When people question whether astrology is a viable tool, I like to advise them of Mercury retrograde cycles so they can watch for themselves. Mercury represents scheduling, planning, ideas, communications, transportation and things that happen in a short, quick way. Retrograde means that a planet appears to move backwards. Although planets do not actually move backwards, they do provide an optical illusion of doing so. Imagine you are on a train and another train passes you going in the same direction. For a brief moment, your brain is fooled into thinking you are going backwards. Sometimes you also experience this feeling in a parking lot.
All of the planets (except the moon) turn retrograde relative to our view of them from earth. Each has their own cycle. Mercury is retrograde for about 3 weeks and approximately three times each year. A distant planet like Pluto is retrograde for almost six months each year.
In the case of Mercury, communications and scheduling can get screwed up. You must practice better communications during these times. For example, I was to meet some friends at a Thai restaurant in Portland’s Sellwood neighborhood. It is a relatively small neighborhood so I thought I knew exactly where the restaurant was based upon the friend remembering only that the restaurant had a ‘fruity’ name. I assumed I knew exactly where it was, having been to Papaya Thai before. My friends had a wonderful dinner at Mango Thai and I ate alone at Papaya Thai (I even forgot to take my cell phone!). So, clear communications are important in Mercury retrograde.
You also want to back up your computer, repair your car, balance your checkbook, or catch up on phone calls during the shadow period that begins about ten days prior to Mercury retrograde. As a rule, astrologers frown on signing important contracts during Mercury retrograde. I have seen several people buy perfectly good cars during Mercury retrograde only to find that the interest rate was excessive after they hurriedly signed the lease.
Mercury retrograde is good for retreat, re-visioning, and other “re” words. It is good for making a general plan, then hammering out the details later. Behind the scenes preparation or learning something new is good under Mercury retrograde.
Below are upcoming Mercury retrograde cycles and the degrees and signs they are in. If you know where the sign (s) land in your birth chart, you know the areas of your life that are up for re-visioning during the cycle. If you have natal planets that Mercury crosses over, you would also look to the meaning of that planet for added information. For example, if Mercury is retrograde in Libra in your seventh house, you would be communicating balance and harmony in your relationships. If you have Saturn placed in your seventh house when you were born, you would be communicating boundaries in your relationships. There is a free pdf download of a Basic Astrology Primer in the left had column of this page. It will help give you basic meanings of the signs and houses to help you.
The main thing during Mercury retrograde is to practice mental flexibility. If the important person you need to talk to is on vacation, then there is no sense being in anxiety while you wait for them to return. I like to leave extra time in my schedule in case something changes. If you know that this disruptive energy is up, then you don’t take the world quite so seriously.
Your friends will also see that astrology really does work just by paying attention to Mercury retrograde. Of course, then they are hooked and will want to learn more!
But what if I simply must sign a contract or initiate an important action during Mercury retrograde? Although astrologers do not like to sign contracts during Mercury retrograde, sometimes you just have to do it due to circumstances. In that case, you just make sure that you read the fine print and allow wiggle room for things to shift. During my corporate years, I took two jobs during Mercury retrograde. In both cases, the job shifted in terms of territory changes (sales) and other factors, and both changed very quickly after Mercury turned direct. Everything worked out fine in both cases.
As an example, the Boeing Company was founded during Mercury retrograde, and certainly they have been successful. But anyone who has worked with them will tell you that they have problems with their internal communications. So just make sure you are setting up good communications and ways to deal with the other company or in your team communications with the client.
As a general rule of thumb when you have to sign off during Mercury retrograde, I prefer not to doing it in the few days before and after it is stationary, either turning backwards (retrograde) or turning forwards (direct). The other general rule is that during the first half of Mercury retrograde, you clean up old business. Then during the second half, you are preparing for the future. But that is just a general rule of thumb.