The Mercury Retrograde

What is it about the infamous Mercury retrograde that sends us into a state of bewilderment? Why is it that things seem so out of our control during this time? What is a Mercury retrograde and why exactly does it affect our lives so dramatically? Have there ever been times when you felt that things were going especially badly for you? Perhaps your computer crashed or your work was deleted whilst you were in the middle of an important assignment? Or maybe you realised you had forgotten to take important documents with you to the airport, meaning your holiday was ruined? Have there been tense moments with a friend that created conflict in your relationship? These could all be the effects of Mercury's notoriously life altering retrograde.

The appearance and the sensation of Mercury going backwards during a retrograde often mirrors the feeling that our own lives are going in reverse, preventing us from moving forward during the chaotic period that comes with the retrograde. This is especially the case when it comes to communication, information and travel, areas dominated by Mercury. The dates for 2018's retrogrades are the following:

March 22nd – April 15th in Fire sign Aries

July 26th – August 18th in Fire sign Leo

November 16th – December 6th in Fire sign Sagittarius, finsihing with Water sign Scorpio

During these times, life may suddenly feel more turbulent and you may find it harder to organize certain aspects of your life. Mercury retrogrades are infamous for causing confusion and usually leave us feeling unsettled. During this time, life can often take unexpected twists and turns that leave us wondering why these aspects of our lives have become so arduous. Whilst you may sense these alterations, it is not always possible to avoid them, especially if you are not prepared. There are a lot of questions surrounding the problems that arise with the retrograde. This guide should hopefully answer those questions and help you understand exactly what a Mercury retrograde is and how to take precaution before, during and after the episode.

What exactly is a Mercury Retrograde?

Firstly, we need to understand exactly what a Mercury retrograde is before we are able to balance its effects. As we all know, each planet in our Solar System orbits the Sun from a distance, with each distance a different measure of approximity. Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, meaning it orbits around the star at a much quicker rate than our Earth, the third closest planet. A number of times throughout the year, usually three or four, Mercury passes Earth whilst in its orbit. As it curves the bend in passing, it creates what is called a “retrograde-station direct cycle”, which is essentially an optical illusion of Mercury slowing down based on what we see from a fixed point of view on Earth. The illusion is of a station (where the planet stops) and a retrograde (where the planet spins backward). You may be familiar with the feeling of sitting on a train whilst at the train station and having the feeling that you are going in reverse, when in fact it is the train directly next to you that has created this sensation due to differing speeds as it passes in that split moment, altering your vision. A Mercury retrograde gives exactly the same impression.

You may be wondering what this means astrologically or, more precisely, what areas of astrology are affected and how that impacts you directly. Essentially, during times of retrograde, a planet is somewhat in a state of hibernation, meaning that we are not actually benefiting from a fully functioning, attentive planet. It is for this reason that things start to become disorganized and life begins to feel... muddled. If you want to ensure you are prepared for the upcoming retrograde starting on March 22nd and for the remaining others in 2018, then you will first need to understand what element Mercury is found in for this year.

Each year, Mercury will always favor one element; Earth, Fire, Air or Water. This year, the favored element will be Fire, with the planet retrograding in determined, yet stubborn, Aries. Whilst our Aries' are known for their optimism, they are also recognized for their impetuous attitude and can be short-tempered. As this year's retrogrades are principally in the Fire element, it is for this reason that communication in relationships may become complex and hard to manage.

What does this mean for those of us born during the Retrograde and those of us with a Mercury zodiac?

Please do not be concerned if your zodiac is ruled by Mercury or if you were born during a retrograde. However, there are a number of factors to be aware of if you happen to be affected by one or both.

Mercury rules the Geminis and the Virgos of our world, making it understandable as to why communication and misinterpretation of information can be common during the retrograde. Geminis are well-known for discussing their feelings in detail and expressing themselves regularly. Therefore, communication problems during a retrograde can be particularly troublesome for our Geminis, the sign of the twin. On the other hand, Virgos tend to dominate by creating a hierarchy amidst the people around them. This hierarchy is usually one that Virgos themselves personally understand a lot clearer than others, hence organization being affected.

For those of us born during a retrograde, a number of astrologers believe the period has less of an impact. It is believed that people who are born in this time are philosophical and often wise, meaning they can work through complex and difficult times in their lives with a steady and determined nature. However, be aware that there are still times where life might suddenly feel like it has become overbearing and complicated. Therefore, I still advise you to take precautions and try your best to be organised during the “shadow period” to avoid any unwanted suprises. To find out if you were born during a retrograde, you can check your natal chart. Mercury's symbol has a small 'R' under the chart on the horoscope wheel.

Tips and advice for getting through the Mercury retrograde

A “shadow period” will definitely make itself known in the weeks leading up to the retrograde and will continue after the retrograde has taken place for a slightly shorter period. For that reason, during the “Impending Shadow Period”, you may still be aware of its presence and encounter problems two weeks leading up to the retrograde.

During the “switch grade”, the day the planet actually turns retrograde, the planet will progess along a path where it will eventually backtrack in our celestial sky during a couple of weeks. During the retrograde itself, there are some things you can do to try and soften the chaotic blow it provides. The most important thing to remember is to remain calm and not to make any rash decisions to prevent unnecessary setbacks. Rushing into decisions will only make things worse, as Mercury also rules contracts, so do not jump into a decision that requires you to sign anything. For any retrograde, it is important for everyone to be extremely cautious with anything directly linked to the planet Mercury. Consider the retrograde a point in your year where you have the opportunity to stop and really contemplate what is happening in your life so you can make adjustments for the future and rectify any past mistakes. Use this as an opportunity to focus on anything positive in your life beginning with the prefix 're-', meaning to go backwards. This corresponds with the reversing of Mercury during the retrograde. Examples could be: reflection, reassessment, renewal, revisiting, redoing, redesigning, rekindling, reaffirming etc.

As previously mentioned, Mercury, the mythological messenger of the Gods, rules communication, information and travel. Below are some guidelines for how to make sure you can be prepared for the effects of the retrograde in relation to these aspects of your life.

Whilst a lot of people are very fearful of the affects of the retrograde, there are positives to be gained. I mentioned earlier that this was a good time to reflect and consider what direction your life is going in. The retrograde can feel chaotic but it can also be a wonderful time to reflect on how we approach situations and allows us to look back on our actions so as to make improvements. Whilst it can be a perplexing time within the year, it is also an opportunity to be adventurous. Sometimes, in life, we rush into making decisions or drift at an exceptionally fast pace and miss opportunities that are staring us right in the face! There are four things you must always consider when going through a Mercury retrograde :

This is a time where we often find things that have been lost for some time, so you may find that precious lost earring or watch afterall! Coincidences are rife during the times of a Mercury retrograde. You may bump into an old school friend or colleague in a strange environment, like in the street or at a restaurant.

The most important thing to remember before, during and after a retrograde is to try to be as organized as possible. Finish all important tasks, projects and deals in the two weeks leading up and be careful how you respond to people throughout. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for other people's reactions to be angrier than usual or more tempestuous. Everybody's guard is going to be down, therefore boundaries will be less restircted. As long as you keep calm and take your time when undergoing tasks, you should be able to take away some positive changes during the retrogrades of 2018, and ensure that you are ready for each confrontational event that may occur. Having an optimistic approach is definitely your best bet for gaining as much as you can out of the Mercury retrograde and show it who is boss!