Bostian has denied, through his attorney.

But we may also be looking into a reality gap. Do kids still play with electric trains, even the ones who want to become train drivers? Anyone who has knows that you must only do one thing to keep the train on the tracks — slow down on a curve. You might think that’s obvious, but our generations of video game kids may not understand much about actual physics in 3D reality. I think a lot of younger cops have the same problem: people you kill don’t come back to life.

Mercury square Neptune is the original space-out aspect. Nobody needs drugs or alcohol for that in our current digital environment, though they can easily be a factor that would complicate things. The aspect also has a reputation for presenting some challenges discerning truth from fantasy, which can happen with or without substances. Denial is in itself a kind of drug, one of the favorites of our society.

Mercury in the chart for the crash of Amtrak 188 is the green glyph on the right, above the horizontal line. That line is the horizon. Mercury is in the approximate position that you see the Sun in just before sunset.

If you were born with Mercury square Neptune, I suggest you become the consummate fact-checker and never bend the rules. Give the book Radical Honesty a thorough read. Of course, everyone would benefit from that book, and from the habit of fact checking.

[If you have any contact between Mercury and Neptune in your natal chart, I suggest you get all the details on your aspect, so you can work with it productively. You need to get both planets working together rather than at cross-purposes.]

There was a diversity of other factors involved in the train wreck chart. For example, Amanda Painter noted that Mars, newly in Gemini, looks like something flying down the rails, crashing into a regulation, or the laws of Newtonian physics — Saturn retrograde in Sagittarius. That aspect, close in the accident chart, is exact Friday. That comes with a caution, about arguing with people who have intractable ideas. Be careful not to overstate your case; make sure you listen to what is said right on the surface level.

The chart describes some kind of social scenario — such as someone’s wife found out that he has a girlfriend, they were arguing about it by text or cell phone, and things went out of control. Federal officials have the train operator’s phone; we may find out what’s on it.

It’s fair to say that everyone is looking for an explanation of how this happened, but with Mercury and Neptune involved as they are, logic may be hard to come by. An actual cause may not be easily forthcoming, and what investigators finally conclude (at least in their press release) may lack credibility.

I would propose that logic, reason and rationality are going to be important tools over the next few weeks as Mercury, Mars and Neptune dance around as part of the Mercury retrograde pattern.

Rationality is merely one point of view among many, but it’s one that will come in handy over the next few weeks. There was a time in aviation history prior to the pre-flight checklist. That one concept has saved incalculable lives, and now is the time to break out those kinds of methods and use them consistently.

The F-35B bomber program will cost American taxpayers $1.7 trillion before interest on the bonds is paid. That is $1,700,000,000,000, enough to fund Amtrak for a thousand years. The test fleet has been grounded several times for serious problems, such as the potential for the planes to explode.

While intuition is sometimes as accurate or more accurate than factual analysis, don’t count on that now. What seems like intuition may be more like crude instinct. Most people have not sorted out that distinction, and the lines are blurry at the moment.

In addition to the mental fog and the memory lapses of Mercury retrograde square Neptune, the involvement of Mars in the aspect pattern suggests the need to be cautious of all self-destructive tendencies. Mars is in early Gemini now, heading for a square to Neptune.

Mars square Neptune is another aspect that needs special care and handling. Mars in this pattern can bring out the self-undoing tendencies of Neptune and Pisces in a rapid and toxic way. This will be affecting everyone to some degree, and the presence of Mercury will make it difficult to tell what is what.

The retrograde phase peaks the last week of May, when retrograde Mercury and Mars form a conjunction, exactly square Neptune. Said another way, Mercury square Neptune and Mars square Neptune will be happening at exactly the same time. Mercury will be retrograde, in Gemini — there is no more succinct astrological way to say tricky.

There are other factors involved, mostly clustered around the Mercury-Mars conjunction. These are asteroids involving sex and sexual identity — Eros, Sappho and Tantalus among them. This looks like confusion and/or soul searching around sexuality, a theme that comes up over and over again in this chart.

