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It’s one of my favorite times of year. No, not the holidays. Not the New Year. Mercury retrograde. In case you don’t know what that is, it’s a time that the planet Mercury, when observed, looks like it’s orbiting backwards. In astrology, the planet appears to travel backward through its path, retreading where it’s already gone. It’s a time that some believe, according to traditional astrological wisdom, that one should not engage in business deals, sign contracts, or travel. It’s also believed to be a time where technology may malfunction and where communication may suffer.
I love Mercury retrograde because I see so many posts blaming this messenger planet for things going wrong in people’s lives. (No one seems to speak of Mercury’s powers when he’s NOT in retrograde.) This is common thread, I think, where it’s easier to blame something outside of ourselves than to take personal responsibility and look within. Not because we’re bad people or doing it wrong, but because it is difficult to do so. And frankly, it’s convenient to have a retrograde planet on which to blame our action (or inaction).
The way I view astrology is the way I view many things in my life: it’s a tool and organization system to help me define/refine and organize my small and myopic view of the Universe. It’s a system of signs where I can easily relate one thing to another and acknowledge that all things are connected and the same, thus enabling myself to having compassion for everyone and everything. In short: the more I understand, the less I am afraid of the unknown and the less likely I am to reject it.
It’s also important to note that Mercury is not the only planet that goes retrograde. Many of the colorful orbs in our solar system (some traveling at 30,000 miles per hour, others at 80,000+) will become retrograde, some for longer lengths of time than Mercury. More infrequently, but still, other-planet-retrograde occurs. In fact, recently, we had Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto (with a spattering of Neptune and Uranus) all in retrograde at the same time. Queue a collective silence about these planets, except for Mercury. He seems to get all the blame.
But when we look at it, it makes sense why Mercury is our whipping boy/planet. Let’s pretend that Mercury only governs communication. And as humans, most of us are terrible at communicating. Awful, even. We yell at strangers over the Internet. We catcall and use racist language. We divide ourselves from others. We react instead of talk about the feelings boiling beneath — because, for some of us, discussing emotions is more terrifying than death. It’s a cultural issue, a social construction, and it’s all happening whether Mercury is in retrograde or not. Yet, He gets all the blame. Cars breaking down. Mercury Rx. Computer malfunction. Mercury Rx. Email won’t send. Mercury Rx. Fights with spouses, friends, bosses, and significant others. Mercury Rx. We forget that we haven’t had an oil change in a year. We forget all that porn (and malware) we downloaded over summer break. We forget to check the mail settings on our smart phone. We forget (or don’t realize) that we never actually learned how to communicate effectively in the first place — especially when it comes to emo stuff. We’re taught (and maybe even prefer) to suppress our emotions rather than feel them.
You might be delighted to learn that Mercury can be used on an archetypal level, to smooth some of these things out. By forming a relationship with this planet on a psychological level, we can increase awareness of so many aspects of life that we fear will get fucked by Mercury’s backward motion. Putting conscious focus on communication will ultimately force me to improve my skills. Paying conscious attention to technology will help me identify potential risks and errors before they end up getting in my way. And making strong intentions to practice mindfulness each day will ultimately enable me to feel instead of react.
Mercury can be a reliable ally in your life. Even if you believe that astrology is a bunch of bullshit, this archetype is a powerful tool. Mercury is our Messenger — no wonder we collectively “shoot” him each time retrograde rolls around.
This is my challenge to you, the reader. If you buy into the whole astrology thing, please, dig a little deeper into what Mercury can mean to you. Find out in what house and sign Mercury is located in your astrological chart. Develop a relationship (a healthy one) with this planet. Read more about what astrological signs it rules, how it got its name, the Mythology behind the God Mercury, and its patterns in the sky.
For those of you that aren’t into that astrology stuff, perhaps meditate on the archetype that Mercury inspires, and then laugh at the rest of us. Learn about the planet and why ancient astrologers chose it to “govern” so many important parts of life. Exchange with it — even if you sneer at the woo-woo stuff — and see what happens.
Mercury retrograde is nothing to fear. It’s a time to refine the way we communicate and show us various areas in which we might be disconnected. It’s a time to take personal responsibility for the way we communicate. We don’t need to shuck that responsibility onto our solar system. Let’s clean up our act instead.
This post was originally written in Dec. 2016