Working With Mercury Retrograde

The Magus. Crowley Tarot.

THREE TIMES a year, fast-moving Mercury comes between the Earth and the Sun, creating an effect called Mercury retrograde. Once people know enough astrology to figure out where their natal Moon is, one of the next things they typically hear about is Mercury retrograde. Since the Internet became the primary conducting medium for astrology in the past 10 years, awareness has increased exponentially. That does not mean that useful information is any more available or accessible.

Let’s address the negative perceptions first, which abound. Most people’s experiences with Mercury retrograde are not positive; then they talk and this sets up negative expectations, which have a way of coming true. I’ve only heard a few people admit that they like the experience, which is not surprising; it can indeed be annoying. Most find it frustrating, associating it with things like computer breakdowns, car trouble or running out of money. Then there are people who seem to be immune, and the rest of us wonder whether being aware of a phenomenon is what gives it its power. People with a strong intellectual orientation are likely to leave it at that: it’s all a function of belief.

Astrology is no more or less a function of belief than sailing a sailboat. Let’s say you’re trying to get out of the harbor, but the tide is coming in. The tide is moving at four knots and your boat’s motor can propel you along at five. If you leave the harbor while the tide is coming in, you’ll make a ground speed of one knot (depending on the wind), meaning it will take you about 10 minutes to pass a tree on the shore. If you wait till the tide is going out and leave then, you’ll make a ground speed as high as nine knots — nine times faster for the same energy. This is because you’re working with nature rather than against it. Nobody would call experienced sailors superstitious because they wait for the tide to turn before leaving the harbor.

This is the basic spirit that I recommend as appropriate for astrology. Think of it as understanding the way that people, society and, to some extent, seemingly inanimate objects relate to natural cycles. Retrogrades present specific kinds of movement of psychic energy, and usually that movement is inward and toward the past. Mercury retrograde is an excellent phase to review things, to complete old business, and to tune in inwardly for a sense of how you are feeling. If we were to organize life by a conscious plan, it would make a lot of sense to define a specific time each season to do this. But Western society loves to blaze forward at all costs. Usually, we leave much old business incomplete, we rarely make a thorough review of recent events, and we tend to mask how we’re feeling with all kinds of distractions and excuses.

And, if I may say so, we tend not to respect our technology. We view technology as a disposable slave, not something we relate to consciously and with love and appreciation for all the work it saves us. [Kudos to everyone who relates to his or her computer as a living thing, and recognizes that it is responding to us just as we are responding to it.]

For all of these reasons, most people are set up for disruptions when Mercury changes directions, or gets near a change in directions. We can add in a few others: open communication tends to be one of the lowest priorities in relationships, despite our profusion of communication devices. When Mercury is retrograde, we must contend with a variety of inner factors: information is coming up, our contradictory feelings may come to the surface, and we may be confronted by the passage of time and its results. Then, communication can become hazy or confused. This may be a function of impatience, it may be a function of shifting awareness, but it seems that those one-line emails that mean so much either get lost more, are noticed less, or have a greater effect when they disappear if Mercury is retrograde.

How we respond to any astrological phenomenon is as meaningful as the event itself. This is why astrology is always a study in relationships. Once you involve astrology, you are in relationship to it, and to the planets that constitute it; your relationship to the events of your life is heightened. If you are working with others, you’re engaging with them and their experiences.

Here are some pointers for handling Mercury retrograde, followed by a basic schedule. Next week, I’ll go into some of the topical subject matter that is likely to come up. Because this retrograde bridges Libra and Scorpio, we are in Venus and Mars territory: relationships and sexuality.

1. Give people more space to be late or make mistakes, while doing what you can to prevent those mistakes. For your part, keep your appointments and schedules as best you can and don’t use Mercury as an excuse. Be preemptive and see problems before they arise. Usually there are signs, which you need to notice and respond to. Make sure plans are not far-fetched, and bear in mind that schedules can get slippery around or during a Mercury retrograde.

2. Most things that seem to be broken are not, really. They are usually just acting that way. Problems have a way of inexplicably arising and resolving around Mercury retrograde. Small solutions and workarounds are better ideas than big fixes, particularly expensive ones. This is especially true of computer equipment. Make backups but do so carefully. Whatever you do, do not skip steps; don’t delete the old copy before you’ve tested that the new copy works. Indeed, don’t delete it at all.

3. Pay attention to cash flow during this phase and focus on necessities. Know how much money you have and what your commitments are. Just that information will go a long way toward easing problems. There is enough money to go around if you take care of what you need first, and what you want second or third. Resolve issues with banks, creditors and service providers sooner rather than later. Keep your paperwork in order. Save receipts. This is a good time to get it all in order. Make a project of it this weekend; it will pay off.

4. Be prepared for plans to change or evolve; keep your flexibility. If you must make commitments, make sure they are flexible and that you have recourse, should circumstances change around you.

5. Focus on communication, which means listening first and responding second. People will tell you what you need to know. You just need to pay attention to it. Denial is not a good idea during Mercury retrograde. If complex matters come up, handle them sensitively and they will be resolved to a deeper level once the retrograde is over.

6. If you begin something during this phase, consider it an experiment, then begin again once the retrograde is over. Keep your mind open. Focus on resolving the past rather than pushing into the future. Old ideas can be rediscovered and worth a lot. Under Mercury retrograde, the past is more predictable and often more valuable than the future.




