When Planets do the "Moon Walk"
In honor of the crab, which presides over the summer solstice month, I want to tell you a story about things which move backwards. Last year, a client dashed into my office, about 20 minutes late for her appointment, and completely out of breath. She apologized for being late and explained how for some weird reason, she had spent the last hour retracing her steps back home twice to collect forgotten items, just to find herself stuck in traffic. Then in an attempt to find a short-cut out of the congested highway mess, she found herself lost in a neighborhood that eventually steered her once again closer to her home than to my office. “It was like the universe kept wanting me back home for some reason!” she blurted as she plopped into an office chair.
Unfortunately for my client, who has a very hectic schedule, her appointment turned out to be on the day when Mercury stationed in the sky to begin its first retrograde period for the year. Like Michael Jackson doing the ‘Moon Walk’, a planet occasionally looks like it comes to a slow stop in the sky (its station) and then begins to move backwards (its retrograde motion) to then stop and move forward again (its direct motion). It’s not actually doing this in the sky, but from the frame of reference of the earth, an optical effect occurs making it look like it is moving backwards with respect to the Zodiac background behind it. All planets, with the exception of the Sun and Moon, go through this apparent backwards movement sometime during their solar cycles. Mercury, being the fastest planet with the ability to do this, retrogrades on average, three times per year.
“So what tends to happen when Mercury goes backwards?” asked my client. I explained that when any planet slows down and goes backwards or back direct again, it means that the things which they rule over will be more carefully re-examined or re-experienced in a different way. When Mercury is going into or coming out of the backwards shuffle, communicating, traveling, commuting , negotiating and investigating will tend to get repeated, re-examined, or retraced. A retrograde planets says: “Stop what you are doing and do it again because it’s not quite right yet.” The acuteness of the problem tends to get noticed during the stationary days – either stopping to go retrograde or stopping to go direct.
Repeating and re-examining qualities occur not just in the changing astrological weather of the daily skies, but are also indicated in our birth charts. When a person has a retrograde planet in their birth chart, the planet indicates particular qualities that will be re-examined and repeated in a more thoughtful, impacting, or constructive manner in the life. When the degrees of the planetary placement are early, this more thoughtful repeated approach to those planetary qualities is still new to the person and may feel difficult or unfamiliar. But when the degrees are late, the person is repeating actions around that planet which he or she may be quite experienced with, but which may still need to be repeated for other reasons. In the birth chart, we can see ourselves as school children repeating our retrograde planetary lessons more slowly and thoughtfully, whether because we got it a little off the first times or because we are experts and may want to teach or influence others more than once.
But here’s how the story ends: “What then would it mean,” asked my client, “to have had to retrace my steps back to my house nearly three times?” After some inquiry into her chart and current situation, it turns out that she had placed her house up for sale and was searching for a new one to buy. However, in her haste to sell her home, she had forgotten to describe the most important features of her house in her real estate listing, including its coveted neighborhood. Her retrograde Mercury experience, which seemed intent on making her go back to her home for lost items or because she didn’t know what neighborhood she was driving through, was mirroring her need to re-examine her communications regarding her home’s environment. And the message for the reader is to consider a Mercury retrograde experience not simply as an astrologically determined nuisance consisting of contract errors or computer crashes, but as a chance to re-examine something important you may have missed the first time.