Mercury Retrograde for Beginners

Phones, media, the internet, the post.  Three times a year, Mercury – the planet which rules information, communication and transportation – appears to go backwards.

Phones, media, the internet, the post.  Three times a year, Mercury – the planet which rules information, communication and transportation – appears to go backwards. This is the beginners’ guide, in response to all your questions to my Twitter feed about the recent US 2012 election in the wake of Sandy, find me on twitter @jessicacadams.


Mercury Retrograde. Hard to say, and sometimes hard to live with. If you are an inexperienced astrologer or student it can be very hard to understand. Having studied it through my career as a horoscope columnist at Elle, The Daily Telegraph, Vogue and beyond I have to say, it needs to be taken seriously. Not just by astrologers, but perhaps by sceptics too.

Mercury Retrograde does not have to be negative. Sometimes, if the aspects (patterns) it makes in a horoscope are helpful, you can actually gain from the odd, delayed or reversed outcomes it produces.

Should the Mercury Retrograde cycle trigger difficult horoscope patterns in a person, though – or in a whole nation – then something as basic as the mail, or a computer can take a strange path that leads to something far heavier. It’s the same for speeches and press releases, which Mercury also rules. The bottom line? Mercury rules news. 

When this planet appears to move backwards from our point of view on earth, news is not necessarily final. This is something history and astrology tell us.

For some people, reversed or reshaped news is good news. However, it can also signal something more serious in our destiny.

lincoln daniel day lewis 224x300 - Mercury Retrograde for Beginners
Abraham Lincoln portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis


The Spielberg film Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, is tipped for an Oscar. It will be screened at the White House on Thursday 15th November 2012 in the presence of President Obama.

History repeats and astrology describes that repetition. There are many parallels between Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 election and the present. There are also parallels between his horoscope and the President’s. The film is emerging at a strange point in history, when the astrology of 1864 and 2012 meets in the middle, as heavenly bodies circle the sign of Scorpio. One of them is Mercury Retrograde.

The horoscopes of Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama show connections.  Abraham Lincoln was born on 12th February 1809 at 6.54am in Hodgenville, Kentucky (Source: The President was born on 4th August 1961 at 7.24pm in Honolulu (Source Solar Fire).

Lincoln had the Sun at 23 Aquarius . Obama has Aesculapius at 23 Aquarius. Obama has Neptune at 8 Scorpio. Lincoln had Uranus at 9 Scorpio. As you learn more about astrology you’ll also discover how common the sign of Aquarius is in the charts of humanitarians and how frequently Scorpio occurs in the horoscopes of powerful people.

Both Lincoln and Obama have something else in common. Both came to power on textbook Mercury Retrograde elections. Soldiers fighting in the American Civil War in 1864 were permitted to cast absentee postal ballots. There is evidence of the military casting absentee votes as early as September and October 1864, when Mercury was in his notorious shadow, retrograde, shadow cycle. Harper’s has an illustration of soldiers voting in tents in September, at the height of the retrograde. You can see old postal votes from the military here, at the US postal archives.


Along with trains and laptops, the media, the news and big announcements –  Mercury also rules planes and even horses – anything which goes from A to B.  And when this planet apparently goes backwards, it moves like this –

PRE SHADOW Mercury moves forward, but over a sign and degree where it will shortly get stuck. This sets up potential future chaos as new information may come in later, altering the old message or even making it redundant.

FIRST STATION Mercury hovers on the spot, otherwise known as making a station. Mercury hits the same degree, in the same sign, repeatedly. This is like a courier running on the spot or freezing.

RETROGRADE Oh dear. The courier now goes fully backwards, delivering information which adds to, or perhaps alters, the first messages. This is when revelations can occur. Things are revealed. There may be a big review or rethink required. (Just put RE in front of any word and you get instant Mercury Retrograde effects. Reschedule. Recount. Reconsider. Retract.

SECOND STATION – Mercury hovers on the spot again. Doing nothing, going nowhere. The freezing effect.

