Michael Barwick


Insight for Every Purpose under Heaven

Mercury is Retrograde until November 10th

Mercury the Winged MessengerMercury retrograde is a notorious STAR, as in celebrity.

Almost as well known as the sun signs is Astrology’s Murphy’s Law: if anything can go wrong it will when Mercury is retrograde!

We now know that planets do not in fact go retrograde; it is an effect produced by the different speeds of the earth and the planet appearing to retrograde.

But astrology is a discipline of experience: what is actually seen from the surface of planet Earth. This perspective is embedded into our language. We do not say that the earth turns to the east so that the Sun comes into view. Instead we more simply say the Sun rises.

Mercury Symbolism

Astrology is a symbolic language.

A symbol is not something that represents something else; a symbol is something that suggests or infers whole categories of phenomena.

All symbols have positive and negative meanings:

  • Mercury retrograde is a symbol like all the others and it is our culture that makes Mercury Retrograde a bad thing.

Mercury Retrograde gets a lot of play but funny thing, Mercury the planet gets short shrift in Astrology. All the other planets are much more interesting:

  • Sun and Moon never go retrograde and appear as disks.
  • Venus and Mars symbolize sexy sexuality.
  • Jupiter is the Santa Claus of the planetary pantheon.
  • Saturn has its rings (the official planet!) and is so serious a heavenly body it can’t be ignored.

And then there’s the outer planets who are all so fascinating in the same textbook of modern astrology, it’s relatively common to find pages and pages written about each of the Outer Planets when there’s only a paragraph or two about Mercury.

And if it’s not Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, it’s the great bodies beyond (Chiron, the Centaurs, Sedna and now Eris)…

Mercury is always the odd one out.

The planet Mercury is difficult to see due to its proximity to the Sun and it’s easy to forget how important a symbol he is. Fish in the sea do not see the water; we at the bottom of earth’s atmosphere somehow do not realize the air that is one of the manifestations of Mercury.

Mercury Keywords

Mercury’s keywords include:

  • Mind
  • Thought
  • Communication
  • Connection
  • Messenger god (Babylonian, Greek and Roman pantheons)
  • Words and language: to give and receive information
  • Intelligence and reasoning capabilities: to make sense of, to grasp, and to perceive.
  • The perception of the relationships between things, situations and people
  • That which articulates the primary creative energy and renders it intelligible: Mercury is the Sun’s Moon.

Classically, Mercury is the ruler of commerce, not Venus and considered as the ruler of divination, eloquence, fingers/hand, grains, madness, secret knowledge, speech, windy weather and writings.

Professions (from Classical Astrology as per William Lilly):

“He generally signifies all literated men, Philosophers, Mathematicians, Astrologians, Merchants, Secretaries, Scriveners, Diviners, Sculptors, Poets, Orators, Advocates, School-masters, Stationers, Printers, Exchangers of Money, Atturneys, Emperours, Embassadours, Commissioners, Clerks, Artificers, generally Accomptants, Solicitors, sometimes Theeves, pratling muddy Ministers, busie Sectaries, and they unlearned; Gramarians, Taylors, Carriers, Messengers, Foot-men, Userers.”

Mercury is the god of connections: for any two things to meet and an exchange to occur, Mercury must be involved.

There would be no aspects in astrology without Mercury: no communication to convey the energies between bodies means no relationship between them.

The Mercury connection depends on a simple translation: conveying a message from its sender to its intended recipient. The receiver of the message, the message itself and how it gets there all belong to Mercury!

The Mercury Retrograde Cycle

Mercury goes retrograde more than any other planet.

The orbits of both Mercury and the Earth guarantee at least three and sometimes four Mercury retrograde cycles each year.

This cycle means that Mercury typically retrogrades through signs of the same element in each of its retrograde periods.

Mercury retrograde periods move forward through the zodiac.

The stages of the Mercury retrograde cycle is as follows:

1. Mercury is direct meaning that it appears to be moving counter-clockwise through the signs of the zodiac. Only the Moon travels faster

2. Three weeks before Mercury goes backwards or retrograde, it enters that area of the zodiac it will retrograde over (its next Mercury Direct station). This is Mercury entering the “shadow” of the retrograde. From here on in, Mercury will be travelling the territory that it will cross three times: first direct, then retrograde, then direct again.

3. Three weeks pass, Mercury turns retrograde and the Mercury Retrograde station occurs. Mercury appears to stop in the sky and begins to go backwards. Mercury is travelling over territory that it travelled before going retrograde. This station begins the literal Mercury-is-retrograde stage.

4. Three weeks after that, Mercury reaches the position where it “entered the shadow”; here it stops and begins to move forward again. This is called the Mercury Direct station. The retrograde period ends but Mercury is considered to be in the shadow, called by some the “echo” stage because of the territory it still has to cross for the third time.

5. It takes another three week period to get to the degree where the Mercury Retrograde station occurred.

So completes the Mercury Retrograde cycle; it will happen again in the sign(s) a little more than 120 degrees away approximately four months later.

Little known fact about Mercury Retrograde cycles: they repeat almost exactly every 79 years.

