Mercury Retrograde – April/May 2016 – 23° Taurus- 14° Taurus
Agent EI- Andrew Smith
Mercury is about to retrograde yet again, this time for the second of three loops in 2016 and I am sure that you eagerly anticipating more 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, as seen in the bubble map below (figure 2). 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.
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All rights reserved. Andrew Smith, 13:15 BST on the 24th April 2016
 However, it is very hard to ‘see’ Mercury since his astronomical proximity to the Sun means that he rarely escapes from the Light of the Sun and therefore lies very low on the horizon at the time when it is at maximum elongation from the Sun
 In general a Stillness period happens just around the time that Mercury turns direction, (commencing when it is moving less than 40′ (minutes of arc) per day).
Just a few words about my background, I’ve been a full time professional astrologer located in the Republic of Ireland since 1995, having stumbled across astrology in my last year reading Natural Sciences in 1993, where I specialized in Geography. I’ve been blessed by the generosity of both my national and international clientele who have supported my work through referrals. Consequently, I have no website but I do have a presence on Facebook and my client orientated newsletter is carried on numerous websites.
Aside from my client focused work, I have worked for many years within the corporate world as an astrologer, although I have recently moved away from this side of my professional practise. I run weekly classes and monthly workshops (for non-astrologers) in Ireland, and was invited to edit and produce the book Transpersonal Astrology: Explorations at the Frontier, by Eric Meyers and Armand Diaz. I have been previously published in the Astrological Journal and am the feature writer for Positive Life Magazine, a quarterly holistic magazine in Ireland and on the web.
If I was to describe my work for other astrologers, I would be a humanistic, psycho-spiritually orientated in my practice. My focus within my practice is to support the spiritual and psychological growth of my clients by helping them understand their choices and energetic patterns imbued within the fabric of their being. The merging of both space and time are central focal points of my work and astro-cartography, the focus of my talk on this forum, is a perspective that I see as essential in understanding the process of growth within this plane of consciousness.