Jim Shawvan's Right Place Consulting
Mercury Retrogrades in 2011, with the Shadows and the Storms
by Jim Shawvan
If you do not clearly understand the following paragraph, you need to read this article:
On March 6, 2011, Mercury enters the Shadow of its coming retrograde. On March 25, 2011, Mercury enters the "Front-end Storm" associated with its retrograde station, which occurs on March 30. After going retrograde, it remains in the "Storm" until April 7, conjoins the Sun on April 9, and enters the "Back-end Storm" on April 15.
Especially for the latter half of this article, it may be helpful to read it slowly as you look through an ephemeris for 2011 -- particularly if the subject matter is new to you.
Note that all dates given in this article are for North American time zones. If you live in another part of the world, some of the dates may differ by one day. Accurate data can be found in Llewellyn's 2010 Daily Planetary Guide (which features Jim Shawvan's Opportunity Periods for the entire year). The raw data can also be found in any good astrological ephemeris.
By the time you finish this article, you will understand that the effects of Mercury retrograde extend well beyond the period of the retrograde itself. You will also have a good handle on when problems or miscommunications are most likely, and when life is more likely to seem normal.
The Astronomy of Mercury Retrograde
Mercury is the closest of all the planets to the Sun, and it takes only 88 earth days to make a complete circuit around the Sun. To put it another way, Mercury's own "year" lasts only 88 days in Earth time. Since Earth takes about 365 1/4 days to go around the Sun, we observe Mercury's motion from a moving platform -- rather like two cars moving along two different lanes of a racetrack at different speeds. One effect of the two motions is that Mercury appears to us to go backwards (retrograde) in the zodiac for about three weeks at a time, roughly three times a year.
Mercury rules communication, and astrologers have long observed that more SNAFU's in communication seem to occur during Mercury Retrograde than at most other times. Mercury Retrograde is particularly associated with failures of the mails, deliveries, phone systems, and of course computers and computer networks. According to some people's accounts, transportation is not immune to these effects either -- although I personally have had no bad travel experiences associated with Mercury Retrograde, and I have traveled in 39 countries. Foreign travel, of course, is traditionally associated with Jupiter, and short-distance travel with Mercury, so that may be a possible explanation for the relative ease with which I have experienced foreign travel.
Mercury Retrograde seems to be bad for decision-making as well. Business people who watch their astrology will notice, for example, that new clients who appear during Mercury Retrograde will often disappear afterwards, never to be heard from again. Likewise with regard to purchases -- what seems like a really good new product or service during Mercury Retrograde may not pan out in the long run. As far as making life-changing decisions while Mercury is retrograde, I have one word of advice: DON'T.
In my experience, if one has made a sound decision before Mercury Retrograde, there does not seem to be any problem following through with it during the retrograde period. Catching up, filing, and escrows work fine during this time. More -- I have seen buyers of real estate make clear decisions in advance about what kind of property they were looking for, and then pick the specific property while Mercury was retrograde. In these cases, the purchases were successful, and the new owners remain happy with their new homes several years later.
When students of astrology first hear of the effects of Mercury Retrograde, they often jump to the conclusion that everything will be hunky-dory right up to the moment that Mercury starts its apparent backward motion, then everything will be totally dysfunctional for about three weeks, and then as soon as Mercury resumes its normal direct motion everything will again be just peachy. Unfortunately, reality is not that simple.
The Shadow and the Storm
There are two more phenomena around the retrograde period that need to be understood -- the "Shadow" and the "Storm". I will use the period around the Mercury Retrograde of March and April 2011 to give concrete examples of both.
A note about terminology: In discussing the movement of the planets, the word "station" means the point at which a planet changes its direction in apparent motion. This usage of the word "station" often strikes us speakers of modern English as odd -- but it is very good Latin, from the verb "stare", meaning to stand, or to stand still.
The Mercury Retrograde of March and April 2011
On March 30, 2011, Mercury is stationary retrograde (or "makes its retrograde station", i.e., starts going backwards in apparent motion) at 1:48 pm Pacific Daylight Time, which is the same as 4:48 pm Eastern Daylight Time, or 8:48 pm Universal Time. Its position (celestial longitude) in the standard Western tropical zodiac at that moment is 24 Aries 21.
On April 23, 2011, Mercury makes its direct station (or "is stationary direct", i.e., starts going forwards again in apparent motion) at 3:04 am Pacific Daylight Time, which is the same as 6:04 am Eastern Daylight Time, or 10:04 am Universal Time. Its position (celestial longitude) in the tropical zodiac at that moment is 12 Aries 53.
