The planet Mercury symbolizes the alchemical magic of the mind, how we process information, how we perceive our reality and how we communicate. Mercury is also noted for being quick completing  one orbit around the Sun in 88 days. Thus, Mercury’s speed is also linked to the quickness of the mind. Our minds, our thoughts, our perceptions are not necessarily limited by time and space. Our thoughts can take us beyond these boundaries in an instant.

Often seen as a trickster, a magician, an alchemist, the one who knows how to work with the hidden forces of nature, Mercury assists us in exploring the realms of magic and mystery, while keeping us alert through its trickster antics. Napolean Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, summed up one version of Mercury type wisdom when he said,

I am not who you think I am.
I am not who I think I am.
I am who I think You think I am. 

If that makes sense to you then you have a feel for Mercury wisdom.

NASA image of Mercury

As already mentioned, from the Earth’s perspective Mercury is the fastest moving visible planet (the Moon is not a planet) completing its orbit around the Sun every 88 days. So for every one of Earth’s years (365 days) Mercury has experienced 4.15 of its years.

Additionally, again from the perspective of observing Mercury from the Earth it disappears and reappears more often than any other visible planet, lending itself to the archetypal magician or shapeshifter who appears and disappears so often we must stay alert to understand Mercury’s teachings. We might ask: when Mercury is not visible, where is it?

With modern technology we know the details of Mercury’s orbit around the Sun so in one sense we do know where Mercury is in its orbital cycle. However, from the perspective of Shamanic Astrology when a visible planet is not visible to Earth it is considered to be in the underworld, or otherworld.

This is a place of mystery and initiation. From our inherited mythic stories about Mercury he was the only God able to come and go at will from the underworld, or other worlds. He was not from any one particular place, but able to go to all realms and dimensions easily as the messenger of the Gods.

Earth experiences a complete Mercury cycle in about 105 to 120 days or three times a year. During the Mercury cycle it conjuncts the Sun (on the interior track or closest to the Earth) in its retrograde phase, then Mercury rises as a Morning Star some days later still retrograde. Mercury completes its retrograde cycle, spending about 40 days as a morning star before disappearing on the other side of the Sun, on the exterior track, for about 20 days.

When Mercury conjuncts the Sun in this phase it is not retrograde and is the furthest away from the Earth. Then Mercury reappears in the evening sky as an evening star for about 40 days. Mercury goes retrograde as an evening star and spends about 20 days in its retrograde phase. During this time Mercury disappears from the evening sky, rejoins with the Sun on the interior track and a new Mercury cycles begins.

From the perspective of the Earth-based observer Mercury retrograde appears to reverse directions in the sky. Astronomically, planets do not really reverse directions, they only appear to do so in relationship to the Earth. However, the appearance of this phenomenon affects our So Below reality.

What we observe in the sky is the planet retracing over the same star patterns it has just crossed, crossing the same stars three times. Our So Below experience when Mercury goes retrograde is a reflection of our observance of the As Above phenomenon occurring in the sky. Mercury slows down, reverses direction, slows down again, and returns to a direct motion, much like a pendulum swinging back and forth.

Robert Wilkinson says in his book A New Look At Mercury Retrograde, that this timing is an opportunity for us to witness magic revealing itself. When the magician slows down we have an opportunity to witness how s/he performs magic. The invisible becomes visible, the unknown becomes known. It is a time for fully exploring the magic and mystery of life in a way that is not always available to us. This timing, if worked with consciously, is an opportunity to experience and understand exactly how magic works.

It is also helpful to remember that whatever is not in alignment with the unfolding mysteries surfaces for processing and clearing. Mercury Retrograde is a notorious timing when things glitch, communication breaks down and things don’t always turn out in the ways we desire or expect. However, if we can relax and release our attachments to outcome, then this timing carries innovative, magically creative energy, inspiring insights, understanding and wisdom.