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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.

Traits of Mercury Retrograde
Aries Impulsive thinking is slowed down and tends to be forced to rethink the activities in order to move beyond obstacles or restrictions. Not as likely to try to assert opinions onto others and less likely to feel "cooped up" when in a restrictive environment.
Taurus Tends to get wrapped up in the idea of re-doing in an attempt to find perfection. Impulsive and possibly excessive spending in an effort to find the best deal. Learning is likely to be slowed although we are more likely to talk more than when Mercury is direct in Taurus.
Gemini The normally talkative Gemini Mercury quiets down and may not listen too well, either. May feel the need to visit relatives or long lost relatives and former friends may reappear. Vehicles intended for transportation are more likely to break down as well as all types of communication tools.
Cancer Old family issues may be revisited and those issues will typically involve one's parents. Home repairs may not last or need to be redone. Moving at this time will likely involve moving again before the year is out. Childhood enemies may reappear in our lives.
Leo Hobbies and creative talents are likely to be impacted. Also, one's children are likely to require extra attention during this time. Adult children sometimes need to move back home on a temporary basis. Risk-taking ventures are less likely to succeed at this time.
Virgo Work environments are more likely to feel restrictive. Previously resolved health issues likely to require review and recheck. Opportunities are likely to be missed due to procrastination. Organizational skills may become enmeshed in confusion.
Libra Marriages and partnerships formed during Retrograde in Libra are likely to be of short duration, if not postponed for a later date. Legal matters are likely to be delayed. The normally wishy-washy nature of Mercury in Libra is likely to come across as impatient if others take their time making decisions.
Scorpio The normally quiet Scorpio Mercury nature is likely to turn into a regular chatter box, but the logic may be missing. Joint business matters are less likely to succeed. Sexual matters may feel confusing and unresolved sexual sufferings may be revisited.
Sagittarius Religious beliefs may be challenged. Credit card debts tend to jump dramatically at this time. Higher education may be disrupted, forcing the individual to retake courses or delay their graduation date. Court rulings and legal matters may need to be revisited.
Capricorn Career and reputation is likely to feel impacted at this time. New jobs obtained during this time tend to be short-term or job duties get quickly revised. Traditional family values may feel threatened and may require some level of revamping.
Aquarius Solitude and meditation feels more important than seeking out communication at this time. Friendships formed at this time generally do not last long and friendships in general tend to feel strained or forced. Tends to be a period of unrequited love.
Pisces More talkative than usual and conversations feel more spontaneous than is normal with Pisces Mercury. Introspection tends to be dampened at this time. Mental health issues are likely to be revisited. Issues involving institutions and medical situations are also likely to reappear.

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.

ElementSignsRegroup, rethink, reflect in the areas of:
Fire Signs:Aries Leo SagittariusEnthusiasm, courage, passion and impulsiveness.
Earth Signs:Taurus Virgo CapricornPracticality, materialism, conservation, and inhibition.
Air Signs:Gemini Libra AquariusIntellect, adaptation, logic, and superficiality.
Water Signs:Cancer Scorpio PiscesEmotional, sensitivity, placidness, and impression.

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)

References -
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Electronic Edition, Version 1.2, (1994-1996), Merriam-Webster, Inc.

(Traits of Mercury Chart)
Adams, H. J., (1980) "Mercury Retrograde," Understanding Retrogrades by American Federation of Astrologers, Inc., pp 9-23

© Lunar Living Astrology 2001- 2023, all rights reserved -
All planetary information on Lunar Living is based on Tropical computations (aka Western Astrology).

Last Updated On November 1 2023