The Scarlet Letter
Volume IV, Number 2 | June 1997
Jewels from the Naked Brilliance
by Sr. Nephthys

SeptagramI’ve spent the last few weeks trying like hell to figure out why nothing in my life seemed to be going right. I was clumsy, cranky, no one seemed to understand anything I was talking about, nor could I understand what anyone else was talking about. Then a few days ago, everything was fine. I was getting things done that hadn’t been done in weeks, communicating clearly with people I’d been almost arguing with, and just felt generally better. Sound familiar? Congratulations! You’re the next winner in the Mercury Retrograde Sweepstakes. What the hell are you talking about, you say. Alternatively, if you know what it is, sit back and enjoy the validation for your crazy behavior for the last few weeks. I’ll start slow. Mercury is the planet of communication, of any sort. Oral, written, media, computerized, etc. Retrograde is a term describing the APPARENT backward motion of a heavenly body from our perspective here on the Earth. No, the planets don’t actually move backwards, but because of differences in the relative speeds of revolution about the Sun, to us, sometimes it looks as though a planet moves backwards through the sky, West to East, instead of East to West.

Still with me? So what, you say? Well, retrograde motion for us is sort of like rubbing a cat the wrong way: it’s an unhappy thing sometimes. So, picture your communicative abilities and everything that’s connected to them suddenly operating in a manner opposite to what they’re used to. People argue due to misunderstandings, computers crash for no apparent reason, messages get lost, things get broken and dropped, etc., etc. This potential for mishaps can range from the mildly annoying to the severely debilitating, all depending on how heavy your Mercurian natal influence is. I’ll explain.

Each planet ‘rules’ a sign, meaning that its power is expressed most easily in that sign. By virtue of the connective nature of astrology, each planet also rules a house, since each house is correlated to a particular sign (12 of each). Our good friend Mercury rules the signs of Gemini and Virgo, so consequently also rules the 3rd and 6th Houses, communication and employment, respectively. Translation: if you have your Sun, Moon, Ascendant, or an abundance of planets in Gemini, Virgo, or the 3rd or 6th Houses, Mercury plays a very important part in how you go about your life. Just as important, if Mercury goes retrograde in a sign where your chart has a lot of emphasis, this will affect how those matters are handled as well.

I’ll use myself as an example. I have a Gemini Ascendant and my Nadir in Virgo. The Ascendant governs daily activity: the manners in which you handle the usual things that cross your path on a daily basis. The Nadir represents privacy & the home, or the family. Since Mercury went Rx (abbr. for retrograde) on April 15 (Tax Day), anything in my life that fell under those two categories just went crazy. As I described above, I was cranky, clumsy, my house was unkempt, I found it difficult to think, write, or speak clearly, my computer kept crashing, and nothing at home seemed to go very well. Don’t ever try to upgrade your computer while Mercury is Rx : it’s a bad idea. As soon as Mercury went direct on May 8, everything’s been fine. In addition, here’s the nice side of a Mercury Rx .

It takes about three weeks for Mercury to stop moving backwards, and about another two to reach the same point in the sky it was located when it began moving backwards. This is important because that 2-week period while Mercury is regaining its ground represents a period of time where you’ll be able to fix everything that wasn’t going right while Mercury was Rx . Spats with coworkers will be resolved, that program you’ve been trying to load will work like magick, and all those tiny little things you’ve been needing to do but just couldn’t get up the will to do all that stuff, it’ll get done in no time.

Moreover, here’s the better part: you can predict when these things will happen with almost clockwork-like regularity. Mercury has a regular pattern of retrogradation that varies each year by a month or so. Here are the times, roughly: December to February, April to June, and August to October. These represent average times of the year when Mercury will go Rx , not actual lengths of retrogradation. Mercury will always stay Rx for about three weeks, and always take about 2 weeks to return to its original turning point. Engagement-style astrology calendars are relatively cheap and hugely available at the end of each year, and serve as extremely useful tools when finding these Rx periods for Mercury, or any other planet.

What?! The others go Rx too!!! Yes, I’m afraid so. However, Rx periods are not necessarily to be dreaded. They represent periods of time when we should slow down and re-prioritize how we do our life business. When Mercury is Rx , it’s time to put all those projects aside for a little while and do a little solitary work. Venus Rx is an invitation for lovers’ spats or really good sex: it all depends on how you handle the energy. This is a time to mull over one’s relationships and your role in them. When Mars is Rx , which just went direct recently as well, impulsive and aggressive tendencies can get blown out of proportion. So if you’re a real go-get-em type, Mars retrograde represents time when you should try to re-evaluate how you deal with anger and aggression. Jupiter rules growth and expansion: Jupiter Rx is a bad time to try to get a big project off the ground, especially if it relies on the cooperation of other people. Saturn is Jupiter’s opposite, representing restriction and discipline: if Saturn is Rx , anything you have a need to control will probably not work the way you’d like it to. Saturn Rx can also instigate major life changes if it hits a sensitive chart spot or reflects natal aspects.

The outer planets will affect things on a more global basis when they go Rx . Uranus went Rx on May 12, and since it represents quick change, encompassing technology & computers, as well as social trends, these things may not flow smoothly for the next few months. Technology-related endeavors may hit snags related to readiness of the public & availability of products. People that spend much of their time socializing may find themselves bored more frequently. Neptune has just gone Rx as well, on May 1. Since Neptune represents dreams, awareness, and the unconscious, this could represent a time for people to look for guidance inwardly, rather than outwardly. This is a good time to do in depth spiritual work, but on a solitary basis and with the knowledge that work may progress slowly. Pluto is the granddaddy of Rx movers and shakers: if he goes Rx in a busy spot in your chart or in a place that activates natal aspects, be ready for some changes. For example, a transiting Pluto opposite or square a major chart fixture will set the stage for possibly life disruption. Even if it doesn’t, the ride will most likely be unpredictable and a bit bumpy, but Pluto always has a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

The thing to remember with the planetary cycles of retrogradation is that the farther out a planet is, the slower it moves. And the slower a planet moves, the longer it will be retrograde. With the outer planets, retrograde changes manifest very slowly and gradually. With the inner planets, retrograde changes occur quickly and without warning sometimes. However, all retrograde periods are merely times when the Universe tells us to slow down in a particular area and regroup, reorganize the structure of how that particular thing is handled. Handled correctly, a retrograde period can actually be the incubator for wondrous accomplishments once the planet goes direct. Doing planetary magickal workings or designing planetary sigils are good ways to understand how the energy of the planets ebb and flow in one’s life. Just knowing a planet is about to go retrograde and making plans accordingly can ease difficulties considerably.

Well, I know you’re wondering, so here are the dates for the next two Mercury Rx periods this year. Good luck!

Mercury starts Rx Sunday 8-17-1997 2:42 pm CDT Virgo
Mercury starts Direct Tuesday 9-9-1997 8:33 pm CDT Virgo
Mercury starts Rx Sunday 12-7-1997 10:47am CST Capricorn
Mercury starts Direct Saturday 12-27-1997 5:39am CST Sagittarius

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