Weekly Horoscope for Friday, September 28, 2007, #682 – By ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
Now is the time to ask yourself what allows you to feel safe and what seems to threaten you. It’s also the time to inquire about the emotional habits you have that involve what used to threaten other people, particularly those in your early environment. Their fears became your fears. Their hang-ups became your own, and they have the power to slow down your journey in the world. This remains true until you make a conscious choice to process that material, and then consciously begin the work. This much I can tell you: both the process and the goal involve a deeply introspective look at how, when and why you do and do not feel safe, both with yourself, and with others.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
Remember that you are retracing steps you have taken at least twice before, though it’s often on the third pass through any territory that we finally notice where we are. The same is true with an opportunity that is now available; it’s one you’ve had several times in the recent past, an opening to make contact with someone or something you consider larger than yourself, more powerful and more influential. You now have the ability to open up an authentic dialog that is based more directly on your sense of self-worth than it is on your sense of inner lack. You may not feel you have the words to participate in this discussion, but you do have the feelings, and even under the best of circumstances, concepts are only an approximate sketch of emotions.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
How you treat someone will influence how you expect this person to treat you. More hinges upon this factor than you may imagine. The reason why is simple: by acting a certain way, you are setting up an expectation for how others will respond. We cannot help but see the world as we are, rather than as it is. So aim for integrity. Slow down and appreciate as many viewpoints as you can. Recognize that you are changing, and you are in a position where you don’t entirely control that change. In that space of uncertainty, more is possible than you ordinarily have access to, but everything depends on your ability to communicate; to listen, and to speak; to hear, and be heard.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
You only have a short distance to travel before you recognize your fears for what they are. That last kilometer may be the most difficult, but it also represents a moment of birthing from a fundamentally passive method of living to one that is assertive and decisive. What gets you there? First, it helps to not work against yourself. To be more effective at that, it would help to recognize the reasons why you might do that. It’s not really possible to have one precise set of motives; human needs are too complex. Yet if you understand the wide variety of things that are pushing you to think, to feel, and to make an impression on the world, you will begin to sort out truth from fantasy; fantasy from true imagination.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
You can handle intense feelings and you can handle not knowing, but what irks you is when you feel unstable. While you may feel unstable now, you’re on firmer emotional ground than you may think. It is indeed the first two things that are coming up more than the third: intensity and mystery; mystery about what is going to happen, and to some extent, a blind spot about what you want. The intensity is an effect of your emotions being magnified, and in particular, their cyclical nature being exaggerated. In other words: you and your circumstances may be running in faster cycles than usual, or you’re noticing those cycles more vividly.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
You are still putting yourself back together from a recent solar eclipse in your birth sign. Saturn’s new presence in your life should, at least, be providing a modicum of stability, or the example of someone who has some long-standing success at what you’re working toward: the balance of beauty and discipline; of effort and results; of ideas, and their manifestation. In any event, be aware that you’re not living a new page of your life, or even a new chapter, but in truth a whole new volume. More has changed in the past month than you may yet recognize; even the past has changed. Indeed, the future has, as well.

Harvest Moon. Photo by Sharon Bellenger.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
Planets are starting, stopping and shuffling through signs in these weeks with sufficient activity to make a bus depot seem calm. Currently under the spotlight are Mercury and Mars, which are moving into Scorpio and Cancer, respectively. You may feel that everyone’s life is in motion except for your own. Your life is in motion, but the direction is inward. This may seem to conflict with a calling, ambition or need to express yourself publicly, but there are many ways to be introverted. The fact that you have work to do in the outer world says nothing about your relationship to your own existence, or the fact that you must live from the inside out.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
Do your best to keep your feelings talking to your thoughts, and vice versa. You may feel like you’re in an unusual state of harmony with yourself, but you’ll learn a lot from any internal dialog. This involves certain crucial changing circumstances in your life, and your commitment to re-orient yourself on a plane of reality much closer to your core than you’ve been living. For the past decade, your life has amounted to an elaborate game of survival. You know you need to be playing a different game. You have, so far, won the survival game, but that hasn’t given you what you need, much less what you want.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
You may be feeling polarized or divided against yourself — not exactly the favorite posture for a Sagittarian. Yet you need to know the viewpoints you’re capable of, your doubts as well as the certainty you feel, before you reach a breakthrough point that is rapidly approaching. I’m making it sound like something is happening to you, and you need to be prepared. In reality, you are approaching a certain key development and that development is also approaching you. The aspect is Jupiter square Uranus. This is a rare event, and it signifies a personal creative breakthrough that has the power to change the world; change it a little or a lot, but change in truth.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
Your beliefs are being put to the test. At long last, you have evidence that what you hold in your mind creates an effect in the world. What you may not recognize is how attached you are to beliefs that do not work and do not serve any meaningful purpose. You need to let go of any stuck ideas about your not being an ethical person. You need to let go of the whole Capricorn issue of being old when you’re young. Trade your overdeveloped sense of responsibility in for a commitment to teach young people how to be free. Wrap your head around the concept of “old paradigm” for long enough to grab hold of it and chuck it over the backyard fence.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
Current events and developments in your life seem to have you on edge. There are questions about what people think and why they think it; there are issues of commitment and perhaps a situation where someone’s psychological stability is in question. You are looking for solid ground. Make sure you look within yourself. This does not need to be the kind of fruitless, superficial inner searching that is the neurosis of our time; rather, look for evidence. Look for physical signs, decisions you have made, a paper trail, or the testimony of others for signs that you are capable of taking care of your own needs. Go back to the summer of 2003 and consider how a synopsis of your life then would compare to a synopsis of your life now.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
Saturn in your opposite sign may signify having fewer relationships. It may signify a purge of people in your life. It may indeed represent the presence of someone whose intention is to do you right, to give you a framework within which to help shape your life. But in the micropolitics of your life, Saturn in Virgo is about making sure that every encounter possesses the integrity it deserves in the moment it is occurring. Give the people in your life the time they deserve; time as in hours in the day, and time as in seasons of the year.

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