POST SHADOW Mercury the messenger finally moves forward again, but he will do so over the same sign and degree where he just gave two earlier messages. This is also called a shadow. If the third message creates complications with either or both of the first two, the chaos can be bad.

DIRECT At last Mercury is free of the sign and degree where he just created contradictions or complications. You can breathe. He is moving properly forward.

Note: Please don’t assume that every astrologer uses the correct system. Sometimes they will tell you Mercury is Direct and he’s actually still retracing his steps. Or they’ll tell you Mercury is Station (not retrograde yet) and thus, it’s okay.

My professional experience says otherwise and as an astrologer I don’t want you to risk it!

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Some Mercury Retrograde cycles are just annoying. They don’t alter history, they just affect your life. Especially if your computer is important, or you are strongly affected by the media.

Here’s what can happen, to give you an example.

Mercury Pre Shadow. You see an advertisement for a computer at a bargain price. Plans go in motion. You start scheduling the future.

Mercury First Station. The queue at the computer store is long. Longer, even, than the queue to vote in the US elections in 2012. Why a queue? Because when Mercury stations, his normal motion (running, riding a horse) is also stationary. It goes nowhere. It stands still. Just like someone standing in line. You are put in a phone queue. People who are supposed to help you seem mentally confused.

Mercury Retrograde. A message arrives. New information. Your computer has to be shipped from another country owing to bad weather and the price has gone up. You go ahead anyway (although of course an astrologer would never have let it get this far).

Mercury Second Station. Customs seize the computer and you stand in another line at JFK to collect it. This creates more chaos, as a by-product. You’re off work for the day and several projects screw up. The entire planet is by now in a weird kind of loop/warp.

Mercury Post Shadow. Another message arrives. There is a free computer if you want it – a friend is moving house. It’s better than the one you paid for. (At which point you thrust your head through the wall).

Mercury Direct Life returns to normal. You take the free computer, sell the other one on eBay and get a good astrologer.


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Mercury is positive or negative depending on the aspects it makes. The patterns it makes with other heavenly bodies can either be disastrous (the Titanic sank on Mercury Retrograde, Hitler lied and it was ‘Peace in our time’ on  Mercury Retrograde and Wall Street crashed on Mercury Retrograde in 1929). In other words it can be the missing key to the binocular cabinet that sinks the ship.

The chart has to be read as a whole in full context. But as a general rule, because it’s the little things that could create big problems now, astrologers tend to issue warnings about the whole cycle of shadow, station, retrograde, station and shadow. Just look at the house of your chart (or life area) where Mercury is about to do his strange backwards motion and you’ll see where the issues are.

Anything which is the modern equivalent of the Roman relay postal system (see below) is likely to create chaos. So that’s electronics, computers, anything in print, the media, cars, planes and so on. Visualise a messenger on horseback and update him 2000 years.

People lose their voices on the Mercury cycle so messages don’t get through. Or critical weather (like Hurricane Sandy) disrupts the airlines, starting a chain-reaction of chaos. If you study history and astrology together you will quickly see the effects.


Mercury, the Messenger of the Gods, is a Roman deity.

The Roman post office was the Cursus Publicus. Thousands of stations on straight Roman roads held messengers and horses, ready for a relay message system. Every 12 miles or so, a courier on the route could rest. The typical speed of a message was about fifty miles a day. The Cursus Publicus was vulnerable to fraud and theft. Bad weather could affect roads and illness/accidents could get in the way of both man and horse reaching the next point in the relay.

All these chaotic situations may well have occurred during Mercury Retrograde.

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The London 2012 Olympics was held on Mercury Retrograde and several relay races went badly wrong. US relay runner Manteo Mitchell broke his leg. Great Britain made a baton changeover mistake in the spring relay. A mark was set in the wrong place.  A full-scale inquiry into the failure of Britain’s sprint relay followed.

It was a remarkable 2000-year flashback to those Romans in a relay system, going wrong.

For more on this flakey Olympics, see the other feature here, on Mercury Retrograde at The Astrology Show.

