The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 7, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Kelly Surtees
Episode originally released on July 5, 2013
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released August 24, 2022
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CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, I’m Chris Brennan, and this is The Astrology Podcast. Today is July 3, 2013, and my topic today is a discussion with Kelly Surtees about Mercury retrograde. Mercury recently stationed retrograde at 23 Cancer, and I thought it would be a good idea to have a show where we actually talk about the realities of Mercury retrograde and the things that are not necessarily realities about Mercury retrograde—the things that are perhaps overhyped when it comes to that phenomenon. Yeah, so welcome back to the show, Kelly.
KELLY SURTEES: Thanks, Chris. It is great to be here, as always.
CB: Yeah, I enjoyed our discussion last time. And so, I thought it would be good to talk with another sort of seasoned astrological professional about this very common phenomenon. It’s one of the things that’s actually sort of leaking outside of the astrological community into almost mainstream consciousness. Sometimes you’ll see just random people who aren’t necessarily astrologers refer to Mercury retrogrades and some of the things associated with them.
So I thought it’d be good if we could kind of sort out, you know, what things actually do happen during Mercury retrogrades and how much is it a legitimate phenomenon that correlates with specific things about three times a year, and, you know, in what ways perhaps is it overhyped in a certain sense in different parts of the astrological community. So I guess, first off, where should we start? Maybe just by defining Mercury retrograde?
KS: Yeah, that’s probably a great place to start just in case there are some listeners that are still new to it, I guess, or working out the concept.
CB: Sure. Yeah, so Mercury retrograde takes place about three times a year and it lasts for about three weeks each time. There is the retrograde station, which is when Mercury slows down and stops at a specific point in the zodiac and then starts moving backwards in zodiacal order, backwards in order of degrees, eventually stationing direct, at which point it starts moving forward again. So the retrograde period itself is that period in which it’s moving backwards in the order of degrees or in the order of signs for approximately three weeks. And this takes place about three times a year. You have anything to add to that definition?
KS: No, I think that’s perfect. That’s what it is really. The only thing, you know, with that apparent versus actual movement, it’s a visual phenomenon rather than an actual thing in terms of the planet looking like it’s going backwards rather than it actually going backwards.
CB: Sure. Yeah, and sometimes people get tripped up on that. And saw somebody asking a question recently on Reddit, I think, on the astrology forum on Reddit. They were really making that point because they didn’t understand how something that’s simply an apparent phenomenon—where it appears to us from our vantage point on Earth that Mercury is moving backwards in the order of signs, when in reality it’s still moving forwards in its orbit—and how that could be significant.
And it really goes back to this core issue underlying astrology, which is that it’s not that the planets are necessarily causing—or at least in my opinion—that the planets are necessarily causing things to happen, but instead that you can take visual signs from celestial events as indicating things on Earth or being indicative of that through the process that modern astrologers usually refer to as synchronicity, so that. there’s a correlation between celestial and earthly events without necessarily having the celestial event cause the earthly event to take place. And I think that’s one of the arguments in favor of something like Mercury retrograde and why that could be significant even if it’s only an apparent phenomenon that’s taking place visually rather than Mercury actually moving retrograde or backwards in its orbit.
KS: Absolutely. And really, isn’t that one of the founding principles of astrology? It’s about how things appear to us from our place here on Earth.
CB: Yeah, and from our vantage point, at our specific location on Earth, at a specific time.
CB: For example, some of us will see certain eclipses, and certain eclipses will be more relevant to certain parts of the Earth, whereas other eclipses won’t necessarily. I mean, there’s all sorts of things like that. It just goes back to the basic process of divination in ancient world was that at a specific moment in time and a specific location, when there is a sign or an omen for something that can be significant to the person who observed it, or it can tell the person who observed it something significant about events that are taking place around that time. And in the same way, Mercury turning retrograde indicates something significant with respect to what Mercury represents or symbolizes in the world during that period of time, which is lasting for about three weeks, three times a year.
KS: Yeah. Yeah, and when I’ve had students or clients that have been a bit confused about it, one of the little stories I’ve shared to help them understand the experience of Mercury retrograde is that feeling of if you’ve ever sat on a train that’s been parked at the train station, and you’ve had another train go by you at quite a fast speed. It feels as though you are going backwards because in relation to the fast train moving past you, there is, I guess, a difference in pace, and it creates that feeling of, “Oh, my gosh, maybe I’m actually going backwards here,” even though you’re not. And so, I guess it’s tied into a little bit of that type of thing as well.
CB: Sure. Yeah. Definitely. That’s a great way of explaining it visually. And it works also with cars on a freeway—that’s also how that’s explained sometimes.
CB: Like if you’re driving down the road, and you are sort of accelerating faster than somebody else and you pass them by. It looks like they actually start moving backwards, but in reality you’re both still moving forwards.
KS: Yes. Yeah, I guess there’s some visual factors that come into it. And then, as astrologers, we give that process or that experience meaning based on what we can see.
CB: Yeah, we interpret the symbolic meaning of what does Mercury indicate on its own sort of in isolation versus what does it indicate when there’s a deviation in Mercury’s path, or when Mercury starts behaving in a way that’s contrary to the way that it usually behaves in its movement most of the time or the majority of the time. So that’s probably a good access point, which is, what does Mercury indicate? And what are the things that tend to come up when retrograde takes place?
KS: Yes. Yes.
