The car door slammed and I knew all too well what had just happened. It was five-below zero, the car was still running, and the keys were locked inside. What’s more, the spare remote opener had a dead battery and I was headed out on an important trip to the city. It was five o'clock in the morning and freezing. I was groggy but it was clear: Mercury was retrograde. I just had to laugh aloud at my humanity because even professional astrologers are not immune to the challenges the planets can reflect.
Mercury retrograde is often the scapegoat for when nothing seems to be going right. But really, if you’re using the lens of Astrology to look at human life, the most important point to remember is that astrological symbolism is reflective, not causal. Mercury isn’t causing problems, but knowing a little about what’s going on might help you avoid them.
Astronomically, "retrograde" is an apparent backward motion of a planet due to varying orbital speeds and angular perception. Think of it like this: You’re at a stop light between two buses. When the light turns green, the two buses move forward slowly but you accelerate more quickly. You’re moving faster than the two at your sides and, thanks to relative motion, they appear to be going backwards. Retrogrades are like that.
Astrologically, though, it’s a bit more complicated. On a basic level, astrology deals with the Universe in twelfths, each representing a different aspect of life. The twelfth that Mercury represents is all about data, communication and activity. Generally we go through life learning and observing, but during a retrograde, when Mercury, or whichever part of the Universe, appears to be going backward, we’re forced to slow down and be more deliberate. Real learning is about taking time to integrate what we’ve observed, and, without this break, we’d never be able to process anything because we’d always be bombarded with something new.
So, since so much of travel includes data, communication and activity, what does a Mercury retrograde mean for travelers (besides the ubiquitous computer crashes, weather delays and misplaced luggage)? Should we avoid travel altogether and hide under a rock? Of course not. Here are the general rules and guidelines for travelers and Mercury retrograde.
1. Avoid scheduling something new during a Mercury retrograde, unless it’s old business that needs finishing, in which case it’s perfect. If you absolutely must travel or schedule travel during a retrograde, then the “re” prefix is key. Do your best to figure out how to integrate any of the “re”trograde themes—revisit, rebuild, rejuvenate, recover, retreat, reconcile—into your experience. For example, Mercury is retrograde from December 19, 2016 to Jan 8, 2017. Avoid travel during the holidays? Inconceivable! But going back to the farm to see Pops and revisit memory lane? Perfect.
2. Be cautious and take your time. There are bound to be mishaps and communication erros, so do your best to be ready for them. Buy travel insurance even if you don't think you need to. Be extra alert when you double check everything and do so patiently. Keep your eyes and ears open and listen to tiny omens or clues alerting your intuition. Any time you feel rushed, frantic or flustered, let that be the clue to slow down and breathe for a minute. Taking time to calm down just may prevent your locking the keys in your car!
3. Use the power of the Mercury Retrograde to your advantage. Have you been feeling a need to head to a mountain hideaway to relax and reevaluate your life? This is a perfect time to do so.
4. Don’t let Mercury’s mischief get the best of you and cause you to become more upset. This likely will save you from further complications. Remember that any snafu has a lesson for which patience, lightheartedness, and acceptance are the cure. If the flight is delayed then make it positive and use that time to call and reconnect with your Mom like you’ve been meaning to (thus making Mercury work to your benefit).
5. Don’t blame the Gods! Just because you ignored the “check engine” light for a month and the car broke down during a Mercury retrograde does not make it Mercury’s fault. Mercury is simply reminding you of what you already knew. Next time, listen when the engine knocks or when it takes two hours to purchase an airline ticket.
Essentially, knowing the astrological climate helps us to dress appropriately. Mercury is not here to cause us pain. Mercury is here to help us integrate our lessons, teach us how to be more aware, conscious, thoughtful, and deliberate. And with Mercury, the archetype of the storyteller, we’ll at least have lots of human experience to compare and laugh about once Mercury goes direct!
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