Mercury retrograde can actually be a rewarding and productive time!

By exploring Mercury’s cycle, insight and guidance is revealed, that helps illustrate how to navigate the times Mercury is retrograde – favourably and effectively.

Mercury retrograde is a time generally characterised quite negatively – some dread, or even fear it. But let’s be honest and realistic, the same blunders and errors can show up when Mercury is direct! The main difference is that whilst retrograde, Mercury has eased up on setting a speedy pace for our outer communications – and is encouraging us to venture into our inner landscapes. Our minds easily drift, dreams are vivid, random thoughts or memories pop up, we dwell on things in our minds, experimenting with differing outcomes – if onlys – but this can actually be constructive and positive!

Mercury’s Characteristics

Mercury is a personal planet whose influence impacts all areas of our worlds, inner and outer. Mercury is connected with gathering and communicating all types of information – through our thoughts, education, personal and work relationships, social media, the internet, phones and computers, world news. Words and language all come under Mercury’s rulership. We use words to form thoughts, that create ideas – and by sharing and expressing them something can (possibly) manifest, become real. Mercury is also about motion, how we travel and move from one place to another, our daily to-ing and fro-ing.

Mercury is the ruler of Gemini and Virgo, and the 3rd and 6th houses. Gemini and Virgo show Mercurial energy being directed and utilised in varying ways. Gemini loves conversation – being social, clever, persuasive and witty word usage. Virgo enjoys being efficient and practical, Mercury here is more disciplined, focused on details, facts and figures. The 3rd house relates to siblings, early education, short journeys, local neighbourhood, rumours and gossip, the 6th house relates to work, daily routine and rituals, health and pets.

Mercury is neutral, considered neither male or female, benefic or malific and is unconcerned with the rights or wrongs of anything – neither moral or immoral.

Mercury is best known as the messenger, but another of Mercury’s expressions is as the trickster. Both of these aspects of Mercury can be observed in action during the retrograde phase. Simplistically, the trickster just wants to get our attention, so we pause and hopefully contemplate life, and in doing so experience a personal aha moment, as the messenger conveys wisdom to us.

Besides these manifestations, Mercury also has many others, some overlooked or just skimmed over, that help us identify and absorb an enhanced sense of Mercury’s meaning and implications – along with the subtle, but complex function of Mercury’s retrograde period.

Hermes, Thoth & Nebo

In years gone by, before the Romans took over the Greek gods, Mercury was the Greek Hermes, the Babylonian Nebo and linked with the Egyptian Thoth. In the past Mercury was attached to a vast realm of attributes, not only god of communication and short journeys but additionally connected with astrology, alchemy, magic, medicine, mathematics, trade and commerce, monetary transactions, and as Mercury is amoral – thieves, criminals and fraudsters.

The Greeks told how Mercury was given the caduceus – a staff with two snakes entwined around it topped with wings – and the role of psychopomp, the guide of souls between this world and the next by his half-brother, the sun god Apollo. Mercury could travel freely between the worlds to deliver messages – heaven, earth and the underworld – and is therefore associated with boundaries, crossroads and transitional states.

The Mercury retrograde period is a transitional state, the present converges with the past. We are on the verge of connecting with – whether we recognise it or not – divine or higher awareness of something personally significant.


The tarot card correlated with Mercury is ‘The Magician.’ The Rider-Waite-Smith card depicts the Magician with a wand pointing towards the sky, suggesting he connects the heavens to the worldly. A reminder of the Hermetic maxim, “As Above, So Below.” On the table in front of the Magician are all the suits of the tarot, representing the elements and all the tools that he needs. A pentacle – earth, a cup – water, a sword -air, and a wand – fire. Above his head is a lemniscate sign, symbolising eternity and infinite possibilities.

The Magician channels divine, spiritual knowledge and energy, to create through a subtle blending of ideas, words and action – magic, an ability to manifest his own reality. The Magician can create heaven on earth. The Magician shows the power of the mind – used consciously with intent and focus, mind, is more powerful than matter.

Mercury Retrograde

Mercury retrograde is generally anticipated to be a time when Mercury as the trickster is at work. Communication mishaps – everything from embarrassing to vanishing ones – travel woes, along with electronic or mechanical failures, are all possible. Even if nothing befalls us personally, we will likely hear about someone’s drama! But all the muddles and mayhem Mercury as trickster brings forth, when unravelled, contain valuable information, knowledge, and lessons. Either relating to the present, or featuring a return to the past to reunite with a thread linked with our future – but then again – it could also focus on insight to help reconcile and heal events that occurred in the past.

So, with Mercury being such an integral part of life, running into turbulence in Mercury ruled spheres can cause havoc, and disruption, to interrupt and disturb our habitual modus operandi – Hello Mercury retrograde! If Mercury plays a prank on you, just try to smile and calmly resolve it. Getting het up or flustered won’t change it and will possibly make it worse!

