Did you know that Mercury retrograde has a shadow period? Actually all planetary retrogrades do. The Mercury retrograde shadow phase happens about two weeks before and after the planet’s backspin. It helps us prepare (before) and process (after).
Head’s up: Mercury retrograde begins on November 16, 2018, which means that Mercury retrograde’s shadow period has already begun. The messenger planet will make its three-week backspin through fiery, outspoken Sagittarius until December 1, before rounding out the retrograde phase in secretive Scorpio until December 6. The whole truth and nothing but will inevitably come bubbling to the surface during this cycle, so choose your battles wisely…and consider yourself warned!
During the “shadow period,” Mercury’s influence will inevitably make itself known. Mercury’s shadow officially began on October 28, 2018, and will linger until December 24, 2018. During this cycle, we should all take the necessary Mercury retrograde precautions, moving ahead at a gentle clip and not rushing into anything binding. Back up all data to password-protected (or firewall-protected) cloud storage, changing overused login codes and making sure that all important bills are being paid in a timely fashion.
To figure out the Mercury retrograde shadow dates, you’ll need an ephemeris, which is a guide to where all the planets are at any given time. We like this handy one from Llewlyn but you can also find them online (the Swiss ephemeris from Astro.com covers 8000 years!).
Step 1: Find Where Mercury Retrograde Begins and Ends
We’ll use the October 4-26, 2014 Mercury retrograde as an example. First, we located the Mercury symbol, then, highlighted the dates of the retrograde in yellow. There’s always a little R symbol when a planet turns retrograde and a D when it turns direct; if you squint, you’ll see it. Another way to spot a retrograde? The numbers in the column start going backwards. These numbers are the degrees that Mercury is traveling through a sign. In this example, the retrograde begins at 2º Scorpio on October 4 and ends at 16º Libra on the 25th. Math time! Each of the 12 zodiac signs takes up 30º of the circular zodiac wheel. Get it: 12 x 30=360º of the circle? Yes, astrology is a geek’s art form all the way.
Since this Mercury retrograde begins at 2º Scorpio and will scoot back to 16º Libra, we have now figured out where our shadow will begin and end.
Step 2: Find The Shadow’s Beginning
Since Mercury retrograde means it’s driving in reverse, we look at the END date of the retrograde to find the BEGINNING of the Mercury retrograde shadow period. Since Mercury completes the retrograde on October 26 at 16º Libra, we flip back in our ephemeris to find when it was last at 16º Libra. Aha! September 14, 2014 is the day!
It’s likely that we started to see signs of the impending Mercury retrograde then: foggy brains, scrambled communications, exes and old friends coming out of the woodwork. This is an ideal time to really start prepping for Mercury madness too by backing up digital data, clearing the air with loved ones and making sure all our important documents and secret codes are locked up and password protected.
Step 3: Find the Shadow’s End
Once again, since Mercury retrograde means it’s driving in reverse, we look at the START date of Mercury retrograde to find the END of the Mercury retrograde shadow. Since Mercury went into retrograde on October 4 at 2º Scorpio, we flip ahead in our ephemeris to find when it will arrive back at 2º Scorpio once again. In this case we can see that it has safely passed the 2º Scorpio mark on November 11, 2014.
The second Mercury retrograde shadow is all about integration and processing. Sure, Mercury retrograde might have thrown our lives into a total tailspin, but what are the golden lessons to be gleaned? What necessary losses and changes did Mercury retrograde prompt? Utilize the time Mercury turns direct to the end of its shadow to make those big bold changes. For example, maybe you realized that your jerk of a boyfriend was actually just responding to YOU being subtly critical of his every move. Eek! But, the second half of the shadow is when you can dive into practicing a new, empowering way of speaking to him and address conflicts. This could be the relationship rescue remedy you needed.
Shadows of Other Planetary Retrogrades
One thing you should know is that EVERY planet goes retrograde. The word “retrograde” has become so ominous. And while annoying in some ways, these are also key times to really review, refine, and reconfigure. We need these spells to prevent us from throwing out the baby with the bathwater. While Mars and Venus only go retro every other year, Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are in reverse annually, for a good chunk of each year. They also have shadow phases, which you can figure out the very same way. Grab your ephemeris and have at it!
Special thanks to our amazing Astrofriend Stephanie Gailing, author of our monthly Healthstrology section, for breaking this down for us with such insight. She’s got a crazy technical brain to match her deep well of Piscean compassion. We can geek out with her for hours, and Tali regularly does at their favorite Seattle “satellite office,” Oddfellows. They also kind of feel sorry for the people sitting next to them who have to listen to their fevered babbling in cosmic code. If you’ve started to learn more about your chart, we’re sure you know what we mean.
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