It’s that time again.
But it’s nothing to be afraid of. Mercury is doing that thing again where he’s like “okay, I know I usually am here to mediate your communications and make them easy and all but I’m super tired and just going to nap for a few week,” and everyone else is all “omg you’re ruining my life,” but you shouldn’t get worked up, because we can take a look at what you in particular need to be especially careful of.
There’s always a couple of things to look at when you’re trying to get a sense for what’s going to happen during a retrograde period. They are:
- the three parts of the retrograde and when they start
- the sign that the retrograde is falling in & what else is going on in the rest of zodiac around it
- where in your chart the storm is touching down
We’re going to take a look at the first few together, and then I’m going to give patrons a deeper look at number 4.
Anatomy of a retrograde
A retrograde always occurs between two points, and it goes between those two points three times. That means there’s three distinct phases of retrograde. When it begins, it’s trucking along the zodiac in a forward direction until it starts slowing down due to incoming retrograde motion. Then it hits point A, and moves backwards on the zodiac wheel. We call that point “Mercury stationing retrograde.” During this spring’s Rx cycle, that point is 4 degrees Taurus. So Mercury has been happily zipping through Pisces, then plodding through Aries, then its shoelace comes untied and it starts tripping over it in the last few degrees of Aries through Taurus, and then it faceplants right at the beginning of its journey through Taurus. And then it turns right back around and starts running backwards because it’s embarrassed or something, idk.
Point is, it stops, and reverses. And then it’s going backwards through the zodiac, clunking right over all of those points that it had just run over before. It’s going to back up to a point, finally catch its breath, and then move back over them a third time before finally clearing the retrograde and moving on normally.
That means there are three different parts to each retrograde — two “shadows” on either side, when Mercury is going over the retrograde-affected points while moving direct, plus the retrograde itself.
Here, I’ve made a low quality illustration to show you kind of what it looks like. It’s not to proper scale and all the sign symbols somehow got misaligned, but you get the idea. The “points A and B” of the retrograde are the two black lines on Mercury’s path. When he crosses the first line in forward motion, the first shadow starts. When he hits the second line, he stations retrograde and moves backwards. Then he hits the first line, stations direct, and moves forward through the second shadow. When he finally crosses the second black line, the retrograde period is over.
Shadow period 1 for this round of retrograde is already well underway. This is like the part of the horror movie when the protagonist is driving up to the house and you’re like “huh, something is totally off.” But if you stay perceptive and flexible, you can kind of deduce what’s going on. Use that to your advantage. During this time, you can kind of get a feel for what issues are going to come up later so you can prepare for them. Hopefully you haven’t started calling your exes or being deliberately passive aggressive with your friends or something else that could pressurize under full retrograde.
The retrograde itself usually feels like a very sudden slow-down in time. The station date for this period is April 9th. This is the time when you have to be the most careful and during which time the most “classically Mercury” things go down — the lost tickets, the smashed phone, sending a sext to your boss, etc. But you have to stay calm, remember — it’s during this time that you are most likely to overreact and make a situation worse before the opportunity to repair it has presented itself. That’s how Mercury retrograde gets you.
Shadow period 2 is not-quite-normal yet — the energy is still very much around. But this is the time when revelation and clarification tend to occur, and the knots start to untangle themselves. It begins when retrograde ends (May 3rd this time) and continues for several weeks until equilibrium returns (May 20th.)
Let’s talk about this retrograde’s chart.
Each sign that Mercury moves through during any part of the year, including retrograde, is going to describe some of the issues that are more likely to come up at the time.
Since we know this is an earth sign, this retrograde is going to have you taking a look at what you value. This could be material and physical or more abstractly about “your values.” Taurus rules “money-in, money-out” — basic cash flow — and our comforts. On a secondary level, it also talks about how needs and desires, based on what’s important to us.
Usually, astrologers are like “purchase nothing during Mercury retrograde” and I feel like that’s often not a fair warning. Venus tends to be the planet that rules possessions and money, so I find people tend to have more of an urge to overspend or make a bad investment during Venus’s weak periods. Welp, Venus is also retrograde right now, and additionally, the sign that Mercury is moving through is Venus-ruled, so this like the one Merc retro period for which I will wholeheartedly cosign that advice. If you need to deal with purchases or sourcing for work or another big project, it’s fine to continue the project, but be super precise about the expectations you have for the work you’re looking to get done. Any ambiguity in terms of measurements, materials and qualities, return policies — take your time and iron out the details before you do something irreversible. In an earthy sign with weakened Venus energy, you don’t want Mercury to trick you into sinking your money somewhere it shouldn’t have gone. Be extremely careful and proactive about money matters and possible scams — I know it’s scary, but check your balances regularly and frequently.
Sometimes, life happens, and you find yourself having to make a big decision during Mercury retrograde. That’s okay. This isn’t about refraining from pertinent activities, it’s a reminder to dot your i’s, cross your t’s, and keep all the receipts. I’ve signed a lease during Mercury retrograde and the effect is less “this place in an unlivable horror and I need to get out immediately” and more “wow, I needed to move suddenly and I totally should have double-checked that we included our verbal agreement about x in the written lease. I should probably talk to the landlord about that when retrograde is over.”
Because this is an earth sign, it’s also not a huge warning sign of complete technological meltdown, but it can be a time when communications that are mediated through technology suffer from petty faults. It is never a bad time to back up your data and hang on to a copy or a screenshot of something for a little longer than you might usually. It is also a time when relationships mediated online can suffer from ambiguity or miscommunication.
One last little practical thing: money. Like the other earth signs, Taurus is more deeply connected to finances and possessions than other parts of the zodiac. For that reason, expect erraticism and prepare for it by being smart. Mercury’s effects don’t always look awful, but they can be “revealed” to be disadvantageous later. If a “mercurial” person ends up getting some extra money to you out the blue, don’t rush to spend it before you know you’re secure. If you’re expecting money, remember that retrograde is a slow period, especially with Venus impaired too. Keep up on your communications and expectations of payment, but try to give yourself a budgetary cushion.
When it comes to taking on a new contract under retrograde periods, it’s very important to look at the circumstances. Taurus is a sign that’s all about groundedness, so with retrograde energy, it can feel like the ground isn’t fully rooted. You can often expect “final decisions” made under Mercury retrograde to end up reversed — often due to miscommunication issues. That’s why you always hear to be careful about jumping headfirst into something new. The exception is when you are entering a project that is a return to something you have already moved on from or abandoned. Mercury rewards looking backwards at this time, so yes, take a vacation if it’s back to a place you haven’t been in awhile, reconnect. Yes, make that call about picking up the idea you hadn’t been able to juggle six months ago if it’s feeling really right now.
Towards the end of its motion, Mercury will briefly revisit the last part of Aries. Its prior trip through this area, it got itself all tangled up in a really tough astro-dynamic called a T-square. We’ll talk about this in your personal horoscopes, but the beginning period of the retrograde is going to be all about power and personal relationships, then resolving to a clearing out of that baggage when Mercury comes back to that point. For the duration of the entire period, you could be considering dropping something important to you in exchange for something you really wanted. Be sensitive and open to the possibility that you could be misreading the motives of other people at this time, for better or worse. Don’t be naive, but don’t assume the worst.