Amidst one of the regular three annual bouts of Mercury retrograde - and thank fully the last one of this year - I find myself marvelling yet again at just how much seems to "go wrong" under this particular transit!
What is a retrograde planet anyway? Well you may or may not already know that it relates to an illusion - that a planet is moving backwards in the sky. This never truly happens of course. But the illusion is compelling because it's just the same as that sensation that we get when sitting in a stationary train, whilst another moves out from the station. Oddly, it suddenly feels as though our train is moving backwards whilst the other is moving forwards (I think that's how it works anyway, from memories of trips in and out of London's Waterloo, Victoria and London Bridge stations over the years, as a student and working in the West End!).
Never mind the technicalities though, what's the symbolism involved in Mercury retrograde? Well this is the planet of the mind, of thought and communication, the so-called "Winged Messenger" of ancient mythology. Joanna Watters, one of the respected teachers of astrology at the Company of Astrologers - who kindly allowed me to interview her and review her books Astrology for Today and Tarot for Today - always emphasised the way that Mercury retrograde was linked with words that begin with the letters "re". Here's a list of examples:
revisit; review; regret; relate; reignite; relish; remind; revert; reverberate; renew; rekindle; reactivate; remit; restart; revivify; rejig; reverse; redeem; reveal; retro; reintroduce; reconcile; remember; rebate; return; research; regurgitate; reflex; rehash; recollect; remake; replant; rectify; retort; resell; remorse; revolve
As you can see, even this short list covers quite a bit of ground. Mercury retrograde periods or cycles in the zodiac calendar last for about three weeks each time they happen. During this period we typically experience reversals of all kinds and all sorts of mess ups in our plans and relationships. Misunderstandings in friendships, arguments in close relationships and things going awry in family situations all seem to be rife. Then there's the long list of mishaps with travel plans, room bookings, transport arrangements, changed appointments, postponements and machinery doing all sorts of weird things it doesn't generally do, as a rule.
What on earth is this all about? Nobody really knows, of course. But one pet theory I quite like is that this is spirit's way of evening up the karma - short term karma, that is. It's generally a way of reminding us of things forgotten or overlooked, in the deep unconscious part of the mind. Maybe we've been meaning to replace the computer or the kitchen appliance for some time and now, under Mercury retrograde it becomes more obviously broken and urgent!
Or maybe we knew that a friendship didn't hold quite the promise we'd hoped for and, somehow, there was always a sense that it could not be fulfilling; under this "backward" transit of Mercury in the skies, all our good work to build a meaningful relationship suddenly unravels, to reveal gaping craters. We wonder if there was really any meaningful connection to start with! For anyone who's got caught up in a big argument on an email list or similar, it's all part of the same type of situation. And remember that with anything related to technology the effect seems to intensify.
Why should that be? It might well be something to do with the channel of energy that we call electricity. Another pet theory I quite like is that this is a channel for "spiritual" energy. Well, whatever it is, there certainly seems to be something weird working along that channel during Mercury retrograde phases! And that also applies with radio waves, mobile phones and the like.
Is there anything positive to be pinpointed during these times? Well, actually, possibly, yes. It may seem fairly annoying at the time, when the car breaks down, the toilet won't flush, the washing machine/dishwasher goes wrong, to name a few examples. It may be upsetting when your friend or partner gets the wrong end of the stick or when you end up having an almighty bust up in a community you thought was safe and sound. But maybe these things demonstrate where some sort of review or renewal is needed? When an attempt at reconciliation might be handy, or where a flame can be rekindled and regrets should not be allowed to rule the day....
A Mercury retrograde cycle may seem like a down time. But remember it's part of a three way pattern of the planet being in forward motion (direct) in apparent backward motion (retrograde) and then direct again. So when Mercury goes direct it's often possible to "put right" much of what seemed to go wrong during the retrograde phase. Or to simply move on and forget about the mess up.
The current retrograde cycle began on September 24th and ends on October 15th. Then we can relax until January 11th 2009, when the next retrograde cycle begins!
Do feel free to share about your Mercury retrograde experiences or mention any "re" words that you think are, er, relevant.... Remember, they may easily revolve around some of the feelings and events conjured up by those "re" words!