Why I love Mercury retrograde

Friday September 3rd 2010

Yes – it’s that time again. Mercury is retrograde, so astrologers say don’t put anything in the post, don’t sign contracts, don’t buy computers, don’t make plans bla bla bla. If you paid attention to that you’d be spending about a fifth of your year sitting on your hands waiting for flying boy to start going in the right direction again.

In my experience every Mercury retrograde is different, and it’s a big opportunity to press the pause button in one area of your life and assess what’s going on.

If you know which house Merc is passing through, you will find that details in that area of your life do need reviewing. For example, this retrograde is in my second house of money – and yes, I have already had to rewrite a check, redo a standing order and in the first week of the retro I managed to entirely cease to spend any money (if only that had lasted). I’m going to sit down this week and do a thorough review of my income and expenditure – because that is what I am being asked to do.

Mercury is in Virgo, which is an especially practical and detail-oriented sign, so take note. If you know where Virgo is in your chart, see how this retrograde is working for you.

Right now, five other planets are going backwards at the same time as the little fella so the retro-momentum is even stronger than usual – and I’d suggest to everyone that this is a very good time to review what happened to you this summer.

We’ve just been through a portal – the Cardinal Climax – that’s the entry into the next phase of all or our lives. Some of us will have made decisions lately that seemed trivial but in the long run will turn out to be life changing. Take the time to think about it now – because later this year we may be in for a bumpy ride.

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  1. I totally agree, and love your sardonic take on it. I usually have a Mercury retrograde project lined up to take advantage of the period–usually something to do with revising or revamping my books or posts.

    You’re right that every Mercury retrograde is different. It usually takes on the charater of any planet Mercury is aspecting at the time it goes retrograde because the aspect lasts a very long time, relatively.

    This last one was a killer, however. My computer ATE a CD, and then my astrology program went down the toilet, all in one day. Butr generally, I need my Merc Rx to bring order to my grasshopper mind’s outpourings.

    This post was a great antidote to Merc Rx hysteria. Donna Cunningham

  2. Christina says:

    I think that’s just right: we need the Merc Rx.

    I noticed this time that when Mercury returned to the point of its initial station – c. 19° Virgo – I had to re-redo a couple of things I thought I’d redone during the actual retrograde. I hope that’s clear!

  3. Judith says:

    I wonder if having several retrograding planets in one’s natal chart, as I do (Pluto, Jupiter, Uranus, and Mercury) adds to the ease of “handling” retrogrades. Despite my “out there” ways (Scorpio Rising), I am most myself when I am going through reflective periods.


  4. Christina says:

    In particular Merc Rx in your natal chart gives you a very special energy. I bet you do your best thinking during Merc Rx periods.

    If you’re born with Rx planets is interesting to look at your progressed chart to see when or if they go forward.

  5. Judith says:

    I just looked at my progressed chart for today and Pluto is the only planet of the four retrograde natal planets that is still retrograde. However, I also noticed that Neptune is retrograde in my progressed chart. I rechecked my natal chart and, sure enough, natal Neptune is retrograde. I have no idea how to check when exactly Mercury, Jupiter, and Uranus turned direct. Would you be able to tell me? (I did the progressed chart on Astrodienst.)
    Thank you.

    p.s. I had quite a burst of generative thought yesterday that has ebbed somewhat today to a more manageable stream so you may be right in supposing that I do my best thinking during Mercury Rx. IF that is true, the timing could not be better.

  6. Judith says:

    I thought I would jump the gun with my question in the last post, just to see if my hunch is correct. I suppose I could look up Uranus and Jupiter in the ephemeris for my birth year (1955) and find out when they turned direct and THEN calculate when that would have been in my life. Likewise, I could see when Neptune and Pluto finally turn direct after April 1955 (current progressed chart) to see if they are going to do so in my lifetime.
    Is that correct?

  7. Christina says:

    Yes exactly. So just to repeat what I think you’re doing anyway. You look in the ephemeris in the days, weeks, months after your birthday in the year you were born. The progressed chart is a year for a day. Use Mercury or your ruling planet (if it is one of the Rx ones) first. These will have the most obvious results. Then cast a progressed chart for that year and see if it fits the ephemeris. Is that clear or is that totally confusing?

    When Mercury went forward in your progressed chart you may have experienced a sudden leap forward in your education or learning, in your speech even.

    Jupiter should also have had a marked effect – expansion in whatever part of the chart it is.

    If any of the planets is your ruling planet (the ruler of your ascendant), the time it went forward should also have been significant.

    The outer planets are retrograde for much longer periods so it’s normal to have a few retrograde at birth. For many people they will never go forwards – lucky you!

    Do let me know if anything jumps out at you or if you get stuck.

  8. Judith says:

    This is quite fun! Mercury went direct in my eighteenth year–the year I left my little hometown to go to university in Toronto. I never looked back……….