CB: Yeah, I think one of the core significations of Mercury has always been communication. So usually Mercury just on its own is attempting to or will signify—if you’re looking at it in somebody’s birth chart, for example, it will signify the way that they communicate. If you look at it in other types of charts it may indicate how communication takes place with respect to whatever that chart is about and whether or not, you know, the person is good at communicating or if the person has challenges communicating, or what their style of communicating is or what have you.
And I think one of the things that people often bring up is that when Mercury goes retrograde that it indicates some sort of deviation or some sort of change—something going against the grain—in Mercury’s attempt to indicate communication. Whatever it is at that time that it’s trying to convey or communicate can sometimes go awry, or there can be a change or a shift in the way that that communication takes place.
KS: Yeah, it’s that classic, I guess, cross-wires or misunderstanding or delayed experience around communication or decision-making, or even things like transport.
CB: Sure. Yeah, which are all Mercury significations. So yeah, let’s go through, I guess, the list of Mercury significations, which are like communication, education, travel. What else?
KS: Travel. Everything to do with speech. I mean, mail. You know, it’s classic postal delays versus email problems. So there’s a technology piece with Mercury as well, I guess.
CB: Yeah, technology is a huge Mercury thing partially because technology is being used especially for communication purposes. But even just on its own, technology often has to do with Mercury.
KS: Yes. Yes, so there’s all those things. I mean, I really think the heart of Mercury is about sharing information or getting messages across, as well as movement. So that, I guess, the travel and transport side of things as well.
CB: Sure. Yeah. Definitely. Just the notion of conveying something. And actually I was at a planetarium a few months ago with my friend and fellow astrologer, Nick Dagan Best, and it was this cool show at the planetarium where it would take you to each planet in the solar system and explain some of its properties.
And one of the things that we found that was really interesting is just some of the ancient astrologers associated the Sun—which is literally the source of, you know, light and heat in the universe, at least on the solar system level, and it’s at the very center of the solar system—some of the ancient astrological texts associate that with the core of knowledge, of knowing, or of having direct insight into some subject, to actually know something or to know anything. I think one of the terms that Valens associates with it is the term ‘gnosis’, which is like a direct knowing of something, or wisdom.
And one of the things that we thought was interesting at the planetarium, when it was doing this trip through each of the planets, is that Mercury really is the first planet that’s next to the Sun. It literally is the first planet that’s next to the Sun. And in that way, it sort of acts as the gatekeeper or the go-between because it’s the first planet that you have to pass through before you can get to any of the other planets. And in that way, you could almost see how just in the basic setup of the universe how you might derive this notion that Mercury—Mercury is not necessarily inherently about the intellect or about knowing or knowledge itself, but it’s about how you would transfer that knowledge or the knowingness of something from the Sun through to the other planets, or through to the rest of the world perhaps…
CB: …via Mercury.
KS: That’s a beautiful story, Chris. I’m really glad you remembered to share it here today.
CB: Yeah, I mean, it’s part of a broader thing that we’ll have to do another show on at some other time. It’s really striking—if you pay attention to the physical properties of the planets in the solar—how oftentimes the physical properties of the planets, there will be something about them, which actually connects very nicely with their astrological significations. Significations that have been around for sometimes hundreds of years or thousands of years. But only recently, we’ve gained the ability to actually look at the planets and determine what their physical properties are, and it’s strange in some ways how those physical properties actually match with the astrological meaning of that planet according to astrologers.
KS: Yes, it’s quite fascinating actually. And you’re right, that probably is a lecture onto itself. But I love what you highlighted there around how Mercury itself is really about the expression of knowledge rather than perhaps a direct symbolism or a direct sort of connection around intellect or intelligence. Because that’s one thing that when you look at, say, a person’s birth chart that may have Mercury retrograde—it is more of a comment around how they get out the ideas inside their head and maybe have some difficulty with Mercury retrograde in the natal chart possibly, but it’s not necessarily a comment on whether they’re actually smart or now.
CB: Yeah. Exactly. It’s just a matter of how they communicate some of the things that they have inside their head or what have you. Yeah, go ahead.
KS: Yeah, I was gonna say I often use that analogy when I’m talking to a client. It’s funny, ‘cause you often talk about Mercury stuff when you’re working with a parent about a child’s chart, you know, ‘cause they’re often interested in how they’ll develop and learn and gain language skills. And I often describe Mercury retrograde as, “Oh, there’s a couple of little wires loose,” so that the information’s in there, but it’s how you get it out that’s tricky. And when Mercury is retrograde in the sky, we’re all experiencing having a wire or two loose.
CB: Sure. Yeah. Exactly. And that was a good point, also, that you were making about not being necessarily representative of the intelligence of the person. For example, if there’s some problem with Mercury—like Saturn is forming a hard aspect to Mercury—that can indicate speech impediments. But a speech impediment or some sort of thing that’s blocking or causing challenges for the person’s ability to communicate is not in and of itself indicative of their intelligence level. It’s just this separate part of the process, which is how well or how effectively they’re able to communicate what they’re thinking at any given moment in time.
KS: Yeah, so I guess that experience that you had at the planetarium—and then when we bring in some of the astrology—Mercury is so very much about that expression or sharing or exchange of ideas and information.
CB: Sure. And so, that often tends to be—to the subject of our podcast—that tends to be one of the main things that I think astrologers often will notice about Mercury retrograde periods in terms of there is a greater tendency for those types of things to go awry sometimes, or for there to be problems or delays or general snafus in those areas when Mercury does go retrograde. And I think this is what led to the sort of notoriety or the sort of, I don’t know, general thinking around Mercury retrograde becoming like this phenomenon that more people are familiar with outside of the astrological community because sometimes that really does take place.
