Mercury retrograde is commonly known to be associated with late packages, misdirected communications, and occasional illogical thought processes.
Mercury goes retrograde for about three weeks at a time, three times per year. Here are the dates, for the benefit of anyone who would like to schedule events. These dates are for Greenwich Mean Time (London). If you are in the Americas, the actual dates might be a day earlier, and if you are in Australia or India, the actual dates might be a day later.
Delays in mail and shipping, missed communication, and misunderstandings are more frequent while Mercury is retrograde than when its motion is normal.
Venus also goes retrograde, but not as often as Mercury, and for longer periods of time. In fact, all the planets go retrograde. Why? What does "retrograde" mean?
Planets all travel in the same direction around the Sun—they don't change direction. What changes is how their motion appears from Earth against the background of distant stars. "Retrograde" motion is apparent backward motion, not actual backward motion. Here is how it happens.
Mercury is nearer to the Sun than Earth. When Mercury is on the near side of the Sun to us, since Earth and Mercury are both moving in the same direction, sometimes it doesn't look to us like Mercury is moving forward like we are, even though it is.
On the picture below, the zodiac goes around counterclockwise, starting from Aries at 6 o'clock. First, follow the black line at Time 1 from Earth to Mercury when it is on the far side of the Sun, to the zodiac (in Aquarius). Then follow the red line at Time 2. Mercury appears further along in Aquarius. This is normal or "direct" motion.
Now look at Mercury when it is on the near side of the Sun. Follow the black line at Time 1 from Earth to the near position of Mercury to the zodiac, and then the red line at Time 2 from Earth to the near position of Mercury to the zodiac. Even though Mercury has moved forward in its orbit, it appears to be a little behind where it was at Time 1. If we look at the sky from day to day, we would see that Mercury appears behind where it was the day before.
Mercury always moves in direct motion in the zodiac when it is on the far side of the Sun from Earth. It is only retrograde during part of its orbit when it is on the side of the Sun nearer to us.
All the other planets also move with apparent retrograde motion. Venus goes retrograde less frequently than Mercury, because it is close to Earth and its period of revolution is also close to Earth's. Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the outer planets have retrograde motion for longer periods of time, up to several months. This happens because their orbits are larger than Earth's. When they are on the same side of the Sun as Earth, there is a period of time when they appear to move backward in retrotrade motion.
On the next picture, follow the black line at Time 1 from Earth to Jupiter on the far side of the Sun (in Pisces), and then the red line at Time 2. The motion is normal, or "direct."
Now look at Jupiter when it is on the same side of the Sun as Earth, and follow the black line at Time 1 and the red line at Time 2 (to Virgo). You can see that its apparent motion is backward along the zodiac, even though Jupiter itself is moving forward in the zodiac. This happens because Earth moves much faster and has a smaller orbit.
Here are times of planetary retrograde motion:
All the planets are closer to Earth in their orbits when they have retrograde motion. For this reason, traditional Vedic interpretation holds that retrograde planets are stronger in a horoscope than planets with normal, direct motion.
Since the outer planets stay retrograde for long periods of time, it is not possible to adjust our schedules to accommodate them. Retrograde motion of all the planets is useful in natal interpretation. The faculties of the planet are turned inward, operating in a non-linear manner that is sometimes unusual or not understood by others.
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