Mercury Retrograde – Retrospective

Our occasional astrology columnist Mysterious Dan returns with a celestial insight into what lies ahead for the coming months.

24 September – 16 October 2008, Libra

In spite of the pervading sense of ‘bad press’ astrology’s yearly hat-trick begets, these tri-annual celestial sojourns can be most enlightening to the earnest astrologer and an eye opener to the more skeptical too: a time when astrology appears to ‘shout’ its loudest on the outer, mundane level of day-to-day human existence. Manifesting more tangible, even if wholly undesirable results.

This is by no means a rare stellar feat. Mercury will ‘go retrograde’ approximately three times a year for roughly three weeks at a time. Before the current Libran phase, 2008 already saw the inferior planet retrograde in Aquarius and Gemini (Libra’s air-sign fraternity). That the cycle works progressively through the air elements’ signs is no coincidence either… But wait!

Mercury Retrograde? What?

Astrologically speaking a retrograde occurs when a planet appears to slow down in its orbit of the Sun and, after coming to a complete standstill (‘station-retrograde’), will appear to begin to reverse. After regressing back through the zodiac for a spell Mercury then slows again to its ‘station-direct’ point and then resumes normal forward motion. Certainly this is how it looks if you observe any planet from Earth during its retrograde phase. This being a ‘geocentric’ or earthly perspective of the solar system is the only reason this illusion takes place. Out in space every planet moves continuously in one direction around our great ball of fire. Astrologers are only concerned with the solar system as it appears from our point of view since we are, in a manner of speaking, determining the effects celestial bodies have upon human beings; so it just makes more sense!

When Mercury is retrograde, all that it governs astrologically is thrown up into the air for questioning and review; settling only when the planet resumes direct motion. Even at this point, however, it will still need to cover the same ‘ground’ once again in order to get back to the point it originally stationed and turned retrograde. This is symbolic of the whole process of reconsideration that takes place in ones mind or left-brain; which are traditionally associated with the planet Mercury.

In Greek mythology Mercury is Hermes, messenger of the gods; mediator between mankind and the pantheon. Here we have the basis for Mercury’s modern day rulership: communication, short journeys and the way in which we deal with and assimilate information (and the technology synonymous with all of the above). Notably, our own birth charts will tell us how each of us are predisposed to deal with such matters by Mercury’s placement in zodiac sign and house.

This is certainly not a time to arrive at any premature conclusions. Efforts to negotiate and reach agreements are thwarted by Mercury’s backward motion. ‘Don’t sign on the dotted line’ (at least not yet) is a handy metaphor to keep in mind. Events of this time come under the scrutiny of our objection whilst Mercury is ‘reversing’ and we are urged globally to rethink, reorganize, review, redo and renegotiate our affairs linked to the sign Mercury currently occupies and, on a personal level, the house in which Mercury is transiting in each of our natal charts.

The benefit of this cycle comes from the careful re-ploughing of the mental soil. Putting things off until Mercury’s station-direct is advised.

If forward motion is consciousness, then a retrograde can be likened to unconsciousness and as such we are more attuned to the subtle codes and symbols lurking under the surface of the psyche. Mercury is said to put us more in touch with these at this time and can bring revelations in thought during this phase. So acting on our impulses too soon could negate the potential enlightenment Mercury promises with each retrograde.

Gremlins Too!

It seems we can draw a parallel between the Mercury retrograde cycle’s effects and the events of the sci-fi comedy-horror Gremlins 2; where a state of the art skyscraper-of-the-future is brought down overnight by an army of malevolent little monsters known as Gremlins: a grotesque transmutation of a quite harmless and altogether cuddlier, former self.

Interestingly enough, this film aired on 2 October, 2008, a week or so into the retrograde cycle!

Clamp industries, owned by Daniel Clamp, have a rare creature occupying a cage in their genetics lab: an adorable little fella by the name of Gizmo who becomes orphaned when his guardian dies and his dusty old shop full of trinkets and ‘junk’ is demolished to make way for another of Clamp Industries’ super futuristic complexes.

This point in the flick can be likened to Mercury’s usual ‘direct’ motion across the backdrop of the zodiac; everything at Clamp Industries (a metaphor for our wider world of technology and commerce) appears to be running smoothly, with only the odd rotating door malfunction or communication snafu to contend with – like any normal day on civilized earth!

There are two rules in this movie. Gizmo should not get wet, or else he will multiply. His species (Mogwai) are not to be fed after midnight either, since this is the catalyst for the transformation from cute little teddy bear into sadistic, slimy little goblin, or Gremlin. However, Gizmo is a curious little creature, tiring quickly of his office-drawer hideaway and escapes; an attack of the hose ensues, more Mogwai are spawned and, of course, start to get hungry!

Once fed and adequately cocooned, the Gremlins are unleashed into the Clamp building and onto its residents; thus the forward motion of Mercury comes to its ‘station’ and there it sits for a day or so, like the cocooned Mogwai, waiting to be reborn for a complete role reversal.

The Fun Begins and ‘big rich-man-building not so tough now!’