It’s true that that’s sort of been generally overhyped to a certain extent recently, but I think every astrologer that really has paid attention has noticed that certainly there’s some Mercury retrograde periods that go by and it’s not like a huge deal. It’s not the end of the world, and it’s not even much of a blip on the radar. But there are some Mercury retrograde periods, a friend of mine noted last summer, where you really get nailed by it…
CB: …and really leaves a sort of imprint on your psyche at those times. It really reminds you that there’s something to that and it’s worth paying attention to when it happens.
KS: Absolutely. And I guess Mercury retrograde is one of those more popularized astrological phenomenons—like the Saturn return, I guess—where a lot of people that may not know much about astrology at least have some familiarity with it. But I guess it’s a bit perplexing because some Mercury retrogrades are absolutely way more intense than others. So it’s almost when Mercury retrograde is happening or coming up, you know, that information is going out there: “It’s coming. It’s coming. Be prepared.” And sometimes it’s a big wash and nothing happens, and other times, you know, you have all the classic delays or things that go lost, or having to redo things that you had started.
CB: Yeah, and maybe we should talk about some of those circumstances. ‘Cause it is possible sometimes to narrow down which retrograde is gonna be really significant for you versus which retrograde is not in different contexts. So maybe we should talk about some of the different ways in which a Mercury retrograde does become more prominent in a person’s life or in the life of an event chart or what have you.
CB: Let’s see, so one of them, I guess, a pretty straightforward one is if Mercury retrograde is taking place in a prominent part of the chart sometimes that can indicate that it’s gonna be more important. So for example, if you have a stellium in a specific house, and Mercury goes retrograde over that stellium in that year that could be a more significant retrograde than if it’s just, you know, going retrograde and not really making any close aspects to any of your planets in your chart.
KS: Absolutely. So I guess, people understanding that Mercury’s retrograde in different parts of the zodiac, different parts of the sky, and some of those parts are gonna be more directly triggering things in your chart or not.
CB: Sure. And one for astrologers that actually really works out well is using annual profections. And if you’re doing annual profections, you count one sign per year from the rising sign, for every year of the native’s life. So starting at the Ascendant for the first year of their life and then moving to the second sign from the Ascendant and the second year, and then so on and so forth. If you reach a year in which Gemini or Virgo is activated then those are gonna be years in which Mercury retrogrades are gonna be much more important for you.
And I think that’s one of the reasons the recent recovery of that technique of annual profections—which was always meant to be used together with transits—is kind of important because it’s a great way of explaining why there are some years in which Mercury retrogrades are just huge for certain people, whereas there’s other years in which Mercury retrogrades are not as significant. And part of it is because Mercury sometimes has to be activated within the context of a timing technique like that relative to the person’s natal chart before it can fully manifest as a significant significator in its transits.
KS: Yeah, so if you’re in a Mercury profection then you’re gonna be much more sensitive to Mercury’s retrograde in that year.
CB: Right. Exactly. And the dates around the retrograde stations are gonna be much more important. Yeah, and those are gonna be defining events during the course of that year—if Mercury’s activated according to annual profections—for you rather than just being sort of minor annoyances or blips on the radar in terms of the course of the year.
KS: Yes, ‘cause some clients will get in touch, you know, via email or over the phone and they’ll be in a bit of a panic. “Oh, my God, Mercury’s retrograde.” And one of the things that I find myself saying a lot is Mercury retrograde is not a terminal thing. It may create some difficulties. It may make it frustrating. You may have to do something and then redo all or part of it, but you’ll still be able to, you know, go about your business. You and I both run businesses. It’s not as though we take the Mercury retrograde periods off work. So, you know, it may be a year where you’re more sensitive to Mercury retrograde or it may not be, but it’s something that can be managed, I guess.
CB: Right. Yeah. Exactly. And then, also, an even more advanced technique is just profecting from different houses, like, for example, if you profect from the 7th house. So you count one sign per year starting from the 7th house for every year of the native’s life and then you land on a specific sign in a given year. And if it happens to be a sign ruled by Mercury—like Gemini or Virgo—then you know that the Mercury retrogrades are going to be important for you specifically within the context of relationships that year. So for example, I’ve got a number of client charts where when Mercury was activated relative to the 7th house in a given year and it went retrograde—I’ve got at least two people who proposed during those times or got married on those dates.
And in that way, it brings up another point about Mercury retrogrades, which is that retrogrades are not necessarily always bad. They’re just sometimes indicating important markers or very important time periods during the course of the year. So as I was just saying, for example, if Mercury is activated within the context of relationships, within the context of annual profections, that’s telling you that the Mercury retrograde periods are gonna be specifically important within the context of relationships that year. And not necessarily in a bad way, but sometimes just in sort of designating what the important times are in that year.
KS: Absolutely. And it’s an interesting phrase that you use there, that the Mercury retrograde periods are like ‘markers’, you know, particularly the stations and then the retrograde periods themselves. Because, I guess, maybe in an energetic or a physical perspective, Mercury retrograde means that one particular part of the zodiac is activated by Mercury three times in relatively quick succession.
KS: And is a level of emphasis that comes through with that, you know, I guess you really can’t ignore.
CB: Sure. Just in terms of the nature of the sign.
KS: Exactly. Exactly. So I know at the moment Mercury’s retrograde between 13 and 23 Cancer. So of course you can be specific in terms of looking up the part of your chart that holds those degrees or what have you, or if you have any planets within that space or at the station degrees. But that particular part of the sky, you know, Mercury’s going forward, and then like you’re in a car, reversing back and then going forward again. So that idea of the Mercury retrograde marking things out, it sort of does it in such a way that you really can’t miss.