Here is what I suggest: First and foremost, be aware of the digital fog. Notice how many devices surround you. Note the trends and tides on the Internet. Be conscious what you share and with whom. Remember that once you send or post something, that is, in effect, irreversible.

Here are a few more ideas:

1. Slow down. Drive slower, think slower, come to conclusions slower (or not at all). Your judgment may be impaired, and there are layers and layers of facts that need to come out. This will take time, such as weeks or months.

We live in the midst of a digital fog that we cannot usually see. Mercury retrograde can help make the fog visible, especially when things go wrong, or get complicated. Photo by Eric.

2. Be discerning. Rumors might seem true; what is absolutely factual may seem false. Therefore, if you have to make a decision, do your research and leave yourself room to be wrong. That kind of room means making statements such as “based on what I now know” or “based on the available facts.” It can also mean having an exit clause in any agreement, particularly based on the facts changing.

3. Wait before signing or buying. This is fairly typical Mercury retrograde advice, but it really holds true now. Any contract or agreement needs to be scrutinized carefully. The claims of any offer or warranty will be difficult to verify. If you can wait until after the station direct on June 11, then wait. If you cannot, proceed with caution and with the best astrological advice you can get.

4. Don’t push issues. This astrology makes it tempting to push issues, such as the ones about how someone really feels; that is likely to be disastrous and lead to misunderstandings. Even if someone is telling you the truth you may not believe it. Mars in the mix comes with the impulse to assert your opinion at all costs, and that could add up to a lot.

5. Be careful with intoxicating substances. Yes, I must say this even to the pure-of-soul Planet Waves readership. Substances include anything that changes your consciousness, from Benadryl to methamphetamine, cannabis to crack, Merlot to martinis. Less is more. At social gatherings stay a few drinks behind the crowd or don’t drink at all. Do the designated driver thing.

6. Read your outbox. Look for mistakes in emails that you’ve sent. The moment you find one, send a clarification or correction. I strongly suggest keeping potentially controversial, libelous or judgmental opinions out of writing, at least for a while.

Remember that thing? If email gets weird, don’t forget to use it.

7. If email gets weird, get on the phone. There are times when email’s time lags, disappearances and lack of inflection make communication impossible. In that case, pick up the phone and have a conversation. You will save precious time and energy.

8. If the phone gets weird, meet in person. Some conversations deserve face-to-face meetings. Be sensitive to that fact, and get together in person if necessary; you will save a lot of confusion.

9. Forget text messages. For the next four weeks they are a disaster waiting to happen. That’s usually true but it’s especially true now.

10. Remember the power of belief. Most people will choose to accept what they believe whatever the facts may state, no matter how smart they are. However, the facts matter, and belief has built-in distortions of which you need to be mindful now.

11. Slow down. Nearly anything important can wait a few weeks, and that will very likely save you time. If you must proceed with something, remember to get several pairs of eyes onto any agreements or contracts. Then calculate how much you’re willing to lose if things don’t go according to plan, and make sure that’s realistic.

Remember to follow the speed limit! Photo from

Things will not necessarily go wrong, though there are many invisible factors involved, a good few of which will reveal themselves right around June 11.

The horoscopes below are based on my work doing the Mercury retrograde reading this past week. This is a 12-sign reading for all the signs and rising signs, plus an introduction on how to handle Mercury retrograde. I will also be adding a bonus track on what I call The Writing Crisis.

Below each horoscope is a five-minute preview of the Mercury retrograde reading for each sign. The readings are each about 25 minutes long. Gemini’s reading is longer because that’s where the retrograde takes place, and I suggest that everyone listen to that.

The Mercury retrograde reading has already been sent to All-Access Pass holders and those who pre-ordered. Everyone else may get it here. I will hold the pre-order price till Mercury stations retrograde overnight Monday to Tuesday.

If you want more details about Mercury retrograde in general, I would refer you to my Expert’s Guide to Mercury Retrograde. It includes such ideas as, “It may not be broke so don’t fix it yet.”

True, that.

