The expression “Mercury in Retrograde” is an astronomical phenomenon when Mercury seems to float through the sky from east to west, rather than its normal path from west to east. All of our planets do it at one time or another. The ancient Greeks thought it was because the planets wandered through the universe, but today we know that it is an optical illusion that occurs because other planets have different orbits than Earth does. Some planetary orbits are faster or slower, shorter or longer. Because we are on Earth’s own elliptical orbit, our view of the path of the planets varies through time and place.
Mercury’s shorter and faster orbit causes the planet to appear to move eastward four times a year. Astrologers believe that while Mercury is in retrograde, it is in a resting or sleeping state, and that has a psychological effect on some people—you are more mercurial, in fact—and if you are born during one of those periods, your chances of being affected by Mercury’s fluctuations are more likely.
What Mercury Rules
In astrology, the planet Mercury rules all types of communications: Speaking, learning, reading, writing, researching, negotiations. Mercury describes our intelligence, our mind, and our memory; it rules our sense of humor, what fascinates us, how we speak write and otherwise communicate.
When moving in retrograde, though, the planet challenges us to act with greater wisdom but not necessarily back away from pursuing new goals. Leslie McGuirk suggests we should not blame Mercury retrograde for every failure, and that the study of astrology is about what it means to be human. Instead, understanding how the planets can affect ourselves and in our closest ones can help us to navigate through our lives.
Astrologer Bernie Ashman suggests that Mercury retrograde can bring positive changes, such as a deepening of communication skills, which might open doors for new job opportunities.
The Mercury Rx Club
About 25 percent of people on earth were born during a Mercury retrograde—you can check your own natal chart to see if you are one of those lucky few. Look for the Mercury glyph. If you see an Rx next to it, that means you were born in a retrograde time frame.
In astrology, Mercury affects your perceptive abilities, and if you know the effect that Mercury has on you, it can help you understand how you see things and thereby be more effective in the world. If you’ve got Mercury retrograde, you’ve got a very different mercurial make-up than other people. Understanding how you think can lessen the frustrations that go along with this kind of planetary influence.
Astrologer Jan Spiller connects people with Mercury retrograde to the trailing effect of past lives in which you were holding back the truth or having to go along with the party line. This time around, she says, there is a profound sense of being inarticulate, and struggling to speak.
In her article, Spiller writes “In this lifetime, they are not allowed to speak superficially. To feel ‘straight’ with themselves, they must communicate fully, from the authenticity of their entire being. Naturally, it takes time for them to get in touch with this level of authenticity.”
Jan Spiller sees a past life echo for people born under Mercury retrograde with a challenge to speak from the depths of one’s being. This is to overcome lives of having to hide their true thoughts, leading to a painful disconnection.
There are gifts that come from the struggle to speak in such a whole-hearted way. Spiller writes, “They are learning to reconnect with the authenticity of their own unique ideas and preferences and decision-making tendencies. Because of the necessity of including their emotional component when making decisions, many times these people have exceptional artistic talents.”
When you have Mercury Rx in your natal chart, how it behaves will depend on the element, quality and what house it is in.
In people born under water signs, for example, Mercury makes your mind search for the emotional essence, and from that, you can form a picture of perception. As with the retrograde cycle, the processes of the mind are different and may take longer. You may swim in different channels of the mind. Sometimes it feels like you’re speaking another language. And it can make you feel misunderstood until you learn to translate what you perceive into language others can understand.
The collage effect of Mercury retrograde makes it hard to see how things will play out. You may see the end before the middle, or a vision of what’s to come. But if this resonates with you, try working with, rather than against your own Mercury Rx. Instead of swimming against the tide, look for mediums where this kind of perception is valued and even rewarded.
Trust your perceptions, and find ways of expressing yourself through art, music, dance. The arts allow a different kind of language, that of symbol and collage, to stand on its own. No translation necessary! Trust that you have a unique way of seeing the world, one that is worth sharing.
- Ashman, Bernie. How to Survive Mercury Retrograde: And Venus and Mars, Too. Llewellyn Publications, 2016. Print.
- McGuirk, Leslie. The Power of Mercury: Understanding Mercury Retrograde and Unlocking the Astrological Secrets of Communication. HarperElixir, 2016. Print.
- Miller, Susan. “Mercury Retrograde and What It Means for You.” AstrologyZone. 2016. Web. April 22 2018.
- Yott, Donald H. Astrology and Reincarnation. Samuel Weiser, 1989. Print