CB: Yeah. Definitely. And that’s really true for all planets basically.
KS: All retrogrades.
CB: Yeah, stations are incredibly important: both direct stations and retrograde stations. And there was a great example of that really recently with the Neptune station just a few weeks ago in Pisces. I think Neptune—it was stationing retrograde, right?
CB: Yeah, Neptune stationing.
KS: At 5.
CB: Yeah, at 5 Pisces. And then all of a sudden there was this huge—it broke within a day of that station. There was this huge controversy that broke with the Edward Snowden case and the release of all of the documents—via, I think, The Guardian or The Telegraph in the UK—of wide-scale spying programs on the part of the US. And it was really striking ‘cause, on the one hand, you have Neptune stationing and you have the sudden, I guess, release of all of this information that was really supposed to be kept secret and was supposed to be behind the scenes.
So you have that element where Neptune is certainly involved, but then this is taking place within the context of this two-year Saturn in Scorpio transit, which is really interesting. Because last November, which was just a few weeks after Saturn initially ingressed into Scorpio, we had an eclipse in Scorpio. And that was when there was a big controversy—I think that Patrick and I mentioned during a past episode of The Astrology Podcast—where the head of the CIA was caught in some sort of scandal…
CB: …and he had to resign, and it was like this huge sex scandal. But the FBI had tapped his email records at the time ‘cause they were using Gmail or something in order to communicate with his lover, whoever it was.
CB: And it was funny ‘cause one of the results of that is there were a bunch of articles at the time that started coming out about how to protect your online privacy in the, you know, week or two after that scandal. Because one of the things that happened was that he was busted as a result of, you know, using these cloud-based services in order to communicate, in order to do whatever clandestine affair he was having. So six months later this comes back and Saturn’s getting ready to station in Scorpio, I think, in the next week or two. Or next couple of weeks, if it hasn’t already.
KS: This weekend actually.
CB: Oh, this weekend. Okay.
KS: Yeah. Yeah, Sunday.
CB: That’s huge. And then we have Neptune also stationing, and then we get almost like an amplification of some of those themes. And now, all of a sudden, it’s like a wide-scale issue with spying and privacy issues and all sorts of things in that domain, all coinciding with the stations of these two planets.
KS: It is fascinating. I had forgotten about that CIA scandal last year because the thing with that was that the affair had taken place and had already ended. It was information that was coming to light that was about something—it wasn’t like the affair was still current, I don’t think.
CB: Right. Right.
KS: So yeah, it’s fascinating. And then to bring it back to now with this Edward Snowden thing, I’m just trying to think of how long the guy has been stuck in the Russian airport.
CB: Like over a week now.
KS: Yeah, I couldn’t help thinking that it’s a little bit of Mercury retrograde there. The guy’s stuck in an airport and can’t get out because now his documents, you know, his US passport’s been canceled.
KS: And he’s trying to have these discussions about where he can get asylum, so I thought that was quite interesting too.
CB: Yeah. Definitely. And I haven’t checked his chart in a while, but it would be interesting to see how the retrograde is hitting his chart right now, since obviously it’s coinciding with a very important period for him. And so, it’s probably a pretty good bet that Mercury is activated in a significant way this year for him. And now he’s sort of in limbo at this Russian airport where he thought he could get asylum with Ecuador, and now they’ve pulled back that offer, and now he’s made offers to a bunch of other places—or requests.
KS: Yes. Yes, it’s very interesting.
CB: So a good, core Mercury retrograde thing which happens very frequently under Mercury retrogrades is attempting to go in a specific direction with something, attempting to do something, but then during the course of the retrograde finding out that the thing that you attempted to do is not gonna pan out, and you’ve got to recalibrate or reorient which direction you want to go. Like you attempt to do something and then it fails, and then you have to do it over again, essentially. That seems like a common theme that comes up during Mercury retrogrades.
KS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it’s that ‘redoing’ thing that people seem to get sort of frightened about or anxious about. And sometimes the chance to do it over is also a chance to do it better.
CB: Yes. Exactly. And that’s a really good point that sometimes the initial time wasn’t actually the best option and that’s one of the reasons why you get forced to do it over again. I actually have a great example of that from last summer where, over the course of the summer, I was in the process of moving a bunch of my websites to a new server, and it was the first time I’d ever done that. And I needed to move all of the websites over to a new server, and initially I tested out this one smaller company. It was right at the beginning of the retrograde, but I had to move the websites at that time, so I didn’t have a choice.
So I started moving them, and I moved some of them over to this smaller company, even though the electional chart looked terrible, and even though Mercury had just stationed retrograde. But I had no reason to think that there was anything amiss other than the Mercury retrograde, and I sort of didn’t have a choice. But then, like a week or two into it, the owner of the company sent me some anti-astrology article, and I realized I needed to get all of my files off of that server and move them to a different company.
So I had to go through the whole process of then moving all of the websites again to another server. But then once I got to that new server, and I set everything up and I was finished, I realized that I had set it up in a way that there was this huge security hole. It had taken me like two or three full days of work in order to set up all of the websites on the second server. And then in order to really make sure that they were secure, I needed to completely uninstall all of them and redo the entire process over again just with one tiny, sort of minor change.
