UNDERSTANDING MERCURY RETROGRADE - FROM A PAGAN PERSPECTIVE
This is one of the most notorious, and most universally hated of all astrological cycles. In many ways it earns this reputation. Miscommunication, errors, scheduling conflicts, injuries, misbehaving pets… All of the above and then some are known to come in abundance with a Mercury Retrograde.
DREAM OR NIGHTMARE?
From all common descriptions, and likely from your own experiences, Mercury retrograde is bad news. It sounds like a nightmare! Is it really? Or is it just a dream?
Mercury spends about a third of his existence in retrograde. The average person spends about a third of their time sleeping. Think of how you experience the dream-state. There is little logic and much confusion. Ideas, concepts, and visions are jumbled together. You certainly aren't likely to make a solid decision or have a rational thought while sleeping.
Where would we be without sleep? It is a necessary break from the external. It is a time of healing, rest, and access to inner realms. It is often a time of spiritual or psychic experiences. You can gain invaluable information while asleep - though you can't make sense of it or act on it until we are wide awake.
The sleep cycle is a much needed change in flow of your attention, redirecting communication to the inner realms, and the spiritual realms. But you certainly aren't 'functional' in the external world! Much like your own sleep, the retrograde is Mercury's much needed shift in focus.
THE PRINCIPLE OF THREE
The retrograde itself is three-fold. First Mercury enters the shadow of the retrograde, covering the same territory he will 'back' over. Next, is the actual retrograde, going back over the same degrees of the Zodiac. Finally, once direct, Mercury passes through the shadow again, covering those same degrees once more.
In the first shadow (2-3 weeks before the retrograde), is the time of preparation. This is the time for straightening, organizing, backing up files, catching up on paperwork - all the things we say should be done before a retrograde. It's also the time to begin things we wish to go back over.
It is a receptive and inspirational time of connecting with the outer world, taking in sights and sounds, ideas, bits of information. Your minds and life are moving quickly - too quickly. Information is gathered, but not processed into understanding or wisdom. You are absorbed in existence itself, without taking the time to contemplate it. The seeds are planted, in a rather haphazard fashion. It is during this time the tone of the coming retrograde is set.
In the next phase, comes the actual retrograde. From our perspective here on Earth, he begins to move backward. When there is a reversal in the flow, it makes waves! In this case the flow is one of communication, attention and perception. It's only natural this would cause all sorts of confusion and glitches, especially if you are fighting against the wave.
Under 'normal' circumstances it's often difficult to look inside, to know ourselves, and hear your own spirit. The outside world is constantly pulling on you, capturing your attention. It's not easy to free yourself of that pull and shift your focus to the elusive inner planes of subconscious, spirit and soul. Information is gathered and processed through Mercury - and the flow of Mercury's energy is directed forward, and outward.
When he turns retrograde, when the energy flow turns inward, your attention turns inward. Suddenly there is a pull from within, your attention is not so easily held captive by the outer world. There is confusion as our external lives suffer a bit of the neglect your inner self is frequently confronted with.
In the final phase begins when the retrograde ends. For 2-3 weeks after turning direct, Mercury makes one final pass over the territory of the retrograde. This is reminiscent of the Crone. In this third phase the wisdom is gathered, and the cycle is waning.
During this third and final part of the retrograde, we too make one more pass over familiar territory. The thoughts and visions of the retrograde begin to make sense. The inevitable errors made come to light, ready for correction. Your newly gained inner understanding is integrated with the outer world. And soon enough, Mercury is wide awake and moving into new territory once more.
PAGAN'S GUIDE TO MERCURY RETROGRADE
So, Mercury isn't evil. His retrogrades aren't a plot to destroy our lives, after all. Still, in all honesty it can feel that way sometimes. How do we dodge the bullets and keep our cup half full?
Although Mercury gets plenty of bad press, there is still considerable information about how to make use of a retrograde. Plan ahead, be careful with communication, don't sign contacts… Use the time for review, revision, repair, finding lost things, getting a different perspective… This is just a 'keyword' summary of typical Mercury retrograde advice, but you get the picture. For Witches and Pagans, there are a few things missing from that picture.
WATCH WHAT YOU WISH FOR
To work with the retrogrades of Mercury, we first must understand Mercury himself a bit better. The planet was named after, and is associated with, the Roman deity Mercury. He is the messenger to the Gods. This in itself presents a challenge to practicing Witches.
Have you ever had a spell or ritual 'backfire'? I once read about a Witch who (not without reason) cursed her landlord. It worked. Her roof (in his building) caved in. It just might have been during a Mercury retrograde! The Messenger to the Gods, also happens to be known as The Trickster.
