The study of astrology looks at the motion of the planets in the solar system from our perspective here on earth, and because of anomalies in the orbits of the planets, occasionally during their travels around the sun they appear to move backwards. As a planet turns retrograde, it appears to slow down gradually until it appears to be almost standing still. This is called “making a station.” When planets are in retrograde motion, their effect on us tends to be rather more insistent, like a teacher who keeps us after school to be sure we have learned the lesson that day.
Transits and retrogrades:
Transiting planets make angles to the planets in our own birthcharts, creating environmental patterns of energy that affect us in our day-to-day life. Because of this retrograde motion, a transiting planet often will “hit” our birth planet, move past it, then turn retrograde and hit it a second time, turn direct again and hit a third time. Occasionally Pluto will hit a birth planet four or five times in a truly life-changing transition.
I like to compare this kind of transitory effect to cars driving through your neighborhood with loud boomboxes. When the transiting planet first begins to approach your birth planet, it’s like the car with the loud boombox is at the end of your street and about to turn the corner. It is entering your conscious awareness, but you can still tune it out. As it gets closer to your house, it gets louder and more difficult to ignore. Finally the car is in front of your house (as the transiting planet “hits” your birth planet), and you feel the full impact of that planet’s energy. Still, as the car drives past your house you tend to try to forget about it, hoping it will drive off, just as in a planetary transit. If the planet “hits” your birth planet once, the influence is not so significant. But quite often the planet will turn retrograde and “hit” your birth planet again, forcing you to examine the issues that concern that planet and sign, just as if that car parks in front of your house you will want to deal with the problem and go have a talk with the driver. Then as the car turns again and drives away, you are left with a sense of completion.
Mercury rules matters of communication and learning, so when Mercury is traveling in retrograde motion, as it does several times a year, it is very common to have breakdowns in communication. Telephone systems break down, we experience machinery difficulties, negotiations get confused. Remembering that retrograde periods serve the purpose of causing us to examine those issues more deeply, it is important during Mercury retrograde periods to work harder to remember details, to explain clearly, and to put everything in writing where possible. We must be more conscious than usual and live fully in the moment in order not to miss the necessary details.
During retrograde periods, the planets may appear to be moving backwards from our perspective here on earth because astrology views the solar system from a geocentric (earth-centered) reference point. During these periods the energies symbolized by those planets tend to operate on a more unconscious level, and issues described by those planets (in the case of Mercury, communication) often need to be revisited and reflected upon. Unfinished business may crop up to be re-examined, we may find ourselves more introverted than we usually are. Often cell phones, email systems, and other technology break down during these periods. Contracts and negotiations can be difficult and there is a tendency towards misunderstanding between people. Mercury retrograde periods have their value and it’s not necessary to fear them, but it IS useful to be more careful than usual. If you’re going on vacation and it’s raining you don’t cancel your trip, but you will want to bring your raincoat and umbrella and it is the same here. If Mercury is retrograde in your chart, you may find life is easier because everyone is operating at the same frequency that you are. Otherwise, If you follow these precautions, you should be fine: Be sure any negotiations or agreements are in writing and clearly understood by all parties. If you are having trouble with equipment, be certain to follow all steps and read all instructions. Take advantage of the tendency to turn within to listen to your inner voice and guidance. Try not to be frustrated with delays that occur in getting answers to questions or results – realize that sometimes more attention to detail is required. Rest more and use your creative mind. Clarify and focus your intention so that when Mercury turns direct you will be ready to move forward with renewed clarity and purposes.
The successful launch on July 4, 2006 as Mercury turned Rx is a good example of how Mercury retrograde can work. The failure of the shuttle to launch the previous July during a Mercury Rx period forced NASA to go back to the drawing board and revise their plans, leading to a successful launch in 2006. This example shows the way retrograde Mercury works, and why with all of astrology it’s important to view the larger context. Events that are disrupted during one Mercury retrograde period are completed during another retrograde period. The retrograde periods are great times for going back over something that needs more work. For redesigning your website, reviewing your goals and plans. We may find them frustrating, but they are essential to balance periods of growth and change. They help to deepen our understanding, and give us a greater sense of depth and balance.