Astrology Secrets Revealed by ERIC FRANCIS

Mercury is Always Retrograde


March 18, 2005


Hi Francis,

I'd be grateful for your insight on this. I have had nightmarish experiences with technical issues (website and email down for a week now) since Feb 28... three weeks before the retrograde actually starts. That's a very long shadow, indeed.


Does this mean that my issues will get worse from March 20-April 12??? Because I might jump off a cliff!






Hi Sabrina,

The most important thing you can do when Mercury is acting up is slow down and use your mind. One factor of Mercury retrograde is that one problem can lead to another. Another factor is that things can seem to go wrong or be broken that are not really wrong at all; it's a kind of illusion. So it really helps if we chill and, as calmly possible, assess the situation.


If I had to write a book or article on Mercury retrograde, it would be called, "Mercury is Always Retrograde." Mercury is the Trickster, and it's always playing games. These games are just a little harder to take during the retrograde, and that may have as much to do with our experience and perception as it has to do with what's going on. Mercury is after all the planet of the MIND.


It's retrograde three times a year for about three weeks, when it passes between the Earth and the Sun. Mercury moves faster than the Earth; so when it 'laps' us, that's the retrograde. Part of the effect may come from the simple fact that Mercury is close to us during the retrograde; all retrograde planets are closer to the Earth than direct ones. It's like we get their full-on energy, not deflected by the Sun.


During these phases, Mercury appears to be moving backwards, which is a visual illusion (that you cannot see, as Mercury is too close to the Sun to be visible during the retrograde), much the same as sitting on a train that's going slightly slower than the train outside the window, and you, or it, or something feels like it's in reverse.


Mercury retrograde is an illusion; but so too is the whole astrological effect, being broadcast into the larger illusion of the senses and the mind. By illusion, I don't mean 'not real' but rather borrowing great power from imagery, symbol, the imagination and the sensations of the mind. Yet there is an undeniable energetic factor; we may not be able to measure the energy, but we can observe it.


First I'll explain the definition of 'Mercury shadow' for those readers who might not be familiar with the term, which is a sub-topic of Mercury Retrograde. This term, as I understand it, was either devised or made popular by a very talented astrologer named Jim Shawvan. In any event he has done much to enhance our understanding of this phenomenon, but through all astrology, one must get the real lessons through experience and observation.


Astrologers measure the positions of the planets in degrees of longitude. The currently developing Mercury retrograde begins at 14 degrees of Aries and 5 arc minutes (i.e., in the 15th degree of that sign). Mercury holds something close to that position for about a week on either side of the exact station, on March 20, and then moves back to 1 degree and 45 minutes of Aries (i.e., in the 2nd degree), where it turns direct on April 12.


Before Mercury goes retrograde, it crosses that range of degrees moving in direct motion; then it stops and crosses them again (retrograde) and then it stops and crosses them a third time (in direct motion). Those first and third crossings are called 'Mercury shadow'. Shadow seems like a strange word. I don't know of a better one. But the definition of shadow phase is, "Any time Mercury is in the degrees of the retrograde, but moving direct."


When Mercury crosses into new territory, it has left shadow, and this phase lasts two months. Here is a little calendar that will list out the dates for you (as well as for the less-frequent Venus and Mars retrogrades that are coming later in the year).


In the week or so surrounding the exact station, we have what is called the 'Mercury storm'. These are times to be particularly aware and careful, as a very rapid shift of energy is taking place -- Mercury is changing directions faster than any planet could ever dream of. This shift can be put to good use, but it can also be catastrophic, so you need to be careful and conscious and play cautiously at first.


Now, to get to the point of your question, you're describing something that occurred long before the most recent Mercury shadow began, which I noticed as well. Everything has been a little weird since Mercury got to Pisces on Feb 17. Then it left Pisces March 5, crossed over the Aries point (big conjunction) and entered the shadow phase the same day. Mercury in Pisces can be pretty gosh darned freaking weird. Meaningful, but weird.


Now, let's be real here. Mercury is not known as the Trickster for nothing. Working with this energy is one of the most basic tactical field skills of an astrologer. We all have a lot to learn. Not everything goes wrong when Mercury is retrograde. Certain things go wrong and you're glad they did, because they flushed out the weakness in the system. Sometimes you find out something really, really interesting when Mercury goes retrograde. Sometimes you buy a top-end Marantz D4 portable taping unit during Mercury retrograde, it works pretty good, and then one day eight years later it disappears into thin air -- poof. I have a lot of Mercury retrograde stories and I am sure you do too. If you have any, please send them into the question email address; I will collect them for this column and for an article or other project called 'Mercury is Always Retrograde'.


Which it isn't, but hey what's a little joke between Tricksters.


And I do agree with the prevailing wisdom: hold off on signing major contracts unless you have to; and further, if you're rushing to get it done by the exact station retrograde, it probably doesn't need to get done early anyway, and you might have to do it twice. Mercury retrograde counsels patience, which is the last thing you might be able to muster -- but it will be worth it in the end. And as St. Augustine or someone said, "The reward of patience is more patience," but try telling that to an Aries!