With love,

Weekly Horoscope for Thursday, May 14, 2015 #1049 | By Eric Francis
Aries (March 20-April 19) — The usual advice about Mercury retrograde is to be conscious, aware and cautious around matters of communication. But the retrograde that begins Monday, for you, takes that to the level of a moment-to-moment devotion. Be aware just how much can go wrong if you make the mistake of being imprecise, or of assuming you know something when you do not. Therefore, continually check your facts. Read your outbox and send corrections to any errors in emails you’ve sent. Get on the phone to clarify any issues that are resistant to email or are getting caught in time lags. The most important thing to watch is the potential that you might believe something that is not true, and then act on it. Therefore, interpose at least two layers of fact-checking and any necessary delays to make sure you get it right. And if you are vaguely uncertain, pause and check again. Just make sure you don’t choose to ignore that feeling of ‘vague uncertainty’.
Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Organize your finances: that is the message of this Mercury retrograde. Start with the basics, such as cleaning your desk and getting any necessary and relevant documents and records together. Notice what’s missing and fill in the gaps; go to the source and get the things you need, so that you can be ready to take the next necessary steps. Yet the deeper message of this retrograde is about prioritizing. You need to know what is important to you and why. By what, I mean your spending priorities, including what it costs to maintain what you already own. The most significant question seems to be your relationship to the income that comes from your professional activities. You’re at a moment in your life when you can only do well what you do with full commitment. I suggest you map out what that concept means to you and what it does not mean. Over the next few weeks you may need to make an investment in your own future. Align yourself and do it well.
Gemini (May 20-June 21) — The planets are aligned in the perfect configuration for an identity crisis. This is connected to the juncture of the concepts of ‘this is who I am’ and ‘this is what I do’. In Western culture, they are considered one and the same thing; yet at the same time there also seems to be a split — ‘this is what I do’ and ‘this is who I really am’ is the more likely combination of statements. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to consider this set of themes. To what extent is your identity merged with your work? To what extent does that truly reflect who you are? During the retrograde phase, which spans through June 11 and has an influence for another two weeks, be exceedingly cautious around people who have power over you. Mind your organizational politics and be careful what you say. You could be easily misunderstood or give the wrong impression about who you are, so tread lightly and speak only when truly necessary.
Cancer (June 21-July 22) — You may encounter some interference between your deepest inner understanding of yourself, and what you’re ‘supposed to be’ in the mind of society. Said another way, your erotic nature may clash with the religious views that you have, that you used to have, or that someone else thinks are right. It’s time to take this debate right to the surface of consciousness, and make a decision about what viewpoint is actually going to work for you: actual self-understanding and self-acceptance, or what someone else told you was supposed to be true. If you can skip the moral judgments that fly in the wind like confetti, you will make some real discoveries about who you are. Yet please don’t underestimate the power of moralism and its purpose, which is control. One manifestation of this is how much of what you experience in the depth of your thoughts is supposed to be secret, or is somehow presumed offensive. I would ask you: why is that?
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — Be mindful of any and all agreements you make. Be equally mindful when someone tries to hold you to an agreement. Go back and review what you actually said, or signed, at the outset. You may be inclined to believe you’ve committed to something that you have not. You might also miss the obvious on something that you promised or said you were capable of. Therefore, a careful review is in order — of your current commitments and how you got there; whether you’re keeping up with them; and of the promises that others have made to you. I suggest ironing out the details before you extend yourself any further, and be extremely mindful where joint financial, taxation or investment matters are concerned. This is not the time for a leap of faith. It is, rather, the time to get a grasp on where you stand with yourself, with others, and on the true meaning of words written or spoken in the past.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Maintain your awareness around people in authority. Mercury will be retrograde in your 10th house — that of profession and reputation. A lot is on the line for you right now and, in a sense, your future success depends on how you handle the unusual encounters and exchanges of the next four weeks. You must take nothing for granted, most particularly your position. Mars moving through your 10th house just as Mercury goes retrograde suggests that you might be feeling ambitious, and like you can push limits and take authority. You may be inclined to throw your usual care and caution to the wind. That would not be wise, at this stage. Take things slowly, and make sure you invest most of your energy in listening, in understanding where people are coming from and making sure that you play the correct role. If you are able to come through the next few weeks with minimal fuss, you then have the potential to move up in the world, in a big way. For now, take your time and choose every word carefully.