Yes, that's me harping. It seems that every time Mercury goes retrograde, I write a flurry of blog posts on the matter. You'd think that it was a big deal with me (Mercury retrograde); in fact, it's quite the opposite. Whenever Mercury goes retrograde, the internet is flooded with Stupid Astrology. And so here I am, harping on the matter once again.
Let me be clear about what I mean by "Stupid Astrology." I am first of all, not blaming non-astrologers for posting or re-posting spurious information about astrology (unless of course, they are non-astrologers claiming to be actual astrologers). But most of this false information comes from two main sources: 1. modern astrological publications, and by extension, modern astrologers themselves, and 2. the insipid custom in modern astrology to free-associate and then make astrological pronouncements based on their "conclusions."
For more detail on some illegitimate modern astrological associations, see this post.
No, really, go read it first, and then come back to continue with this one.
OK, see what I mean? Most modern astrologers aren't even working quite within the astrological tradition, as we traditional astrologers have understood it for over 2,000 years.
I'll refer you to two other posts of mine on Retrogrades (specifically Mercury retros), so that I don't have to re-write them here.
Retrograde Planets: What to do?
(Note that for most of the astrological tradition, nothing was said about the general effects of a planet going retrograde; these things were delineated always in the context of a specific astrological chart.)
What I want to focus on today is the timing of the Mercury retrograde cycles.
I wrote about this in my post Retrogrades and the supposed "Shadow." It's a short post, and I recommend reading it before the rest of this one.
Building on what I wrote there, I want to direct your attention to a chart that I found online last year. I've been saving it for just this occasion. This was last year's Mercury cycle laid out. When any planet goes retrograde, it slows down in its apparent motion through the zodiac, or against the background of the ecliptic. This has to do with a number of factors, including things like the fact that the orbits are not perfectly circular, but elliptical; and the fact that some of the planets are between the Earth and the Sun, while others orbit outside the orbit of the Earth.
When a planet gets to the degree where it is going to turn backwards, or forwards, it is considered "Stationary." It may continue to move a bit, but it will not go past the limits of that degree. Traditionally, the Station is the practical beginning of the retrograde or direct period. That is, when a planet like Mercury is "stationary retrograde," it may still be inching forward, but the effects of the retrograde are already beginning, since it is now in the degree where the "turnaround" will happen. Likewise, when Mercury is "stationary direct," the retrograde period is, for practical purposes, at an end.
However, in modern astrological mythology, there is this idea of a "shadow" period, and the corresponding idea that the planet has to totally clear any territory that it covered during the retrograde period, before it is "free and clear," so to speak of ill effects.
For example, if Mercury goes retrograde at 5 Capricorn, and is going to go back to 19 Sagittarius (as in the first line of the table below), then even before Mercury goes retrograde, the ill effects are supposedly felt from the time that Mercury hits 19 Sagittarius. Likewise, when Mercury goes direct at 19 Sag, it is said to have to go past the point where it originally went retrograde (5 Capricorn) before its effects are "normal" again. While one must admit that right before and after a retrograde period, the fact that a normally-fast moving planet is moving very slowly will bring some hindrances still, this whole "shadow" effect is a thoroughly modern concept.
What fascinated me about this table is the totals in the last column. An individual Mercury retrograde lasts, on average, for about 22+ days each time (just over 3 weeks). If one adds up the "shadow" and "release" periods as well, as the table below does, one sees that the effects of poor little Mercury retrograde last for (on average) 190 days each year.
Mercury Retrograde 2011 Shadow Retro Station Direct Station Release Days 19 Sagittarius 37
Mon, Nov 22, 2010
5 Capricorn 54
Fri, Dec 10. 2010
19 Sagittarius 37
Thu, Dec 30, 2010
5 Capricorn 54
Tue, Jan 18, 2011
58 12 Aries 54
Thu, Mar 17
24 Aries 19
Wed, Mar 30
12 Aries 54
Sat, Apr 23
24 Aries 19
Wed, May 11
56 18 Leo 45
Fri, Jul 15
01 Virgo 12
Wed, Aug 3
18 Leo 41
Fri, Aug 26
01 Virgo 12
Fri, Sep 9
57 03 Sagittarius 51
Sat, Nov 5, 2011
20 Sagittarius 06
Thu, Nov 24, 2011
03 Sagittarius 51
Wed, Dec 14, 2011
20 Sagittarius 06
Sun, Jan 1, 2012
18 (til Nov 22) 190
Yes, read that again. 190 days. For the non-mathematically inclined among us, that's more than 50% of the year. In other posts I've mentioned that due, in part, to the complete unwillingness of modern astrologers to acknowledge the presence of malefics in astrology (usually Saturn, Mars, and a few others), they need to squeeze all-that-is-bad into one thing: Mercury retrograde. As if Mercury were the most important planet in the Solar System or in anyone's birth chart. And as if going retrograde were the only thing (or the worst) that could affect Mercury.
So here, we see the modern solution: declare the negative effects of one planet to last for over six months of the year, and then we can blame it for everything!