CB: Yeah, and that was just a great example ‘cause I ended up having to do stuff like that like three or four times during the course of this three-week Mercury retrograde. And it was one of those examples that really drove home the point to me where there’s some retrogrades where it’s not that huge, but there’s some of them where you just really get nailed with something like that, where it’s just this almost trivial annoyance that you have to go through but you’ve got to do it. Even if it makes you redo it like a few times during the course of that, it usually ends up being for the best.
KS: Yes, it is. I’m laughing at your story. It’s hilarious. It’s reminding me of a travel experience that I had a few years ago that was classic Mercury retrograde. It started in 2009 when I was in a position where I felt I had to book a particular airfare because, you know, I had to, and it was for a trip from Canada back to Australia. So it was a big airfare to book. Anyway, I booked the airfare and then couldn’t take the trip, so I had to pay the rebooking fee. And this went all the way on until 2011. So this original airfare that I’d booked under Mercury retrograde, I ended up having to rebook this airfare twice before I could finally get on the plane…
CB: Oh, wow.
KS: …to take the trip. And because I was rebooking the airfare and, you know, having to pay a small fee and trying to minimize that I didn’t have a lot of say over when I could rebook the airfare.
KS: So when it was finally booked, and I knew I could take the trip, it was August of 2011. And unfortunately, Mercury was gonna be retrograde at the time that I had to take this damn trip, but I had nothing I could do about it. I had already rebooked it, you know, it cost me a small fortune, I had to go. So finally, you know, I get on the plane after two years in the making, and the plane just sits on the tarmac. We’re about an hour delayed just getting off the tarmac. And then we’re slow going from Toronto to LA, so that we land in LA and I have got 30 minutes to get my connecting flight down to Sydney.
KS: So you run, you know, this mad dash through the airport, no time to stock up on food or reading material for the 14-hour flight, but just had to get on it. At least I was moving. So we get to Sydney, there’s an announcement that certain passengers need to see the ground staff, and of course, I was one of them because the bags hadn’t made the first connection in LA. So long story short, the bags were going to be another 24-to-48 hours. I was gonna have to get buy, you know, with the clothes on my back, literally speaking.
KS: I did get a gift certificate to go and buy some incidentals, and I was actually staying with my parents, so I was quite able to manage without, you know, my things. And the bag did turn up. So it was one of those Mercury experiences where there was this sort of delay after delay after delay. I got there in the end. You know, I was able to enjoy my trip as planned, I physically arrived in Sydney on time, but it was just all the drama that went with it. And I guess it’s that frustrating energy of having to deal with delays and maybe adapt on-the-fly. And if you’re not prepared for it that can be quite stressful.
CB: Yeah. Definitely. And staying adaptable, which is very much a Mercury-type thing and a Mercury-type signification—adaptability and flexibility. One of the biggest things that anybody can do in order to increase their ability to endure or get through and not be too shaken up about a Mercury retrograde is to adopt that mentally.
KS: Absolutely. Yeah, and some of the advice I give to people most commonly about Mercury retrograde is to be patient, to be prepared for delays.
KS: You know, if you’re traveling, make sure you’ve got copies and spare copies of, you know, documents that you might need as you’re in transit. And I guess with Mercury kind of going slow or going backwards, there is that need to double-check or to review or to redo. It’s just time-consuming. So if you’re prepared to put the time in, you can, through your own actions, minimize some of the effects of Mercury. You may not be able to make it go away completely.
KS: But just by being a little bit more proactive or watchful, you can certainly maybe catch things before they become too big a problem.
CB: Right. Yeah, and sometimes even if you can’t, just reminding yourself that this is a Mercury retrograde period and that this has a fixed duration of about three weeks can be useful psychologically or internally—to know sometimes that, you know, that it has an endpoint to it in all likelihood. ‘Cause most of the things I think we’re talking about—like my example of the computer problems last year—really started with Mercury stationing retrograde, but I really had everything cleaned up. Not deliberately, but inadvertently, everything was fully wrapped up by the end of the retrograde period three weeks later. And everything was in good shape, and I was all the better for it because I had been able to move everything and get in the best position for the long term. It had been quite a hassle, but ultimately, sometimes the hassle can be worth it or can be useful in some way.
KS: Yeah, I guess it’s that sense of, you know, if you’re prepared to deal with some of the snafus, you can perhaps do a better job through the process of having to redo it.
CB: Sure. And that actually brings up a point, which is, I guess, other things that you can do. Just practical things that you can do in order to prepare yourself for a Mercury retrograde thing might be things like backup your computer files, or have backups of things that you’re working on during that time with the anticipation that perhaps computer problems or things of that nature could be more likely during a Mercury retrograde if you’re not paying attention to it or if you’re not prepared for it. Can you think of any other things like that?
KS: Yeah, backing up, but also almost forcing yourself to take the time to read over or review something before you hit ‘send’ or before you hit ‘publish’.
KS: With social media, it’s very easy, I guess, to have a little bit of that ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease, you know, quite quickly, so taking that extra time is just so paramount. And I think you made a really good point about almost the psychology of Mercury retrograde, that sometimes you actually can’t do anything to fix or to hurry up whatever the delay is…
KS: …but trying to adopt that mindset that this is for, I don’t know, some bigger purpose and you will actually be better for this being stuck right now.
CB: Sure. Yeah. Definitely. And in many instances that’s definitely the case. And I think one thing that astrologers often in the past few decades have been recommending that people do is proactively do things that would be almost of the nature of Mercury retrograde.
KS: Oh, yes, of course.