The Shadow Period
If you think about it, you will realize that Mercury must pass the degree of its direct station some time before it goes retrograde. A look at the ephemeris shows, in fact, that it passes that point on March 16, 2011. This is the beginning of the Shadow Period. The astrologers Terry Lamb and Roxana Muise deserve credit for drawing attention to this topic. Roxana Muise has lectured and published extensively on the Shadow Period, using graphic ephemerides to illustrate the concept.
To reiterate, Mercury enters the "Shadow" of the following retrograde at 12 Aries 53 on March 16, 2011, and then continues moving direct (forward) as far as 24 Aries 21, at which point it makes its retrograde station on March 30. Mercury then appears to go backwards for about three weeks, and makes its direct station at 12 Aries 53 on April 23. Then its direct (forward) motion takes it past 24 Aries 21 again on May 11, at which time the Shadow Period is over.
We can think of the entire cycle as: Front-end Shadow, Retrograde, Back-end Shadow. From experience, it is clear that Mercury-ruled matters start to get weird sometime during the Front-end Shadow, and continue to act weird until sometime during the Back-end Shadow.
The Mercury Storm
To understand the timing of the weirdness still better, we need another concept -- the "Mercury Storm". I owe this very useful term to a short anonymous article in an old bulletin of the Arizona Society of Astrologers. (Would the author please step forward and take credit for it?)
As Mercury approaches and passes its retrograde station, it appears to slow down to a crawl, then stops for a moment, then starts moving "backwards" very slowly, and slowly speeds up. By the middle of the retrograde period, Mercury is moving at something approaching its normal speed, but in the "wrong direction". The speed of retrograde Mercury peaks sometime around the date when it conjoins the Sun, and life often seems to be getting back to normal for a while around that time. Then Mercury begins to slow down again as it approaches its direct station. Again it slows to a crawl, stops for a moment, and then resumes its forward motion.
The "Mercury Storm" is that period right around the station -- either station! -- when Mercury is moving very slowly. Normally Mercury is the fastest-moving planet (other than the Moon, which is really a satellite of the Earth), and it is helpful to think of Mercury as being "happy" when it is moving fast, and "unhappy" when it is moving slowly. My working definition of the Mercury Storm is any period in which Mercury is moving less than 40' (minutes of arc) per day, since experience shows that the SNAFU's tend to peak at those times. Using that definition, in the case being discussed here, the "Front-end Storm" around the retrograde station lasts from March 25 to April 7, 2011, and the "Back-end Storm" around the direct station lasts from April 16 to May 2, 2011. The number of days in the Storm is highly variable, which is at least consistent with the fluid nature of Mercury!
The Mercury Retrograde of March and April 2011, as detailed above
Mercury enters its Front-end Shadow on March 16, 2011. It enters the Front-end Storm on March 25, and makes its retrograde station on March 30. It leaves the Front-end Storm on April 7, and continues retrograde, conjoining the Sun on April 9. Still retrograde, it enters the Back-end Storm on April 16, then makes its direct station on April 23. It leaves the Back-end Storm on May 2, and finally leaves the Back-end Shadow on May 11.
The Mercury Retrograde of August 2011
Mercury enters its next Front-end Shadow on July 15, 2011. It enters the Storm on July 24, and makes its retrograde station on August 2. It leaves the Front-End Storm on August 11, and continues retrograde, conjoining the Sun on August 16. Still retrograde, it enters the Back-End Storm on August 21, and then makes its direct station on August 26. It leaves the Storm on August 31, and finally leaves the Back-end Shadow on September 9.
The Mercury Retrograde of November and December 2011
Mercury enters its subsequent Front-end Shadow on November 5, 2011. It enters the Front-end Storm on November 18, and makes its retrograde station on November 23 or 24, depending on the time zone. It leaves the Front-end Storm on November 28, and continues retrograde, conjoining the Sun on December 4. Still moving retrograde, it enters the Back-end Storm on December 10, then makes its direct station on December 13. It leaves the Back-end Storm on December 18, and finally leaves the Back-end Shadow in January of 2012.
So now you know that the SNAFU's associated with Mercury Retrograde can and do occur while Mercury is direct, in particular during the Mercury Storm periods right around the stations. You also have the tools to identify these periods, as well as the Shadow Periods.
Good luck dealing with this stuff -- be careful, but have fun learning from your experiences, too!
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