The basics: A retrograde occurs when a planet appears to be moving backwards from our vantage point here on Earth. It isn't actually moving backwards, it just appears that way. Mercury turns retrograde most often, about 3-4 times per year, and lasts for several weeks. When a planet retrogrades, what that planet rules tends to be thrown off, along with what the sign it's retrograding in rules.
With Mercury retrograde, we experience a shadow and a storm. The shadow period starts when Mercury first hits the point in the Zodiac it will turn direct at, and ends when it last hits the point in the Zodiac it will turn retrograde at. Most people don't feel the effects of Mercury retrograde until it enters the storm period though.
The storm period of Mercury retrograde is when Mercury is moving at its slowest, less than 40 minutes per day. Mercury is a fast-moving planet and hates it when he's moving slowly. There's usually two storm periods, one around the time Mercury turns retrograde, and one around when it turns direct.
This Mercury retrograde begins on August 30th at 9:04AM ET and ends on September 22nd at 1:31AM ET. The shadow period starts August 10th and ends October 6th. The first storm period is August 22nd - September 6th, and second storm period is September 18th - 26th.
Here we go - it’s that time of the year again, MERCURY MADNESS! (for those of you new, that’s my affectionate term for Mercury retrograde) This Mercury retrograde is entirely in the sign of Virgo, an earth sign who is one of the signs Mercury naturally rules (along with air sign Gemini). Virgo rules our work lives, daily lives, and health. So get ready for some wonky work, wonky days, and wonky health!
We may lack a work ethic, have difficulty sticking to deadlines, forget schedules, miss the details. We may not want to deal with the daily grind of life, the chores and tasks that have to be done on a daily basis, get sick of the routines. There may be bad news on the job front, in the economy, or with some specific workplace. There can be health news that isn’t so great (my mind immediately goes to Zika but who knows).
Virgo rules structure, order, organization, so we can lack organization and structure, feel like there’s too much disorder, and we’re a bit all over the place. Virgo can be an anxious, nervous, fidgety sign, and rules stress so we can have some extra nerves and anxiety, stress ourselves out way too easily and way too much, and boy do we need a break!
Things are made worse this go around because we have something called a mutable t-square going on. A t-square is when two or more planets oppose one another and square (three signs away) a third planet (forming what looks like a square). Jupiter in Virgo opposes Neptune in Pisces with both square Saturn in Sagittarius.
Mars will also be in Sagittarius during this retrograde, and the Sun will be in Virgo, with Mercury retrograde in Virgo. So this mutable t-square (these are the mutable signs) gets riled up in a big way, and we’re super scattered and unfocused and all over the place. We need to focus on the missing sign, which is Gemini, so we need to think more, ask questions, be curious, pay attention to the little picture, and gather the information and facts.
It gets worse too, because there’s a second t-square occurring at the same time, a cardinal t-square. When the retrograde begins, Venus in Libra will be opposite Uranus in Aries with both square Pluto in Capricorn. Jupiter will leave Virgo during the retrograde and join Venus in Libra, adding to the energy, Every time we’ve had double t-square energy with a cardinal and mutable t-square, the energy has been explosive.
There’s been more violence, more outrage, more attacks, more bloodshed. I’m really worried about this period with Mercury retrograde mucking things up!
To add even more energy to this, a solar eclipse occurs in Virgo, the sign Mercury is retrograde, on September 1st, and a lunar eclipse occurs on September 16th in Pisces (where Neptune is), so the eclipses add in more energy. Like there isn’t enough as it is!
And oh yes, there IS more - Mercury retrograde begins at 29 degrees of Virgo. 29 degrees of any sign is called the anaretic degree, and is a point of crisis energy. The 29th degree is the last degree of a sign, so it’s a bit frantic. Whenever Mercury retrogrades over this degree, this tends to trigger some wild energy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some sort of big event that occurs at the onset of this retrograde.
While retrograde, Mercury will conjunct (align with) Jupiter, pretty early on September 2nd at 1:18PM ET, though the start of the retrograde is essentially conjunct Jupiter. This is at the very end of Jupiter in Virgo, so they’re both energizing each other as they zoom past one another, and there can be big, expansive energy.
This aspect can amplify whatever may be coming to pass at this time, so we need to be careful we don’t let it get so big it blows. Jupiter can be optimistic, so we can try to look at the bright side now. Mercury also squares (hard aspect) Mars on September 12th at 2:58PM ET, and this can be a period where anger is boiling, tempers are flaring, and we need to have outlets for aggression to avoid explosions.
At the end of the retrograde, Mercury trines (positive aspect) Pluto on September 20th at 9:26PM ET, and this can help us to regain some power and control again, or make a change that needs to be made. Pluto actually ends his own retrograde on September 26th, 4 days after Mercury does, and they both end trine one another, so this can help bring some better end by the end of the month.
The retrograde begins at 29 degrees Virgo, so those of you Virgos born September 20th and on can be impacted by the start of the retrograde most. The retrograde ends at 14 degrees Virgo, so those of you Virgos born September 5th - 8th can be impacted by the turn direct most. Note that if you have any planets or house cusps at 29 degrees (regardless of sign), the start of the retrograde can trigger the energy of that planet/house cusp, so pay special attention to it at the start.
The main key is for all of us to get grounded. Energy is flying all over the place and so will we if we don’t find a way to ground ourselves and not fly away with the wind. And if nothing else, let’s try to keep calm and carry bourbon!
For the rest of you, check the house(s) Mercury will be retrograding in of your own natal chart, and any aspects Mercury will make during its retrograde to your natal planets, to fully understand how it will impact you personally.
If you have Mercury retrograde in your natal or progressed chart, you may not feel the worst of this. Those individuals generally don't experience the difficulties of the retrograde because it feels more natural to them. Of course, chances are everyone else around them doesn't have the same aspect, so they can still experience difficulties brought on by others.
Suggested Reading: The Mercury, Venus and Mars Retrogrades page for general interpretations