CB: Sort of redoing or rethinking or retooling something. And if you’re actively initiating projects that have to do with that then you’re not really gonna have problems because you’re gonna be doing something that’s suitable for that time period.
KS: Yeah, and I can’t believe I forgot to say that. I’m glad you mentioned it. I often say to people, you know, if you’ve got a business, or, you know, even in your job if you’re a salaried employee, the Mercury retrograde time—rather than starting a new project—is actually ideal for following up with things that maybe had potential but haven’t actually manifested any of that just yet.
CB: Yeah, like returning to old projects or, I don’t know, renewing interests from previous periods.
KS: Exactly. Exactly. And I know, you know, being in a client-based business, I often find that in a Mercury retrograde I will take the time to go back to all the people who inquired about a class or a consultation in the last couple of months. The people that inquired, but for whatever reason, didn’t make a booking at the time, I like to just touch base in that retrograde period. And sometimes because you’re going back under the energy of, you know, maybe we forgot, maybe it didn’t work out, but let’s try again, which is very much the spirit of Mercury retrograde, it can actually be, you know, quite a productive time from that perspective.
CB: Sure. And that being said, that’s a positive spin to it. There are some Mercury retrogrades in which you do get screwed. I mean, it’s hard to…
KS: Spoken like a true Scorpio.
CB: Right. Well, it’s hard to rationalize it. You know, as astrologers, we were very much focused and looking forward to the Mercury retrograde during the presidential election in the US last year in 2012 because Mercury was stationing retrograde right on Election Day. And yeah, I mean, there were some things about that that did work out. There were some things about it that didn’t. Certainly, it did not end up being a complete repeat of the 2000 US Presidential Election between Bush and Gore where Mercury stationed direct on Election Day. And then all of a sudden everything was thrown into disarray because the vote was so close that they ended up dragging it out, so that it wasn’t fully known and there was a delay until several weeks later before the President was decided, which is sort of a common Mercury retrograde thing.
In this instance, though, Patrick and I—when we were working on The Political Astrology Blog last summer—we were seeing that the Mercury retrograde was really prominent in Romney’s chart, whereas it was not as prominent in Obama’s chart. So Mercury stationed retrograde on Election Day, and then it stationed direct about three weeks later in late November. And Romney also had this weird thing in some of his time-lord periods where a specific sign was activated on Election Day—but it was usually something that we call a ‘foreshadowing’ period, and that means that there’s something that’s left unfinished on that date—until about three weeks later when that sign repeated itself, and there was a sudden transition and a completion of what was left unfinished earlier in the month.
So we knew that there was something that was gonna be left unfinished or wouldn’t be fully wrapped up for Romney until three weeks after the election. And what it ended up being was just that he visited the White House three weeks later, about the time that Mercury stationed direct. And so, for him, it was more—I mean, we don’t know what they discussed or what happened in that conversation between Obama and Romney three weeks later when Mercury stationed direct after Election Day. But certainly at least there was probably some sort of important psychological component of that where Romney had been trying for many years to get into the White House and then he ended up visiting. He lost the election on Election Day when Mercury stationed retrograde, and then three weeks later, when it stationed direct, he visited the White House. And I’m sure he had some sense of closure at that point about not getting that position or about losing the election.
And that’s kind of an important example to take into account as well in terms of retrogrades and how they can just designate important dates for you, ‘cause certainly that designated a couple of very important dates for Romney that year. But back to my original point of getting screwed by Mercury retrogrades, one of the ways that that did manifest for him is through Project ORCA. We wrote an article about this on The Political Astrology Blog where Romney had this advanced get-out-the-vote program in order to make sure that all of the people that were on their list—they called them up and they pushed them and reminded them to go out and vote on Election Day.
And it was like this advanced system where they were trying to do something that was similar to what the Obama campaign had done in 2008, and they put millions and millions of dollars into this system. But then it went completely on the fritz on Election Day and completely broke down to the extent that the Romney campaign—at one point, one of the head advisors—said they were basically flying blind the entire afternoon on Election Day because they had no idea, you know, how many people were going out and actually voting for them, and if their efforts were successful or if it wasn’t successful because the program literally just crashed. And that was an example of one of those Mercury retrograde-type snafus where, you know—at least in terms of what Romney was trying to achieve in, you know, winning the presidency—that certainly worked against him, having that sort of snafu take place on that day.
KS: Yeah, and as you were saying, using time-lord techniques, you had identified that Mercury retrograde would be more intense, I guess, for Romney…
KS: …and his get-out-the-vote thing. It was a bit of a farce in the end, wasn’t it?
CB: Yeah, it kind of was. Yeah, it kind of went really bad. I mean, part of the reason for that—Patrick was paying attention and Patrick recorded the exact moment in which Romney launched his campaign, his entire presidential campaign back in 2011 or 2010—he launched it in May when there was this large pileup of planets in Gemini and I think Virgo was rising. So Mercury was this hugely important planet in the inceptional chart for when Romney launched his campaign. And then all of a sudden Mercury stations retrograde on Election Day and things within his campaign completely go awry.
So that’s another good way to sort of narrow down or to try and figure out if a Mercury retrograde’s gonna be important and what it’s gonna be important for. If you’re involved in some sort of event or major undertaking, pay attention to the inception chart of that undertaking. And if it has a huge Mercury emphasis—and Mercury is either going retrograde or going direct—you know that that’s gonna be significant. Depending on how it works out, it may be not necessarily positive, but potentially challenging or potentially difficult.
