Reposted from May 2009, with an update for upcoming retrograde at bottom of post…

This morning, I found a request in my in-box, asking me to post something about Mercury Retrograde, since we are already into a retrograde phase by a week or more.

There were many much more interesting (and aesthetically pleasing) images of retrograde motion for the superior planets, i.e., those beyond the earth’s orbit, but very few for the inferior planets, Mercury and Venus, whose orbits lie between the Earth and the Sun. The image above, though, does demonstrate very simply why Mercury will on occasion have an apparent retrograde motion, even though it continues in direct motion all of the time, as do all of the other planets.

E stands for Earth, M for Mercury, and S for the Sun. The numbers at the top, among the stars that act as visual references, are slightly out of order, because of differences in orbital speed between the two bodies. Mercury travels more quickly than Earth, and so appears to get ahead more quickly, but then to reverse its course. However, it is only an apparent reversal, just as when you are sitting in a train, and pass another train, making it seem as if the other train is now moving in reverse. In reality, it is still going forward, but its apparent motion, relative to your train, appears to be in reverse.

Mercury is closer to the Earth when the apparent retrograde motion occurs, thus creating more "noise." Although the common wisdom is that one may not have enough knowledge to make important decisions during a Mercury retrograde, there might actually be too much noise instead. Deciphering what is important and what is not may require more time. And less noise.

The current Mercury Retrograde period began on May 7th, and will continue until May 31st. However, one should also allow a few days more at the beginning, and a week or more at the end, because the effects start earlier and end even later. The reason for this has to do with the position in the solar system where Mercury first slows down before it goes stationary, and then appears to reverse. Most astrologers do not consider the phase past until Mercury has once again passed that point, which does not occur until a week or two after it goes direct.

2009 presents an interesting challenge for those with a greater tendency to feel the effects of Mercury retrograde periods. Ordinarily, we have only three of them per year, but this year will see a total of four. The first one was in January, and the last will be in December.

Ideally, one should not make any major expenditures during a Mercury Retrograde (or Venus, for that matter, which recently finished a longer retrograde phase), especially for anything technical, like a computer or a new phone or anything mechanical. I try not to buy anything I might care about during a Mercury retrograde because I have learned that I will eventually be disappointed. Nor should one start a new job (unless one is returning to a previous employer), nor even agree to start a new job during this time, unless one considers it a stopgap, or that it is absolutely necessary to give a response. Under those conditions, remember that things may not be as they at first appeared.* Try not to buy a car or a house or sign a mortgage or even enter a bid, if you can possibly avoid doing so. These phases are when technical problems often seem to arise, along with interpersonal miscommunications. If you must travel during a Mercury retrograde, try, if possible, to make your plans well in advance, or if not possible, to be open to what the universe has in store.

This phase is one of those times when one has permission to be a bit of a nag in following up on unfinished business, just to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Even if your follow-up proves irritating at first, results may prove you right in the end.

Now, for the good news… a Mercury retrograde phase is actually good for some things, in particular those actions that begin with re- …such as revising, revisiting, reviewing, renewing. You get the idea.

If you have anything that has been neglected and needs attention, now is the time to dust it off and take a fresh look. You might have a piece of writing that needs editing. You might also find that an old friend or lover reappears in your life, or that you have the opportunity to repair a relationship or to correct a miscommunication. Traveling to places you have been before is another natural activity for a Mercury retrograde phase. Please do any of these things.

This current retrograde phase began with Mercury in early Gemini (one of Mercury’s home signs), but with the Sun in Taurus, before Mercury appeared to backtrack into Taurus, where its placement suggests taking another look at resources, property and anything material of real substance or value, as well as our ideas about our own values.

Taurus, an Earth sign, is the natural ruler of the second house of the horoscope which rules earned income (not windfalls), values, self-worth, and resources that we are able to harness in pursuit of our goals. Some of these themes might seem as if you have been spending time with them recently. You may have. Venus just completed a retrograde phase, longer than Mercury’s, and as the ruler of Taurus, it may have presented a prelude to Mercury’s retrograde. Or, perhaps, for some, Mercury’s is the epilogue to Venus’s retrograde.

The current retrograde phase will finally come to a complete end on June 14th, when Mercury returns to the same spot in early Gemini where it first slowed down before appearing to reverse. Gemini is the natural ruler of the third house of the horoscope, which includes communications, early education, siblings, anything technological, short trips. My hunch is that those things will, if affected, be minor inconveniences, unless a sibling is involved, of course.

