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The Astrology & Astronomy of Mercury Retrograde: July 2006
This article was written & published in June 2006
Mercury will soon be retrograde again, appearing to move backwards in the Earth's sky. This happens three times a year, when Mercury overtakes the Earth on the inside lane, as it were. This is a great time to do a lot of mental sorting out: shifting your perspective, questioning your assumptions, re-tuning your mental wavelength to a different place on the dial.
It's also ideal for turning your attention to your inner self, practising listening to your inner voice rather than the clamour of society, and asking yourself some incisive questions. Contemplation rather than logical analysis is the way to make use of retrograde Mercury. Getting better at paying attention to synchronicities and subtle cues from within you and in your environment will help you get the best out of this time.
Looping the loop
When retrograde, Mercury forms a loop in the Earth's sky, as shown in the diagram below. In this picture, each dot is one day of Mercury's motion, so you can see how the spacing of the dots reflects Mercury appearing to slow down - dots closer together - and speed up - dots further apart - as it goes through the zodiac.
There is a vertical line just to left of centre. It is marked as 120 degrees. This line represents the dividing line between Leo and Cancer. To the left of the vertical line is Leo, and to the right is Cancer. Mercury moves through Cancer, slows down, enters Leo, then stops (referred to in astrology as a 'station's or 'is stationary') on the 4th July.
Mercury then loops backwards, back into Cancer, then stops again on 29th July. It gradually moves forwards, picking up speed and proceeds into Leo once again, getting faster as it does so. (By the way, the horizontal line is the ecliptic - the Sun's apparent path through the sky - which can be ignored for the purposes of this article.)
In your birth chart
If you have a planet, or your Ascendant or Midheaven, between around 19 degrees Cancer and 3 degrees Leo, this Mercury retrograde period is most likely to resonate strongly with you. Questioning underlying assumptions that you take for granted, that you're unconscious of, but which serve to mislead you, will focus on the issues symbolised by the planet, or Ascendant or MC, transited. There will be a need to alter your perceptions of this planet's issues in your life during the weeks of Mercury's retrograde transit, and it may well be communication issues with other people that trigger this process within you.
This is also likely to resonate strongly with you if you have a planet, or your Ascendant or Midheaven, in the same degrees of the opposite signs, i.e. between 19 Capricorn and 3 Aquarius. In this case, polarities and opposites encountered in life may stimulate you to step into someone else's shoes, and invite them to step into yours.
Planets (or Ascendant or Midheaven) in signs square to transiting Mercury retrograde are the next most strongly resonating, i.e. 19 Aries to 3 Taurus, and 19 Libra to 3 Scorpio. This may well make for more tension as you come head-to-head with contrasting wills and competing ideas.
For both of the above groups, interpersonal - and intrapersonal - conflict could be how this manifests. This applies particularly as on 4th July Mercury will station on the Sun/Mars midpoint and will be in Leo, so haughtily sharp words and ideological battles are likely to be to the fore.
Because Mercury moves so quickly it covers a third of a sign in this case - 10 degrees. During some retrograde periods it covers half a sign. This means that there are few people who won't be tuning into this cyclic movement in some way, at some time, but the above groups will be most challenged to get the best out of this movement and use it to grow.
Getting closer to Mercury
Astronomically, Mercury is closer to the Earth during its retro periods, which can be clearly seen in these next two diagrams. This first one is calculated for Mercury's station, turning retrograde, on 4th July. You can see that Mercury is on the same side of the Sun as the Earth, and is therefore getting closer to us.
Mercury then 'overtakes' the Earth, on the same side of the Sun, moving past it. This is its retrograde period, and it's when Mercury is at its closest to us. This next diagram shows Mercury's next station, this time turning direct, on 29th July.
As Mercury retrogrades it moves from being a crescent phase, to a 'new moon' equivalent phase. This next picture shows its phase on 4th July when it stations turning retrograde.
After Mercury's 'new moon' equivalent phase, it moves to another crescent phase, at the time of its station on 29th July, shown in the diagram below.
Going backwards to go forwards
Over time, Mercury's retrogrades slip back in the zodiac degrees. This can also be seen in the calendar dates. This first picture shows Mercury retrograde during 2006: the first instance was in March, the second was in July, and the third will be in October/November.
The loops into the centre are the retrograde periods. The diagram is actually the orbit of Mercury seen from an Earth-centred perspective. The loop is inwards towards the Earth at the centre (not shown), showing how Mercury comes closer to the Earth at these times.
This next picture shows 2006's and 2007's Mercury retrograde periods:
You can trace the line clock-wise to follow the calendar dates and see how they slip backwards each year: March in 2006 becomes February/March in 2007, and so on. In the zodiac Mercury retraces earlier degrees and signs; the loops being close together show a similar part of the zodiac being revisited a year later - October/November where the lines touch shows 9 degrees Scorpio being transited, in 2006 Mercury is stationary direct on that degree, and in 2007 it is stationary retrograde on that same degree - but constantly slipping back in time and space. Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards.
In mythology there is a story about how Mercury/Hermes stole some cattle and made them go backwards, retracing their steps and literally covering their tracks, so that it looked like they were going forwards. This tricksterish behaviour is part of the mercurial nature, as the Mercury retrograde diagram shows (other planets' retrograde periods don't follow this pattern of retracing their tracks, nor did other planetary gods/goddesses do this in their mythological stories).
Mercury Retrograde Dates: 2006 & 2007
Here is a table of Mercury retrograde periods for 2006 and 2007. The left-hand column is the date when Mercury is stationary retrograde, and the degree of the zodiac at which it stations. The right-hand column is the date when Mercury is stationary direct, and the degree of the zodiac at which it stations.
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