Successfully Handling Retrograde Mercury

Here's a typical scenario from my life: The phone rings. I pick it up hesitantly (because, like most people, I have a teeny bit of telephone ESP). And indeed, it's one of the usual suspects calling in a frenzy after having experienced one frustration too many. The final straw may be a lost ATM card, an endless wait in the doctor's office, a missed appointment, a computer crash, the inability to rent an apartment at 1977 prices, a voice mail disaster, or another harrowing descent into an HMO inferno. Listening to the litany, I know what's coming. My faithful follower is about to ask this question: Is Mercury retrograde?

Often, the answer is yes. Tiny Mercury, the planet nearest the Sun, appears to change direction more frequently than any other planet. It goes into "reverse" three or four times a year for around three weeks at a stretch. During those irksome interludes — and particularly at the beginning and end — you can expect small mishaps, petty annoyances, and all sorts of miscommunication. When Mercury is retrograde, messages disappear in cyberspace, straightforward statements are misinterpreted, people forget appointments and lose papers, and answering machines, faxes, copiers, computers, and cellphones threaten to strike.

Making the best of it

Why crazy things happen when Mercury is retrograde, I can't claim to know. Astrology, to my way of thinking, is a system of metaphor, a symbolic cosmic language that reflects our lives the way the sea reflects the sky. So even though none of the planets ever actually spin backward, their apparent turnaround subtly affects our reactions, our perceptions, and our experiences.

When Mercury is retrograde, vexation abounds. Yet despite what you may have heard — and despite the inventory of possible woes I listed earlier in the chapter — retrograde Mercury isn't to be feared. It's a lesser force, not a tsunami. It forces you to slow down (because you're stuck in a traffic jam), to be flexible (because your flight just got canceled), to check on things you might normally ignore (because your package should have arrived by now). It encourages you to try another approach. Thus it offers something most people desperately need: a timeout, a chance to pick up the pieces.

When Mercury is retrograde, do not i Launch an important project.

i Purchase a computer, a cellphone, a Blackberry, or any other communication device, including expensive fountain pens.

i Move into a new dwelling.

i Start a job.

i Begin a relationship.

i Sign a contract.

i Expect things to go smoothly.

i Try to fight the fates. Forcing things to happen on your schedule only creates further mayhem.

To get the most out of Mercury retrograde, breathe a sigh of relief and get off that treadmill. You've been given a reprieve. All you have to do is i Review.

i Revise. (Mercury retrograde is invaluable for writers.)

i Reconsider. (If a former lover or an old problem reappears, Mercury retrograde can help you resolve the situation.)

i Revisit the past.

i Change your mind.

i Confirm your reservations.

i Check the facts.

i Make repairs.

i Do tasks you've been postponing. i Correct mistakes. i Get organized.

i Catch up on all forms of correspondence.

i Clear the decks.

i Send cards and packages early. (When Mercury is retrograde, mail may not arrive on time.)

i Carry a book or magazine at all times. (When Mercury is retrograde, your chances of having to wait in a line or being caught in a traffic jam increase exponentially. And don't count on your cellphone to keep you entertained: It's likely to transmit only static.)

Knowing when the hullabaloo is coming

Table 18-1 shows you when (and where) Mercury is retrograde from the first day of 2007 to the last day of 2012. The dates for each retrograde period correspond to the degrees of the zodiac listed in the "Location" column.

For example, the first line for the year 2007 shows that Mercury is retrograde from February 14 until March 7, during which time it wheels backward from 10° Pisces — its location on February 14 — to 25° Aquarius, where it ends up on March 7. At that point on March 7 it ceases to be retrograde. For a brief moment, Mercury seemingly stands still. Then it goes direct, moving forward once more in the usual way. Months pass. From its starting point at 25° Aquarius, Mercury spins happily through one-third of the zodiac. And then, on June 15, it changes direction once again, this time at 11° Cancer. And so the cycle begins anew.

Table 18-1

Retrograde Mercury





Feb. 14-Mar. 7

10° Pisces-25° Aquarius


June 15-July 9

11° Cancer-2° Cancer


Oct. 12-Nov. 1

9° Scorpio-23° Libra


Jan. 28-Feb. 18

23° Aquarius-8° Aquarius


May 26-June 14

21° Gemini-12° Gemini


Sept. 24-Oct. 15

22° Libra-7° Libra


Jan. 11-Feb. 1

7° Aquarius-21° Capricorn


May 7-30

1° Gemini-22° Taurus


Sept. 6-29

6° Libra-21° Virgo


Dec. 26-31

21° Capricorn-19° Capricorn


Jan. 1-15

18° Capricorn-5° Capricorn





Apr. 17-May 11

12° Taurus-2° Taurus


Aug. 20-Sept. 12

19° Virgo-5° Virgo


Dec. 10-30

5° Capricorn-19° Sagittarius


Mar. 30-Apr. 23

24° Aries-12° Aries


Aug. 3-26

1° Virgo-18° Leo


Nov. 24-Dec. 13

20° Sagittarius-3° Sagittarius


Mar. 12-Apr. 4

6° Aries-23° Pisces


July 14-Aug. 8

12° Leo-1° Leo

2012 Nov. 6-26 4° Sagittarius-18° Scorpio

2012 Nov. 6-26 4° Sagittarius-18° Scorpio

Sometimes the weeks when Mercury is retrograde slip by so quietly that you barely notice. Other times, retrograde Mercury generates such a blizzard of delays and obstructions that you just can't miss its baleful influence. What makes the difference? The answer is easy: location, location, location. Look to see where Mercury is when it goes retrograde. If it's in your Sun sign, Moon sign, Mercury sign, or rising sign, you'll feel its impact. Similarly, when Mercury begins or ends its retrograde cycle within one or two degrees of a planet in your horoscope, you're likely to be affected. In both cases, get ready to revel in the rhythm of retrograde. And don't forget to bring a book.

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