Everything this marvel of architecture has to promise is put to the test and Clamp Industries are having a right old time attempting to contain and expel this invasion. The Gremlins, in their child-like deconstructive naivety, tear the place apart – exploiting any weakness and doing anything in their power to level man’s proud creation of wonder and convenience – turning the very object of such grace and efficiency against its creator. For the Mogwai: they do this for nothing more than their own insatiable thirst for mischief and pure amusement, cackling at every human misfortune along the way.

Transportation & (mis)communication

Mercury is traditionally associated with the ‘trickster’ and its retrograde motion seems to bring out this (Gremlin) tendency in abundance. Trains, planes and automobiles; telephony, computers etc. are all at the mercy of Mercury retrograde in that they can simply fail or misbehave all of a sudden or intermittently. Similarly attempts to ‘get away for the weekend’ can be hindered by any number of errors down to miscommunication or misinterpretation of the related facts and timetables, or maybe just a flat tyre.

In early September a fire broke out in the Channel Tunnel, causing much damage, injury and loss. Mercury was still direct when the fire hit but transiting its retrograde shadow; the part of the zodiac it will eventually have to backtrack through in weeks to come – suggesting that the events during this waning direct motion will soon be up for debate. Lo and behold! On 24 September, upon Mercury’s station retrograde, a power failure on a train warned of further delays to the resumption of normal service. Then on 29 September (5 days into retrograde) the government called for a ‘Channel Tunnel safety review. Delays and reviews are common denominators when considering Mercury retrograde but there are even more astrological components at work here. Venus, for example, rules Libra – the sign where this retrograde is taking place and therefore Mercury in Libra will be taking his cue from Venus during this phase. Venus is currently over in Scorpio, associated with Hades (Pluto), lord of the underworld, traditionally associated with subterranea and tunnels! Channel Tunnels?

A planets ruling influence (in this case Venus in Scorpio ruling Libra) is always coloured by its disposition in the sign it occupies. Convoluted as this may seem, the astrology of this event gets even more intricate when you consider one of the classic Scorpio archetypes – The Phoenix – concurrent with the death/rebirth characteristic of Scorpio; rising from the ashes. Presumably ashes from a previous fire!

A bit closer to home and I was out for a drink on the same evening just before I caught Gremlins 2. My local Old Town establishment was the subject of a sewage problem and subsequent digging in order to repair this fault was taking place, and had been all that day. Again: subterranea, tunnels – sewage? Enough!

Not quite!

A good number of minor incidents have had me enthralled since Mercury’s station retrograde, which I have meticulously journaled along the way. A few of which are included below. I have ommited the more banal examples for fear of overstaying my welcome in your brain.

Upon Mercury’s station I was witness to many erroneous telephone calls at my workplace; printer errors (we had the engineer out three times in less than two weeks!); a couple of no-shows to interviews which transpired as due to miscommunication; both myself and a close (skeptical) friend have been experiencing problems with our own telephones dropping signal recently as well as plentiful issues with internet connectivity – a darn sight more than usual too; strangely enough the keys I’d misplaced and decided were as good as gone showed up on day two of retrograde in the original place I already knew I’d left them but checked ten times over in the previous week to no avail! – demonstrating (as mentioned before) how the unconscious effects of mercury can bring things to the surface; six days into retrograde and I went for lunch with a friend and the staff member serving seemed to get in a muddle over our order, charged me triple for two drinks and when it came to the price of our food he even defied that which was written in plain ink on the printed menu. His inability to assimilate the simple written word on that day had me most perplexed. I’d loved to have seen his horoscope; finally on day twelve I called a friend to see how a mix of a recent live recording was going only to be told it had been postponed until he had a new computer for his studio! I’m still waiting.

Certainly there is nothing out of the ordinary about any of these setbacks, other than the sheer multitude of their occurrences during the retrograde cycle. I’ve always been skeptically inclined towards astrology and so do watch for this sort of thing all the time, but each time a Mercury retrograde approaches, these days I tend rub my face with glee, knowing that the world around me is going to go haywire for a spell. So please watch after the 16 October as it all settles back to normal and progress can resume.

If you don’t know something’s broke, you can’t fix it!

Nevertheless these events are necessary to make us more aware of the inherent discrepancies in our world of information. Upon the climax of Gremlins 2, the Mogwai are dispensed (soaked and electrocuted to be precise) and a great mess is left to clean up, suggesting that Clamp didn’t handle this retrograde period particularly well! The two ‘station’ points of a retrograde are said to be its most intense. In the case of Mercury returning to direct motion, the station (Gremlin expulsion and aftermath) signifies the catapult from which our mercurial endeavours can now launch unhindered, provided the requisite attention to detail, born of taking a temporary back-seat, was amply tended.

So it’s back to work for Daniel Clamp and company. Armed with fresh insight pertaining to areas of improvement to their – once considered – infallible fortress. Likewise, holding off and letting the Gremlins run rings around our world is sure to bestow us with new invaluable knowledge of how to best move forward and improve in whichever areas are highlighted by the zodiac, just as soon as these buggers cease!



  1. Hey, the only problem here is you mentioned this was a forecast for the months to come, only it was a reflection on the month passed!

  2. But then again. That’s the kind of stuff retrogrades are made of! Ha!

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