Lunar Living Astrology
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Letters to the Editor
What is Mercury Retrograde and what effect[sic] does it have? Holli ()
Many people relate the Mercury Retrograde to a breakdown in communications. While, at times this may be true, it is not always the case. Before I explain that, let me explain a little more about the appearance of the Retrograde planet.
The term "Retrograde" of a celestial body means "(1)having a direction contrary to that of the general motion of similar bodies; (2) having or being a direction of rotation or revolution that is clockwise as viewed from the north pole of the sky or a planet." (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 1998) In essence, the term applies to an appearance of moving backwards rather than the actual motion of backward transits. The appearance of the phenomenon is caused by our being on this planet and the perspective that we have of other planets out on the horizon as they are moving around the Sun at different rates of speed in relation to the Earth, which is also revolving around the Sun. Suffice it to say, it is merely an optical illusion based on our perceptions of the planets in relation to the Sun. The term was coined in the 14th Century, when man did not yet know that the Sun was not revolving around the Earth! The term grew out of the Latin term retrogradus, meaning "from" or moving from.
This deceptive phenomenon has been related to complications in the routines of the celestial mechanics. In the case of Mercury, it appears to affect all areas ruled by Mercury. This is mostly noticed in the Communication Sector, but also carries over into Transportation, Education, Health and Co-worker Departments. During a Mercury Retrograde, all types of Mercury Ruled areas in our lives seem to become confounded, stymied and misinterpreted. For example, contracts tend to be missing important pieces of information, car repairs may not be thorough, appointments may be missed, mail seems to get lost quicker, medical tests may not be accurate, prescriptions may not be written or filled correctly, and computers tend to crash quickly if upgraded or repaired during the Retrograde Motion of Mercury. It is not understood why and does appear to depend more on the Sign that Mercury is in when it begins its Retrograde Motion. The basic terms that seem to apply best to Mercury Retrograde are Repeat, Reverse, Re-do, Re-think, Restrict and Regret.
Check out some of the differences frequently noted when Mercury is Retrograde in the various signs.
One, often over looked, facet of the Mercury in Retrograde is the fact that the retrogrades will cycle through one particular element within a one to two year period. For example, in 2001, Mercury's Retrograde occurred predominately in Air; Aquarius, Gemini and Libra. During 2002, there was a shift from Air to Earth; Aquarius and Capricorn, Gemini, Libra and Virgo. Then 2003, all retrogrades will be in Earth elements; Capricorn, Taurus and Virgo. As the years progress, the Mercury Retrograde transit shifts from Earth into Fire element and then into Water until, over a period of approximately seven to eight years, all four of the elemental groups are covered.
This annual theme by element can also help us to plan for the year since each element has it's own style. See the chart below for a quick description of each element.
Mercury Retrograde dates can be found easiest on a Retrograde Calendar.
In any given year, there are, usually, three Mercury Retrogrades. The Retrogrades generally last about three weeks. Depending on the sign that it is transiting at the time that it appears to go Retrograde, life circumstances may feel out of our control, especially if our natal chart is being adversely aspected by the Retrograde planet. Remember that it is merely a good time to review rather than to force matters through to completion.
Mercury Retrograde can actually be a great time to plan for the future; to map out our plans so that we can review them at a later date when we are actually ready to move forward again. It is a little like taking a much needed nap in the middle of our busy schedule. We need to take time to regroup, at least once in awhile, and this is an excellent time to Regroup and Re-organize our life rather than to implement new changes or activities.
© J. McCaul, 2002 (updated 2010) (All rights reserved)