Mercury Retrograde of December/ January 2016/7

Agent Ei – Andrew Smith

Mercury Retrograde of December/ January 2016/7

19th December at 10:56 GMT to 8th January at 9:43 GMT


Mercury is about to retrograde yet again, this time for the last of four 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.

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!


Mercury Retrograde period simplified

The December – January Mercurial Process

Mercury is technically retrograde from the 19th December until the 8th January. However, if you are exploring the psycho-spiritual process related to this celestial phenomenon, there is a lead in and lead out time that extends the Mercurial Retrograde process from the 11th December through to the 19th January. This entire process refers to the time prior to the retrograde wherein Mercury is at its furthest distance from the Sun in the evening skies until the time that it ascends as far away from the Sun as he possibly can climb in the early morning skies.

The Yin stage

As the process begins, Mercury’s slide towards his embrace with the Sun is symbolically seen as a time of increasing reflection – one wherein creative and right brained transformation techniques are heightened (meditation, dream/ image-work, dance, writing, music and other divinatory/ intuitive processes). Since philosophy teaches us that your way of thinking is at the root of all your actions, as Mercury makes its Greatest Elongation in the Western sky on the 11th December, a breathing space in consciousness is created to enable you to reflect (West/ Yin) on the Reality (Mercury in Earth) that currently underlie your internal thought process. 

Yin Stillness

By the 15th December, you will feel increasingly reflective as Mercury heads into the Stillness phase. This happens to be the time when astrologers suggest NOT to sign anything (due to the fact that there is virtually no ‘apparent’ motion in the process of trading (Mercury)), yet, in terms of spiritual process, this is a phenomenal time to reflect and meditate, as your consciousness is more likely to be quieter and more receptive to your inner voice. The duration of this Stillness varies from retrograde to retrograde, with some cycles having two short stages of Stillness and other cycles the Stillness extends through the entire period. During this forth coming Retrogradation the Yin Stillness phase lasts from the 15th December until the 22nd December.


The peak of the entire retrograde process occurs when Mercury conjoins the Sun, which will take place on the 28th December at 7°J. The celestial fertilisation of the Divine Mind with the Light Source is a time appropriate for the insemination of any thought that you want to fuel your life for the next several months (until the April Retrogradation). This can be done by consciously committing your images and ideas to paper and/or taking the first step in manifesting a project.

The Yang Stage

As soon as Mercury and the Sun align, the new cycle begins. Whilst this technically is the start of the growing or Yang stage of this process, Mercury remains invisible and this symbolises the seed that you have planted getting used to the ground into it has been sown. The early shoots of your commitment made will start to show forth on the 3rd January when Mercury can be seen in the very early morning skies, just ahead of the Sun rise.

Yang Stillness

However, Mercury remains still, entering his Yang Stillness on the 4th January, ahead of changing direct on the 8th January. During this time you can feel the building excitement and urgency of getting on with it all, but yet something does not feel completely apt or right. Patience is required and caution needs to be applied to all matters Mercurial (as seen in the figure 2 above) until the 14th January.

Station Direct

Before the 14th January, Mercury’s technically ends what most believe to be his Retrograde process on the 8th January. It is at this time, Mercury is ‘seen’ to stall and change direction, returning to a forward climb through the zodiac, a climb that culminates until the 7th March when it once again conjoins the Sun, but this time as it passes behind the Sun, as opposed to in front of the Sun, as it does on the 28th December. Therefore, this proactive thought climate lasts until the 7th March enabling you to disseminate the ideas that you have planted on the 28th December, and is especially transparent as Mercury’s approaches its greatest elongation in the Eastern morning sky on the 19th January. From this date on, you are in a strong place to delineate a plan of action, make concrete and conclusive decisions, signs papers, advertise, and act upon your germinated thoughts etc. In short, the task during the post-retrograde period, from the 8th January to the 7th March is to “get it out there”.

Retrogradation in summary

Entire period – 11th December to the 19th January

Reflective and inward until the 28th December

Proactive and outward until the 7th March

Extra care when signing – 15th December to the 22nd December and the 4th January to the 14th January

Seeding of new idea – 28th December

PART TWO of this Article –  Is found HERE
Mercury retrograde in Capricorn and Sagittarius (Creating Reality and Moving Spirit), conjoined Pluto

All rights reserved. Andrew Smith, 10:28 GMT on the 4th December 2016