One of the recurring questions I get as an astrologer is, what do I do if I have to make a decision or purchase or important move while Mercury is retrograde? Here’s a question that came in this morning, typical of the genre:
I am about to get laid off from my job. I won’t go into the details, but I’ve worked for this company for 8 years, I’m pretty good at reading the signs. (They’re firing old timers like me so they can bring in newbies for lower salaries.) I think the axe is going to fall right after Labor Day, when all the employees come back from the holiday. I am 90% sure I am next to go. So if they can me, it means I will have to conduct a job search during Mercury Retrograde! I have no choice, I don’t have a lot of savings and I need to get a new job ASAP. But I know that starting new things, like jobs, during a retrograde is not such a hot idea.
There are a few layers to the answer. Astrology is all about time and timing. If you have something really serious, interesting or with a lot of potential going on, that’s the time to hire an astrologer to work out the details with you, and to help you find the silver lining. What an astrologer would do is create a chart for whatever it is that needs to happen. Sometimes you just cannot wait. Most of the time you can; but there are those rare few instances.
Short of working with an astrologer, think logically, and astrologically. Mercury is not retrograde for that long. The station direct is Sept. 29. If the reader expects to be laid off the first week of September, he would be unlikely to find a new job within two weeks; that would be a warm-up to a basic search. It’s important to not make what you want to be a “final commitment” before Mercury is about to change directions. In my experience, most of what happens during the retrograde is wiped clean after the station direct. Most things — not everything. It would be a good test of what has sticking power.
The reason not to make commitments during Mercury retrograde is not because “you’re not supposed to” but rather because, in general, it saves time to wait. By saves time, I mean you could save yourself a year of misdirected effort by pausing for a couple of weeks.
Part of what Mercury changing directions is about is that the truth comes out. It’s like shaking the tree of the mind and some extra nuggets tumble down. Whatever shows up is usually important or at least meaningful information. And this is information you will benefit from working with. But you can’t do that if you don’t know what it is; and that takes patience and some skill at observation.
Remember that the three days on either side of the station (retrograde or direct) are the most turbulent and unpredictable. Those are the most meaningful days to pause, no matter how urgent the situation is. If your boss is pushing you, either delay, or plan to redo what you’re doing. The astro-logic to this is simple to follow: a highly influential, close-to-home planet like Mercury, so intimately connected to our mental environment, changes direction; it’s like it changes its mind, or thinks in a different way. So part of what we’re doing is working with that current and arranging life consciously so that it works better.
This is a little like checking the tidal chart before you try to enter a harbor in your boat; if you enter while the tide is going out, it might take you hours to go a mile.
There are times when we have to make a move, decision or purchase with Mercury retrograde. That’s the time to read the fine print; get the service plan; and be ready with Plan B. At least you can say that things tend to work out differently under this influence; they are subject to change and reassessment; and you need to be prepared. For that, you merely need to remain open and flexible and have extra patience.
One of the most common phenomena I’ve noticed with Mercury retrograde is thinking something is wrong when it’s not. Mercury is a trickster, which amounts to tricky. Go for minimal solutions, and if you have to delay or work on a ‘partial system’ that’s usually advantageous. Part of the trickiness is knowing what problem you’re trying to solve. Often there is no problem, life is just acting like there is one. Other times there’s a twist. Such as, you’re working on one issue and you run into a problem but you don’t know you’re dealing with an entirely different thing at the same time — such as a loose cable.
Watch out for these things. When all else fails break out the scientific method of hypothesis – design experiment – conduct experiment – note conclusion – repeat to make sure you got it right the first time or two. In short, use your mind, and remember that not everything has to happen today.
Looking Back: Electric Tide Mercury Retrograde Horoscope
Aries (March 20-April 19)
Gradually, an ethic is building which is guiding us toward an understanding that relationships are about healing. In truth they need to be, because anything that might need attention in the emotional, spiritual or psychic realm is going to come to the surface in our relationships. And that’s usually the last place we want it to come up, and based on our culture’s values, the last place we can get results. That is, until we both set our intentions and do the necessary emotional and communication work. I think it is possible to set that work aside, but we all know that sooner or later it comes due, usually at the point of a breakup. I suggest we go into our relationships willing to support them with our integrity, and utilizing them as an opportunity to build our integrity. This thought is more revolutionary than you may think; and when we invoke it, it can feel like we have to put out 10 times the effort for far less of the good stuff. I suggest you make the investment now. You can do so gently, knowing that the one variable that’s the most significant for you is whether to expand or contract your awareness. The truth is, you have plenty to talk about and so does someone close to you. This is an opportunity for you, and a chance to do something worthwhile for someone you love.