However, the areas governed by Taurus are awfully close to the mark for so many people these days, because they feel their earnings are vulnerable to the ravages of Wall Street and Washington, if they even have a job, that is. Self-worth and all personal values are well worth exploring, too.

* * * * * * *

* I keep trying to remember this myself, while absorbing all of the negative news about Obama’s reversal on so many issues involving civil liberties and human rights.

Update for December 2009:

The latest retrograde phase coming up in December will be in Capricorn.

Mercury is retrograde from December 26th to January 15th. Mercury’s shadow period begins December 9th and ends February 4th. The shadow period refers to where Mercury first enters the territory through which it will eventually appear to retrograde and it ends when Mercury has once again passed through the area where it first stationed and then appeared to retrograde.

This retrograde phase may have a slightly different emphasis than the one I wrote about above. However, both are about earth signs, and in this, they have some things in common: practicality, an appreciation for tradition, perhaps a bit of conservatism, but not the brand that that we are seeing performed like some theater of the absurd all over the air waves. Think more along the lines of "conserving."

This upcoming retrograde phase will, like all mercury retrogrades, provide time for some reflection and introspection. How it affects one personally depends on where Capricorn lies in your specific chart, i.e., which houses are affected. Even without knowing that, though, one can still consider those things that are relevant to Capricorn, such as career moves, something that affects so many right now, just as the May retrograde in Taurus had so many people concerned about their homes and mortages.

How you handle your money is also worth contemplating, as well as your relationship with Reality. (Be careful with your wallet, credit and debit cards.) I mention both money and Reality together because Capricorn is Saturn-ruled and Saturn aspects are always something of a Reality check. Coming to terms with one’s finances is also a way of paying homage to Reality, i.e., dealing with life on life’s terms. You may also wish to notice how you communicate about both your money and career, since Mercury represents communication and loves to use technology.

One’s status, prestige, reputation, and sense of honor… all of these issues come into play in Capricorn. In a "natural" house layout, Capricorn is at the top of the chart, and rules the cusp of the 10th house, which rules the career, status and reputation, one’s place and one’s value in the world at large. For some of us, Capricorn may be elsewhere in the chart. In my case, it rules the 11th house of wishes, dreams, friendships. And I always have Capricorn friends in my life. Capricorns are the among most tenacious people I know, and I benefit from their example.

Perhaps one way to approach this retrograde phase would be to note the area in your life where you are most in need of a Reality check. Don’t be afraid of it, just notice it. After all, a Mercury Retrograde does not last all that long, certainly not as long as having Saturn on your Sun, or experiencing a first or second Saturn return (approx, 28-30, 58-60, respectively). Think of this retrograde phase as a hint of what your next Saturn transit might bring you, and allow your awareness to work for you and help you prepare for it. Notice what area of your life seems to be affected. The gift of awareness is greatly undervalued in our society, although I suspect that is not true of most Fire Pups.

If you don’t notice any ill effects, don’t worry. Not everyone is equally sensitive to a Mercury Retrograde. Experience tells us that Geminis and Virgos, because both are Mercury-ruled, may be more likely to feel some of the effects. I also think that those born on the 5th 14th or 23rd of a month might be more susceptible. If you were born during a Mercury retrograde, you may not even notice the difference. Everything may seem perfectly normal to you.

As with any Mercury Retrograde, one is advised not to sign anything important, or to accept a new job, unless one is returning to a previous employer. However, if one must accept a job or say no, then be prepared to learn that the position may not be exactly as you had expected it to be. In this economy, I would hesitate to tell anyone never to accept a job during this phase. Sometimes, we simply must make such choices, especially when we have obligations to meet. Still, I do think one could avoid signing any important papers, such as for a loan or a mortgage, during this time. However, this would be a good time to review any contracts or legal papers for needed revisions or changes. If you have any unfinished tasks that are nagging at you, this may be a good time to take a fresh look at them.

A final thought… this upcoming retrograde phase could be advantageous for some of the efforts here at FDL, i.e., for getting others to reconsider their current opinions and policy stances, for educating likely voters about the true implications of pending bills. Capricorn is also considered to represent the father or other authority figures, such as bosses, and sometimes those who control the purse strings. A bit of retrospection, revisiting, reviewing, and revising in our relationships with authority figures and those who control the money is long past due.

[And… a h/t to Jason Rosenbaum for leading me through the thicket at Flickr! Without his help, I would not have been able to post that descriptive image above.]