Mercury Retrogrades of 2018

Agent Ei – Andrew Smith, images Julija Simas

Mercury Retrograde  2018


Mercury retrograde  has 3 loops for  2018m usually we anticipate eagerly warnings concerning signing documents; losing keys; data disappearing into the cloud; electricity outages; communications mishaps and delays?

But is the purpose of this thrice annual cycle to frustrate and annoy you? Is it solely about negative things happening? If so, are these increased challenges the sole domain of Mercury approaching his Inferior Conjunction with the Sun? If a planet in apparent reverse creates mayhem and strife with your gadgets and hinders your ability to sign anything legally binding, then does the rarity of Venus reverse create more challenges in your social life?; Mars with your sex life?; Jupiter with your weight; and Saturn with your skin?

Simply stated, a planet being Retrograde is merely but one phase of an overall process during the ‘life cycle’ of a planetary archetype. Moreover, Mercury is neither the most, nor the least, frequent retrograde planet in our solar system. Those honours go to Pluto and Venus respectively.

So why is Mercury Retrograde so commonly spoken of in negative and fearful terms? Has it got something to do with Mercury’s symbolic connection with the media and communication in general that we ‘notice’ it more? Perhaps it is easier to fathom the internalisation of thought (Mercury Retrograde) as opposed to the internalisation of your ability to metamorphosize (Pluto Retrograde)! Mercury, after all, is technically visible in our skies, whereas Pluto is not visible without the aid of a powerful telescope, therefore suggesting to astrologers that its archetype belongs to the realm of the transpersonal and not personal. Who knows? The one thing is clear though, the silly season is upon us!

Rather than focusing on events that could happen to you, I would like to explain what is actually taking place within consciousness during a Mercurial Retrograde Period, so that you can understand what process is actually invoked during this cycle.

The Mercurial Planetary Archetype

First and foremost what does the astrological Mercury mean?

Mercury symbolises all the facets of life experience that enables you to communicate, process, receive and assimilate information. It reflects a naturally proactive busy-ness and therefore symbolically indicates the manner in which you rationally think and exchange information with the world around you, so you can make sense of the world!

All modes of communication fall under the symbolism of Mercury; not just verbal discourse, but non-verbal signs and significations as well. The essence of Mercury, however, resides not in the particular language system but rather in the impulse to communicate, through whatever method. For this reason, Mercury also reflects the learning of technique (a sort of language system), through which skills may be expressed (a form of communication). An example might be a carpenter who has mastered the “language” of carpentry: using various tools (its alphabet) he expresses himself (communicates) through the making of a table (his statement; discourse). His orderly, logical approach, based upon learned skills, techniques and the careful observation of data (e.g., measurement of width, height, volume of wood, etc.), also involves the essential Mercury principle of assessing data (measurements and assessments gained through the handling of materials) and expressing ideas (his design or blueprint).

The placement of Mercury in your birth chart indicates the particular style of communication in which you excel and through which you experience your greatest proficiency in communicating. It reveals how you think, process, assess, acknowledge, learn, speak, write and study. How and what you perceive is linked to the mode and element in which Mercury is placed, so too the way in which you filter the information collected from the outer world. Mercury plays a big role in what we call interesting and it describes the extent in which we are able to assimilate information and learn.

By and large we tend to view Mercury in terms of its fast orbital speed – quick, sharp and incisive. However this is not strictly speaking true. There are times wherein our thought process is more reflective and internal and there are those who are born without a strong desire to externalise their thought process, preferring to listen to their vibrant inner voice.

Mercury Retrograde Cycle

Retrogradation is the period of time during which a planet appears to be moving backwards against the backdrop of the stars, as seen from Earth. Mercury’s reverse motion takes place every 116 days or so. Alternating in intervals between two different types of conjunction of 6 and 10 weeks respectively, Mercury makes his greatest elongation above the horizon in the Western evening sky about a week before turning retrograde. As he disappears into the beams of the Sun, disappearing from view, Mercury eventually passes over the face of the Sun (or at very least returns to the same zodiacal degree of the Sun) synergising with it as it forms an inferior conjunction. The replenishment that naturally takes place when anyone takes time for themselves arises when Mercury re-joins the Sun and fuses with the Light Source at the mid-point of the retrograde cycle. The fusion of these two planetary archetypes symbolises the replenishment, renewal and the ultimate re-birthing of Mind, which is really what is at the heart of this cycle.

Mercury then moves ahead of the Sun and eventually makes his first visual appearance (heliacal rising) in the Eastern morning sky. This is followed by another turn of direction (this time direct), and as his apparent velocity matches that of the Sun some days after this turning Mercury is once again at his furthest distance from the Sun. This is when he appears at his highest point above the horizon in the morning skies.

The Emotional Meaning of Mercury Retrograde

In psycho-spiritual terms it refers to an internalisation of the planetary archetype in question. In the same way that it makes sense to take a reflective break every couple of hours so your mind and concentration can remain sharp, after all it is impossible to mentally keep going without an occasional pause, the Mercurial Retrograde Period is a time within our collective thought process wherein our minds are naturally slowed, internalised and therefore more reflective and imaginative. 

Yet a Mercurial Retrograde time is not about spending the entire time daydreaming and meditating either! There are two differing processes at work during this cycle, all hinging around the alignment, or conjunction, of Mercury with the Sun, a time when there is a replenishment of your mind. In the weeks leading up to this fertilization, your mind is increasingly reflective and in release mode, as you prepare to let go any ideals that no longer serve you, or as you start to more actively review the quality of, and relationship to that part of, your consciousness related to the sign that Mercury will retrograde within. As Mercury turns Retrograde, this process intensifies, or at very least becomes a more pressing theme. As Mercury moves in the Vault of Light and is swallowed up by the Light of the Sun, a week or so before this conjunction, your mind is literally washed of all past themes associated with the sign of the union. This is an ideal time for release work and also for starting to envision the ideal that you want to plant as Sol and Mercurius unite.

The time after this union starts a two month phase of mental proactivity as that ideal you have set yourself gradually grows in your life, leading to its blossoming as Mercury and the Sun reunite, but this time in a more proactive and yang manner during what is called a Superior Conjunction. This second alignment is not very commonly written about within astrology, yet it is a time when the implications of the ideal planted during the Sol-Mercury union during the Retrograde, is realised.

For a period of about a week after the Union, Mercury is still moving across the face of the Sun and is therefore largely unconscious. Yet a feeling of dynamism has started to infiltrate your consciousness, as you can ‘sense’ a shift in awareness and perception. However, seeing concrete manifestations of this new ideal is not likely, as you are refining the ideal and preparing to launch it. As Mercury stations and moves Direct, this is the time to go for it and having embodied the new thought, to start to live it, demonstrating it and being it!

When Mercury reaches as far above the Sun as he possibly can, around the Maximum elongation stage of the cycle, that is when you can clearly see how well the processing, refining, healing and releasing that you did during the retrograde time has been for you!

Finally, please remember that not all retrograde cycles are going to resonate strongly with you. If you happen to have planets with the range of Mercury’s sojourn, you will feel it more keenly; so too if you are born with Mercury in retrograde. However, some of those retrogrades will do nothing for you. To understand its impact on your life, you can book a session with an astrologer who will guide you on a personal journey of your personal retrogradations!