If youre familiar with the term, Mercury retrograde, odds are you dont have good feelings about it. Oh, no, not again! is the usual reaction to learning that one is coming up.

Take heart! It doesnt mean the sky is falling. Mercury retrograde is not a freak occurrence, much less the end of the world. Its a regular phenomenon that happens three or four times a year. We cant stop it, but we can understand and work with it. Read on for how.

What does it mean?

First, the technicalities: Mercury is retrograde when its traveling backwards. Thats an optical illusion, of course, and happens when the planets orbital speed changes in comparison to the earths. Its the planetary equivalent of speeding up on a highway, passing a car and seeing it fall far behind after you in the rear view mirror.

How this works: When Mercury is moving in reverse, the areas of life it governs do not play by the usual rules. Anything related to communication and travel requires extra attention. This includes phones, computers and electronic devices, the mail (remember that?), cars, public transportation and commutes.

The need for that extra attention often comes from things not working properly. Our information flow is always a casualty. Messages go astray. Misunderstandings, confusion, half-truths and deception are rampant. Both sides of a conversation may use the same words, but the words may not have the same meaning at all. Or expectations and assumptions may differ. (Real-life example: an organization awarding a book contract on a Mercury retrograde and terminating it two retrograde cycles later, because the authors and the publisher never agreed on what the book was supposed to be about.)

Vehicles of communication also misfire. Machines or systems with an inherent instability hit the breaking point. Technology malfunctions. Websites and networks go down. Programs stop working. Tasks that should be ordinary turn into a gauntlet of error messages and trouble-shooting.

Challenges rain down on our vehicles for getting around, too. Traffic snarls. Travel gets delayed. Buses dont arrive. Detours pop up and complicate your route.

What should you do?

Postpone launching major projects, signing major contracts and buying big-ticket items if possible. (You may not have complete or accurate information; the subject or purpose may not be what you think it is.) Double-check fine print, backup your data and allow lots of extra time when youre on the road.

The good news? You may get a good shot at a do-over or two, which may take the form of unraveling or restructuring. With this year’s retrogrades in fire, energy will run high to tackle anything that comes up. Mercury retrograde is also an excellent time to investigate and research, finish old business, clean up paperwork and get in touch with people you havent talked to in a while. Pay attention to who surfaces from the past, in person or in thought. Their reappearance could help tie up loose ends or resolve lingering business. Organize and prepare so youll be ready to move ahead when Mercury does!

Mercury retrogrades in 2018

Mercury is retrograde in 2018 from:

March 22 - April 15, going from 16 Aries to 4 Aries

July 25 - August 11, going from 23 Leo to 11 Leo

November 16 - December 6, going from 13 Sagittarius to 27 Scorpio

Youre likely to feel the retrograde coming before Mercury stations. Communication and transportation matters usually start slowing (or growing complicated) a couple of days before a retrograde begins. The day of the retrograde station (when Mercury appears to be motionless, as it appears to change direction) can feel as if time has stopped altogether.

The same sensation returns when Mercury stations direct. Communication and transportation matters dont suddenly speed up once the retrograde ends, either. Give the planet time to get moving again. Wait a few days after Mercury stations direct before resuming business as usual.

Almost all of Mercury’s 2018 retrograde time is in fire signs. Expect high energies and passions, frenetic activity, volatility and frustration, with people all too quick to anger. On the positive side, the fire retrogrades will deliver the gumption to go after snafus and blast through old business.

The first retrograde, from March 22 - April 15, 2018, promises impatience, frustration and a high likelihood of mishaps, malfunctions and delays involving trains, planes and cable. In risk-taking Aries, this retrograde stretch will have the impulsiveness of colts breaking out of the corral and going every which way.

Dates to watch:

Clarity about your own mind comes when retrograde Mercury conjoins the Libra Full Moon March 31.

Arguments, mishaps and impediments abound when retrograde Mercury squares Mars and Saturn April 4 and 5.

The next stage of impediments (pushing through?) comes when Mercury squares Saturn again on April 25. Follow-up on arguments and mishaps occurs when Mercury squares Mars again on May 12.

The second retrograde, from July 25 - August 11, 2018, in Leo, adds extreme drama and far-reaching effects to the usual high energies of a fire retrograde (impatience, frustration and a high likelihood of mishaps, malfunctions and delays involving trains, planes and cable).

This one coincides with Mars retrograde, in the opposite sign of Aquarius, which will increase frustrations, tempers and complications in resolving problems. This retrograde also has links to eclipse activity, which gives it revelatory and activating properties,

Dates to watch:

Personal clarity comes when Mercury retrograde conjoins the Sun August 9.

Retrograde drama escalates when Mercury squares Jupiter August 10.

Mercury stations direct August 11 in a celestial one-two punch. He’s stationing on the degree of the January 31 Leo Lunar Eclipse, which will bring more to light about last winter. Also, his direct station falls on the day of the Solar Eclipse at 19 Leo. This coinciding prolongs the influence of the retrograde, which will operate as a background program as the eclipse plays out over the following six months. For the short term, watch for more information to come out on August 30, when Mercury crosses the degree of the Solar Eclipse.

Retrograde-related dramas flare when Mercury squares Jupiter again on August 27.

The final retrograde, from November 16 - December 6, 2018, from Sagittarius into Scorpio, visits territory that was extraordinarily active from December 2016 – December 2017. And active is an understatement for this stretch. High in energy, noise and passions, it has the potential impact of a clean-up batter who comes to the plate with bases loaded and hits the runs in. Be on the lookout for course corrections and missing pieces that lock situations into place. Like the others of this years retrogrades, this one also brings impatience, frustration and a high likelihood of mishaps, malfunctions and delays involving trains, planes and cable.

When Mercury backs into Scorpio on December 1, the retrograde adds power ploys, secrets, and undercover and behind-the-scenes to the mix.

Dates to watch:

All the retrograde traits mushroom and become personal to the max when Mercury is conjunct Jupiter and the Sun November 27.

More comes to light, in a big, big way, after Mercury goes direct and then joins Jupiter again on December 21.

Kathy Biehl is a regular OMTimes contributor and professional astrologer with more than 30 years experience. Visit her site EmpowermentUnlimited to join her mailing list, listen to her weekly podcasts and book a session with her. You'll find her on Facebook at Empowerment Unlimited and the Astro-Insight Lounge, and on YouTube at the Professional Aquarian channel.

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