    Mars and Pluto are my chart’s rulers.

    Now I will look to see when Jupiter went direct!

  9. Judith says:

    Jupiter went direct when I was 36 years old, in 1991. I had just bought a house in the inner city with a vision to have a streetfront mental health centre –a kind of feminist therapists’ cooperative. I had left my formal training as a psychiatrist after the first year in 1990; tried working as a GP for less than a year and realized it wasn’t for me–then took off on my own with this house. It became quite a well known centre. In fact, there is a song written about it entitled The Purple Door. (The house had no sign, but it did have a prominent, purple door!) I sold the house in 2002. I learned so much about mental health during those years–so much more than I ever would have learned if I had simply stayed in formal training as a psychiatrist. (I did eventually go back and finish the training during that time but by then, I was a pretty savvy clinician in my own right.)

  10. Judith says:

    Finally–and this is the one I was most anxious to discover–I have dated the move of Uranus from retrograde to direct. (Uranus is in Cancer; conjunct Jupiter; in the eighth, within a degree or two of the cusp of the ninth house).
    Uranus went direct the year that my personal life fell apart–2007. I was 52 years old; my second husband and I adopted a 3 year old boy from Ethiopia in March of that year. We separated six weeks after we returned from Ethiopia and by December of this year we will be divorced. I had just reached a point of being “free” of the burden of co-parenting with my first husband through 12 years of post-divorce hell (my older children are in their twenties) and here I was; starting all over again in the same nightmare. It has transformed subsequently into an extremely enriching and expanding time in my life, but at that time in 2007, “nightmare” is the most accurate word to describe where I saw myself. And unlike my first marriage, the second was a love match for me, so on top of it all, I had a badly broken heart. (Now healed, thanks in no small part to the brilliance of astrology!)

  11. Judith says:

    FINALLY, Pluto will turn direct when I am 87 and Neptune when I am 129 years old. Can’t wait!

  12. Judith says:

    I apologize for yet another post but I just realized I did not take the additional step you mentioned in your response of “casting a progressed chart for that year and see if it fits the ephemeris.” I cast a chart for the day (and time, believe it or not!) when my marriage ended. Uranus was direct; in Pisces, conjunct Mars and the IC on one side and the north node on the other; quincux Saturn; square Jupiter in Sagitarrius (H1) and square Venus in Gemini (H7). A T-square between Venus, Jupiter and Uranus/Mars/IC. AND a grand trine of Venus, Jupiter and the Moon. (I think that’s the blessing of my incredible son!)
    Is that what you were suggesting I do?

  13. Christina says:

    Thanks for getting back to me, Judith. This is absolutely fascinating. Life takes such twists and turns doesn’t it?

    The Merc one is classic – education plus moving. Were you a better student at university than at school?

    The Purple Door sounds wonderful – and very generous. Would you say it expanded your horizons in a Jupiterian way? It’s certainly an expansive gesture. At 36, you might also have been having a Jupiter return.

    I’m really sorry to hear about the marriage break up. Uranus likes to shake things up – or set you free. It seems to me from this potted history that you are doing a very good job of living your chart.

    Keep it up.

  14. Christina says:

    Judith – I just had another thought. Uranus is the “Awakener” and you can often trace the moment a person discovered astrology to Uranus transit.

  15. Judith says:

    I just saw your comment about Uranus and “awakened”. In 2007, when my marriage fell apart, I sought answers from realms I had never before studied –numerology and tarot to begin with. (I had been using Runes for divination for several years by then; both personally and in my practice.) Both were extremely illuminating. However, I maintained a certain (ignorant) skepticism about Astrology until I read Richard Tarnas’ Cosmos and Psyche. After that, I couldn’t get enough! In Astrology, I discovered an epistemology that not only continues to nourish every dimension of who I am, its impact as an instrument of precision for illuminating hitherto shadowy dynamics in the inner lives of my patients was unparalleled. I completely agree with Jung who said (at least this is what I read he said, I haven’t seen the direct quote) once astrology is accepted by science, it will replace psychology. Absolutely no doubt in my mind, he is correct.

    Second point. I just replied to your questions about school etc but instead of posting it as a comment, I hit the send button and tried to send it as an email. (It contained more personal info). I don’t think it works that way. I don’t mind sending it as a post after re-reading it. But I thought I would check first to see if it did or did not reach you.

  16. Judith says:

    Hello AGAIN!

    I just realized, quite sheepishly, that this blog started in September and that Mercury is NOT retrograde at this time. I have tended to ignore Mercury retrogrades because it seemed to generate a fear-based perspective.
    I find the major challenge in working with astrology is to sort out what are my unique cues(which planets, asteroids, fixed stars; aspects; mooon phases etc)to staying in flow with consciousness evolution–As I wrote in my 16 page piece called Flow’s Manifesto: my “authentic fit in the grand cosmic NOW of consciousness evolution.”
    Mercury retrograde, up until this current discussion, seemed to be jarring as a concept; and therefore not one I was prepared to embrace with open arms.

