A retrograde cycle is when a planet appears from earth to slow to a halt and then reverse and move backward over the path it has just come for a while, then slow to a stop again and return to its normal direct motion. The planets in reality don't actually ever move backwards, but this is how we experience it from earth. Larger planets and ones farther from the sun will have less frequent yet longer retrogrades.
When a planet turns retrograde, it appears to slow to a complete stop in the sky, and then begin to move back over its own tracks, picking back up to normal speed. Anytime a planet is at a standstill whether stationing retrograde or direct, we can expect to feel its energies more intensely - stationing days are considered the trickiest to navigate during the retrograde cycle.
When Mercury, the planet of the mind and communication is retrograde, we are given the opportunity to review how we are thinking, speaking, and communicating. Typically Mercury in retrograde will slow down communications and cause delays, missed messages, and misunderstandings, showing us where we have been too quick to assume. It also can bring into our awareness our inattention to detail when important details we overlooked in contracts or agreements pop up and cause issues. Mercury in retrograde also can bring mishaps with travel plans.
There are some standard rules to heed for any Mercury retrograde, given its connection to communication, travel, and fine print, along with Mercury's reputation as "the trickster", and that the planet will be in backwards motion (as it appears to us).
Every retrograde has what is called a pre-shadow phase prior to the actual retrograde, and a post-shadow phase after. When a planet passes the degree of the sign that it will go back to and turn direct again, it is said to be in the pre-shadow. The pre-shadow is a good time to pay attention. This is the exact terrain that the planet will be going back over in retrograde and then forward over one more time in the post-shadow. The planet is going to make three passes over the area between the two degrees of the retrograde, so whatever comes up during the pre-shadow phase in your life is a good clue to what you will be working on for that retrograde. During the post-shadow, when the planet is moving forward again over the retrograde territory, answers will be revealed and problems solved.
Anytime a planet is retrograde, it is asking us to turn inward and review, reassess, rethink, rework, and remodel our current mode of thinking, being and doing. Whatever issues pop up during pre-shadow in your life are clues to the unconscious patterns or habits to which the retrograde will bring awareness. Retrogrades are an opportunity to review the part of our lives it is at work in. They allow us to see the issue, and consciously turn inward and replace old outworn ways of interacting with the world with new ones that will serve us better.
Every sign in the zodiac has an opposite sign. In astrology, as we stand here on Earth in the center, it is our task to balance those energies surrounding us. Every zodiac sign, every planet, has energies that can be expressed in higher ways or lower ways. Each has light and shadow. When a planet is in retrograde this is when we are most likely to be working with its shadow.
Mercury, known both as "the Messenger" and "the Trickster", rules both Gemini (an air sign) and Virgo (an earth sign). Through Gemini, Mercury rules communication, but also everyday interactions, commutes, community, and the way in which we interact with our everyday world - the world that's beyond our family unit but doesn't stretch past our community, neighborhood or city. Through Virgo, Mercury expresses how our mind makes sense of the world around us.
Mercury retrograde can turn our attention to its shadows so we can work with them. When working with Gemini's shadow, we may made aware of instances where we have not bothered with tedious fact-checking, and have made broad judgments and assumptions. When working with Virgo's shadow, we may be integrating the world around us in a slightly delusional way, like looking through rose-colored glasses, because we are disconnected from self, and then ungrounded, are looking into our outer environment for that, which leaves us floating and possibly disconnected from reality, instead imagining our own reality.
Mercury never travels too far from the sun, our light of consciousness) and rules the mind, thoughts, communication (speaking, writing, teaching, phone calls, emails...), everyday interaction, everyday travel, everyday money, and the way we interpret our world. With the planet's quick pace and frequent retrogrades, Mercury's retrograde cycles provide us with a perfect tool to flow with the planetary movements and use the retrogrades consciously as a time to review these areas of our lives and remodel them to our liking.
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