This week’s main event: Mercury goes retrograde for three weeks, starting on Thursday. Most of us view these periods as a nuisance, and they definitely can be. It’s hard not to complain when a planet associated with thought, communication, travel and technology is off its game. We have misunderstandings, our cars break down, planes are delayed, hard drives crash, we make questionable decisions based on poor judgment, important voicemails delete themselves—the list goes on and on. We can’t help but vent to each other, because these retrograde phases disrupt our lives in annoying ways.
But we also have to laugh. Mercury represents the trickster archetype—one of many such figures throughout mythology, including Loki, Krishna, Lilith, Eshu, Coyote and Wakdjunkaga, to name a few. Mercury’s tricks can be ridiculously exasperating, but humor is not just a distraction. It’s a way of looking at the world. The traveler planet serves as our guide to a different level of perception. Crossed wires bring us to the threshold of something new. Disorientation gives way to a liminal space where old ideas are revisited and new seeds of thought are planted. As the conscious and the unconscious commingle, creativity flowers.
Mercury takes us across the line between the conscious and unconscious, between the left and right brain, between the literal and symbolic. Trickster figures are known for transgressing boundaries. Hermes (Greek mythology’s equivalent of the Roman Mercury) was the only god who could freely enter and leave the underworld, conveying souls and escorting visitors. As James Joyce wrote in a letter to a friend, “Hermes is the god of signposts…the point at which roads parallel merge and roads contrary also. He is an accident of providence.” We all notice the things that go wrong during Mercury retrogrades, but we usually fail to see them as accidents of providence. We’re understandably provoked by the messenger planet’s tricks, but need to move past our irritation to decipher the message.
Mercury backtracks three times a year, so we’re better off trying to work with it rather than simply get through it. These phases make it possible for us to discover untouched treasure within. Carl Jung stated, “The disastrous idea that everything comes to the human soul from outside and that it is born a tabula rasa is responsible for the erroneous belief that under normal circumstances the individual is in perfect order.” Merc retro plays up the natural disorder and calls for an interior experience. Its altered rhythm often throws us off, as we’re used to the efficient regularity and external bias of the modern world. But things are trying to come to our awareness that we overlook when we’re able to direct our attention outward and engage in an environment that’s functioning smoothly.
This particular retrograde begins in Pisces—the sign of intuition, imagination and the unconscious—so we’re presented with a gateway into valuable depths.
Mercury in Pisces can be creative and clairvoyant or vague and deluded. We can perceive the unity of all life or get lost in thought, because the mind knows no bounds when the cognitive planet is in this ethereal sign. We’re more sensitive to subtle meaning, and we’re more impressionable, for better and for worse. When Mercury backs into Aquarius next week, the intellect is activated. The tone is more cerebral than sensitive. Aquarius introduces an emotionally detached perspective and original—often unconventional—thinking. This is the sign of the genius and the madman, for its idiosyncrasies can induce brilliance and craziness alike. Mercury is more at home in this mental air sign than in the emotional water sign of Pisces. You may or may not notice this shift.
Regardless, Merc won’t be operating in its normal manner in either sign during the coming weeks. So avoid buying technology and signing contracts, triple check all information, practice patience with travel and communication snafus and back up your computer. Kvetch about the inconveniences and mix-ups when you need to.
But also invite Mercury to usher you through the doorway to your unconscious. Astrologer Erin Sullivan said of retrograde phases, “The dip into the unconscious, the mysterious alchemical transformation which occurs deep in the recesses of the psyche, and the often surprising outcome, are all part of the natural two-steps-forward, one-step-back motion of retrogression.” So revel in your imagination and make note of your dreams. Wake up dormant issues from the past few months (and possibly even further back) and start to turn them over in your mind. Welcome this chance to take life in from a different angle. Strive to reach a deeper awareness. You can connect the dots more consciously after Mercury goes direct at the end of the month. For now, remain receptive instead of trying to force anything, and all will be revealed in time.
Below you can get an idea of how to work with Mercury’s retrograde motion this week. You’ll notice that verbs beginning with “re” are sprinkled throughout; during retrogression, it’s appropriate to go back over material, covering old ground rather than forging ahead. The area of your chart that Mercury is transiting determines the territory you’ll tend to revisit.
