Understanding Mercury Retrograde
There is no doubt that humanity is becoming more awakened to the interconnected nature of its existence. I feel that as we shift into clearer states of awareness, a deeper understanding of the truth about our connection to planetary cycles and what they symbolize can be of immense benefit to us.
In this article I would like to share some of my personal ideas and truths around an astrological phenomena known as Mercury Retrograde. Although the term is fairly well known, most people know very little about it other than the popular interpretation of it simply as a period of frequent miscommunication.
With this article I hope to offer some clarity on what Mercury Retrograde actually means, how retrograde activity affects and reflects our energy, and how we can integrate it into our lives.
So, what is Mercury Retrograde? What does ‘retrograde’ even mean?
What is Retrograde?
In astrology the term retrograde is used quite often. In astrological reports you will read that a planet is retrograde, meaning it appears to be moving in a backward motion, as opposed to the forward or ‘direct’ motion.
There is an illusion behind this phenomena. The planets themselves don’t actually move backwards, they orbit the sun in the same direction as Earth. But during retrograde cycles, from our Earthly perspective they appear to be moving backwards, the effect caused by the relative positions of the Earth and planet in their respective orbits in the solar system. From our ever changing perspective, planets spent most time moving in a direct motion, going retrograde at intervals.
When a planetary motion goes retrograde, it changes the physical and energetic dynamic between the Earth and that planet. On an energetic level, it reflects to us a retreating motion and a retreating of energy. It creates an inverse flow, and the energy begins to flow inward not outward in the area of our life represented by that planetary archetype. (This behavior/law applies to all the planets, not just Mercury.)
On a personal level, retrograde cycles function like this:
We act on the retrograde effect when doing a review or revisiting something. This process naturally implies observing something again, or retrospectively, and often leads to realizing something we might have missed.
Another beautiful way to see this is through the human form. We observe the universe functioning within us by understanding the action of breath. Breathing has two actions, exhale and inhale. What we have here is a natural state of expanding and then contracting. This is the cosmic law of express (Yang) and receive (Yin). The motion of retrograde falls under the action of contracting (Yin). Make sense?
So, whenever you know there is a planet moving retrograde or you have personal planets in your astrology birth chart that are retrograde, that natural state of that energy is receptive and requires review.
The Mercury/Gemini Archetype
The archetype of Mercury reflects three things. Diversity, the action of gathering information and finally, the communication of the gathered information. It reflects the linear logical function of the left brain – the ‘analytical’ – and the ability to articulate.
A great example I could use is the action of walking out of an airport in a new city. As you walk from the entrance, you scan the area identifying the surroundings, seeing the diversity and gathering information and variables (transport, directions, languages, traffic, street signage). This process allows you to communicate with and to your environment, and navigate your changed surroundings.
The Mercury Retrograde Message
When Mercury, the messenger of the universe, goes into retrograde motion it signifies the opportunity to revisit aspects of our lives that we might have missed. The inverse flow of Mercury Retrograde gives us a chance to reflect and review projects, experiences, and choices we have made since the last retrograde cycle. During the 3 week cycle of Mercury retrograde enables us to see our world in a different light, and we might notice that old ideas come back and old conversations re-emerge. We have an opportunity to re-experience them, and a chance for new perspectives to be seen and new decisions and conclusions to be drawn.
At a karmic level, what mercury retrograde does for us is offer up old karmic blocks to be revisited and to be cleansed – through seeing them in a different light. Each and every one of us are energetic beings experiencing our own karmic journey, and the inverse flow of Mercury Retrograde gives us opportunity for old energy blocks to be identified and removed.
Another natural purpose of the Mercury Retrograde cycle is for the left brain, or logical mind, to take a break after working so furiously during the direct cycle. This period allows us respite, to digest the information we have gathered since the last Mercury Retrograde into our intuitive aspect of our awareness.
Can you remember when you studied for an exam? The process of gathering information (Gemini) is the natural state of Mercury direct. But our nature is cyclical, and this kind of direct motion can’t go on forever. It is only once you sleep or take a break (Retrograde) that your brain stop gathering and digests the information, committing it to the memory of the body-mind for future use. If information is properly digested, when you sit your exam, you find yourself writing from an intuitive space. That information that becomes a part of you.
So where does the miscommunication come from?
As individuals, we tend to communicate differently during Mercury Retrograde and Mercury Direct cycles. The natural state of Mercury during those Retrograde cycles is inverted, which means that our energetic tendency can be to communicate (Mercury) less directly with our outer world, and to focus on considerations of the inner reflective (Retrograde) world. The well-known tendency toward miscommunication during Mercury Retrograde periods, and the inevitable frustrations that can bring, is the result of our pull toward introspection during that ‘exhale’ part of the information and learning cycle. Energetically speaking, Mercury Retrograde is a time to process information, not gather it, so communicating (in both directions) can be a challenge during these times. That is, unless we acknowledge the opportunity of new perspectives we are being presented.
Mercury Retrograde in the Natal Chart
So if Mercury’s function is to gather information and communicate, what does it reflect when Mercury is retrograde in your natal chart (ie. you were born during Mercury Retrograde)? It means that the way that the individual gives and receives information is directly relative to their personal evolution.
Typically the reason for this is because the soul has, in all its lifetimes, been overwhelmed by too much irrelevant information which can cause confusion (at a soul level) as to its own beliefs and what information is relevant for its journey. But with the Mercury Retrograde energy marking the soul’s birth into this incarnation, the soul is now “protected” from information that is irrelevant to itself.
This perspective can of course be difficult to individuals. The structure of the school system is largely to memorize a large set of standardized information in a certain way, so this kind of “education” will be very difficult for someone with the Mercury Retrograde energy reflected in their natal chart. They will understand things in a different way from the majority (who have Mercury Direct in their natal charts) so they will often be unable to take in the information in the “normal” way, and unable to grasp its relevance. It can be very helpful to have this understanding if you have a child with Mercury Retrograde in their birth chart, to help you allow for and support their intellectual individuation. (Mercury’s zodiac sign in their natal chart will also add further context to how this energy is felt and expressed).
I truly hope this article has offered some clarity on this astrological archetype. I am certain these kinds of detailed understandings of our interconnectedness will serve more and more useful, as we move forward along the Earth timeline and become even more and more sensitive to the energetic nuances of our cosmos.