When we look back on decisions we’ve made, we have a tendency to forget that the idea that was the basis of that decision did not come to us fully formed. Rather, decisions and the ideas that sparked them are developed through a process. They rarely are fully developed from the beginning.
That process related to the development of ideas is replicated by how we understand Mercury’s movement in relation to the Sun. The Sun moves steadily forward around the sky, covering about a degree a day in the astrological chart, which is a map of the sky from our viewpoint here on Earth. Mercury, however, appears to speed ahead of the Sun until it slows down and reverses direction, going backward to meet and then pass the Sun. Eventually, Mercury again slows down and changes direction, back toward the Sun. This whole cycle repeats itself about every four months, with Mercury always staying within 28 degrees of the Sun.
We can begin to understand the cycle and relate it to the formation of ideas by dividing it up into its parts, and we commonly define eight stages to the cycle. They are:
- Pre-retrograde to Stationery Retrograde station. (The Shadow)
- Mercury retrograde Station. (The definition. of a ‘station’: When a transiting planet, as it changes its direction, is momentarily not moving or stationary.)
- First half of Retrograde period.
- The Inferior Conjunction – when Mercury conjuncts the Sun while in its retrograde period.
- Second half of retrograde period.
- Mercury stationary direct.
- Mercury stationary direct to the Superior conjunction – when Mercury conjuncts the Sun while moving in direct motion.
- The Superior conjunction to the beginning of the next Shadow period.
There is an area of heightened focus within this larger cycle, however. Because of Mercury’s movement forward and backward, Mercury spends about two of the four months going over the same 21-degree area of the chart, first forward, then backward, then forward again. Those 21 degrees are focused on and represent an opportunity for review, for reflection, and for potential conscious change in the areas of our lives that those 21 degrees represent for us.
Indeed, Mercury has just entered this band upon which it will next focus. On August 17, Mercury was at 21 degrees Virgo. It will continue moving forward to six degrees Libra before it retrogrades back to 21 degrees Virgo, where it will change direction again, and go over the area between 21degrees Virgo and six degrees Libra for the third time. This will take two months; Mercury returns to six degrees Libra on October 13.
The period of the first pass through this band, from now until Mercury turns retrograde on September 6, is commonly called the “shadow” period; one would say that Mercury has just entered its “shadow.” Because Mercury will pass over the area twice more in the next two months, our current perceptions, decisions, and ideas will be reviewed and revisited in the coming weeks. Although I am personally not convinced that the image of a “shadow” is the best image to relate to this period, I will call it that for the sake of a common term. It is the first of the eight-stage Mercury cycle that we will look at.
The shadow period is a time of anxiety if we are not aware of its purpose. We tend to rush forward to complete things, or we act out and make rash reactionary decisions. Somehow, it seems as if we can sense the upcoming retrograde and realize unconsciously that things may have to be looked at more closely, or again. Our reaction then, with an anxious mind, is to try to shortcut the process and jump ahead by making the decision, change, or statement we are thinking about. We don’t want to go through the process since we feel we know what needs to be done, or what the correct answer is.
But if we are conscious of this period and what it represents, we can let go of the anxiety. There is no need to rush to complete things because we know that whatever we are thinking about now will likely have to be revisited in the coming couple of months. It’s just part of the process of progress. And we can guard against rash reactionary outbursts and actions as well by being careful. We understand that we may have to eat our words later as things are revisited.
What area of our lives is up for review will depend on our own personal astrological chart, but it is also visible on a societal level by looking at the astrological signs Mercury is focusing in on and where the other planets are in relation to that band of 21 degrees. The most obvious “ripped from the headlines” example of this at the moment is the debate surrounding health care reform that the country is currently engaged in. As anyone can readily see, this debate will undergo a lot of review, revision, and change in the coming months as the country moves (or doesn’t move) in the direction of more affordable and available health care. The themes and style of the debate relate perfectly to Virgo and Libra matters, such as equality, health, fairness, criticism, balance, service, indecision, giving too much credit to your opponent, collaboration, compromise, giving too much attention to detail, and what is practical.
This particular cycle also involves Saturn, which is also in late Virgo right now, as Mercury conjuncts it three times from August 17 to October 7. This by itself might give additional focus to our ideas, help us think logically and look at details, and it may do so by making us focus on the reality of the situation. But things are changed considerably when taking into account that Uranus and Saturn are opposing each other and Mars is squaring both of them. So, Mercury’s conjunctions with Saturn may act as a trigger to unleash some of the explosive energy, passion, and even anger involved in that formation. We’ll keep an eye on these things as we continue to look at Mercury in upcoming articles.