It seems these days everyone likes to talk about Mercury Retrograde. The phrase is bandied about at meetings, in casual conversation, social media is flooded with little tidbits about the phenomenon, and even mainstream news outfits dedicate an article or two each year to the idea (thanks Oprah!). So what then should we know about Mercury Retrograde, and how does it actually affect our lives?
Astrologically, Mercury governs all things to do with communication, travel, our basic capacity for understanding, listening, agreements we make with others, arguments, clerical work, brain functions, business matters, computers, matters of diet, education, errands, forgetfulness, gossip, writing, ideas in general, illness – particularly public illnesses that spread, information and information gathering, the capacity to learn, mischief, the nervous system, news, newspapers and news commentary, the post (mail), reason, respiration, sanitation, service, stupidity, telephones, transportation, treaties, young people (especially those 5-15 years), and worries. Mercury is the ruler of the astrological signs Gemini, and Virgo, and all the matters ruled by these signs are also impacted during Mercury Retrograde (see Gemini and Virgo for more information on what these signs rule). The phenomenon of retrograde planets is particular to our perspective from Earth, as we look up at the sky and the planet in question appears to move backwards against the fixed canopy of the stars. This “backwards” movement is a trick of the eye, perceived when regarding the relative speed of motion of the planets through the sky in relation to other faster and slower moving objects, as the planet does not literally reverse its direction, but only appears to reverse from its normal west-to-east motion across the sky to an east-to-west path.
Mercury’s orbit is 88 days, and it is never more than 28º away from the Sun. With such a tight orbit, Mercury frequently conjoins the Sun, and this can occur in two different ways. An Inferior Conjunction occurs when Mercury moves between the Sun and the Earth, and Mercury’s degree is past the Sun’s on the zodiacal wheel. It is at this time that Mercury is considered retrograde. A Superior Conjunction occurs when the Sun’s degree placement is slightly ahead of Mercury’s, so Mercury passes on to the other side of the Sun as seen from the Earth, and needs to “catch up” by moving forward – thus travelling in direct motion.
Let’s take the upcoming Mercury Retrograde period as an example:
Mercury goes Retrograde on January 14, 2022. On that day, the Sun is at 23º43’ Capricorn, and Mercury is at 10º18’ Aquarius, and the Earth is at 23º43’ Cancer (the Earth is not usually shown on astrological charts, but is always 180º away from the Sun, in opposition). The Sun and Mercury are approximately 17º apart, and as Mercury is ahead of the Sun in its movement around the astrological wheel (Aquarius is the sign past Capricorn), from a geocentric perspective, it appears to move away from us, or retrograde. On February 4, Mercury turns direct. The Sun is at 15º8’ Aquarius, Mercury is at 24º23’ Capricorn and the Earth is at 15º8’ Leo. Here, Mercury and the Sun are approximately 22º apart, but as the Sun has moved forward into Aquarius, and is ahead of Mercury’s degree placement in Capricorn, Mercury is behind the Sun, further away from the Earth, and so travels in direct motion, towards us geocentrically. It makes a Superior Conjunction on April 3, 2022 at 13º Aries.
On a mystical level, we can consider Mercury Retrograde as a time when intellect, or Psyche (Mercury), struggles to maintain attachment to the Soul (Sun). It is only by joining Psyche and Soul together that we can find cohesion in Spirit, and so Mercury, rather than travelling on alone past the Sun, must turn “retrograde,” reversing so that the two can come together and travel forward in union again. The reason why Mercury Retrograde cycles can feel difficult is that they highlight any disruption in our inner connection and make plain for us to see exactly where we are tripping up, going wrong, not thinking straight or being illogical. This feels much worse the more we are out of sync with our Soul’s needs, and we need to backtrack to re-establish harmonious inner cohesion. To address this discontinuity, we need to take the time to re-establish our internal connections, meditate, slow down, perceive more carefully, and reflect. Mercury Retrograde is not a time for action, it is a time for slowing down, reviewing and reconnecting with our Spirit.
Certain Mercury retrograde cycles can be felt as more difficult than others, for instance, when Mercury has a longer retrograde journey. This January 14 – February 4 cycle, Mercury retrogrades for approximately 16º as opposed to later in the year when we see shorter cycles, as Mercury travels retrograde for approximately 8º and 9º in May and September 2022. Further, when the retrograde occurs in signs that are ruled by Mercury – Gemini (May 2022) or Virgo (September 2022), we find particularly irksome difficulties arise, though this does not discount the fact that any Mercury retrograde cycle usually poses some difficulties for at least a portion of the zodiac. We can expect that this January 2022 Mercury Retrograde period will hit hardest for Fixed and Cardinal signs particularly those born in the first ten days of Aquarius, Leo, Scorpio, and Taurus, as well as the last ten days of Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. These people in particular need to slow down for a little while.
This upcoming cycle, as Mercury travels back through the first decan of Aquarius into the last decan of Capricorn, we can expect glitches in self-assertion, as ego moves – particularly in relationships – tend to backfire at this time. More information will be disclosed than we might expect or want, and this applies doubly for those in power or authority positions. It would not be surprising to see public announcements about high-profile extramarital affairs, sexual or financial indiscretions, or otherwise unsavory dirt over the next few weeks. Attempts at hiding the truth will fail and could prove embarrassing, if not completely overturning what seemed to be established, stable situations. Working methods will require switching gears on the fly, and interactions with others will need to be adjusted as people are just not doing what we expect. All this may feel rather onerous, but at the same time, there will be a sense of “well, let’s just figure this out once and for all.” In fact, that is the absolute best thing to do with this particular Mercury Retrograde, colored as it is by Saturn – rehash, perfect and finalize. Don’t pull the trigger on plans, submissions, contracts and pronouncements until Mercury is fully direct on February 4, but do take the time to focus on getting everything done to the best of your ability. As Mercury is conjoined with Saturn for this retrograde cycle, the power to perfect is on hand – Saturn wants to see discipline, and will reward your efforts, so do not stint on concentration and revision of details. Doing so may just save your reputation and protect you from costly errors that will take months to repair.
All this being said, there is never any reason to worry too much with Mercury Retrograde. Think twice before you act, cultivate patience rather than aggression, prepare carefully, and be willing to wait before signing any contracts. Take the time to read the fine print as things you blindly agree to during Mercury Retrograde almost always require revision, however minor, before a final result is achieved. People find that it is with things they rarely focus on consciously anymore, like routines and habits, that problems arise, which is why we tend to see an increase in traffic accidents, and failure to receive basic communications like voice mail, snail mail, email etc. during Mercury Retrograde. What, you didn’t get the memo? Go ahead, blame Mercury Retrograde – at least you will know the logistics behind the situation!
You can find information about more of this year’s upcoming Mercury Retrograde cycles as well as other planetary cycles for this year here:. Planetary Events 2022
Thank you for reading. Many blessings to you!