Mercury retrograde typically happens 3, but sometimes, 4 times a year. It’s a routine part of Mercury’s cycle. Retrograde comes from the Latin word retrogradus, and literally means “backward step”,  which in a nutshell describes the Mercury retrograde span, as for sure somewhere we will all take a step back. Everything will be, and feel fluid, rather than fixed – a review, rethink or redo may prove necessary. Awareness of this, factoring it into our approach to life, means it is less of a problem – we know adjustments may occur.

Flammarion Woodcut

At the crux of Mercury retrograde is that Mercury is mind – our thoughts and memories, our logic, how we reason, learn, analyse, process and share information. Mercury retrograde interrupts and alters the flow of energy inwards. Encountering outer disruptions is a way of jolting us out of drifting along oblivious, failing to recognise something beneficial to us. Mercury retrograde is a process that encourages and motivates us towards an internal, private scrutiny and assessment of our behaviour, actions and accustomed approach to life – currently and in the past – and this introspection can lead to valuable insights and new or improved ways of being and doing.

What’s actually occurring in the sky during Mercury Retrograde?

Mercury the same as any other retrograde planet doesn’t literally reverse and actually travel backwards, it just appears that way from our perspective on Earth. This illusion is created by the retrograde planet, in this instance Mercury, orbiting the Sun at a different speed from the Earth.

Mercury is closer to the Sun and orbits the Sun faster than the Earth. When Mercury is at it’s furthest point from the Sun, Mercury is actually travelling slowest, allowing Earth to catch up and Mercury appear to reverse.

It is also worthwhile mentioning that the inferior conjunction of the Sun and Mercury also takes place during Mercury’s retrograde phase. Mercury is never more than 28 degrees away from the Sun, and the only possible aspect they can make is the conjunction – the superior conjunction forms when Mercury is direct. The inferior conjunction is like a new Moon in the Sun-Mercury cycle, a fresh start. Sun is life, vitality, and our purpose – Mercury is mind. The inferior conjunction occurring during the retrograde phase, as we are reviewing where we are in life and how we got there, is perfect for a new start or approach in our lives. Don’t you just love how the cosmos works!!

The Mercury Retrograde Cycle

The retrograde phase of Mercury is just one part of the complete Mercury retrograde cycle. The entire cycle encompasses Mercury travelling the same degrees of the zodiac 3 times. Firstly in direct motion – known as the pre-shadow phase, then in retrograde, before again travelling forwards in direct motion – known as the post-shadow phase.

The pre-shadow phase

During the pre-shadow phase, Mercury’s initial passage of the retrograde zone beholds the personal and collective events and experiences that are unfolding. Which are – of course! – likely to contribute, or offer an idea, of the themes on the horizon for the retrograde phase.

The retrograde phase

The retrograde phase sees the commencement of an outer reveal and inner review; of the results, or consequences, that may arise from overlooking details, making wrong assumptions and generally being unaware, or inattentive, to exactly how, or what, we communicate to others or the world at large. Understandably, this may induce feelings of confusion, anxiety, nervous tension and restlessness to surface within ourselves or others around us – all of us are experiencing Mercury retrograde, including our pets!

The inferior conjunction of the Sun and Mercury & Mercury Cazimi

The inferior conjunction of the Sun and Mercury also occurs during this phase.

Traditional astrologers term a planet between zero and 17 minutes from the Sun “Cazimi” which means “In the heart of the Sun.” At this time the planet is greatly strengthened. Mercurial activities are literally sprinkled with magic during this brief period! Use this moment to focus and be decisive about your plans and intentions. If you need to sign a contract, write something important or have a crucial, candid, conversation, try and time it to coincide with Mercury Cazimi – which is approximately 3 hours either side of the exact conjunction.

The post-shadow phase

The post-shadow phase, as the dust begins to settle, eases the way to us discerning a clearer picture. This enables clarity and insight to come to light. Mercury as the messenger delivering information, something we need to learn and comprehend, that will assist us as we navigate the twists and turns of life. We may need to let go of something, but equally we may need to return to, or bring back something into our lives.

Natal Influences

If Mercury retrograde hits a natal planet or angle, especially when Mercury is stationary retrograde or direct, the affect will be more conspicuous and significant.

But – If you have Mercury retrograde in your natal chart, you are naturally in tune with the energy. So, it can actually be a time when everything seems to flow and life goes more smoothly.

Things to do while Mercury is retrograde

Do some soul-searching, get lost in your thoughts, consider where you are in life now and assess where you would like to be. Try to evaluate how you reached this point, in what ways you trip up or help yourself out. What can you put in motion now to move towards your goals? What have you overlooked? It’s a good time to research and gather information.

While Mercury is retrograde, try to align with the energy, take your time and do things at a slower pace. Whatever happens in the outer world, try to stay relaxed, breathe and trust your inner wisdom.

Remember – that the time when Mercury is retrograde – featuring the inferior conjunction of the Sun and Mercury – is about a new start or approach to life. Take time to plan out your aims and future actions, then when Mercury is direct  – get going!


Top Image from Unsplash by Ashley Batz

Mercurius Trismegistus from Wikimedia Commons

The Magician from The Aquatic Tarot

Dreamcatcher Image from Unsplash by Andreas Wagner

Caduceus Image from Unsplash by Anne Nygard




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