Planet, God, Element – Variations on a Theme
Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system, and the closest to the sun. Hermes to the Greeks, the Roman adaptation of the planet and the God was Mercury, the messenger God, due to the celestial body’s “quick-footedness” as it traverses across the sky. In the Western zodiac, Mercury is the planetary ruler of the signs Gemini – the twins/dual nature and Virgo – balance/scales; the element Mercury was likely so named because it exhibits both solid and liquid traits; and the word mercurial means volatile or subject to sudden and unpredictable changes.
In Western astrology, Mercury influences communication, higher thought, education, technology, transportation, and short-distance travel.
Back and Forth
Because of its proximity to the sun, Mercury has a short orbital cycle, less than 1/3 that of Earth’s. Due to the relative speeds that both planets move (and some geometry I’m not going to explain), there are times this planet literally appears to be moving backwards. These periods are called retrogrades. Several planets have retrograde periods, but Mercury’s is the most well-known and likely the most influential because it happens often – about three times a year.
Mercury retrograde dates for 2015 are:
January 21 – February 11 (in Aquarius)
May 18 – June 11 (in Gemini)
September 17 – October 9 (in Libra)
Mercury & Chicken Little Syndrome – The Sky is Falling!
That’s right! It’s happening right now – hence this post. If you’ve heard of Mercury retrograde before, you’ve likely heard all the scare-tactic propaganda. Don’t go on vacation! Don’t sign contracts! Don’t get married! Essentially, the idea is that anything done during a Mercury retrograde might not stick. Otherwise, the “messenger” planet is often blamed for tech going on the fritz, messages getting lost, and travel plans going awry. In new-agey circles, it’s almost gotten a reputation as a scourge of the zodiac.
All of those things are in Mercury’s domain and may very well be subject to retrograde influence. But does that mean you should move your Hawaiian wedding from June 5th to June 15th this year? Pay to stay in your old apartment longer so you can put off signing your new lease until February 12th? Of course not! It’s not so black and white. The placement of Mercury in your individual chart has a large effect on how retrograde periods will influence you. For example, if it’s in the 5th house (love, pleasure, leisure, creativity) you might find your love-life strained, feel listless, or perhaps your creativity hitting frustrating blocks. The sign in the heavens that Mercury is transiting through also makes a difference. People with a lot of planets in that sign might feel a bigger hit.
Being a Gemini under the yolk of this volatile ruler, I’ve been aware of its influence for a good part of my adult life. Here is what I have learned, and it applies to everyone: Mercury retrograde is a call to mindfulness. The problems associated with it come from a lack of awareness as people go about their everyday lives as if everything is the same, when in fact it is different.
- Communication will be stilted. That means take your time to communicate clearly. Don’t assume your spouse can read your mind. Read every email twice before sending, and follow-up if you don’t receive an answer to an urgent text, because it may not have gone through. You might find yourself having the same conversation more than once, so be patient.
- If you have a trip planned, take precautionary steps. Talk to a live person on the phone – don’t rely on automated ticketing, etc. Have a map of your destination printed out in your bag, in case your cell service goes out. Pack an extra book in case of flight delays. Most importantly, if things still go awry, take it as the Universe’s call to adventure. Go with the flow, and see what pleasures you can discover on a whim.
- Don’t procrastinate – you’re just borrowing trouble. Especially if it’s on a work report, or a research paper, or booking travel plans. Leave yourself ample time to get things done and to get places in general.
- You may find it harder to make a decision and commit during this time. That’s okay too. USE this quiet “life is on pause” moment during retrograde to really weigh all your options and consider every cost and consequence. Don’t succumb to pressure to push forward. Hang in limbo. Sleep on it. Talk it out. Take your time.
- Mercury retrograde is the perfect opportunity to go on a mental “vacation” and use this time to revisit where we’ve been and re-evaluate where we are going. When used wisely, it is a great help in reflecting on recurring issues (messages, thought patterns) and seeing them from a different perspective. The next few weeks are prime time for journaling, gathering energy, planning, and dreaming. Then, when Mercury goes direct (starts moving forward again), you will find it easier to take action unencumbered.
Like any astrological influence, a lot of how Mercury retrograde affects us is how we choose to perceive it. You can be plagued by Mercury, use it as a scapegoat for all your woes, or you can follow the ebb and flow of the messenger planet’s energies and use them to your advantage.