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What Happens During a Mercury Retrograde?

Mercury retrograde is one phase of Mercury’s cycle/orbit around the Sun. During this time, Mercury slows down and appears to be moving backward in the sky from earth’s perspective. This illusion is called the apparent retrograde motion. Mercury retrogrades occur between three to four times each year.

The freeway/highway is a great analogy to use to describe the illusion that Mercury is moving backward. Imagine two cars that are driving next to each other at the same speed. Car A reduces its speed, while Car B maintains the same speed it was driving. It will appear as if Car A is moving backwards if you were also moving at the same speed as Car B or if you were actually inside of Car B.

During Mercury retrograde, Mercury’s natural energies slow down. Mercury is the planet that helps us process, transfer, and exchange information. That is why this planet is the significator of communication, commerce, trade, and mobility. When Mercury is not able to move information as quickly as it is accustomed to, Mercury loses its sharpness and attention to detail. It misses the details, it mishears and misconstrues information, thus leading to miscommunications, canceled events and meetings, business plans that fall through, and much more.

This is a period that is important for taking your time to make sure communications are clear and that there are no typos or errors in the information that is being transferred or shared. During this period, there are new insights for you to uncover that will improve upon or change the direction of an idea, project, or relationship for the better.

Before, During, & After 

There are three parts to the Mercury retrograde period. The weeks that come before Mercury stations retrograde and after Mercury stations direct is called the pre-shadow and post shadow periods, which are described below.

Pre-shadow Period
During the pre-shadow period, Mercury begins to reduce its speed as it moves direct through the zodiac. This period begins at the degree that Mercury will return back to once it completes its retrograde period. For example, if Mercury stations retrograde at 26˚ Aquarius and maintains its retrogradation up until 11˚ Aquarius, the pre-shadow phase begins when Mercury first reaches 11˚ Aquarius for the first time.

Retrograde Period
During the retrograde period, Mercury appears to be moving backward in the sky. We can also think of this as the other planets and luminaries gaining “ground” on Mercury as it continues to move at its reduced speed.

Using the example we’ve used in the pre-shadow period section, the retrograde period would occur beginning at 26˚ Aquarius and would end at 11˚ Aquarius.

One important part of this retrograde period is the inferior conjunction that Mercury makes with the Sun. Many astrologers know this as “Cazimi”, which is described as Mercury sitting upon the thrown with the King (Sun). From an astronomical perspective, this marks the beginning of Mercury’s cycle and orbit around the Sun. It is considered as the “New Mercury” and at the same time, identifies the midpoint of the retrograde period.

Post Shadow Period

During the post shadow period, Mercury begins to increase its speed and return back to normal again. The post-shadow phase begins once Mercury stations direct. This is also the degree at which the pre-shadow period began and ends at the degree at which Mercury stationed retrograde.

Using the example we’ve used in the previous sections, the post shadow begins at 11˚ Aquarius and ends at 26˚ Aquarius. 

Track the Mercury Retrograde

We can often lose track of when Mercury will go into retrograde, so as a daily reminder of Mercury’s retrograde periods, we’ve created a 2021 Mercury retrograde calendar. Purchase your Mercury Retrograde Calendar at the following link. Mercury Retrograde postcards will be available soon. 

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