‘The Magdalen Reading’ By Rogier van der Weyden Before 1438 {{PD}}

No, of course not! Mercury’s apparent retrograde happens often, in the larger scheme of things, and is merely meant to make us pause, to consider information we might have sped past, overlooked, or need to edit. There’s no negative intent; the mischief maker comes forward when we try to ignore that need to slow down and consider. The pause in the forward portion of the cycle is meant to make us reflect on how we process communication (both going in and coming out) and how we reason, and we are supposed to ask ourselves a different ‘framing’ question, relative to each element in which the planet backtracks: what do I think? for Air signs, what do I feel? in Water, what do I need, or how is this affecting the material situation? in Earth, and what must I do? in Fire.

This time the retro happens, and stays within, the sign of Aquarius–‘What do I think?’ with the aim for the re-think directly linked to the meanings related to the sign, in this case, mulling the role of and information from the Higher Mind, the new, inventive, or innovative, with the ultimate goal of understanding. This applies specifically to the matters of the House where the retro occurs, and includes consideration of the element-themed question in relation to any natal bodies or points posited in this sign.

There are currently a great many transiting bodies in Aquarius: the Sun, Pallas, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury, and that means a lot of contact to anything one carries in the sign could be coming from any one, or any combo of, these energies, aside from the Mercury cycle concerns. Add to this the way a Merc retro period, whether we approve or not, removes the ability to think or reason clearly, and we have the recipe for some confusion and not a little bit of frustration. Our attention is here, in the area of Aquarius natally and on the matters of the House that holds the sign (the Sun), we feel pressure to discern what’s wise or practical in related situations (Pallas), we feel the influence of the social sphere (and maybe have the sense that we’re being observed, even as we may be noting opportunities–Jupiter), and we could experience a pushme-pullyou between Jupiter and Saturn, as the energy of expansion and optimism goes head-to-head with caution, the need for boundaries and security, and the pressure to hold back or apply discipline, in an area of the chart that’s already very busy. We may even feel this as a desire to be free, to let go, vs a fear-based urge to hunker down, conserve, to preserve what is, rather than to let loose.

The thing is, Mercury retrograde asks us to stop relying so heavily on the brain. It needs a break, just like anything else! So our best means of handling the need to process information at a time when our usual channels are more or less ‘down’ becomes one that accesses information through senses other than the mind. We need to practice vetting input via the feeling nature; we need to bypass the brain, and listen to the heart.

We won’t, though, necessarily have a clear conduit there, because in asking Venus and the Moon to step in for the mental faculties, we’re asking ourselves to both accept feelings as valid information (with out the kibitzing of the mind), and do our best not to insist on translating what we perceive into the language of the mind, that is, into words. Not an easy task, especially if we’re naturally inclined to sift everything through the thought processes (I’m talking to you, natal Mercury in Air!)

Too, the Lunar perceptions wax and wane, so that the intuition may not always be available when we want it, and both natal Venusian energies and Lunar ones will be affected by any transits they’re receiving, in effect placing a lens over our perceptual abilities that may make them unwieldy or distort what we can glean from them.

That all sounds so pessimistic–but really, this period asks us to practice feeling, to trust the feeling nature to convey valuable intel, and to let the retro period unwind tangled areas where we may lack accurate understanding (Aquarius). This time Mercury turns around without being in major contact with any other energy, and without forming any new aspects for some time, and that suggests a kind of isolation, a period where the mind will be ‘on its own’, so to speak–and that implies an effect similar to meditation, where contemplation occurs whether we intend it to or not, as the mental faculties are largely cut off from their customary patterns of digesting and expressing.

The usual warnings apply, of course, since an unclear mind is one that shouldn’t be making big decisions or commitments. I’m not as convinced that Merc retro has such a clear-cut negative effect on electronics or communication systems, simply because they foul up, retro or no, so take that kind of event with a grain of salt–it’s a truism that once the retro passes we see events during the retro with a different lens–and that means we won’t be judging well during the retro, and that applies to mix-ups and snafus as much as it applies to our own mental processes.

Mercury goes direct on 20 February–so at worst, we just have to wait! And if you’re in need of information on making a purchase during the retro period, check here–