Friday, July 13, 2012

Mercury Retrograde (July 14-15, 2012 – August 7-8, 2012)

[16th century engraving by Hans Sebald Beham, with Mercury and the two
zodiac signs Virgo and Gemini]

(July 14-15, 2012 – August 7-8, 2012)

The dates for this Mercury retrograde depend on your timezone. It turns retrograde on July 15th GMT but July 14th for EST (Eastern) and PDT (Pacific). It turns direct on August 8th GMT and EST (Eastern) but August 7th for PDT (Pacific).

What happens when a planet goes retrograde?

Retrograde comes from the Latin retrogradus, “to move or step backwards”. A retrograde planet slows to a stop, moves backwards, and then slows to a stop again, to correct its motion. These changes are actually an optical illusion created by differences in the relative orbital speeds of Earth and the other planet involved. Mercury goes retrograde three or four times a year, for approximately three and a half weeks.

Why do we experience retrograde themes beyond these dates?

A retrograde planet not only goes in reverse, it slows to a stop twice, called a station, and remains slower moving. These standing periods, and the extremely slow motion that precede and follow them, are often the strongest part of the retrograde cycle. The dates above are unintentionally deceptive because they only represent the backwards portion. Slow and motionless planets are potent, because they stay at a degree longer than normal, making their aspects stronger.

[Mercury's changing speed in minutes (') for its July 2012 retrograde.
Its speed is a relative indicator of its strength.]

Mercury's average daily speed is 59' 8”, just under 1º. Almost two weeks before it turns backward, it begins to fall below that. The dates around the motionless stations are exceptionally slow. By the middle of the retrograde, the planet has picked up some speed, but is still about 3/5 its average.

How long can we actually experience this retrograde then?

[The triple pass of Mercury through the same part of space.]

June 27th, 2012: Mercury crosses the degree where it will eventually turn direct, 1º Leo 26'. Mercurial themes can already begin, especially when closer to the retrograde station. The planet slows to a stop, before changing direction.

July 14th – July 15th, 2012: Retrograde Station at 12º Leo 33', 2:16 GMT, 7:16 PM EST. Mercury appears to stop, then moves backwards. It stations approximately three days, July 13th – July 15th or July 14th – July 16th.

July 29th, 2012: Mercury's Inferior Conjunction with the Sun. The middle of Mercury retrograde and its fastest speed.

August 7th – August 8th, 2012: Direct Station at 1º Leo 26'. Mercury appears to stop, then corrects its motion. It stations approximately three days, August 6th – August 8th or August 7th – August 9th.

August 22nd, 2012: Mercury crosses the degree where it turned retrograde, 12º Leo 33'. Mercury themes can continue, especially when closer to the direct station. The planet remains slow, after changing direction.


"She [Maia] bare a son [Hermes], of many shifts, blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle rustler, a bringer of dreams, a watcher by night, a thief at the gates."
~Homeric Hymn to Hermes~

Isn't retrograde bad?

Retrograde is a buzz word with lots of fear unnecessarily projected on it. When a planet turns retrograde, it gets close, bright, and makes a loop in the sky. The retrograde planet highlights certain areas of life, just like it appears to circle parts of the sky. A backwards planet is extremely strong, things ruled by it become prominent but experience delay, disorder, or repetition. Ultimately, retrograde motion is corrective, giving us a second chance to look at the affairs of the planet.

What can be expected during Mercury retrograde?

A: THE TRICKSTER: Mercurial spiritual figures like Hermes are associated with knowledge, including the crazy wisdom of the trickster. Tricksters break the rules, usually through theft, playing pranks, or violating boundaries. Their actions can be a form of radical compassion, revealing dysfunction by highlighting, inverting, or amplifying imbalance.

(-) Situations are brought to an extreme to reveal a truth, unresolved business resurfaces, the past returns to be addressed.
(+) Breakthroughs in difficult situations, insight into repeated behavior, a new perspective finally reveals a solution. Humor, play, and encounters with the absurd restore fluidity.

B: THE UNEXPECTED AND THE HIDDEN: Since Mercury is closer to the Sun than Earth, it stays near it in the sky and retrogrades frequently. These traits make seeing the planet difficult, it is usually lost in the glare of the Sun. Many things now associated with Uranus were once qualities of Mercury, because of its unseen and changing nature: the unexpected, hidden, and reversal.

(-) Oddly repeated events, things move in unforeseen ways, complications for new projects, especially if Mercury ruled (related to communication, transportation, the mind, etc.). Things feel fated, inevitably moving towards a specific goal, or need to be repeated to come to a conclusion.
(+) Experiences of synchronicity, research yields previously hidden information, inspiration from esoteric subjects, fields of specialty knowledge, like astrology. Bargains, unusual finds, and the discovery of lost objects.

C: THE EVERYDAY AND SHORT DISTANCE TRAVEL: One reason we experience Mercury retrograde so personally is because the planet rules the everyday, from our neighborhood to our daily routine.

(-) Delay, disorder, or reversal in our daily routine, schedule, and short distance travel. Complications with technology, especially if related to transportation, communication, or machinery with moving parts, including cars.
(+) Random but beneficial encounters with friends, extended family, and business contacts. Shaking things up causes us to focus on life, not on the routine.

D: THE IN-BETWEEN: Mercury begins each retrograde as an evening star, disappears in the glare of the Sun, and reappears as a morning star. Because of this motion, many Mercurial spiritual beings like Hermes are associated with the in-between: travel (between your home and your destination), business (the exchange of goods between people), and communication (the exchange of information between people).

(-) Miscommunication, from spelling errors, missing information, and failed delivery, to misunderstanding. Delay, difficulty, or reversal in agreements, contracts, and purchases, especially if Mercury ruled (related to communication, transportation, the mind, etc.). Many people refrain from signing paperwork, purchasing mechanical things like cars, electronics, appliances, or anything related to communication like computers and telephones.
(+) An adjustment of our personal interactions with others, especially our siblings, extended family, and neighbors. Because many Mercurial spiritual beings are psychopomps in myth, guides to the recently lost, an end to grief, coming to terms with the dead, and remembrance.

D: THE MENTAL REALM: Mercury represents the mind, our thoughts, perception, and ability to process the world around us.

(-) Indecision, forgetfulness, absent mindedness. Confusion, reversal of decisions, and misperception, especially if the subject is Mercury ruled (related to communication, transportation, the mind, etc.).
(+) An adjustment of our thoughts, perceptions, and understanding. While outer communication may be complicated, creativity is high, meditation is deep, and profound ideas can surface, especially insights into the past, complex problems, and the inner workings of our minds.


Learning is like mercury [the liquid metal], one of the most powerful and excellent things in the world in skillful hands; in unskillful, the most mischievous.”
~Alexander Pope~

Where am I most likely to experience Mercury's energy?

Since Mercury is turning retrograde in Leo, we may experience its themes around creativity and the arts, love affairs and sex, children, and sources of pleasure like gifts, hobbies, and games of chance. Those with planets or points in Leo, or the zodiac signs geometrically related to it, are the most likely to be influenced.

What if I must do something Mercury related now?

We are often given advice like “Don’t sign that contract during Mercury retrograde!” Life is rarely that accommodating. If you must do something Mercury related now, honor its repetitive movement by examining it thoroughly. Things may move in an unexpected way in the future, not necessarily badly, when Mercury turns direct.

For those mostly likely influenced by this Mercury retrograde, see:

For traditional and modern planetary gemstones used to harmonize its influence, see:

For an introduction to retrograde motion, see:

© 2012, C. L. Matthews
[Image Source: Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons.  Graphs by C. L. Matthews, 2012.]

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