Several times each year, the planet Mercury goes into its retrograde phase. This means that, viewed from Earth, the planet appears to stop still in the heavens and move backwards. Mercury is not really moving backwards, but the fact he appears to be doing so has symbolic significance.
Mercury retrograde periods have a bad reputation in astrology. Many astrologers refuse to make applications, fill out paperwork or proceed with important decisions during the Mercury retrograde phases. But is Mercury retrograde all bad?
To assess what it might be a good time to do and not to do we need to go back to the symbolism of this planet. Mercury rules communications, learning, connections, trade and commerce. He is a linking planet, one which can move between the others, creating vital relationships.
With Mercury retrograde, it is often helpful to use the time to review communications, contacts and decisions. If we make new decisions in this period, these may be one's that reflect a reversal of previous thinking or which have something particularly reflective about them.
Even greater use can be made of Mercury's cycle by considering the sign he is traversing when retrograde, and what area of the chart he covers for you. If he retrogrades in Scorpio for example, it might be a time to review communications concerning deep emotions, sexual matters, or intrigues and power struggles. If he retrogrades in Aquarius, it might be the time to review decisions relating to technology, progress or humanitarian concerns.
When Mercury's retrograde phase highlights one of your natal planets then his backwards movement could be particularly important. For example, if he moved backwards over your Sun, this would mean that he would conjoin your Sun three times in a small space of time (once direct, then back over, then by moving forwards again). There is therefore a highlighting of your life direction and purpose (Sun) and there may well be important communications or decisions around your vocation that need to be closely considered.
It would be foolish to think that we should take no action at all when Mercury is retrograde, or down tools on all transactions or communications. But it is as well to be aware that often, when this trickster is moving backwards, things do seem to go slightly awry with communications or paperwork. We may therefore need to consider what Mercury may be asking us to re-think or review, and take a little more care than usual to ensure our decisions are the product of sufficiently deep reflection.