Three times a year, Mercury goes into Retrograde. This means it appears to be moving backwards. It will be this way for approximately three weeks before moving forward again.
The dates for 2015 are January 21st - February 11th; May 18th/19th - June 11th; and September 17th - October 9th.
To truly understand Mercury Retrograde, it is important to first understand Mercury - both the God and the astrology around the planet named for the God.
Mercury the God
Mercury, or Hermes in the Greek pantheon is a messenger of the Gods. He is a busy, constantly moving carrier of communications. At the same time He is a Trickster, a notorious liar, cheat and thief who gets away with it through smooth talking. He is often equated with Loki, Coyote and Maui. Generally though, His mischief is well-deserved and trips you up when you have lied, exaggerated or been overly proud.
Mercury in Astrology
In Astrology, Mercury's role is very similar. Mercury carries the thoughts and dreams of the other planets and it's own individual affect can be hard to pinpoint. Jungian astrologer Alice O. Howell describes Mercury's role another way: "If you contemplate one of your sneakers, the eyelet holes would be the planets, and Mercury would be the shoelace criss-crossing and binding the shoe together."
According to some astrologers, whichever house Mercury occupies is the one that most dominates our thoughts. Other astrologers disagree. One describes it more as how we prefer to communicate and express our intelligence.
Mercury in the Houses
The First House shows your outward character traits - Mercury in the First House means you like to be seen as curious and communicative.
The Second House reflects your attitudes towards money, possession and material things - Mercury in the Second House makes it likely that your job choices and income will depend on your communication skills.
The Third House shows your relationships with brothers and sisters and your early childhood - Mercury in the Third House shows someone likely to excel in school particularly in verbal and written work and most likely has a sibling who is a chatterbox.
The Fourth House is about home and family - Mercury in the Fourth House suggests that your home and family is always filled with sound, from the radio to the tv and people talking.
The Fifth House is about how you express your creativity and your leisure time - Mercury in the Fifth House says you are a writer and speaker.
The Sixth House shows how you like to work (not your career) - Mercury in the Sixth House means your work will most likely involve speaking, writing or travelling, regardless of what your career is.
The Seventh House shows your relationships with others - Mercury in the Seventh House brings an intellectual and talkative partner.
The Eighth House is about sex and the rules of society - Mercury in the Eighth House means you like to talk dirty and also like to think and talk about money and sex.
The Ninth House shows higher education and philosophies on life - Mercury in the Ninth House means you like to pull apart life philosophies and examine every little detail but none have any emotional meaning to you.
The Tenth House shows career tendencies and public image - Mercury in the Tenth House means that mental stimulation and circulation of information is important in your career choice.
The Eleventh House shows friends, hopes and wishes, although not close friends - Mercury in the Eleventh House means you have no time for shy people who can't hold their own socially.
The Twelfth House shows restrictions, self-sabotage and hidden enemies - Mercury in the Twelfth House means you have little confidence in your own ability to express yourself well.
There is a belief amongst some astrologers that when Mercury goes retrograde its effect on you personally is based purely on the house in which it resides in your natal chart. This means that if for example, Mercury is in your Eighth house, you may have issues talking about sex or sex talk may be misunderstood during this time.
Mercury Retrograde in Modern Pop Culture Paganism
Any modern pagan will see Mercury Retrograde bandied about often. It is commonly believed by astrologers to be a time when communications break down, when electrical equipment fails and contracts should not be signed. However, some also see it as a good time to reevaluate ideas and take a breather. Take a step back and catch up. Some of the things that seem to go wrong have a clear message that requires attention.
In this article, the astrologer writing says:
"I'm less afraid of Mercury retrogrades than some of my fellow astrologers. I spent years at a communications-oriented company, a perfect laboratory for studying Mercury retrogrades. We conducted research studies, writing questionnaires and presenting reports; this required coordinating thousands of people in hundreds of projects across the country. What I discovered was that things got screwed up during the retrograde-and they got screwed up when Mercury was direct. The flip side was also true: the majority of our projects went smoothly during the retrograde, as they did the rest of the year (or we would have gone out of business) Perhaps the only difference was that during the retrograde we had the planet to blame for our errors and stress. As much as I wanted to find a clear pattern, I kept observing that Mercury snafus could occur at any time of the year."
I'm frankly a bit over seeing Mercury Retrograde used as an excuse for people behaving badly. It seems that all sorts of asshattery and idiocy get a free pass because Mercury was in Retrograde. It gets the blame for everything and that's simply not a fair or accurate assessment of what's really going on.
To be fair, I have noticed that if I raise a controversial or contentious issue during Mercury Retrograde, I end up feeling as though I am speaking a different language to everyone else. It almost feels as if others are choosing to take what I say out of context and in the worst possible light - often having to leap to some mighty conclusions in doing so. So I just steer clear of those kinds of things. Ironically though, I had a sock puppet profile for a while. The same issues didn't occur on that account. Go figure.
I am not an astrologer. I spent a day looking up and reading about Mercury before writing this post. It wasn't hard, none of it was difficult to find and I struggle to understand why the urban myths regarding Mercury Retrograde persist. Well, to be honest I don't, I know how lazy many pagans are. They read something on facebook and accept it as fact. I just wish more would use google and learn about the rubbish they spout.
Alice O. Howell, Jungian Symbolism in Astrology (A Quest Book: 1987).
The Complete Book of Astrology by Caitlin Johnstone (Hinkler Books. 2003).