KS: Yes, that’s actually a really good point. And I have an example from Australian politics—and I don’t know the inception chart in terms of when the election was called—but the election itself was back in 2010. The election itself was held sort of within that 48-hour window of Mercury stationing retrograde. So the Australians went to the polls—I’ve got some dates here—August 21, 2010, and Mercury had stationed retrograde late on the night of the 19th. And the result of this election was a deadlock tie. It was a dead heat basically, so there was no winner. And based on how the Australian political system works, the two teams, I guess, that were deadlocked had to then try and do some backroom dealings to see if they could break this deadlock.
It took almost the whole retrograde for a result to be announced based on this particular election and what was going on in the background. And so, it was announced a couple of days before Mercury stationed direct that there was a winner and the new government was sworn in just a couple of days after Mercury did return to direct movement. So a little bit of just the classic Mercury themes there, I guess, of when you have something starting or happening on the day of a Mercury retrograde or a station retrograde that the result can be delayed until the end of that process. And I think that was similar to the 2000 election in the US.
CB: Yeah. Definitely. And that’s a great example just because that entire process of having the election and then having it be deadlocked, and then the entire process of working that out all took place within the Mercury retrograde. And then it wasn’t until the very end of that retrograde period that it was all cleared up basically, right?
KS: Exactly. Yeah, I just double-checked. It was announced that they had been able to form a government—and so one team had won—and that announcement came out just a couple of days before the end of the retrograde.
KS: But I checked in terms of when the official new government was sworn in. That actually didn’t happen until a couple of days after the retrograde had ended.
KS: So yeah, it was a very interesting example.
CB: Yeah, and it was similar to the 2000 election, except the 2000 election took place when Mercury stationed direct…
CB: …on Election Day. Although that kind of illustrates another point which I think is very important, which is that, for me, there’s a pre-retrograde—what astrologers have been calling for two or three decades now, a ‘shadow’ period—and there’s a post-retrograde shadow period. The actual retrograde period, when Mercury is actually moving backwards in the order of signs—is the most important and most intense point, but usually there’s a setup period that takes place two or three weeks before Mercury actually stations retrograde. Once it passes over the degree that it will eventually retrograde back to, that’s when the shadow period begins. And then, eventually, there’s a post-retrograde shadow period that takes place for two or three weeks, all the way until Mercury passes the degree that it originally went retrograde at.
So the period before the Mercury retrograde, you’ll see the events building up. There will be some circumstances surrounding the events that will be sort of falling into place at that time. And then oftentimes during the post-retrograde shadow period—even though the most intense part of the activity is over—there’s still some things that are sort of getting cleaned up in the post-retrograde shadow period, and it can be still pretty important until Mercury finally leaves the degree that it originally went retrograde at.
So part of what happened is that a large part of the 2000 election in the US took place during the post-retrograde shadow period where Mercury was retrograde and stationed on Election Day. But then there was still this whole process that took place afterwards as Mercury was largely still in its shadow over the next few weeks.
KS: Yeah, and that shadow period—it is important for people to have that awareness because Mercury is slowing down in anticipation, I guess, from going retrograde or starting to move backwards.
KS: As Mercury starts to lose speed, you know, it’s starting to lose effectiveness, I guess.
CB: Yeah, it’s starting to lose effectiveness, and it’s already activated. It’s already gone over a specific degree that’s gonna be important. And if you have personal planets that are at that degree then what that means is you’re gonna have, you know, a few passes of Mercury over that specific degree. But it’s not just when Mercury is either stationing retrograde or stationing direct, it will also pass over that degree two other times: when it’s first going into it at the pre-retrograde shadow period and then again later at the post-retrograde shadow period.
KS: Yeah, so it kind of extends the influence a little bit.
CB: Yeah, it extends the influence, and it just makes it so it’s a transit that you’re experiencing a few times if you have any planets around those degrees or on those specific degrees. And if you’re gonna experience that transit three times then, you know, there’s gonna be some sort of connection between those three different hits, and oftentimes there is. It ends up being part of a sequence rather than part of just a disparate, unconnected—or different set of events. Instead it becomes a chronology of the development of a specific set of events during that few-month period in your life basically.
KS: Yeah, I like what you said about it being a sequence. So, you know, at the first pass of Mercury as it goes into the shadow, pre-retrograde, it’s as though something is activated—or an issue or a thing is kind of aroused or triggered—and it’s got to play out at each of those intervals as the sequence unfolds through the retrograde and then into the post-shadow.
CB: Right. Right. Exactly. Go ahead.
KS: Yeah, and I was just gonna say it really highlights one thing we’re talking about, I guess, which is one of the reasons, from a meta perspective, of why Mercury retrograde is such a focused-on event or experience is that it does represent a break in the normal pattern. You know, normally, when Mercury passes over a planet or a point in the chart, it’s active for like 24 hours maybe.
KS: And then that’s sort of the normal thing, whether Mercury’s moving, you know, at top speed, which is just over 2°, so he can be moving pretty quickly. You just sort of get a one-day or a two-day activation by Mercury in the normal course of events. But as Mercury enters this whole retrograde experience—you know, starting from the pre-retrograde shadow and all the way through to the post—you are going to have, you know, three activations, direct hits, I guess, by Mercury in a relatively short space of time, and that’s quite unique.
CB: Yeah, that actually, I guess, symbolically makes a lot of sense because something that is otherwise supposed to be very quick and concise—where Mercury is just representing communication—it’s like you say something or you convey something and it goes from Point A to Point B in a relatively quick fashion. But when Mercury goes retrograde, it slows down, and it extends and drags out that entire process of attempting to convey something or attempting to communicate information.