As of today, November 15 in Australia (November 14 in the USA) the BBC reports that around one-quarter million Olympics seats were never sold. Many of them were for football, which is particularly affected by Mercury Retrograde. Here’s another story –


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Never hire a football manager on Mercury Retrograde Shadow

Mercury Retrograde can set people up in what seem to be permanent situations and then abruptly end them.

On 20 July 1974, controversial manager Brian Clough was named manager of Leeds United. He was dismissed from the post on 12 September 1974, after only 44 days in charge. Clough was hired on Mercury Shadow.

What happened became the subject of a film, The Damned United.

The Brian Clough and Leeds United story went like this –

Mercury in Cancer 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 from June 2 to 17, 1974

Mercury in Cancer 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 from June 18 to July 12, 1974

Mercury in Cancer 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 from July 13 to 26, 1974

We don’t have a birth time but the B Rodden Rated data from Astrotheme is 21st March 1935 in Middlesborough.


FileJohnFK - Mercury Retrograde for Beginners
President John F.Kennedy (Wikimedia Commons)

The United States presidential election of 1960 was the 34th American presidential election, held on November 8, 1960, when Mercury was at 14 Scorpio Retrograde. Kennedy appeared headed for victory. However, as later returns came in Nixon began to close the gap. It was not until the afternoon of Wednesday, November 9 that Nixon finally conceded the election. Absentee ballots were crucial to the outcome.


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Gough Whitlam and Richard Nixon

The 1975 Australian constitutional crisis (“the Dismissal“) was the greatest political crisis in the country’s history. It culminated on 11 November 1975 with the removal of the Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam. The Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Fraser, was appointed as caretaker Prime Minister.

Here is classic footage of Norman Gunston with Gough Whitlam during the crisis


The election giving Gough Whitlam and the Labor party power was held on December 2, 1972 when Mercury was Retrograde at 27 Scorpio. Another Federal Election had to follow, 17 months later, as Gough Whitlam’s legislation was blocked by three opposing parties. That took place on May 18, 1974. Whitlam was returned to office but still lacked a majority in the Senate.

It ended in his sacking (The Dismissal) on November 11, 1975. The total eclipse that month fell at 25 Scorpio, very close to the Mercury Retrograde position of 27 Scorpio back on the original election. It had been three years but eventually the government elected on Mercury Retrograde was booted out in a controversy – and it had been a government that had never been fully able to govern.

Other Mercury Retrograde elections include the 2010 Australian and British contests and the Gore-Bush recount result. For more on these see the other feature in The Astrology Show, on this website, on Mercury Retrograde.


Nixon was ahead in most polls for the entire election cycle back in 1972, and was re-elected on November 7  in one of the biggest landslides in American history. He also did it straight through a full Mercury Retrograde cycle in two signs, Scorpio and Sagittarius. After the Watergate scandal involving the FBI and CIA, to avoid the risk of impeachment, Nixon resigned as president on August 9, 1974. The only American president ever to quit.

The election campaign went like this – note the shadows, before and after the actual retrograde.

Mercury in Scorpio 26, 27, 28, 29 – October 28th to 30th 1972

Mercury in Scorpio 29, 28, 27, 26 – November 30th to December 5th 1972

Mercury in Scorpio 26, 27, 28, 29 – December 6th to 12th 1972

Mercury in Sagittarius 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 19, 11, 12 – October 31st to November 15th1972

Mercury in Sagittarius 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0 – November 16th to 29th1972

Mercury in Sagittarius 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 – December 13th to 23rd 1972


In November and December 2012 Mercury went through the retrograde cycle in two signs – Scorpio and Sagittarius. The Scorpio position is the most critical, because Mercury is conjunct the North Node in Scorpio and opposite the South Node in Taurus. It also hits the same position as a total solar eclipse at 21 Scorpio, taking place on November 13.

The Mercury in Scorpio story goes like this.

