Anytime Mercury Retrograde is approaching, you’ll know it with a quick scroll through social media — the memes and panicked posts are everywhere. They urge you to back up your files, avoid signing documents, stay close to home, and to expect miscommunication on all levels.
While these warning signs have become common stereotypes every time Mercury stations retrograde, it might help to understand the reasoning behind them, and to know that the world doesn’t actually come to a near-end every three months (the frequency Mercury retrogrades).
What is Mercury Retrograde, Anyway?
So, what is Mercury Retrograde? First of all, retrograde is the appearance of moving backward. Every single planet retrogrades at some point in their orbit around the Sun. Mercury happens to retrograde the most frequently because of its close proximity to the Sun. Venus and Mars retrograde the least, and the rest of the planets (Jupiter through Pluto) each retrograde for months at a time every year. During retrograde, planets may seem to be moving backward through the zodiac from our perspective here on Earth, but it’s all really an optical illusion.
To better understand this concept, imagine that you’re driving and the car next to you is moving at the same speed — so, relative to your position, it appears to be motionless. You then increase your speed, but the other car’s speed stays the same. Now, relative to your position, the other car appears to be moving backward — when, in fact, it’s still moving forward. This is the same type of illusion that occurs when planets retrograde. Astrology is entirely based on viewing the planets from our perspective on Earth so, regardless of their actual motion, we feel the effects of the illusion.
Why is Mercury Important to Us?
Mercury governs our ability to communicate, read, learn, and think. In ancient mythology, Mercury was known as the Messenger God, who traveled throughout the blessed and mortal realms, delivering information between gods and humans. So it’s understandable that when Mercury retrogrades, our ability to communicate may go awry. This could look like anything from cellphones mysteriously glitching, wifi continuously dropping, typos in important emails, miscommunications on all levels, and not being able to think clearly.
But don’t worry! Having a deeper understanding of Mercury’s retrograde cycle and what it’s asking of us will help you better navigate it.
How to Navigate and Survive Mercury Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde is a dance we’re invited to partner in, but it’s important to let Mercury lead. Mercury retrogrades start with a pre-shadow period (October 12th, for this current retrograde), when Mercury appears to slow down in the sky. This starts when Mercury travels through the part of the zodiac that it will eventually move backward through. Many people begin to notice the effects of the retrograde during this pre-shadow period. It’s a time when we’re being asked to slow down and pay attention to what story may be unfolding.
The next phase is the actual retrograde, when Mercury slows down to a stop, appearing to be stationary in the sky for a day or two before slowly beginning to move backward (October 31st, for this current retrograde). This is a time when we’re invited to reflect, revisit, review, and remember. This isn’t the best time to push forward with new ventures as the universe is inviting us to reflect.
The next phase is called the cazimi, a period when Mercury’s retrograde motion brings it into exact alignment with the Sun, marking the halfway point of the retrograde cycle. The Sun seemingly “swallows” Mercury whole, rendering it completely invisible to us on Earth. This presents a moment of clarity and insight, as the Sun and Mercury merge, and essential information about our retrograde story is revealed.
Pay attention to what becomes clear to you on the day of the cazimi (November 11th, for this current retrograde). About 10 days after the cazimi, Mercury slows down again to stop and move forward (November 20th, for this current retrograde). This begins the post-shadow phase, when Mercury traces its path through the zodiac for the third time, wrapping up loose ends created during the retrograde period.
Flexibility is Key
The best way to dance with Mercury during this time is to be flexible — understand that undertakings you begin during this time may change at a later date. Most importantly, slow down, stop, and begin to review. Try to look at Mercury Retrograde periods as a gift from the universe, as an opportunity to slow down and rest for a bit. There’s no way you can move forward at top speed 100% of the time! Retrograde periods allow us to observe our process, integrate meaningful changes, and move forward with more clarity and understanding than before.