I like to read other astrologer’s blogs and newsletters and I also write my own newsletter. Last month I wrote a short piece about the current (then upcoming) retrograde Mercury and gave my readers some practical tips on how a retrograde Mercury might manifest. I have four planets in Virgo — Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Pluto — a nice stellium packed in the 2nd house. Practical advice is my specialty.
Another astrologer’s blog commented on the current retrograde Mercury, remarking, “Whatever you do, don’t travel while Mercury is retrograde.” I was surprised. Never? I remember from grade school that one could eliminate the wrong answers on a multiple choice test if they contained the words “always” or “never.”
Never travel while Mercury is retrograde? Well, what if you don’t really have a choice? For example, a relative falls ill or dies, your employer requires you to travel, or it is the only vacation time you can take from work. I can think of a lot of reasons why one might have to, or simply want to, travel during a retrograde Mercury period.
Therefore, I’m writing this blog to clear up a few misconceptions about retrograde Mercury by relating a few of my own experiences.
I just traveled across the country via car. I arrived in one piece, happy (making one unscheduled stop at a hot spring — it was wonderful) and on schedule. I had a few minor hiccups along the way, but I had contingency plans for them. I fell into the category of not having a choice as to when I traveled or how, but I did know that Mercury was retrograde and that made a huge difference in my planning and therefore my experience. Let me tell you how.
First, the bare-bones basics: Mercury goes retrograde (looks like it is moving backwards in the sky) three times a year, or every four months. The retrograde period lasts about three weeks. For approximately three weeks before and after Mercury goes retrograde, it is in what is called its shadow period, because it is not at its normal speed; it is either slowing down or speeding up. During the shadow period, it can feel like a mild Mercury retrograde, when things start to go a little haywire.
To understand retrograde Mercury periods, one should understand what Mercury governs. In ourselves, Mercury rules the mind, how one communicates (talks and writes), how well, and the style in which, one does so, one’s memory, and one’s intelligence. On the mundane level, it governs our collective consciousness (or lack thereof), telephones, the internet, texting, computers, travel, elections, etc.
When Mercury goes into its shadow period and then retrogrades, all of these areas can be adversely affected. All kinds of misunderstandings, miscommunications, and breakdowns can occur. For example, this week we witnessed two celebrity mishaps. Mitt Romney criticized the Olympics in London and caused an international incident, while, across the channel in Paris, Madonna was booed for having only a 45-minute show. which included her personal political rant. (1) Mercury is known as the cosmic trickster; it is also the patron god of commerce, bankers, pick-pockets, and thieves. (I will go into more detail below as I relate it to my experience.)
Mercury governs the mail, so while Mercury is not up to par, shipping will be affected.
While Mercury was in its shadow period, I had to order things for my trip, so I used express delivery with tracking numbers to be on the safe side. Still, things ended up lost or delayed: one shipper put the wrong tracking number on a package and it got lost. My post office lost another package by putting it in someone else’s box and it was, uncharacteristically, not returned. Also, I had several pieces of mail from someone else’s box in my box, and while I was waiting in line to return that mail, I noticed another woman having the same problem. If it absolutely has to be there, put a tracking number on it, and have a backup plan if it doesn’t make it the first time, or on time.
Mercury governs communication and computers, and that includes email.
Three of the four hotels I stayed in during my trip did not have functioning internet service and weren’t able to get it working. They didn’t know why, but, of course, I did — it was Mercury retrograde! This led to all kinds of problems for me, as I missed important emails from clients and other people. As part of my contingency plan, I always travel with a wi-fi booster and my own ethernet cable, but neither helped me this time. Oh well, I tried!
When my husband owned a computer repair business, retrograde Mercury periods were always his busiest times of the year, but also the most difficult. Common quotes from clients were: “What do you mean all my data is gone?” or “What’s a backup?”
While he would try to repair customers’ computers, it was not unusual for software to take longer to install for no apparent reason. All kinds of atypical problems often surfaced (screws stripping, parts breaking). If a client had a backup program, it was a frequent occurrence that it was not functioning properly, and had not been since a previous retrograde Mercury period. It is best not to have someone work on your computer while Mercury is retrograde, although, once again, you may not be able to help it. Have your backups run and checked and new software/hardware installed beforehand.
Mercury rules contracts, so read the fine print.
As I checked into one hotel, I noticed a small sign behind the desk clerk that said something about using a debit card. My husband was chatting with the clerk as she was about to run my debit card, so I had to say, “Stop!” I asked her to bring me the sign; it was a notice of contract for debit card users and should have been placed on the front counter. It indicated that a several hundred dollar hold would be placed on my bank account just for using my debit card instead of a credit card. I switched to a credit card and gave the clerk a piece of my mind.
You need to be extra careful during Mercury retrograde about signing any contracts or legal agreements. Avoid signing if at all possible, or go over them with a fine tooth comb. Expect there to be problems you are overlooking. If you do sign something, or enter into any kind of agreement, e.g. getting married, buying a vehicle, or finalizing business deals, during this period, unexpected results may pop up after Mercury goes direct.