Mercury in Scorpio 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 from October 19 to 29, 2012

Mercury in Scorpio 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, 18 from November 15 to 27, 2012

Mercury in Scorpio 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 27, 28, 29 from November 27 to December 11,2012

The Mercury in Sagittarius story goes like this –

Mercury in Sagittarius 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 from October 30 to November 6, 2012

Mercury in Sagittarius 4, 3, 2, 1, 0 from November 7 to 14, 2012

Mercury in Sagittarius 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 from December 12 to 14, 2012

Given that this covers the early pre-voting period in late October as well as the aftermath, through to December, it is worth remembering that Mercury rules computers and technical equipment (like polling machines) and signed paperwork (like voter ID). It also rules e-mail voting and postal voting.

At time of writing, 9 million people had watched a YouTube video allegedly showing voter machine malfunction, which occurred during the Mercury Retrograde cycle on November 6, 2012 (posted by Central Pavote). The video is here and seems to be genuine.

We will not know the full impact of this entire Mercury cycle until the middle of December when the last details have been filled in. At time of writing, Mercury is yet to re-enter Scorpio and the total eclipse in Scorpio is yet to occur.

This is a Mercury Retrograde unlike any other. It takes place in Scorpio alongside Saturn in Scorpio, and the North Node in the same sign. If you would like more information about Mercury please pick up my free podcast on this planet in the Astrology for Beginners series on Apple iTunes.


With a reign of 326 days, Edward VIII was one of the shortest-reigning monarchs in British  history. He was never crowned.

On 20 January 1936, George V died and Edward ascended the throne. Mercury was shadow in Aquarius, just prior to moving retrograde. On 11 December 1936, Edward said in a radio broadcast, “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.” 

Nixon and the Windsors - Mercury Retrograde for Beginners
Edward and Mrs Simpson with Richard Nixon


When reading your own chart look for Mercury’s three mail-drops. What house is he travelling through? That’s where problems could occur. What aspects is he making? Is he going to cause real issues for you, or just minor irritations?

FIRST PASS Everything seems to be normal – information, communication and transportation are rolling. Connections are being made. You’re in planning mode. You get out your diary and your computer and start a domino effect of fresh ideas, commitments.

SECOND PASS Mercury is now retrograde. More comes from the universe’s mailbag but it may totally change what you first planned or believed. This is the chaotic bit. You can factor in a wider chain-reaction of chaos if your changes create them for others.

THIRD PASS Mercury is now post shadow. There is a third mail-drop from the universe at this point. This news, or this message, could change the first and/or second lot of plans. By this stage, depending on other aspects, treble brandies may be required.


If it’s about the radio, television, newspaper, Twitter, e-mail, magazine, advertising or general media industries, it’s a Mercury issue. If it’s about computers and all forms of computerised technology, it’s a Mercury issue. If it’s about signed documents, printers and all paper communication it’s a Mercury issue. If it’s about phones, fax machines and even speech/hearing – it’s a Mercury issue. If it’s about bugging, tape-recorders, MP3 recordings, codes or ID, it’s a Mercury issue. If it’s about planes, trains, automobiles, motorbikes and even a horse, it’s a Mercury issue.

Most of all, the news is never the full and final story on Mercury Retrograde.

Astrology is the universe talking to humanity. And when it talks, during a potentially difficult Mercury cycle, it advises us to ask more questions. To never stop asking questions, even if takes years.

To see more on Mercury’s three passes,  read the feature by astrologer Andrew Smith from the C*I*A at their website.

Obama Feb 2009 Public Domain 300x199 - Mercury Retrograde for Beginners
President Barack Obama in 2009 (Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons)

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5 Responses

  1. Dear Jessica,

    I have been single for a long time and I was born in January 08/01/1972 and I would love to have a relationship in the near future and I would like to settle down one day with the right man.

    Do you see this is happening to me in the near future or not may be by the end of December 2014?

    Also do you think I will have a house and own my own business one day?

    Thanks so much.

    Kind regards,

  2. Jessica, why does your “get the gloss” iPhone app not work?

    Is it because it was built during a Mercury retrograde?


    1. Funnily enough, yes, Get The Gloss did pursue the iPhone app on Mercury Retrograde! We’re looking at astrology apps for 2016 at this website, right now. Thank you.

Comments are closed.

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