Mercury Retrograde

Updated: Jan 24

Of the 9 grahas that were revered by the ancient Indians, Mercury is closest to the Sun, and has the fastest period of revolution. It completes one revolution around the Sun God in just 88 earth-days, and it should come as no surprise then, that in Greek mythology Mercury is associated with Hermes, the quick-footed messenger of the Gods. A 'messenger' is one who picks up items from one place and delivers to another. This makes me associate Mercury with "picking up and delivering", i.e. How we give something to others, and also how we process what others give us, or any form of exchange.


If we exchange ideas with others, then Mercury is associated with communication - reading, writing, learning, speaking, editing, researching, negotiating, etc. in all its forms. If we exchange goods and services for money, then it becomes trade and commerce, and hence, Mercury governs shops and establishments, businesses, agreements, contracts, leases, wills, deeds and so on. By logical extension to our present day and age, Mercury rules all technology, systems and processes that are used for the purpose of exchange, including and not limited to computers, software, the internet, etc. All these are the 'general significations" of Mercury.


The "functional significations" differ from chart to chart, depending on the Signs, Nakshatras and Houses that Mercury is placed in and rules over, in addition to it's charakaraka and placement in the 16 divisional charts. A Vedic astrologer can identify these functional significations, and help you make sense of it all.


Retrograde motion

Now a planet is said to be in retrograde motion when it appears to be moving backward in relation to the background stars. Imagine you were riding in a bus and another bus passed you by, then you would say it is going faster than you. But if it slowed down and you passed it, then it would appear as though that bus was moving backward. This is what happens during a retrograde period - the planet appears to have changed its course as viewed from Earth. Planets actually have different apparent motions, differentiated by Maharishi Parashara (in BPHS, Ch. 29, Verses 21-23) as follows:

  • Char - planet is moving slightly faster than usual

  • Sama - planet is moving at its usual speed

  • Atichar - planet enters the next sign in direct motion

  • Manda - planet is slowing down

  • Mandotar - planet has the slowest motion

  • Vikala - planet is stationary

  • Vakra - planet appears to be moving back, i.e. Retrograde

  • Anuvakra - the planet enters the previous sign while retrograde

All of these are considered while calculating the Shadbala (strength) of a planet. Note that the Sun and Moon will never retrograde while Rahu and Ketu are perpetually in retrograde motion (their movement is anti clockwise around the Zodiac). The planets that have direct and retrograde motions are the Inner (Mercury, Venus and Mars) and Outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto).


In the transit chart, we experience a retrograde motion, in 3 steps - the planet slows down, becomes stationary, and then it turns retrograde. When the retrograde motion ends, the planet again slows down, becomes stationary before turning direct again. Each of these different motions play out differently in our lives.


I have seen Vedic astrologers interpret retrograde motions in natal charts in broadly one of 3 ways. The first interpretation - the planet is moving forward, but comes across an obstacle which it is not able to cross. So it starts to retreat/move back in order run and jump over that obstacle. The second interpretation - something in a previous lifetime was left unfinished, and we are being asked to focus on that in this lifetime. Both interpretations are saying the same thing - that there is something there that we need to address. What that something is, will depend on the planet that is retrograde, it's natural & functional significations, as well as the Sign, Nakshatra and House that it is placed in. Several astrologers hold the view that since a retrograde planet moves differently than normal, whatever it denotes, will work “differently” than usual while it is retrograde.


Now Mercury will retrograde 3 times in 2021:

  • 31st January to 21st February

  • 30th May to 23rd June

  • 28th September to 18th October

Dates are as per Indian Standard Time and hence, subtract one day if you are in the western hemisphere. Note that Mercury will be stationary just before it turns retrograde, and also when it completes its retrograde motion, usually on the same dates as those mentioned above. Some astrologers opine that the effects of Mercury retrograde will be felt 1-2 weeks before the retrograde period, and the clean up will continue for around 1-2 weeks after.


So what does all this imply?

When Mercury turns retrograde, it begs the question, which attribute is heading in a manner that is "different than usual? What is it that we are called to "retreat from", in order to reflect, reevaluate, reassess our approach, before we move forward again?


Most will generally suggest taking extra care in all forms of communication, as there will be a tendency to be misheard and misquoted. Try to be flexible, patient and understanding. There can be a tendency to jump to conclusions, or to have a sudden change of mind. People aren't thinking straight in these times, leading to confusion.


It will be necessary to check and double check our models and analyses, and re-read your posts and email before hitting the send button. Be careful who you have marked in the cc and bcc, make sure to take backups of your work and expect colleagues and family members to have a short temper. You may find that your scope of work, or the roles and responsibilities may change during the retrograde period, and change again once it ends.


Leaders would do well to avoid important decisions during the above periods. Rather, this time is better spent in reassessing and reevaluating a given situation. Similarly, launching any new idea, project or venture could be kept off for a time when Mercury is moving forward, as actions during this time will be fluid, and tend to reverse or change direction when the planet becomes direct again. Reassess your decision if you are making an important hire or planning a large purchase, especially if it is electronics and communication related.


You may also find that during the dates when Mercury is stationary, it's significations are in some ways "standing still" or "not budging", and maybe, it is ok to just let it be. Bear in mind that these are "general significations" for Mercury Retrograde, and will get modified from chart to chart. Mercury retrogrades in different signs, becomes stationary in different signs and reverses direction in different signs. If any of these happen to be your Sun Sign, Moon Sign or Ascendant, then you can expect the effects to be more pronounced than otherwise. The effects also get modified depending on the influences on Mercury from person to person. If you would like an in-depth look at your chart, we can schedule a session.


Remedies for Mercury Retrograde

I have teamed up with Stefanie Augustine from Satyam Yoga in Germany, to compose and record 3 guided meditations that may help us prepare and work through Mercury Retrograde.


The 1st guided meditation will focus on clearing out the blocks in the Throat chakra, in order to balance our thoughts, words and actions, so we can express ourselves easily and clearly. We hope that this will counteract the tendency for miscommunication as Mercury turns stationary and then retro. This meditation is around 10 minutes long, that you can consider doing daily, for a week or so before the retrograde.


The 2nd guided meditation is an offshoot of Tonglen from Tibetan Buddhism. We will focus on 'recognizing' and 'accepting' the hurt in us, and transforming that into pure, positive energy. This meditation is around 7 minutes long, and best if done daily during the period of the retrograde.


In the 3rd guided meditation, we will work on generating compassion for oneself and others. This is taken from the Buddhist practice of Metta Bhava, of silently repeating phrases of loving kindness. This is around 10 minutes long, and you can do this on the day the retrograde ends and for a few days after, though teachers usually recommend that this is done every day, whether or not there is a retrograde planet in the skies.


These are available on the Meditations page of my website. Try them out, and share your thoughts/comments/experiences with me.


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