I don’t know about you, but this past Mercury retrograde cycle was about the most intense one I can remember in recent years. It finally relinquished its grip on us this past weekend and we can all finally breathe a sigh of relief. I thought this might be a good opportunity to point out some of the reasons why this particular experience was so difficult. My hope is that this will offer you some perspective on the insights and awareness that may have emerged for you recently as well as encourage you to value these regular Mercury cycles, no matter how challenging they can be.
First, let’s make sure you have a good understanding of what retrograde motion is. It is an optical illusion created by two objects moving through space at different speeds. When one object overtakes the other, there is a change in how they will perceive each other relative to the backdrop that they are being perceived in front of. In this case, the backdrop is space itself.
There is a phenomenon that most people are familiar with right here on Earth that can help bring this concept into perspective. Have you ever been the passenger in a car and looked out at the spinning wheels of another vehicle? For a moment, the wheels might appear to be spinning backwards. This is an optical illusion (clearly, they wheels are NOT spinning backward or a horrific accident would result) created by virtue of the movement of the two cars in front of the relative stillness of the road and street beyond. While this is not exactly the same as a retrograding planet, it has some similar sensibilities that can help people come to accept the awkwardness of just what it would mean to look up at the sky and see a planet appear to move backward.
Astrology is the science of astronomy (the actual geometrical movement of heavenly bodies) combined with the art of interpreting the archetypes they represent. I suppose that is one of the reasons I love astrology so much is because it is yet another opportunity for me to flex my interpretive muscle.
Mercury is interpreted to represent communication and the mind. The backward movement of a planet is interpreted to represent the process of integration. Mercury (the mind) moves forward and collects all sorts of data and experience in its direct motion most of the time. When it moves into retrograde motion every three months or so, it is given the opportunity to integrate all of the information that has recently been collected.
During these times, life seems to pause and the mind is turned inward. When that happens, experiences in the outside world appear to be hindered, delayed and loose the sharp focus we are used to. I always experience lateness and cancellations during Mercury retrograde. It is not that I don’t experience lateness and cancellations at other times, but I imagine that during Mercury retrograde, those lateness and cancellations feel different; somehow more intense.
So, let’s take a look at this last cycle. It occurred in the sign of Aries. The Ram represents the archetype of getting things started, butting head first into any activity. When Mercury goes retrograde in this sign, the impetus to move forward is thwarted and that can cause discomfort. If that weren’t enough, guess who else was (and still is as of this writing) in Aries. Mars. Venus. Uranus. The Sun. And the New Moon of this past month was also in Aries. Holy moly! That’s a LOT of energy that wants to rush headlong into action; but it can’t because Mercury is busy making sure that time stands still while the integration process takes place.
And if THAT weren’t enough, we have the cosmic teacher, Saturn, in the opposite sign of Libra. That means all of those Aries planets are being stared down by the ruler of Kharma, who is saying, well demanding actually, that only the highest most responsible course is being taken. And Saturn means business; if you aren’t playing your absolute A game in life, he will unequivocally kick your ass to make sure the lesson is learned.
Aries/Libra is all about relationships. And not just those primary relationships like your romantic partners, but all relationships. From friends, family, loved ones, to the bus driver and the checker at the supermarket. How were you showing up to your one-on-one relationships during the last three weeks? With judgment and opinions ruling the day? Or with love and acceptance. How were you presenting yourself in the world to be mirrored by others? With your integrity in tact, or were you cutting any corners. If you were (which all of us by virtue of being human would have to be to one extent or another) you were knocked to the mat by Saturn’s stern hand.
What Saturn is really teaching us all while traveling through Libra (roughly for the past year and next year) is the lesson of the mirrored self: that there is no relationship that matters more than the one we have with the Self/Source. Every other relationship is ‘out there’, and is therefore actually a relationship with one’s own reflection, which we can only do with the consciousness we have. We are separate but we are not. We are all a reflection of the cosmic oneness.
With Saturn in opposition to Mercury, the part of our Selves that commands authenticity is face to face with the part of our selves that thinks and communicates. We may be experiencing this reflection in the form of another person, but it’s a great idea to think of that person as your reflection.
The bottom line is that once we landed in this past Sunday morning, everything about who we are and how we relate to our world changed. The journey there was more than bumpy, but if you survived it, things will never be quite the same. Here’s hoping you took advantage of all that you could to learn as much about yourself as you could. And next time Mercury goes retrograde (August 2nd) you are prepared to go inward with as much grace and ease as you can. It won’t be nearly the rocky ride this past one was, so you can breathe easy.