Taurus (April 19- May 20)
Have you considered that what you’re encountering is your sexuality? Or rather, that this is where the most valuable information you need resides? Taurus is supposed to have this one all tied up, but that’s precisely the issue: you would benefit from some unraveling. One approach is to go right for the knot. Or you can take a more circumspect route. Someone has been determined to get your attention; you’ve certainly been asking for attention for a while, and that is a form of willingness. It would help if you made some of the moves; start the dialog; reveal something about yourself and investigate the truth of someone you want to have an influence on you. Taurus is famous for its passivity, but now is the time to ask yourself: are you a cow, or are you a bull? Truth be told, you have a strong constitution and potent vitality. The Sun and Mercury in your fellow Earth sign Virgo are lighting up your chart. All that could hang you up is your mind, as you tend to get so caught in certain details, beliefs and mental rituals that you lose most of the power that your psyche would feed you with. There is astrological evidence that this was, in the first instance, done to you. Whether you perpetuate or resolve it seems to be a matter of choice, but in truth it’s a matter of integrity.
Gemini (May 20- June 21)
The lesson of this time in your life is to think your thoughts, feel your feelings and live your commitments. If your commitments are not working, living them begins with the process of adjusting them. Adjust means to make just. Your sense of fairness is compromised by an inner dialog that pits you against yourself; it’s difficult to have any sense of justice if your relationship with yourself is based on contention. It would seem that lately the thing you hold against yourself is how powerful everyone else seems to be. I suggest you get beneath this one. Notice the agendas that people have; they will talk about them at least once, before returning to their usual ruse. To succeed in that kind of environment, you need to know your own agenda. You have one, and the truth is you may need a different one; or a significant refinement. Once you start this project it tends to require care and focus every day: what do I want to get done, and why? What necessities am I being confronted with, and why? If you look you will see that most people proceed under the color of ‘taking care of business’ but in general work with a deeper set of goals that are designed to be emotionally self-serving but usually backfire. This is precisely the error you can correct now.
Cancer (June 21- July 22)
Relationships remain high on the radar, or shall we say, they are finally on the radar. At least now you can see the people, themes and issues more or less where they are. What I suggest you look at is the depth and intensity of the transitions that people near you are going through. Material you worked through in other times of your life is coming up for the first time for many of them. Questions you’ve asked over and over again, they are pondering for the first time. While it was not easy for you to do this, I can assure you it’s more difficult for them. This would seem to come back to your differing values on the theme of tradition and structure, but in reality it comes back to the fact that you place a high emotional value on relationships whereas many people you meet tend to use relationships as a way to get ahead. One is a recipe for giving; the other is a recipe for taking. If I had to identify one theme of your interpersonal life over the next few years, and indeed, the next few weeks, that would be making sure you recognize generous people when you meet them, and keep them in your life. True, they may lack the intensity of some of the more self-centered types of sexy, but just remind yourself that you’re more the type who thrives on food rather than survives on drugs.
Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)
Much of the plot to this story involves money but in truth it involves what you value. You’re usually precise in this manner; you are often a master of your decisions being based on what you have already decided is important to you. Personally I think that Leo is the ultimate sign of what is important, but this has less to do with the gold standard sometimes associated with your sign, and more to do with how much thought you put into your life. So it would not quite be correct to say that your decisions are made in advance; you seem to re-evaluate constantly as you go, and you’re reaching the end of a substantial process of doing just that. The ideas that come forth over the next month and the things you learn about yourself were in truth long in the creation, long before you knew you got there. What you’ve been able to do is hold to some trusted and true approaches to living while you worked in the back laboratory developing a better approach. This, in turn, will lead to several stages of vastly improved financial planning and what seems to be a newfound talent for both making and handling money. Others — perhaps many others — will be involved in this process. Make sure that you teach the core idea, which is that you establish your values first, and make decisions from there; and that this is ongoing.
Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)
You’re being too hard on yourself. You always have been, but you’re taking it to a new dimension lately, as in the past couple of years of Saturn in your sign. It’s grown tired as an approach to living, though now you’re starting to figure out that there are others. This is likely to dawn on you as an original thought in an unexpected moment; and if so you will have the chance to drop the logic that supported your self-improvement campaign to begin with. I’m not talking about ignoring your commitment to quality or the advantage of having a competitive spirit; I am describing an endless, painful self-critique that does little other than set you back. Someone you know has a better approach; a more inventive and egalitarian one. You can listen if you want, and even take it on board. Or you can take the example and start inventing a method of exploring and expressing the content of your mind that flows rather than judges. This will be an original advance of some kind, but it will have certain properties. One of them is that you will do a lot less evaluating. Save that for the end or at least for the middle. Another is that you will feel when an idea works for you rather than when you think it should work for you. There is a difference, and it’s rather pleasant.
Libra (Sep. 22 – Oct. 23)
It would help if you didn’t worry so much about how you supposedly don’t know who you are. You used to know, and the fact that so much is changing beneath your feet is causing you to doubt. Plus, a level of adult responsibility is calling on you to take a big step. That implies a step into the unknown. Each time you approach the unknown with respect, it will reveal one of its secrets to you. One of the reasons that self-awareness is so often put down is the fear of what we might find out if we became aware. Respect for the unknown is what will get you out of this particular self-defeating loop of thought. I don’t mean to tell you that you don’t know yourself; rather I am here to suggest that you have a lot to find out, and that you’re about to discover a good bit of that fairly soon. Why now? You are prying open some of the compartments of the past that have been sealed for quite a long time. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that whatever held them shut is no longer doing so; and the remaining thing that needs to change is your acknowledgement of what you know. I’m talking about stuff that goes back a long way. It could be lifetimes; but for our purposes here, let’s say this whole lifetime.
Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)
It is difficult to have compassion for some people, and it would seem that your karma in this lifetime is to learn how to do precisely that. It’s a lot of energy, I know, and there are times when compassion fatigue sets in; those are the times to pull in and get some recreational time. By all indications, now would be one of them. Each time you do that you will return with more energy and a deeper sense of determination. Your other goals for yourself are pretty high; you have an expectation that you will aspire to excellence in everything that you do. Both your success and your happiness depend on it. Embracing the complexities of the human condition is not separate from anything, though the one quality that unites your whole environment is your own depth of self-knowledge. You have been proceeding along a particular track of growth in your awareness; as Mercury retrograde in Libra unfolds you will take that to a level that will likely make you wonder what you were thinking all along. You are now merging intuitive depth with intellectual knowledge, properties of your mind that you seem to have kept ‘separate’ from one another even though the same thinker is doing the thinking. Weaving unity is a matter of awareness. This will bring you closer to yourself, and closer to others.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 22)
You have a reputation for being the freewheeling type, but what most people don’t know is how methodically you plan your steps. From the look of your solar chart, you’ve been working on a plan for a long time, but with certain emotional misgivings; basically you seem concerned that whatever it is will work so well that it will hem you in. The cosmic perversion for dualism that we all live with on Earth has never had you more determined to ‘get it right’ and never had you more determined to maintain your freedom. Most people would accept that there are compromises to be made here; you are taking the approach, as usual, that you can reinvent the game as you go. Be aware of the influences of a close friend or partner on this process. They may have recently presented you with some inconvenient news, or an idea that seems to have scrambled your eggs just a bit. I suggest you take the next month to test the theory, and to put your own conclusions to the challenge. You are seeking a synthesis between two qualities or properties of existence that most people would feel are incompatible. As a Sagittarian you are the alchemist of the zodiac and your primary role is the creation of new substances with entirely new properties. This is a process of trial, error and breakthrough; all three, over and over again.
Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)
So many different stressors have been acting on you sometimes it seems like if you removed one of them your life would collapse. This is an illusion. In fact most of the pressure you’re under is to grow. That is creating a level of background pressure that is interfering with your ability to think clearly. New goals seem to compete with your capabilities. Pressure to aspire to excellence is getting in the way of your basic competence. I suggest you take a break from thinking like a Capricorn and instead think like a Libra. Go for balance instead of success. Strive for beauty instead of trying to be convincing. Remember that what are truly your highest goals will remain stable while many other objectives on the way to meeting them will not. Make sure you can discern the difference. You only have a clue at the moment what you’re capable of. I suggest you avoid basing your perception of what is possible in the future on what you’re doing right now. And I suggest waiting to make any career moves at all until November, once Saturn has crossed the sensitive midheaven angle of your chart. Until now you can explore the possibilities. You can and of course must deal with the decisions of others that you cannot directly affect. But if you look carefully and peer above the teacup walls, you will indeed be able to glimpse the future, and gradually begin to live that vision.
Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)
Isolation is one of the facts of this world, which has always struck me as odd given how many people there are here. I thought about this for 20 years or so and decided that it was really a function of the human ego and not the population. You’re in a tense relationship with this phenomenon at the moment; the situation has been warming up for well over a year, with many small changes but ultimately the feeling that you’re being drawn deeper into your own reality. At the same time you’re being called more directly into the reality of others, and have on several occasions been drawn so completely into their reality that you could barely see your own. At times this was so subtle you didn’t even know it was happening; when you figured it out, finding your own position again was that much more complex. The key to your puzzle is actual independent thinking. This is so rare, it’s the thing that people make funny faces at. It’s not nonconformity; it’s the ability to think in an original way, as if from totally outside the situation, and if necessary outside cultural frames of reference, and to see the world your way. Then ideally you would act on that information. This Mercury retrograde is about practice, practice, practice. When Saturn changes signs in late October, that’s the real game, and you will discover how much progress you have made.
Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)
You seem to be concerned about the influence someone is having on you, though it’s time to acknowledge the influence you’re having on them. Your relationship life is currently symbolized by Saturn in Virgo in your 7th house. That does not sound like a party, though it has done one thing for you, which is give you focus. Your laid-back approach to boundaries is being gradually revised as you are discovering you thrive on clear agreements. You’re also about to see the extent to which you have been an agent of progress in a particular circumstance. What has been missing is a real conversation; admittedly it’s been easy enough to get frustrated with a situation that has spent plenty of time seeming stuck. Over the next few weeks, Mercury will be dancing back and forth between some of the most sensitive angles of your chart, sparking to life a relationship [I meant to type ‘dialog’] that will take some surprising turns between now and mid-October. Be patient. Listen and interpret carefully. Bear in mind that there may be more data coming. Nobody has been withholding from you, or keeping secrets; people can only speak about what they become aware of, and we all do this in our own way. Be wary of negotiating, or anything that resembles it; notice when you’re doing so and why. At this point you don’t even need to say what you want. Whoever you need to know, knows.