79 years from the crash of 2008 is 1929: Mercury was not retrograde for the great crash but it had completed a retrograde cycle in pretty much the same degrees as the Mercury retrograde cycle just before the crash. October 29 occurred during the echo phase of the Mercury Retrograde cycle.

Consider the following:
3 weeks before the retrograde + 3 weeks retrograde + 3 weeks after the retrograde X 3 times per year equals approximately 27 weeks! As there’s only 52 weeks in a year, Mercury is either preparing for, recovering from or actually in a retrograde period! It’s a wonder anything goes right!

What Does it Mean?

  • Personal misunderstandings;
  • Flawed, disrupted, or delayed communications, negotiations and trade
  • Glitches and breakdowns with phones, computers, cars, buses, and trains
  • Re-everything: re-think, re-evaluate, re-do, re-work, re-schedule
  • All of these problems often result from some crucial piece of information, or fundamental component, has gone astray or awry.
  • The God of Connections has changed direction. Some dependable connections are lost, temporary or otherwise. Other connections are restored or discovered.
  • The delicate relationships between the sender of a message, the recipient of the message and the message itself destabilize. I call it the Great Unravelling – things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.
  • Our world expects Mercury to be like Sun & Moon and go only forwards through the zodiac, to be a luminary not merely a planet.

Mercury Retrograde Stories

Can only tell you what I’ve seen and experienced or what I’ve heard other people experienced…

If I had $10 for every appointment I’ve had to re-schedule under Mercury Retrograde, I’d probably be able to at least buy everybody lunch.

When I first studied Astrology, I was an office worker so I’d watch Mercury’s retrograde transit with fascination: it would seem that critical systems would go down, key secretaries would become ill and mail would go astray or strange mail would find its way to me. Of all the faxes I ever sent, I was only asked to fax material to a fax machine that wasn’t even hooked up under Mercury Retrograde.

Once upon a time long ago, I was also the Editor of Midheaven. This was in the days before the Internet: we had to get a paper copy of the newsletter mailed to the membership so that they would know what events were happening with the group. The details of what happened are a little vague to me but there was a dispute regarding how to mail the newsletter: I said we should put it in an envelope and put an address and stamp on it whereas the President at the time said no, we could just fold it over, staple it put a stamp and address on it and mail it.

Mercury was retrograde – you can guess what happened. All the newsletters were rejected by Canada Post and were returned to our corporate mailbox address. I can’t remember what we did about it but the President put the same newsletters into the mail at the next retrograde cycle and Canada Post delivered them, much to the confusion of their recipients.

On November 7, 2000 at 9:29 PM, Mercury stationed direct at 29Li56, the last degree of Libra. It just happened to be the day of an election in the U.S.A.

Election of 2000 – Florida & Mercury Retrograde

At approximately 7:50 p.m. EST on election day, 70 minutes before the polls closed in the largely-Republican Florida panhandle, which is in the Central time zone, some television news networks declared that Gore had carried Florida’s 25 electoral votes. They based this prediction substantially on exit polls. However, in the actual vote tally Bush began to take a wide lead early in Florida, and by 10 p.m. EST those networks had retracted that prediction and placed Florida back into the “undecided” column. At approximately 2:30 am, with some 85% of the votes counted in Florida and Bush leading Gore by more than 100,000 votes, the networks declared that Bush had carried Florida and therefore had been elected President. However, most of the remaining votes to be counted in Florida were located in three heavily-Democratic counties – Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach – and as their votes were reported Gore began to gain on Bush. By 4:30 am, after all votes were counted, Gore had narrowed Bush’s margin to just over 2,000 votes, and the networks retracted their predictions that Bush had won Florida and the presidency, then calling the race “too close to call”.

Gore, who had privately conceded the election to Bush, now withdrew his concession and announced that he would wait for a recount in Florida before any further action. After the first recount by the morning of Wednesday, November 8 Bush’s margin in Florida had dwindled to about 500 votes, narrow enough to trigger a mandatory recount in that state. In addition, Gore asked for hand recounts in four counties (Broward, Miami Dade, Palm Beach, and Volusia), as provided under Florida state law. This set into motion a series of recounts (portions by machine, and portions by hand), questions about portions of the Florida vote, and finally lawsuits.

These ultimately resulted in a December 12 seven to two United States Supreme Court decision stating that the Florida Supreme Court’s plan for recounting ballots was unconstitutional, as well as a 5-4 United States Supreme Court decision that ended the Florida recounts and allowed Florida to certify its vote. The vote was certified according to Florida state election law by Katherine Harris, the Republican Secretary of State who had been the Florida co-chair of Bush’s campaign. And the rest of course is history: George W. Bush was the president of the United States for eight years.

Top Seven Ways to Thrive Under Mercury Retrograde

7. Slow down! A little solitude and quiet reflection never hurt anybody.

6. Give yourself more time for everything.

5. Take advantage of encountering people from your past.

4. Avoid making important decisions while Mercury is retrograde — most things can be put off for three weeks.

3. Avoid signing legal documents. If you have to sign something or make a decision when Mercury is retrograde, be prepared for the fact that it is not the end of the matter.

2. Avoid starting new things — attend to old things not done.

1. As Mercury retrograde represents a time of sifting through the past, take advantage of any new insights and intuitions that emerge from your unconscious mind.