Understanding the Meaning of Retrograde

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    Editor’s note: An excerpt from the new book, Mark’s Power Peek 2007 (Hay House)

    With the exception of the luminaries (the Sun and the Moon), all planets go into what’s called a "retrograde phase" at some point. Some of them go retrograde every year, while others may only do so every few years. Retrograde means that from the Earth’s viewpoint, the planet in question visually appears to pause and then begins to move backward through its normal path across the sky. Of course the planets don’t actually change direction, but since the Earth is considered to be the center of the Universe in geocentric astrology, we only care about our perspective.

    When a planet goes retrograde, the issues it reflects as it travels back through the sign (or signs) tend to have you revisiting the experiences that you had when it moved across that point in its original forward movement. You see, prior to moving backward, a planet must first pass through the retrograde territory in direct motion. Because it will return to this point during the retrograde phase, this is called the "pre-retrograde zone," as it allows you to take note of issues that may emerge before the actual retrograde. After the planet has gone through its retrograde, it then moves forward, traversing once again the same course it did while traveling backward. This is the "post-retrograde zone," and since it occurs afterward, it often brings closure and clarity to those issues experienced throughout the earlier phases.

    The retrograde myth

    Feared, disparaged and despised, the Mercury Retrograde is rapidly becoming the most maligned phenomenon in popular astrology. Without justification, this event stands among infamous superstitions such as stepping on cracks, breaking mirrors and opening umbrellas indoors. The purveyors of astrological fear have successfully managed to give the world a reason for all its woes, but who can blame us for accepting a ready-made scapegoat? Now broken cars, miscommunications, and botched performances are no longer the fault of human error – rather, they’re just a few of the many ills that belong to the irresponsible antics of Mercury.

    The hardest mountain I have to climb is changing the minds of the millions of people who fall prey to this sort of erroneous belief. This is the kind of thinking that takes astrology back 100 years, when the planets were seen as evil forces that bore ominous warnings. Astrologers were powerful advisors in the days of old; the more foreboding their predictions, the more power they were given.

    Many current practitioners in my field still echo the voice of the old soothsayers. They proclaim that Mercury, the planet of communication, is moving backward, and then they warn you not to sign or buy anything because of the harm it will do later. If you’ve been around astrological circles, it’s likely that you’ve heard that warning more than once – which is why you can’t get rid of the gnawing sense of caution every time you hear about the Mercury Retrograde. The biggest problem with this planetary event is fear, and that’s no small problem to overcome.

    What makes this myth about Mercury so difficult is that we like having something to blame. A car accident is much easier to justify if Mercury is retrograde. Inappropriate comments, plane delays, mechanical breakdowns, and broken contracts all become much more palatable if we can point a finger at the little planet of communication.

    When using astrology as a tool to guide our lives, it’s important to recognize the issue of self-fulfilling prophecy, that unconscious desire to ensure that we get the outcome we believe we will. In other words, if we proclaim that because Mercury is going to be moving retrograde, bad things will happen, then there’s a good chance that they indeed will.

    A new perspective
    In truth, Mercury Retrogrades allow us to tune in more closely to our intuition, heighten our senses and gain a larger overview of our lives. Rarely has there been a Mercury Retrograde that didn’t assist in uncovering mistakes that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. This opportunity for reappraisal may account for why so many successful businesses were launched during the retrograde cycle.

    Let’s try thinking of the Mercury Retrograde period as a big contemplation cycle. Contemplation is how we connect to our higher mind – and disconnect from our daily distractions – in order to look at life from a broader perspective. Certainly decisions made while in such a state are bound to be supported. It’s a time of review, and an opportunity to enhance decisions that we’ve already made. What other time of our lives do we get not just two, but three chances to make something work? This is the best time to look at our relationships and speak what’s on our mind. Mercury embraces communication – it encourages it. It’s time to take charge of our life and learn to live it fearlessly. Let’s move to make the Mercury Retrograde our comrade in wisdom: Change those old beliefs that keep us in fear.

    I’ve made the following list of ideas to help you navigate Mercury Retrograde, so the next time you hear that one’s coming, return here and review the list.

    Mercury Retrograde Help List
    More than 50 percent of the top 100 Fortune 500 businesses were started under the Mercury Retrograde. Imagine what you could do:

    • Now, thoughts that have been lost to you can come back renewed and ready for consideration.

    • Finally, you can slow your obsessive mind down and start feeling your life.

    • You can now meet with [insert name of boss, friend, co-worker, sibling, parent, child, or what have you] and clear up that misunderstanding.

    • You can abandon your routine in favor of spontaneity.

    • This is a great time to relook at that important decision.

    • Your mind is less attached to things – now you can release that "bad" habit without fear.

    • It’s time to give attention to your car, that toothache, or the new computer.

    • And if you’re tired of the same boring vacations, Mercury Retrograde is ready to show you a good time!

    Remember, this could be a time of celebration and grandeur, or of fear and isolation…you get to choose. (Hint: One choice is a lot more fun than the other!)

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    Mark S. Husson received his psychology degree and master's in counseling from West Virginia University. He founded The Twelfth House bookstore in Denver in 1989, with the mission of "inspiring the human adventure." In 1998, he launched www.12house.com with the endorsement and support of Hay House, Inc. The website is currently the third most visited astrological site on the Internet. His first book, Mark's Power Peek 2007, was published in September 2006 by Hay House and is available at all bookstores or online at www.hayhouse.com. Copyright © 2007 Mark S. Husson. All rights reserved.

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