On each diagram, Mercury begins its cycle moving forward, entering the Mercury retrograde period in the few days before it makes the actual pivot, as shown by the red line. Mercury moves so slowly as it’s preparing to turn retrograde and after it turns direct, that those additional days might just as well be considered part of Mercury retrograde. By the end, Mercury is direct again, and moving fast.
What is Mercury Retrograde? How does it feel?
The Mercury retrograde period happens every 4 months and lasts about 3 weeks. It is usually marked by snarl-ups in communication and breakdowns of communications equipment and networks, and of office equipment of all kinds. During Mercury retrograde, there’s an excellent chance that letters and packages will be lost in the mail and information will be delayed, leaving projects and lives in disorder.
Mercury is the god of communication, which sometimes takes a less concrete and more metaphorical form: when it is retrograde, people will experience that their words are received in a way entirely different from how they were intended. Or we experience so many interruptions that our train of thought is entirely derailed and we cannot get anything done. It’s best to plan for this and pad your schedule thoroughly. Allow more time than you think you need for everything you have to do. If there are things you need to accomplish and deadlines you must meet, be prepared to have to do things twice, perhaps even three times, to achieve your normal efficiency rate.
This is often experienced as a frustrating time because our modern society has a bias that things should always progress forward without a halt. When Mercury is retrograde, it is moving backward (in apparent motion as viewed from the earth), reminding us that, regardless of our notions of how things should be, life is actually lived in cycles of work and rest. Rather than trying to get things done or finish current projects during a Mercury retrograde period, it is better to go back and pick up the pieces of something old. People frequently find to their surprise that some long-shelved project gets finished effortlessly during this time, and that it shoves more current things aside to do so.
Plan to meet your current deadlines and be as finished as possible with current projects before Mercury goes retrograde. Then use this time as a period of introspection and reflection. It is a great time to clean out closets, both physical and metaphorical. In fact, doing so physically can be very powerful, so go ahead and clean that desk, closet, garage, basement or attic. You might be surprised what you uncover and how much peace of mind results from the order you create.
Unfortunately, many people work in a business where it is simply impossible to contemplate your navel or avoid deadlines when Mercury goes retrograde. At work you may just have to deal with the fact that the business you are in goes against the tide and requires you to meet deadlines and to barrel ahead even though Mother Nature is saying “relax, people!” In that case you’ll deal with the usual Mercury retrograde annoyances: broken fax machine, lost messages, poor cell phone service and any of a hundred unexpected delays and miscommunications which will force you to slow down. If you go into it knowing that nature is forcing not only you, but also everyone, to slow down, then you don’t need to take it personally. It doesn’t mean you (or others around you) are inefficient or incompetent; it’s just that you’re all trying to have a picnic in a rainstorm. It makes no sense to complain that it’s raining—it just is. It’s better to stay inside, but if you can’t, the least you can do is bring an umbrella.
Paradoxically, a Mercury retrograde period is usually enjoyable to people who have Mercury retrograde in their natal chart to begin with. This is because such people already prefer a slower pace and have learned to field interruptions from their vast experience with them. If you are one of these, for once the rest of the world is on your wavelength and it can feel great.
1. Mercury Direct and moving fast: Efficiency is high
Mercury is moving forward at a swift pace. This helps us handle details smoothly and stay organized. It’s a great time for meeting deadlines, planning long-term projects and generally getting a lot done. You won’t find yourself facing the kinds of snags that come up when Mercury is retrograde. This condition continues until Mercury slows down, preparing to turn retrograde. In the meantime, enjoy the easy ride by getting as much done as you can, meeting every deadline as efficiently as possible and staying organized as you go.
Mercury direct usually lasts for about 2 to 2-and-a-half months—more than half of Mercury’s total cycle. No wonder we feel this is how it should be!
2. Greater Epiphany Day—A day of illumination
At the 2 on the diagram, Mercury’s headlong scamper causes it to catch up to and then pass the Sun. The day this happens is a day of illumination. It’s a day when breakthroughs are possible, new understandings emerge and mental clarity and focus are at their height. I call it Greater Epiphany Day, because the insights and clarity are bigger than during the other Mercury-Sun connection (“Lesser Epiphany Day” or 5 on the diagram).
This is like a natural peak on a wave. The weeks leading up to it are a great time to push into that day of natural epiphany. To surf this wave and take advantage of its rhythm, set up your current projects so that a peak in mental clarity that day would be advantageous and well-timed for you. Schedule your hardest, most detailed work for the weeks leading up to Epiphany Day and plan to spend the dropoff period after it responding to the events that happen around that peak.
3. After Epiphany Day, Mercury still direct: Post-peak and gearing down
Right after Epiphany Day is past, Mercury is still moving direct and fast. Efficiency will still be high. You can continue setting and meeting deadlines, requesting rush jobs and generally getting lots done. Finish projects here and celebrate your achievements.
But by a week before the retrograde day, Mercury begins to slow down—and you should too. Start winding things down to prepare for the fallow Mercury retrograde period that’s coming. Slow down, be more methodical and otherwise prepare for the introspective 3-week Mercury retrograde period. Expect less of yourself and others. Don’t take on more than you could handle if the lines got clogged (because rest assured, during the upcoming Mercury retrograde period, they will). Any loose ends you tie up here will not return to bite you when Mercury goes retrograde.
It’s ok to start thinking about future projects you might do after the current ones are complete, but don’t set goals yet. The Mercury retrograde period will be the perfect time for ruminating and meditating on those future projects, especially if you go into it with an already-clean slate.
4. Mercury turns retrograde: Look backward instead of forward; clear the old instead of initiating the new
The day Mercury turns retrograde is a day of “getting it,” getting that you need to slow down, that you’ve been moving too fast and skipping over important details. During the Mercury retrograde period you may find yourself wanting to clean out closets (actually or metaphorically) and resolve old issues rather than create new ones or make strict deadlines. Why not start early to prepare for this natural time of inner searching? It’s a great time to retreat into your shell. It’s a great time to reexamine yourself, your life and your values in any area that comes up for you at present. It’s also a great time to clear up old messy communications between yourself and others, so be prepared—because people in your life who need to do that with you may present themselves. Mercury retrograde happens only three times a year, so pull out some large garbage bags and get ready to move a mountain or two. Imagine how sleek and streamlined your life will be after this purge.
What can I expect from this particular Mercury Retrograde period?
Each Mercury retrograde period has a theme based on the sign or signs Mercury is moving through at the time. Within a given year, Mercury usually does all 3 of its retrograde stints in signs belonging to the same element. 2019’s elemental theme is Water, which is emotional, intuitive, and very non-linear. 2019’s first and final Mercury retrograde periods are in Water, while its second, in July, begins in Fire (Leo) and retrogrades back into Water (Cancer).
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