Mercury Retrograde Cycle - Part 1 & 2

Posted on August 20, 2023
Posted by Jim Sher

There is an interesting phenomenon going on in our culture right now in regard to Mercury retrograde. On one hand, there are many people, including non-astrologers, who are aware of when Mercury goes retrograde. In fact, I often hear many people blame Mercury retrograde for what might be going on in their lives, even when it is not retrograde. But, the Mercury retrograde cycle itself is a very important one that is worth understanding.

Mercury retrograde is often thought of as an inconvenient time, but I believe this view is part of our culture’s belief that we always must be busy doing something and focused on becoming more productive. To me, this is not a natural or organic way of living. There are rhythms in life that we need to experience as fully as possible as they are both necessary and valuable in the process of self-balancing and harmonizing with our life. I hope this new information will help with that process. Also, most people focus only on the 3-week period when Mercury is retrograde, which is too simplistic and incomplete. Actually, the cycle itself is an 8-fold one that lasts for 4 months and then repeats.

This article is Part I of a 2-part series on the nature of this 8-fold cycle designed to assist the reader to understand how they might use this period for their personal growth and increase their ability to handle the life problems they might be encountering during this time period.

Since this is a repeating series, there is no clear way to know exactly where one should start, but astrologers usually begin with the date when Mercury moves into its “shadow phase.” Let’s use this particular cycle to show what I mean. While Mercury will go retrograde on August 23, 2023, at 21° Virgo, the cycle actually begins on August 3rd. On that date, Mercury was at 8° Virgo, which is exactly where Mercury will return to when it goes direct later in the cycle. The period between August 3rd and the 23rd is called the “shadow” period and is significant in at least two ways. The first is that this territory will be traversed three times thus creating a much greater intensity for wherever this occurs in one’s natal chart. Secondly, since this period is the first time Mercury is going through this area, it tends to bring up issues, often from the one’s unconscious, that one has not yet faced. In fact, this time period can be more intense than the retrograde itself for some people as they have not yet had a chance to process feelings, emotions, and concerns that have been present in their psyche for a very long time. In fact, often astrologers warn us to be careful not to let anger or very strong feelings create outbursts that get to the level where we create problems we will then have to deal with during the retrograde period. In other words, self-sabotage can be one effect of this “shadow” time period.

The next phase, which occurs on August 23rd, is when Mercury is stationary. This can be something a person feels quite palpably. For 1-2 days Mercury will sit in the same spot focusing our attention on just one or two things, possibly obsessively. I have likened it to listening to a record that gets stuck in the same spot, going over and over the same notes. While it doesn’t last long, it can be helpful to simply observe, as impartially as possible, whatever is coming up at this time, and recognize that there are some important things to think about and work through during the next few weeks. It’s best not to try to resolve these issues quickly, but instead, become aware that there are important matters we must be willing to look at, which might take time to process.

As Mercury begins to move in its retrograde motion, this is a time to do three things:

  1. Begin to complete whatever matters are coming to our attention. It is as if we have been too busy to handle some matters, which now must be finished in order to make way for the new cycle that is about to be born.
  2. Take whatever time we can to review and look deeply at whatever areas of concern we need to confront and process. This time can be very important for our well-being as there are issues arising that we must not ignore or neglect.
  3. Remember that Mercury retrograde itself is not the cause for things breaking or needing repair or maintenance. It is not causing delays in themselves or miscommunications. These effects are often simply due to the fact that we have been too busy to take care of the necessary parts of our life and now must do so. This is a time to slow down, even when we are forced to, and review important matters and also deal with other people who need our attention and, of course, where we need theirs.

In part 2, I will go into the rest of the Mercury retrograde period, including the important Inferior conjunction, when the Sun and Mercury conjunct at the halfway point of the cycle.

Part 2

On September 6, 2023, the Sun and Mercury align in what’s referred to as the Sun/Mercury Inferior conjunction. This marks the halfway point of the Mercury retrograde cycle. The reason why this is so important in the cycle is that it is similar to a New Moon in that a New “seed idea” can arise in us. In our modern world, we believe that we are the origin of all of our thoughts. But, I’m not so sure of this. Are there not moments in our lives when something new comes in that we sense we could never have originated by ourselves? The ancient astrologers referred to Mercury as the Messenger of the gods. By this was meant that we were receivers of information, rather than only producers of it. Also, oftentimes, these messages come from others in our life and even in seemingly random ways. We can often have synchronous experiences, especially if we are paying close attention to these subtle shifts.

The Inferior conjunction takes place at 13° Virgo and will also affect that degree in all of the mutable Signs of Gemini, Sagittarius, and Pisces. Whatever House and Planet in your natal chart is activated by this degree is an area you may want to pay close attention to. There is a subtle, quiet aspect to this message, which can grow for the next nine days until Mercury goes direct at 8° Virgo on September 15th. This is because Mercury is still retrograde so we are now dual-processing. We are still reviewing and assessing areas, but also just beginning to consider the new information arising within.

Between September 15th and the 29th, Mercury direct will finish traversing the territory between 8° – 21° Virgo for the final time. Now we can begin to act on whatever we have discovered and begin to put it into operation. We should try not to rush this process as it will grow on its own and reach a peak on October 19, 2023, when there is the Superior Conjunction at 26° Libra. This conjunction is similar to a full Moon in that it will reveal and manifest whatever new concepts and ideas that were created in the retrograde cycle. In other words, wherever you have 26° Libra is part of the Mercury retrograde cycle too. It’s not just the territory where Mercury retrograde moves within.

The movements of our life have an organic flow to them that our culture does not know about, so cannot value or understand. But, if we can flow with them instead of fighting against them, our life becomes simpler with less internal conflict and can be more creative and responsive.

I encourage you to try using a diary or journaling on these dates to see if you can notice anything significant occurring within you.

Astrology Mercury Mercury Cycle Mercury Retrograde
Jim Sher

Jim brings over 35 years of experience as a therapist and transformational counselor to his practice of astrology, metaphysics, meditation and philosophy. He operates as a teacher and counselor and specializes in the use of discourse as a part of his teaching approach.

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2 responses to “Mercury Retrograde Cycle – Part 1 & 2”

  1. I love this! This is so helpful in understanding the retrograde cycle. I decided to launch teaching a class yesterday 9/5. The response began rolling in this morning on 9/6, and the class will begin on 9/29. It’s amazing how all of that lines up perfectly! Thank you, Jim!

  2.' Debra Harris says:

    Thank you for this excellent interpretation of the Mercury retrograde cycle and the lessons it provides. The common and unskilled view of Mercury retrograde shuts people down and potentially cuts them off from the gifts that Mercury retrograde offers. You have offered a skillful application of this cycle as a valuable and ideal time for growth. I am eager for Part II! Thank you.

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