Mercury rules travel — planes, trains, and automobiles.
Yes, I drove nearly all the way across the country, but it was in a brand new rental vehicle — and I’m not home yet! I did have a few minor glitches, but not with the car. We thought of driving our own car, but as Mercury co-rules autos (along with Uranus) and can cause its fair share of problems with them while retrograde, we decided to let the potential mechanical problems afflict a rental and not our own vehicle.
One of the biggest complications with retrograde Mercury can be travel delay, and I ran into quite a bit of traffic and road construction. If you are flying or using a train and need to check your luggage, be extra careful: buy the best luggage insurance you can find, as well as refundable tickets. It is expensive to be cheap.
I do not trust the airlines with my luggage on a regular day, and I certainly wouldn’t do so during a Mercury retrograde period. For example, if you are flying to Hawaii, pack your bathing suit and flip-flops, along with whatever else you cannot replace, in your carry-on; at least you can hit the beach as soon as you land. Allow extra time between your connections, reconfirm reservation details, and be prepared for cancellations and delays.
Remember, Mercury rules pick-pockets and thieves as well, so guard your luggage and valuables attentively, as they are more likely to be stolen or lost during this time. Use a money pouch (even if you think they are silly), and take advantage of your hotel’s safe. Make copies of your credit cards, traveler’s checks, and passport, and know how to have them replaced. There are fewer worse feelings than being stranded without money or ID.
Many astrologers know that patience is a virtue during Mercury retrograde periods. One of those important emails I missed for a few days was the offer to write this blog. Fortunately, Mary has so much experience with retrograde Mercury periods that she knew to wait a bit for my answer. Thank you, Mary! (2)
Before I left on my trip I realized that I was very low on business cards. I needed to reorder them, but I chose not to do so until Mercury was clear of its post-retrograde shadow period. [Mary, is this “post-retrograde going to work here?] I decided to do without them rather than risk a blunder at the printers. It is not advisable to have anything printed when Mercury is retrograde, and, if possible, not until it is out of its shadow, because typos or other problems will likely surface. I am also having my website redesigned, but all implementation of it on the web will not happen until Mercury is well past its shadow period.
By the way, I also help clients improve their businesses. One client was offering workshops and retreats, but some of these events were scheduled during retrograde Mercury periods, and very few people were showing up. Turns out he was also sending his workshop email announcements during Mercury retrograde. I suggested that he stop doing this during retrograde and shadow periods and this solved his low attendance problem.
Retrograde Mercury is not a good time to start a new business or venture of any kind. If it is your own business, you should be able to wait three weeks to launch (nine, if you include the shadow period). If you work for someone else, and your boss is putting on the pressure to close the deal or make a large sale, your customer may be delayed somehow, or come up with excuses, until Mercury is direct. I have found that new clients who show up during a Mercury retrograde period usually do not pan out. They cancel more often than clients who show up at other times of the year.
What is retrograde Mercury good for?
Retrograde Mercury periods, including their shadow times, are great for introspection and looking back at what we’ve been doing. We can reflect on where we’ve been for the past four months, note when we’ve been misunderstood or we’ve misunderstood others, and so make things better and clearer for the future.
It is also a great time to reconnect with old friends and relatives, and even to contact old business associates to find out why deals might not have gone through. This just happened to me. A client who contacted me during a previous retrograde, but never followed through with a session, just contacted me.
If you are presented with a sales deadline, or something similar, from your employer, you can choose to be cool, calm, and collected. Take it from someone with a Virgo stellium — get organized, take care of yourself, and breathe. Watch for errors, and be prepared for the possibility that your clients may change their minds and back out of the deal. Now you know it is best not to try to “seal the deal” or pressure a client to sign a contract until Mercury goes direct.
Mercury retrogrades are also a great time to brainstorm ideas and let your creative side run free. You may want to have meetings in which to consider future possibilities during these time periods, but making any definitive decisions should not be on the agenda.
What I have tried to elucidate here is that, while Mercury is retrograde, you don’t have to hide in your house with a tub of ice cream waiting for it to pass. As with any planetary transit to an important point in your natal chart, there can be positive and negative manifestations during this mundane transit; how you deal with it is up to you, but a little preparation goes a long way.
Remember, retrograde Mercury periods are not a time to sit back on your laurels. They can be a time to be proactive and alert. Things that Mercury governs do not necessarily go smoothly and always work out the way we planned, but that doesn’t mean one can, or should, avoid doing them. Rather, we can do things that Mercury rules a bit differently, with a higher level of awareness, and have alternate plans when things do not work out.
This is how one can navigate the setbacks and complications often associated with retrograde Mercury and its shadow periods. With a bit of patience and preparation, you can have a good retrograde Mercury experience and smile to yourself while everyone else is fussing about aimlessly.