Now more than ever, we’re relying on our devices and a strong Wifi connection to do just about everything. So, when Mercury retrograde — which tends to throw a wrench in all things technology, communication, and transportation — strikes, we’re even more inclined to lose our minds.
Not only does Mercury go retrograde often — three or four times a year for three weeks at a time — but, to make matters worse, there's this: Mercury going direct (or ending its retrograde phase) doesn’t necessarily translate to fewer headaches. That’s because there are two phases — the Mercury retroshade and Mercury storm — leading in and out of the official Mercury retrograde period when the messenger planet could spur slowdowns, miscommunication, and glitches galore.
So, yeah if you were breathing a sigh of relief at the end of this latest Mercury retrograde season on November 3 — on Election Day, and in Libra, a sign known for balance, harmony, and fairness — know that we aren't really in the clear until the retroshade period ends on November 19 in Scorpio. That means we can expect to be challenged by Mercury, and be dealing with disruptions in technology and communication, as well as some general chaos, for two more weeks. (Sorry!)
Here’s everything you need to know about Mercury retroshade period and the Mercury storm — and why they don’t have to mean feeling defeated at every turn.
What Technically Happens During Mercury ‘Retroshade’?
A key thing to know about the planet of communication: It’s the fastest moving planet in our solar system — moving around the sun every 88 Earth days, traveling at nearly 112,000 mph — which is why its slowdowns and standstills are felt so acutely. And before it can “go retrograde,” or appear to move backward from our vantage point on Earth, it needs to reduce its speed and even pause for a bit. Think of active recovery and rest periods during an interval workout.
For two weeks before a Mercury retrograde officially begins, it slows down, and for two weeks following Mercury direct, it needs to regain its full speed. These periods of time are referred to as the pre- and post-shadow periods, or retroshade. During the pre-shadow, Mercury will move directly through a certain point in the sky referred to as degrees (e.g. it could be something like 2º Scorpio). During its retrograde, it’ll move back through those degrees, and then, yep, you guessed it, back through that spot once it’s on its road to full speed recovery after the retrograde ends.
In short, the pre-shadow begins when Mercury, moving direct, hits the point at which it’ll be when its retrograde ends. And the post-shadow ends when Mercury, again moving direct, returns to the point at which it’ll be when its retrograde began. It’s basically like an astrological zig-zag.
This means that there are three weeks of slowdown (pre-shadow), three weeks of actual backward motion (retrograde), and three weeks of revving back up to full speed (post-shadow), so nine weeks total of Mercury mishigas.
What to Know About the Pre-Shadow
As Mercury moves ahead and through the degrees it will return to, you could begin to get a bit of a preview of what’s to come during the actual retrograde phase. This is when technical glitches and slowdowns and miscommunications start to crop up. (For instance, that e-mail to your boss may get lost in the ether, or your partner may misunderstand a benign text.) You may also receive clues of the emotional work that lies ahead during the retrograde. For example, maybe you’ll come across old journals while doing a reorg of your apartment that will prompt you to reflect on patterns in your past relationships. Whatever it is, pay attention to how you cope, as a similar, and even more significant, challenge might be around the corner.
What to Know About the Post-Shadow
After we celebrate Mercury going direct, the retroshade period lingers for another two-ish weeks. Typical retrograde communication breakdowns and device mishaps are still likely, as Mercury is still working its way up to its full speed. This can also function as a post-retrograde cleanup phase, during which you can reflect on whatever it is that came up for you during the official transit, and continue to tie up loose ends.
Is the Retroshade as Bad as Retrograde?
Given how frequently these transits occur, astrologers (like myself) wouldn’t suggest you treat the shadows like the retrograde itself. In other words, feel free to push forward on travel, crucial communication, making a pricey electronic purchase, or getting all the details right on an important contract — while perhaps being slightly more vigilant than usual.
Another reason not to give in to the hype and fearmongering about the phase: It’s a relatively new concept, first explored in the 1980s, that modern astrologers acknowledge but historically, astrologers weren’t worried about in the least, explains my colleague and senior astrologer of Astrology.com, Narayana Montúfar.
“If we look at the most ancient astrological texts, there is no trace of this concept,” she notes. “The truth is that ancient astrologers not only viewed Mercury retrograde as a magical and transformational transit, but they also used it to their advantage, and no, they did not fear the so-called ‘pre-shadow’ and ‘post-shadow’ periods.”
What Is the Mercury Retrograde Storm?
It’s quite possible you won’t feel the Mercury “retroshades,” but you will feel another pre- and post-phase referred to as the Mercury retrograde storm. The storm is the result of the fastest moving planet slowing down significantly, almost to a standstill, right around the time it turns retrograde and then when it turns direct.
But what’s true for every major astrological aspect is true here, as well: The day you’ll feel the effects of Mercury’s backward turn the most will be the day it “stations” (aka goes) retrograde or direct.
When Are the Upcoming Mercury ‘Retroshades’
October 2020 in Scorpio and Libra: The pre-shadow will begin in Libra on September 23 before going retrograde in Scorpio on October 13-14. Mercury will be direct on November 3 (Election Day!) in Libra, and the post-shadow comes to a close in Scorpio on November 19.
January 2020 in Aquarius: The pre-shadow will begin in Aquarius on January 14 before going retrograde on January 30. Mercury will be direct on February 20, and the post-shadow ends on March 12.
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