wtf is a Mercury pre-retrograde shadow phase?

Mercury's retrograde again


It’s a verb: Mercury retrogrades. It’s a noun: We hate Mercury retrogrades. It’s an adjective: Retrograde Mercury is famous. Mercury cannot be “in” retrograde, because that’s not grammatically correct. That’s like saying, “Mercury is in backwards.” You can say, “Mercury is retrograding,” if you want to spice things up.

When astronomers invented astrology, they derived meaning from observable planetary motion.

Media frenzy aside, Mercury retrograde is so popular because it’s as commonly experienced as a full moon. Mercury retrograde happens frequently. Mercury retrogrades three or four times per year.

Mercury’s tricky motion earns its tricky signifiers. When astronomers invented astrology, they derived meaning from observable planetary motion. So, Mercury being the fastest moving planet, making the most connections to other planets, gives it its “messenger” meaning. When Mercury retrogrades it backs up and asks, “oh wait, did I hear that correctly?” Mercury retrograde reflects our need to clarify and revise in order to better understand things.

Mercury retrogrades bring about inconveniences that require patience, but ultimately provide fluency in the end.

A planet that’s retrograde is not doing its normal thing, it’s moving backwards. If Mercury is the planet that reflects how we communicate, information, commerce, small animals, technology, commuting, planes, trains, automobiles, youths— what it means when it’s reverse is that these things can malfunction. Wires are crossed. Delays, miscommunications, Freudian slips.

Mercury retrograde is like in the movie Gremlins when the protagonist  unwittingly feeds the mogwai after midnight because they unplugged his  clock. Mercury retrogrades bring about inconveniences that require patience, but ultimately provide fluency in the end. The awareness of knowing that Mercury is retrograde should never stop you from living your life. It’s not the end of the world. In fact, it is the world. It’s simply the nature of things.

People are not robots, and even robots break down sometimes. Mercury retrograde is just the repair and revisal period. If anything, its blips encourage us to come together, to make up for lost time, and to remember to always leave room for human error. Astrology is never an excuse to stop yourself from living your life, but a tool to gauge your expectations and make the best of the cards we’re dealt.

A planet stations retrograde and it stations direct. The stations are important moments. Astrologers look to the degrees that the stations occur. Mercury stationed retrograde at 26º Aquarius on January 30. Mercury stations direct (ending its retrograde) at 11º Aquarius on February 21.

As it moves backwards from 26º to 11º Aquarius over the next month, it will repeat some connections to the slower-moving planets, as it retraces its footprints. Whenever planets connect, both with each other in the sky as well as with the planets in your birth chart, it corresponds with an event, either personal (when your natal chart’s placements are activated) or somewhere out in the world. Since these connections are repeat, so will the events.

When Mercury was direct, it moved from 11º to 26º between January 15th-ish and January 30th, the day that the retrograde began. This timespan is known as the pre-retrograde period. It’s the time when the path where Mercury will soon retrograde is first paved. It’s helpful to look at what conversations were had during this period, because during Mercury’s retrograde, they can repeat themselves three times. Across the timespan of its pre-retrograde shadow, retrograde, and post-retrograde shadow, Mercury goes over a certain degree three times. To see how it works with your chart, check what planets are between 11º and 26º, then consider how they are being aspected. To see how it reflects general events, which we all at least witness, we look at the general transits!

Pre-retrograde Aspects (January 15/16 to January 30):

  • January 20 Mercury trine nodes of fate.

The true node (or “the nodes of fate”) is a calculated point in the sky, it’s the moon’s ecliptic. When a full moon or new moon fall on the nodes, there is an eclipse. In astrology the moon’s ecliptic is associated with fate.

That’s the only aspect Mercury made during its pre-retrograde shadow phase. Connections that were made on January 20, introductions especially, and emails sent, were with people who are important for opening doors.

Some news headlines from January 20 that are to repeat three times: the inauguration. Biden signed 15 executive actions. 1,000 arrests at protests in Tunisia. I suppose we will hear more about these things whenever the aspects repeat themself on both February 10, during the retrograde period, and March 2, during the post-retrograde shadow period.

Retrograde aspects (January 30 to February 21):

  • February 8 Mercury retrograde meets with the sun.

With Mercury being both retrograde and under the sun’s rays for the days leading up to this alignment, we are going to be really confused and waiting on delayed information. Things can be stolen or misplaced. Finally, once Mercury gets in the heart of the sun, we will have more clarity surrounding things had been sort of secretive or hidden since February 3. Objects may be found or more information about their whereabouts can be revealed.

  • February 10 Mercury retrograde trine nodes of fate (again!).

Let’s put a star here for world events, especially concerning Tunisia and the actions that Biden signed. The north node is a place of visibility, and the trine an aspect of progress. With Mercury being retrograde, we are going to see some revisions taking place, or some public delays to these actions being put in motion.

  • February 10 Mercury retrograde square Mars.

This is going to be annoying. People are going to be making choices based on misinformation. Arguments can arise out of a misunderstanding. It’s a “measure twice cut once” type beat. Mars is literally cutting/scissors. Kitchen safety is key.

  • February 13 Venus meets with retrograde Mercury

This is honestly really cute for Valentine’s Day. I think this is a time to express things that have been misunderstood concerning relationships and to just generally get a better understanding of desires. A romantic recap, a walk down memory lane.

  • February 14 Mercury retrograde meets with Jupiter

OK People are really going to be talking a lot of $#!7. There will be a lot that looks too good to be true, because it is. I expect oversight.

Post-retrograde aspects (February 21 to March 13/14):

  • March 2 Mercury trine nodes of fate (third time).

This is the third and final trine to the nodes of fate that Mercury will make, at least while it’s in Aquarius. This is it, moving forward with this important connection that’s taking place, having given it a little reconsideration and wiggle room. Again we will see things progressing with the 15 actions that Biden signed. Sorry to mention boring politics I just thought we could all see public news stories as an accessible example.

  • March 5 Mercury meets Jupiter (second time).

Once more, people are going to be correcting the lies that they got caught in when they bit off more than they could chew. Mercury and Jupiter are both associated with learning.

It’s also useful to get a look at the aspects that Mercury makes at the moment that it stations.

When it stationed retrograde on January 30, we got no aspects within a 3º orb. When it stations direct on February 21, we get no aspects in the sky as well. It is interesting to look at your own chart to see how the stations will affect you. For example, Mercury stations retrograde on my natal Saturn in the 2H of personal resources, so maybe this will mean that the three paychecks I am waiting on will finally reach my bank account? Wishful thinking? These paychecks are a part of my Mercury retrograde story. Astrology: you live and you learn. Mercury will retrograde in the part of your chart that is ruled by Aquarius, so look into your Aquarius house(s… we are ok with quadrant house systems here) to get more information about this! 

Good luck. If you need me, you know where to find me. I’ll leave you with a transcript of one of my favorite episodes of The Astrology Podcast on the topic of Mercury retrogrades.

All of these dates are based on CET, so give it wiggle room, a buffer of about a day +/-.