For a few weeks each year, Mercury retrograde is used as an excuse for everything from lost phones and arguments with loved ones to political meltdowns and transportation disasters. But what actually is Mercury retrograde, and does it really have such a far reaching effect on our lives?
When Planets Move Backwards….or Not
We’re used to watching the Sun, the Moon and, when we can catch a glimpse of them, the other celestial bodies moving across our skies. But sometimes, as seen from earth, a planet appears to move backwards. This is what is called retrograde motion. It’s an illusion – no planet ever actually moves backwards.
If you pass a slow moving train on a faster moving one, the slower one will appear to move backwards, and that’s what we perceive during a retrograde period. In fact, what is happening is that the earth, which orbits the Sun more slowly that Mercury, is catching up with Mercury during the slowest part of Mercury’s orbit. All of the other planets have retrograde periods too, but it’s Mercury’s which we find the most fascinating.
What’s the Astrological Significance of Mercury Retrograde?
Astrologically, Mercury rules our thinking, our intellect and our communication. It also has astrological connections to journeys and travel. It is believed therefore, that when Mercury is retrograde, travel, communication and other essential areas of life are disrupted.
Traditionally, you’ll hear people warning you not to make plans during a Mercury retrograde period, or to avoid making decisions, or to avoid travel…..great, except that the retrograde period typically lasts around 3 weeks, so this isn’t entirely practical!
Overlooked Benefits of Mercury Retrograde
Although there is some evidence to suggest that we do loose things more often during Mercury retrograde periods, and that sometimes communications can be interrupted by internet glitches and so forth, most astrologers believe that Mercury retrograde periods bring some important and often overlooked benefits.
For a start, the slowing down of Mercury in the sky correlates to a slowing down of our thinking. In today’s fast paced world, this is no bad thing. During the retrograde period, ideas can be properly and fully developed, instead of superficially considered and then rejected out of hand. Mercury’s slow down also encourages us to think before we speak, which tends to lead to greater harmony in interpersonal relationships.
Mercury retrograde also brings us a period of rest and reflection. It’s a wonderful time for reliving old memories, or for looking over projects which were previously abandoned, to see if they can be brought back to life. It’s a second chance, if you like, to see what we may have missed before.
Mercury Retrograde in May/June 2015
The next Mercury retrograde period will be between May 18th and June 11th this year. As it happens, Mercury will be retrograde in Gemini, the sign it rules, during this period, and so it’s an exceptionally potent time for picking up on past ideas and insights.
Creative people can make the most of this Mercury retrograde period by going against perceived wisdom – do start new projects, do communicate more, do negotiate. You may face obstacles along the way, but if you’re prepared for them, you can easily counter them and steal a march on others who are waiting this influence out.
There is no reason to fear periods of Mercury retrograde – instead, embrace them as the second chances they are, or use them as creative stepping stones. In his book, “Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon“, author Michael Rosen tells us that Yoko Ono deliberately chose to sign contracts, travel and create during Mercury retrograde periods because of the creative advantages this would give her and John Lennon. Why not experiment for yourself and ignore the doom and gloom predictions these periods of time often bring?