When Mercury is retrograding, your messages to the Gods (and Goddesses) are no more 'safe' than communication in the physical world. Plan spells or rituals during this time carefully. Your words or thoughts may be taken a little too literally, or not manifest quite how you intended. It may be best (if possible) to leave your most important magickal works for a time when Mercury is direct.
In planning magickal works, one of the primary considerations is typically what energies you will work with. You call upon the appropriate deities, choose the best oils, incense, herbs, colors, and tools. These decisions take on a whole new dimension when Mercury is retrograding.
When working with Mercury - associated deities during a retrograde, a lot of caution is advised. In fact, it is generally better not to - unless you intention is to bring about dome sort of reversal.
Mercury is associated with Air. These elementals are likely to be more fickle, as well as mischievous during a retrograde.
Candle burning magick using the colors of Mercury is tricky as well. You may find it difficult to focus and charge the candle. It is also possible your intentions may be misconstrued. If your purpose isn't perfectly clear, and your focus good - it's better not to try it.
The stones, scents and herbs associated with Mercury are tricky to work with during this time. Using too many of them can bring too much of the retrograde to your spell. With his energy flow reversed, there is a danger of reversing the intended outcome of your works.
Some common Mercury associations are:
Deities: Mercury (of course), Woden, Lugh, Anubis, Asclepius, Dhanvantari, Ea, Eleggua, Hermes, Hermod, Iris, Loki, Mediterina, Nabu, Thoth
Elementals: Zephyr, Faerie, Djinn, Griffin
Herbs/Scents: Ash, Bayberry, Lavender, Scullcap, Wormwood, Vervain,
Stones: Opal, Agate, Emerald, Peridot, Green Tourmaline
Tools: Wand, Pen (or quill), Ink, Paper
VISIONS, INTUITION, MESSAGES, PHENOMENA
Mercury retrogrades have a strange, contradictory effect on spiritual communication and scrying. It is both easier, and more difficult. Often more and less accurate than when Mercury is direct. That doesn't make sense, you say? Well, that is a trademark of the retrograde!
A Mercury retrograde confuses communication. When communicating with spirits - be careful. It is easy enough to misunderstand, or receive misinformation when talking face-to-face with another human. Just imagine that with the added difficulty of the other being residing in a different world (or plane).
If confusion and miscommunication isn't enough, we add the potential for being mislead. Your regular spirit guides may be trust-worthy enough, but what about everyone else? Unfamiliar presences, messages of unknown origin, and spirits/beings known to be mischievous merit a little extra scrutiny. Mercury retrogrades bring out the ornery, or possibly malicious, side of many entities.
While you are likely to receive misleading messages, or misinterpret the helpful ones - you are also more likely to receive messages. Again, think of the changing flow of communication. Attention normally directed within the physical world is more easily pulled to other realms. Quiet whispers, and vague inclinations are often blocked out by a focused mind. The mind is rarely focused on the task at hand while Mercury is retrograde.
Even your own senses and intuition can be tricky during a retrograde. Attention is focused every which way but on the obvious. Retrogrades are friendly toward feeling, not thinking. Feelings, impressions and intuition are likely to be more sensitive during a retrograde. They are also likely to be quite accurate - until you think it through. Over analyzing, and re-interpreting your initial intuitive wisdom makes it just as susceptible to error as doing paperwork. The More you think, the less you know.
DON'T MISS THE OPPORTUNITIES
In magick and spirituality, like every aspect of life, a Mercury retrograde presents unique challenges. There are extra cautions to be taken and warnings to be heeded. There are also opportunities to be seized.
The typical advise for making good use of a retrograde includes revise and review. Look for signs that changes are needed. Take notice as Mercury points out (quite strongly) what doesn't work well. These concepts are perfectly applicable to magickal works.
If you keep a record of or remember dreams, messages, and visions still not interpreted, especially successful or unsuccessful spells etc. this is a perfect time to go over them. In any case where looking at something from your 'normal' perspective hasn't worked - the retrograde perspective may be what's needed.
In spiritual development and evolution, there are frequently inner blocks encountered. If you are struggling to find or confront issues buried within - you will find them much closer to the surface during a retrograde.
The reversal of energy can be helpful in some magickal works. Anything intended to reverse can be more effective during this time. If you're looking to turn your luck around, this may be the time.
Above all, go with the flow. Mercury will do what Mercury will do. You can make the best or worst of it.
Written by Sharla Stone, a new writer for Pagan News. Sharla is a Pagan, Witch and professional Astrologer. She provides counseling and readings by phone as well as email, specializing in spiritual matters.
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