January 20–February 18
Review your money situation. Are you not dealing with something in this area? Rework your financial strategy if you need to. Reorganize your possessions or shift your relationship with material goods. Reevaluate values and priorities, and think about whether they match your life today and the person you want to be. Reflect on your self-esteem, your talents, your assets and your potential. What calls for greater awareness and perhaps healing?
February 19–March 20
Reflect on your self-image. How do you come across to people? Are you expressing your true identity? Does your style tell others who you are? Is your persona working for or against you? Review aspects of your personality that you may have neglected or repressed. Think about how you meet life. How do you approach new beginnings? What is your basic attitude toward engaging with the world, and what does your body language say?
March 21–April 19
Remember your dreams and seek their meaning. Call up the things you have pushed to the back of your head in the past three months, and give them their due now. Reflect on secrets and compulsions. Reunite with hidden aspects of yourself. Rethink your spiritual practice or beliefs. Tap into your imagination. Retreat into your own mind—and the realm of the unconscious if you can access it without much effort.
April 20–May 20
Reconnect with old friends and professional contacts. Rethink recent goals, and revise them if necessary. Reflect on your social life, the groups that you’re affiliated with and how you fit in with others. Do you surround yourself with people who share your interests and support your dreams? Contemplate your higher purpose in life and how you can serve humanity. What will it feel like when you’ve found your place in the world?
May 21–June 20
Review your accomplishments, your career path and your attitude towards authority. Reflect on your reputation and status. What kind of public recognition and reward are most important to you? What are your thoughts on where you’re at in your professional life? Where did you think you would be at this point? Look at your overall life direction and revise old goals when appropriate. Reconnect with a parent or a previous boss.
June 21–July 22
Rethink your religious beliefs, your opinions and your personal philosophy. Relearn something. Reflect on past travels and reconnect with people you met far from home. Revisit a place that’s been on your mind. Examine your outlook in the past and your outlook now. Shift your perspective. Raise your consciousness. Weed out hidden prejudices within yourself and reform them. Rewrite your vision of the future to match your current state of mind.
July 23–August 22
Probe the mysteries of your psyche like a detective. Review agreements with others—spoken and unspoken. Reevaluate contracts, loans and debt. Reflect on sexuality, mortality, trust, jealousy, intimacy, shared resources, the inner workings of close partnership and power imbalances in relationships. Remember past lovers. Revisit a research project. Investigate something you only had a superficial knowledge of in order to truly get to the bottom of it. Ruminate on intense emotions.
August 23–September 22
Recall past relationships and reconnect with people. Reflect on the state of your close connections. Consider your style of relating and how you balance “me” and “we.” Rethink the types of people that you draw into your life and the types you’re attracted to. Reevaluate your views on commitment and marriage. Reclaim the qualities of your own—both positive and negative—that you project onto others and live out through relationships.
September 23–October 22
Review your health, habits, diet, exercise regimen, skills, time management and responsibilities. Reorganize details. Rethink your job and the nature of your work. Reflect on the concepts of service and subservience. Remember previous coworkers and pets. Restructure your day. Reconnect the psyche (mind) and the soma (body.) Reevaluate your efficiency, competence and productivity. Reexamine your self-criticisms. Beginning from a place of humility, not blame, ponder self-improvement. Revisit old problems, finding new fixes.
October 23–November 21
Revise a creative project. Recall past loves and past sources of pleasure. Revivify joy. Reconsider the extent to which you are expressing your uniqueness and fulfilling your potential. Reflect on your level of personal happiness. Muse on how you convey what’s in your heart. Play with old creative ideas and your own inner child. Rediscover your romantic side. Reconnect with the spark of life within yourself. Revisit old forms of amusement and slumbering passions.
November 22–December 21
Reconnect with family and revisit past homes. Reflect on childhood memories, private emotions, ingrained patterns and ancestral heritage. Investigate your roots. Reevaluate your living situation and self-care. Muse on what gives you comfort and makes you feel safe and centered. Who are you when you’re home alone? What kind of home base is needed to support and nurture the real you? Think about how you mother yourself. Revisit feelings and soothe old pain.
December 22–January 19
Rewrite something. Reflect on sibling relationships. Look at your neighborhood with new eyes. Reexamine your ties to your environment and what community means to you. Reshuffle your habitual mindset, calling into question default modes of thinking. Mull over your communication style and how well it expresses your true thoughts. Reconsider your reactions to your own ideas. Ask yourself if you’re a good listener. Think about the filters that affect your speech, hearing and writing.