Whenever Mercury goes “retrograde”, there’s an instant buzz on the internet. Much of the stuff that’s put out is harmless fun, but the misinformation that sometimes tags along can be detrimental if fed to an unsuspecting mind. Let’s see what the fuss is all about.
The short story is that when seen from the earth, Mercury sometimes seems to move backward. I don’t want to get into the astronomy of it, but if you are really curious, you can find a pretty good explanation on Wikipedia. You will read all planets appear to move retrograde periodically, but in the public imagination retrograde Mercury holds an outsized presence.
Let’s take a look at the year 2020 Ephemeris to see at what times Mercury went retrograde. The first time this happened is in February:
At the start of the month, Mercury is tooling along at a rapid clip of about 2 degrees of arc per day. But as it gets deeper into the month, it starts slowing down. By the time it gets to Feb 17, it is only covering 5-6 minutes of arc per day. On the 17th it’s at 12 Pisces 53. The very next day, you see that it has moved backward by 5 minutes, to 12 Pisces 48. And from that day on, it’s a continual backslide, or retrogradation. By the end of the month, it has slipped all the way back to 03 Pisces 47. 12 days of retrogradation so far.
How much more? Let’s get into March and see:
The backslide keeps going all the way until March 9. On the 10th, Mercury hits 28 Aquarius12, at which point it turns around and starts moving forward slowly, or goes direct. So this retrograde period lasted a total of 22 days, or a little over 3 whole weeks.
If you were to keep up this scavenger hunt and go looking for other retrograde periods in 2020, you would find one in June. On the 18th, Mercury is at 14 Cancer 46, and by the next day it has retrograded to 14 Can 44. The retrogradation goes all the way to July 12 when it gets to 05 Cancer 30, and then it turns around and goes direct. Total number of retrograde days? 13 days in June, plus 12 in July, for 25 days or 3 weeks plus some, like before.
And then, for one last time in October, Mercury is retrograde once more in the period October 14 (11 Scorpio 40) through November 4 (25 Libra 54), again for a total of 21 days.
So the Mercury Retrograde phenomenon is a predictable occurrence three times a year, every year, lasting around 3 weeks each time. Urban myth would have it that when Mercury goes retrograde, communication and transportation (signified by Mercury) go haywire. Packages get delayed, computers crash, flaws are revealed in contracts, home sales fall through, and so on. Does this mean every single person who ships something, or signs a contract, or buys a house during a Mercury retrograde period is going to be met with a setback? Of course not.
That being said, there is something about retrogradation that does seem to make a difference, and that is the exact days on which Mercury begins to go retrograde, or begins to turn around and go direct. These are the days when Mercury is apparently at a standstill, or stationary. In 2020, Mercury turned still on Feb 17, March 10, June 18, July 12, October 14, and November 4. The start date of each of these periods–Feb 17, June 18, and October 14–is when Mercury is said to be stationary retrograde (stationary, about to go retrograde), and the corresponding end dates are when Mercury is said to be stationary direct (stationary, about to go direct).
These dates stand out because they are literally turning points. What difference might they make? Say you just interviewed for a job, things went well, and you expect an offer. You take a quick look at the ephemeris and see that Mercury will be going stationary retrograde in 3 days. What could happen is this: you get an offer by that date, and if you don’t, it gets delayed by another 3 weeks because of whatever reason. In which case the offer could come any day after the date that Mercury is stationary direct.
Astrologers generally tend to correlate Mercury retrograde periods as a times of review. This theory arises from the fact that when Mercury is retrograding, it is going over or retracing a path that it had just taken. This metaphor is then applied to real life. So if you wrote up a long document or paper, a Mercury retrograde period might find yourself reviewing and editing. If you are on the hunt for a house and saw several properties, you might review and assess the pros and cons of each during a Mercury retrograde period.
It’s not like you wait for a retrograde period three months out to engage in a review, it’s just that a particular instance of synchronicity might work its way into your life with a retrograde period coming right on the heels of an activity that you would review anyway.
So a fun and interesting thing you can do is to map these Mercury retrograde periods to your life and track what happens. And if any of these periods somehow synchronously lock in with an event in your life and clearly bookend particular outcomes, you feel the thrill of connecting to something bigger than yourself.
I recall a recent instance of such a synchronicity: I was asked when an imminent official announcement of a promotion would actually be made. In the ephemeris I noticed that Mercury would be stationary retrograde in 5 days time. So I offered up that date as the likeliest, and as it turned out, the announcement came on that exact date.
I have never changed my behavior in anticipation of a Mercury retrograde period. Millions of packages get shipped every day, thousands of flights take off and land daily, and delays happen routinely at all times of the year, not just when Mercury goes retrograde. But I do observe and file away these synchronicities at times when somehow the start and end of retrograde periods happen to coincide with an activity to do with communication/news or transportation.