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — It’s time to sort out your long-range plans. The first step to doing that might be to set all prior plans aside for a little while, at least for the sake of this process. Then consider the direction your life is really heading, as of now. From here, you can ponder what you want, where you want to go, and what you envision for yourself, as entirely apart from any past vision you may have had for yourself. I don’t think you’ll be able to sort this out overnight; it’s a lifelong process, though you’ll learn a lot over the next six weeks if you pay attention and notice which of your desires has some real energy collecting around it. In relationship news, you’re being called on to be impeccably fair. That means giving others the benefit of the doubt, until more information is available. It’s true that facts will be coming out for a while, so reserve judgment till you really have a clue what’s going on.
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — You must scrutinize contracts and agreements of all kinds, especially if they involve joint finances, investments or tax matters. This is not the time to take anything for granted, including your own commitment level, or whether anyone is being true to their word. There’s plenty of information that will emerge as Mercury makes its retrograde trek through the angle of your chart involved with shared resources. Yet this same area is involved with sex, and it would appear there is plenty that has been left unsaid or unquestioned. You would do well to ask yourself why. Denial is considered a necessity by many people, though it’s a luxury you cannot afford. Be real with yourself about who you want, what you want and how you feel; this way you can be real with others. The more time you interpose between those two steps, however, the further they are likely to drift apart. Make the connection by regularly seeking clarity and understanding, and remember that silence is indeed deafening.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — It may be difficult to figure out where you stand with intimate partners, and you’re unlikely to get your answer all at once. You have a high ideal for relationships, and it would seem that your current circumstances are presenting you with a scenario different from the one you want and believe you can attain. So consider what happens over the next few weeks a learning process. Notice when others send you mixed signals, or put you in a position where your only choice is not to trust fully. Notice when others are intentionally reassuring and strive for clarity. Remember how you feel in both circumstances. The environment around you is a setup for a serious fog, and it will take mutual cooperation for you and those close to you to find your way. You might say this is a situation where your faith in others will be tested, but it can just as well be cultivated and strengthened.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — Mental clarity may be in short supply, though the real question seems to be emotional. It’s as if you’re wondering what is really good for you, at the same time you feel driven to take action on improving your life. Yet you could run into a set of paradoxes on this whole theme, and when you do I suggest you stop and carefully consider your situation. Paradoxes have a way of becoming obsessive; people seem to be in love with them. As far as I can see, the most significant impasse you might reach is the place where you know your inner orientation is changing, but your outer orientation is not keeping up. Or your outer circumstances are calling on you to make adjustments that you don’t know how to make, or don’t care to involve yourself with. At a certain point there must be a reckoning of your inner and outer worlds, which would begin with figuring out that they’re not separate; you are one person.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — The next few weeks will take you on a tour of the zone where your creativity, your sexuality and your self-esteem intersect. It’s a rich place, which you might describe as the crossroads of all your potential. Most people resist this idea, I know — the notion that their sexuality is somehow integral to their creativity and all other forms of expression. I suggest you embrace it fully, and apply the full strength of your curiosity to the endeavor. There’s something about bringing your language skills into your self-exploration process — that is, finding the words for things, no matter how imprecise they may feel. You may revise your ideas on a daily basis, though that would seem to be the whole point. And in retrospect, you will have discovered something essential about who you are and what it takes to tap your deepest curiosity — oops I meant creativity. Same idea!
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Aspects associated with the forthcoming Mercury retrograde will pass by quickly, though they will highlight some of the most important long-term themes of your life. You will see what you’ve been missing, and get the chance to sort out what you may have had no clue needed your scrutiny and awareness. The theme of this project will seem to be your home base and the structures that help you feel secure. That would be a good place to start. Yet the story that unfolds is really about getting clear about who you are, in part by discovering who you are not; figuring out what is true for you by an elimination process of tossing aside what is not true. Every decision you make needs to be focused on sustaining and developing your vitality. The partners you work with must be true partners, devoted to your wellbeing; otherwise it will be more efficient and sensible to do without them.

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