Robert’s Guide to Mercury Retrograde

First published on Myss.com.

Ok everyone, the Mercury Retrograde has already begun…..at 10am CST December 17th in 13 degrees Capricorn, finishing on Jan 6th in 27 degrees Sagittarius. Please use this guide as way to work with the cycle, don’t fight it, you can’t win!!

I’ve wanted to write this for a long time. I am sure that we all could share our many Mercury Retrograde stories, but for those of you who are not so Astrologically savvy I should first explain what Mercury retrograde in fact is. This means I must also explain what real Astrology is, to differentiate it from the horoscopes that you read in your every day newspaper or monthly publications.

Astrology is truly the art and science of intuiting and interpreting the energetic cycles of life. All those planets out there in the heavens are mirrors for what’s in us……as above, so below. So any planetary cycle that we observe in the sky/Zodiac is also at work in us, because (as all mystics have said for ages) the ultimate reality is that there is no separation from what’s out there and what’s within. The gift of Astrology is born out of learning to work with the cosmic cycles of life consciously, as a co-creative act if you will. So if you can learn to understand the inherent function of a planetary astrological cycle, you can use that energy in a more consciously empowered manner, and bring your timing/efforts more in line with Universal Will. Therefore, I feel it serves us best to use a Mercury Retrograde cycle as a time to realign with the macrocosmic rhythm of life.

That being said, to understand Mercury Retrograde you must understand the function of Mercury within you when it is direct. The Archetype of Mercury has worn many faces over the ages and was known to the Greeks as Hermes, to the Romans as Mercurius, and to the Egyptians as Thoth. All of these Gods and archetypes have transmuted into our modern day version and understanding of the Astrological Mercury that I am talking about now.

As a function of consciousness, Mercury represents our thinking and communicative processes, the ways we access and use information, make decisions, pay attention to details, and express ourselves. Mercury also symbolizes the way we perceive reality via the mind. Much of this gets reexamined during a Mercury Retrograde cycle. We are asked to retreat within and reevaluate what serves us in our life with regards to this Mercurial function of consciousness, and what needs to be upgraded, refined, and/or let go of. If we resist this, then we invoke the “Trickster” side of Mercury contained in Mercury’s function, which I will explain later.

When Mercury is direct, which it is 80% of the year, we can look to the sky and see the planet’s motion going forward against the backdrop of the Zodiac in the heavens. However, about every 3 ½ months the planet appears to start going backward for about three weeks. I say, “appears” because in reality it’s the orbit of the earth in tandem with the planetary orbit of Mercury that makes the planet appear to move backwards, though it is not really moving backwards. Nevertheless, this period of time is called Mercury Retrograde.

When Mercury is moving direct, our minds tend to work on a more functional/forward level. Our energy is invested in more assertive decision-making and action with less retrospection and reflection. However, we are unconsciously picking up on intuitive information, which will come to call during the retrograde cycle. There needs to be a time of rest and assimilation of all the information that we perceive consciously and unconsciously. A time for our inner wisdom to come forth and guide us to re-organize, rethink, reevaluate, redo, and reboot. This is part of the organic, natural flow of life. Our culture, however, made up of schedules and deadlines, doesn’t often accommodate a cycle of introspective reflection and re-evaluation. Which is why this cycle can be so brutal for some of us……especially those of us with agendas of steel?

On that note, let’s enter into the threshold of Mercury Direct turning Retrograde. This, for reference, energetically begins to take place a week before the retrograde cycle begins…..so in this case you would have begun to feel it around December 11th. What tends to happen during this time is that signals from the environment will begin to alert you towards inner and outer situations that need some reflection and reevaluation. This will initially begin to show up as conflict and frustrating scenarios, all designed to force the assertive faculty of the mind/ego to take a back seat so that a deeper wisdom and guidance system can begin to inform your consciousness. The degree to which we hold onto our need to keep our agendas and plans often equates to the degree in which we find ourselves frustrated during this time. It is here in which we must embrace the lessons of letting go. When we refuse to let go, we then engage the “Trickster” element of Mercury, which will seem to trick and frustrate us to no end. The end the Trickster has in sight for us is surrender. We must not underestimate the degree to which our psyche can resist change. The abdication of our will/ego to a deeper function of consciousness can be quite a struggle as the retrograde cycle commences and this struggle usually lasts for the first 11 days of the cycle. Usually by the 12th day we are usually so frustrated and embattled that we give up and the conscious ego is forced to release its hold over our unconscious.

For the 1st half of the retrograde it’s usually best to let the horizons of our consciousness expand and let ourselves be open to new ideas and inspiration that will flow to us during the 2nd half of the retrograde cycle. We must allow ourselves the time to intuitively read the landscape of our lives, both inner and outer, that we have been too busy to notice. To get a more definitive look at this dynamic for yourself, you need to examine your own natal chart and see which house and sign Mercury is transiting. For this current cycle, Mercury is predominately in Capricorn, secondarily in Sagittarius. Most notably, Mercury has been retrograding in earth signs this past year……so look to issues of money, values, career, skills, ambition, practicality, grounding, etc. Of course, you must consult your own chart for more specifics. Above all else the first 11 days of the retrograde are designed to herald in latent intuitive information that is usually in conflict with the way you thought things would play out in regards to your agendas. This conflict is the precursor of the chagrin we so commonly associate with this astrological cycle.

While the 1st half of the retrograde can be quite disorienting, the 2nd half – or last 10 days - of the retrograde are about reorientation. New beginnings begin to come into view. That being said, the traditional approach to Mercury Retrograde of not signing new contracts, making new major purchases, making new important decisions, and initiating new endeavors remains intact. This is because the friction in the psyche is still fresh and will birth even more new information and ideas. As the second half of the retrograde progresses, those new ideas become more and more informed. The last ten days of the retrograde cycle thus become a time to be passively receptive to the new, and ensuring you’ve let go of the old. This will allow more time for holistic agendas to emerge as well as better strategies for their enactment. Once Mercury begins its next cycle of going direct, action can then be taken on the newly formed visions.

I know that Mercury retrogrades seem like hell on earth, but it helps to know that there is an intent behind them that belongs to a bigger cycle of conscious unfoldment. I have found that consciously working with the energy during this time helps ease the frustration. Time and time again I am shown via clients, friends, and my own life that the situations, scenarios, and frustrations that come up during a Mercury Retrograde serve the inherent function/intent of the cycle like clock work.

So use this guide! Look at what’s frustrating you and follow the threads to a deeper more informed wisdom. I will be sending this to everyone every retrograde cycle and revising/ expanding on it. Let me know what you think about all this information and whether or not it proves useful.

For more information on retrograde planets I would suggest reading Erin Sullivan’s incredible book, “Retrograde Planets” (Weiser, 2000), which was an invaluable guide to me in writing this article.

Namaste,
Robert O’Hotto

Back to top