  17. Judith says:

    I am going to start this post by saying that I will no longer apologize for yet another post on retrogrades! I will wait for someone to tell me to STOP if I am going on too much.

    So…..I was just thinking about the I Ching, the newest of the divination tools that I have undertaken to study. I was thinking of one of its wise counsels to not act until you have accumulated a sufficient amount of whatever it is you will require–be it courage; insight; knowledge; raw energy–to be successful in the next undertaking. It just occurred to me that perhaps retrogrades are like that–they represent the period in a particular planet’s cycle during which the power of that planet is meant to be amassed within the psyche of the individual, not to be released until that planet turns direct, so there will be sufficient supply of that particular planet’s essence to carry out its task successfully. In the case of planets that stay retrograde for one’s entire lifetime, perhaps it is our job in this lifetime to do whatever is necessary to build up a treasure of that planet’s potential to be released in the next lifetime…perhaps….of course, I don’t know. But I do find it fun to ponder in this way.

  18. Christina says:

    Hello again Judith and thanks for all your posts. As you probably guessed I take the weekend off, so your post go into a holding pen for a while.

    Please never feel you have to apologize for contributing to this blog. On the contrary, thank you for writing so much here and sharing so much. There is nothing like a direct personal experience to help understanding the energies at work in astrology.

    I like what you say about the I Ching and I think that’s a very valuable way to look at retrograde periods. The outer planets all retrograde for pretty long stretches every year though, so this should be an energy we are used to. But keeping aware of these movements can help you stay in the flow – which is after all the point of understanding astrology. How important the energies are to you personally does depend on how strong they are in your chart. eg are they on an angle, aspecting the lights etc


  19. Judith says:

    Hello Christina,
    I have just pasted this response that I wrote initially to your further questions, as a reply email instead of a post:

    re: Retrograde Mercury
    University was a bit of a shock as I had maintained top standing at my little high school with ease. At university, two things happened. I learned to work HARD for what I got (marks were good but not good enough to get into medical school, which was–at the time–quite shocking for me. I had never before not achieved whatever it was I had set out to achieve. ) The second development was my discovery of the world of art in a big city. (I grew up in a large, working class family with few resources beyond the basics.) I saw plays; attended concerts; went to galleries–as much as I could afford. I read books that opened my eyes to bigger ideas.

    re: Jupiter and The Centre
    The centre was, for me, all about creating a way for marginalized people to easily access mental health services that would make a real difference in their lives. It is an expansiveness that I have, many times over, naively assumed is shared by others. Although my colleagues applauded the vision and expressed pleasure in listening to me talk about it–they would often comment how much they learned from me about psychodynamics and how the brain works–at the end of the day, they preferred to go home rather than put in the extra hours (and money!) required to make that vision a reality. After 12 years, I gave up in the sense that, without community (I have an Aquarian sun in the third house,) there was no point to the centre. However, the house was purchased, through the provincial government’s community services department by an organization dedicated to gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth. They were already renting space in the house at the time of the sale. They took over the entire building and to this day, a wonderfully vibrant community flourishes there. They set up private tutoring for youth who were being targeted and bullied in the public schools on account of their sexual orientation; and a host of other activities and programs that bring youth together with each other and with their families.
    So…….as has often turned out to be the case in my life……I have a vision that evolves into something not quite what I had in mind but that still manifests the overarching principle of inclusiveness in a context of healing and rapprochement.

    One last, funny bit about the centre that I can’t resist telling you. At the time of setting it up, another therapy centre had just been established in another section of the city, by a group of transplanted Americans who had embraced Buddhism. It was named EastWinds–very zen, very lovely, in an ethereal sort of way. In contrast, my vision of an earthy, “out there” kind of centre compelled me to enthusiastically suggest that we call our centre, Northern Farts. Needless to say, we didn’t.

    RE: URanus going direct and freedom

    The events of 2007 started a process that continued to gain momentum, culminating in an event last November that led to me leaving my practice of psychiatry quite precipitously. In my letter to the professional College, I said, I am quite sure I am not psychiatrically ill, although I may be M.A.D. –Mystic, Autistic, Divinistic. Living “off the grid” of entrenched, institutionalized professionalism has given me a spiritual and intellectual freedom that I could have never imagined existed while a member of my professional tribe. I write spoken word pieces about chaos/complexity theory and its application to neuroscience; about the return of the Goddess; about Einstein’s love of an ordered universe…
    I hang out with my son and my dog; we are dirt poor at the moment and very isolated. Yet, I can say without any hesitation, I have never felt more alive; more “in tune” with the evolutionary flow of consciousness; more joyful and grateful. All is well; all is well; and all is well.