Thursday, March 1, 2007

Focus on Mercury

While we are in the midst of experiencing (and hopefully utilizing to its fullest) another Mercury retrograde, I thought I would devote most of this month's column to this tiny, yet powerful messenger.

Mercury is the planet that articulates both Gemini and Virgo qualities, and is traditionally called their ruling planet. It resides naturally in the Third House, which is the realm of communications, thought processes, short distance travel, and our relationships with siblings and neighbors. Its energy is quick and responsive. If you've ever tried to catch the physical element Mercury from a broken thermometer (something I don't recommend, since it's highly toxic), you know how quickly it ducks just out of your grasp, and how adaptable it is by shaping itself to whatever environment it occupies. Mercury is the fleet-footed courier who delivers profound knowledge through the fastest channels available.

Anything with moving parts; be it your car, computer, or garbage disposal resides in the domain of Mercury. All elements of communication are also within the sphere of influence of this tiny, yet effective planet. These elements include any form of correspondence via the internet, the written word, snail-mail, telephone connections and office memos, as well as verbal communications. Short-distance travel is associated with Mercury, and those who commute may call upon his strengths to get them from point A to point B efficiently and safely.

Mercury also governs the acquisition and processing of knowledge, and students will do well to utilize his energies to help them to remain alert and attentive during their studies. Thought processes and perceptions are influenced by Mercury, and wherever it resides in our own natal charts - meaning the signs and houses - and whatever planets it interacts with both natally and during transits, will indicate where a person is most likely to apply their mental and communicative energies.

Mercury is certainly a busy, energetic little guy who works hard to keep everything in his territory clicking and buzzing efficiently. But with all energies and influences, sometimes he is inclined to take a rest, giving us a chance at the wheel, as it were. This occurs three times a year, when Mercury goes retrograde.

The retrograde movement of any planet occurs when its forward motion slows down to the point where it appears to be moving backwards from our perspective on the earth. When Mercury slows down his forward motion, we experience phenomenal changes in everything he oversees. Communications of all kinds have the potential for challenges during this period, misunderstandings that normally wouldn't occur if Mercury were direct can result from even the most benign statements between people. Letters mailed can become lost or delayed, computers, telephones, cameras and other mechanical means of transmitting information can begin to malfunction, and mental challenges are prevalent at this time. It can become more difficult to focus our minds, and to connect with information that is valuable to us, and we may overlook important details, which makes it precarious for us to enter into agreements or to sign contracts.

We may find it difficult to articulate what it is that we are trying to communicate when Mercury is in repose, and can become frustrated when our thoughts don't translate well into our speech. My wonderful friend, the late astrologer Rita Jackson used to get completely tongue-tied during Mercury retrograde, and she was such a riot to hear. She faced these howlers with her usual good humor, having the rare and wonderful ability to laugh at herself, knowing full well the source of her amusing blunders. She may very well have been the shining example we all can learn from when we're feeling out of sorts; which is to laugh it off instead of taking everything to heart. I think I'll call this the "Rita Prescription" in her honor. She'd really like that.

In a recent conversation with a friend, she mentioned that she had read something interesting about Mercury Retrograde, that it was essentially a "do over." I had to ponder that for a bit, since we were so busy she didn't have time to elaborate. After giving it much thought, I feel that I know where the author was going with this particular concept.

Essentially the Universe, in its infinite wisdom, has given us Mercury retrograde as a tool. In order for us to evolve as individuals, it is required that we retrace our steps on occasion to make sure we're still on the right path for ourselves, and to make the necessary adjustments if we've veered off a bit. An important part of our growth is to take a moment to reevaluate, contemplate, make adjustments, reconnect to our soul purpose, and then resume our forward movement. Mercury's uncharacteristic quiet stillness forces us to slow down and do just that, so that we may progress more efficiently through the following four months that lead to the next Mercury retrograde.

There are other benefits to Mercury retrograde in the form of certain activities that are luckier under its influence. Some of us may have the happy occasion to bump into old friends that we haven't seen for quite some time, and reunions with estranged or lost family members can occur now. Lost mail from years ago has a tendency to show up; jewelry and other lost articles can also resurface unexpectedly.

This is also a good time to try to heal some old hurts; wounds that may have lain buried for quite some time, perhaps manifesting themselves as subconscious behavior patterns. Psychotherapy can have a tremendous influence upon us now, as strong breakthroughs in understanding have been known to happen during Mercury retrograde. Old feuds can also be cleared up, and relationships that have long been experiencing difficulty can suddenly become stronger during this period. This is an excellent time to engage in the minor activities that we usually have difficulty finding time for, such as updating our resumes, cleaning out the refrigerator or closets, and organizing our desks.

During this period, people born with Mercury retrograde in their natal charts are treated to a phase of great clarity where they are better able to understand the rest of us, and us them. These people are usually more pensive than most of us, and as a result, a bit heavy on the philosophical side. My eldest son fits this picture well, and the pearls of wisdom that pop out of his mouth at times can stop me right in my tracks! He is always thinking and reflecting deeply about events and issues in his life, and has come up with some pretty interesting ideas along the way. Those who are expecting to give birth to a person with Mercury retrograde in their charts can anticipate having a serious little philosopher on their hands!

So during this last stretch of our current Mercury retrograde, which will go direct on the 8th, we would all do well to make the most of it by finding our stillness within, using quiet reflection as a tool for inner growth, and finding humor in the little blunders that may crop up from time to time. Mercury has not deserted us. He's merely taking a time out, and hoping that we will do the same.


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