CB: And that in and of itself can sometimes be annoying or detrimental. Even though the process itself is just dragging it out, the way in which it actually goes about doing that sometimes can be frustrating.
KS: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, it’s really interesting. I’m thinking too of the communication, but also setting schedules or making plans or, you know, setting itineraries. All of those kinds of things, you know, when done under the influence, I guess, of Mercury retrograde often require a little bit of tweaking or revamping down the track.
CB: Sure. Definitely.
KS: Yeah, interesting visual.
CB: All right, well, I’m trying to think if we had any other major points to touch on about Mercury retrograde. I think ultimately the main point—the main concluding point that I think most astrologers would emphasize is that Mercury retrogrades can be important. They’re not always as important or as significant every single time, for every single person in the world. And part of the reason for that is there are chart factors—either in the natal chart or in inceptional charts—and timing factors involved, which will make some retrogrades more important than others for some people at certain points in time rather than others. I think there are ways to narrow that down. I mean, one of my favorite techniques that I already mentioned is just using profections to do that. But there are other ways of determining if a Mercury retrograde period is gonna be important for you.
Yeah, so Mercury retrograde is important. Sometimes some of the cliché things that are associated with Mercury retrograde do happen, and they happen with greater frequency than you would expect that they would. So it’s not just, you know, “Oh, astrologers are freaking about Mercury retrograde, but it’s not really a big deal.” I mean, it really sometimes does happen in this weird way. And if you’re paying attention to it, you will see it coinciding with those retrograde periods.
On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do anything. For example, in working with electional astrology, I see a lot of people attempt to not do anything during Mercury retrograde periods. And I think there’s a certain level of absurdity to that because Mercury goes retrograde three times a year, which, you know, is almost a full three months. And if you factor in the shadow periods then you’ve got an even longer period of time in which Mercury is retrograde during the course of the year, and there are people starting things and there are people launching successful ventures during those times.
KS: Oh, I have an example for that.
CB: Oh, go ahead.
KS: You just reminded me. Yeah, I wrote a little article on this for the Federation of Australian Astrologers Journal, and I think it came out in the March 2013 edition.
KS: What you were just saying—it’s almost like a big thing to do, but missing out on some of the subtleties when people say, “Oh, Mercury’s retrograde, I won’t start anything.”
KS: I was researching a very famous horse race in Australia called the Melbourne Cup, which has been run for—off the top of my head—about 150 years.
KS: And it’s the longest race of its kind, I think, in the world. It has a very rich prize pool. Horses from around the globe come to Australia in November to race in this particular race.
KS: You know, the whole country stops to watch it. I know there’s a horse race in the States that I think is equally popular. The name escapes right now. But the first running, the first race of the Melbourne Cup, the first time it was ever held was under a Mercury retrograde.
KS: So it’s one of those things where people instantly think, “I won’t do anything.” But as you know, we both do electional charts and sometimes in the context of the chart in question, Mercury is perhaps not as important as it might appear.
KS: And you can get away with starting things that can go on to be very successful, you know, even within that Mercury retrograde influence.
CB: Yeah. Definitely. And sometimes I’ve noticed if you start an astrology forum or something like that, I’ve seen a few things where when people start something under a Mercury retrograde what it just ends up indicating is that subsequent retrogrades tend to be periods of heightened activity and importance for whatever was started under the retrograde at that time. So I think we had a discussion forum once that was started under a Mercury retrograde, and every time Mercury would go retrograde in the future that would tend to be the most active times for that discussion forum, and the most discussions, and the most interesting stuff would tend to happen during those times, whereas the periods in which Mercury was direct, it wasn’t as significant necessarily.
KS: Oh, that’s fascinating. So they were more active because they had that connection to the Mercury retrograde.
CB: Yeah. Exactly. And I think there’s a lot of things like that where if you sort of pay attention to inception charts and things like that you’ll see these weird connections between things started under Mercury retrogrades and the repetition of Mercury retrogrades being important for those things. So yeah, just in the context of electional astrology, it’s not always a terrible thing to start under a Mercury retrograde.
Yes, sometimes it can indicate some snafus, or there can be additional challenges in certain areas, but it’s not a complete deal-breaker necessarily for electional astrology either. Because if that was true then there would be this huge chunk of the year in which, you know, just anything started during those times would not work out well, and that’s just not the case. Yeah, so I think that kind of wraps it up. Unless you have anything else to say about Mercury retrograde.
KS: I think we’ve covered a lot actually.
CB: Okay. Awesome.
CB: Well, yeah, we’re not that far into this Mercury retrograde period in Cancer, in—what is it—July 3 of 2013. So it’ll be interesting to see if there’s any other Mercury retrograde things. I guess if anyone’s listening to the show right now and you have any Mercury retrograde stories of your own to share that might be interesting or sort of educational then you can share them in the comments section on The Astrology Podcast website for this episode. I guess if you’re curious about Kelly’s work, you can visit her website, which is—what was your website again, Kelly?
KS: KellySurtees.com, or you can find me on Twitter as well.
KS: Yeah, but there’s a page for the podcast, isn’t it? So we can always jump on and have a little ‘natter’ to people…
CB: Yeah, we can have a…
KS: …about their stories.
CB: …conversation and sort of interact with people. If anyone wants to share a story, we’d love to hear it and love to maybe, you know, comment on it or make some additional comments of our own.
CB: All right, well, thanks for coming on the show. And I guess thanks everyone for listening, and we will see you next time.