Tracy's Astro Answers

Can anyone explain Mercury Retrograde to me? by Tracy Cook

So many times people with just a cursory knowledge of astrologer will hear the expression, “Oh, Mercury must be retrograde.”    And of course there will be nodded heads and agreeing responses like, “Yep, my computer crashed yesterday, Mercury has got to be retrograde.”   We have all heard it, but what exactly does it mean?

Going backwards, sort of…

Retrograde means, “going backwards”.  In astrology all planets retrograde except for the Sun and the Moon (which technically aren’t planets --but we’ll save that topic for another day) Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, etc, they all appear to move backwards. But usually it is Mercury that captures most of our attention.   We use the word “appear” because if we could fly through space and land on Mercury or any of the other planets we would see that they don’t technically turn around and go backwards they only appear to go backwards because of Earth’s rotation.   However, this appearance is very real, astrologically speaking, and usually retrogrades can cause some sort of mayhem.   

Why do we care about Mercury?

Okay, if all planets retrograde why do we care so much about Mercury?  Mercury is the fastest moving planet and when it goes backwards its own quickness adds to the mayhem.   In contrast, when the slower moving planets retrograde they have more time to unwind and although they can cause mischief it just isn’t as messy.   It is the difference one might experience on a super brisk day where wind knocks down wires and trees causes a whole bunch of headaches versus a day when a big tornado hits.  Velocity is important and Mercury’s own speed adds to the chaos.  Additionally, Mercury is the planet of communication.  It is the planet that rules how we talk, how we write, how we give information and how we receive it.   It is also the planet of small journeys and it is the planet of how we think.   Pretty important stuff, right?  So, if the planet that rules communication and thinking is going  backwards, you can imagine why things can go haywire quickly.  

How often are there Mercury Retrogrades? 

Usually there are about three retrogrades a year and their influence is for several weeks each. 

What happens during the retrograde?

Traditionally this is a time when letters get lost, computers crash,  cars break down, the need for big household purchases can occur, although it would be nice if you can delay it until after the retrograde.  It is when an off-handed comment to a friend or family member causes a big ol’ uproar totally confusing everyone.  A little comment like, “Are you going to eat that cookie?” could cause World War Three during a retrograde.  People’s sensitive sides are on steroids during a retrograde and even the simplest of comments sting to the heart.   Remember Mercury rules thinking and people just get weird during Mercury retrogrades.

Specifically, the tone of the retrograde will be determined by the sign that Mercury is in.  For example, Mercury retrograde in Aries with its fiery nature and short fuse is completely different than a Mercury Retrograde in a stubborn and fixed sign like Taurus.   While the Mercury retrograde in Aries means lots of fights and slammed doors or phones, a Mercury retrograde in Taurus can feel like a constant money blood letting with one items after another breaking down.  

Advice during a retrograde?

Listen, you are going to piss someone off during a retrograde, or you are going to get pissed off during a retrograde, there usually is no escaping it. But what you can do is learn something during the retrograde. How did you piss off the person? Or why did you get ticked off? Did you say something you have been wanting to say for awhile but now you had the guts?  Or did someone finally have enough of you?   Okay, all is fair in love and war and retrogrades. But perhaps next time you won’t wait so long to make the changes that you should have made a lot earlier.   Or maybe you can also manage your tongue and learn a thing or two about finesse.  Shakespeare may have said  the world is a stage and we are just mere players…but for goodness sake, “It’s in the delivery!”  And also, what about those things that go and break during a mercury retrograde.   The car that breaks down has usually been in need of a repair for a long time but has been put off.  Now, during a retrograde the buck stops and you have to do the fix. This is also great time to retire old ideas that no longer work or serve. It is a great time to call old friends whom you have not spoken to in years.  Finally deal with some of the paperwork that has been in need of your attention.  Sometimes you have to sign important papers during a retrograde but if it comes back to need more work after the retrograde you can just blame silly Mercury.  Stuff happens.   


How long is the influence of the retrograde?

The best way to understand the influence is by setting up a visual. 

Imagine Mercury is a car and this car is leaving Seattle and heading for NYC. So, the car leaves Seattle and heads East… this is called MERCURY DIRECT.   The car continues on its trip and it goes by Chicago continues on the road but as it gets close to Indianapolis it starts to slow down…and just as it hits Indianapolis it stops and turns around.   The Slow down is called MERCURY STATION  and the Turn around of course is called MERCURY RETROGRADE.  Now the retrograde car is heading west again and heading back to Chicago.  When it finally gets back to Chicago it slows down and turns around and now heads east again returning back on its journey to NYC this is MERCURY DIRECT.   The car will continue on its journey and this time when it goes by Indianapolis it doesn’t stop it just continues on its merry way to NYC.

What is significant is that the road between Chicago and Indianapolis will be seen once, then twice (going backwards) and then a third time (when it goes direct again). This road between Chicago and Indianapolis is the SHADOW PERIOD.  This means the very first time we see Chicago we are put on alert that there is a Retrograde ahead and so be prepared we may see this landscape again. 

To continue the analogy.. On May 12th we drove by Chicago.  We will be turning retrograde on May 19 (reaching Indianapolis) and then going all the way back to Chicago until June 19th  where it will turn around and head again for Indianapolis and finally passing it on July 4th.   As you can see from shadow point (May 12th) to shadow point (July 4th) is about 2 months. That doesn’t mean it will be all rocky during that time.  No, not at all. The rockiest times will probably be during the actual retrograde (May 19th – June 19th) but we will most likely revisit topics that come up in the time between the two month shadow dates. 

In 2008 there are 3 Retrogrades.

Jan 28 - Mercury R in Aquarius

May 19-Mercury R in Gemini

Sept 24 Mercury R in Libra 

As you can see all of these retrogrades are in the 3 air signs which means THINKING will be big.  People will be processing thoughts that either work for them or maybe it is time to let go of some of their patterns.  How we think about things, how we mentally process things will be completely retooled in 2008.   Our thinking needs a big wire brush to scour off the corrosion.

ARe you the brush or are you the corrosion?


 For more information on each retrograde please read the New Moon Charts.


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