Yes, folks… it’s that time of year again. Like a film noir “spinning calendar” measuring out our days, with clockwork precision comes the joyless thud of yet another gift catalogue landing on the doormat and dreary ads for over-the-counter cold remedies; all that’s missing is the threat of impending industrial action (give it time). Yep, the relentless march towards the Christmas festivities has begun and just to keep us on our mettle, the holiday season is prefaced by an oh-so tricky Mercury retrograde which kicks in on the 6th November – yes, that’s right, on the same day that America goes to the polls to elect the man who will serve as the leader of the free world for the next four years. With that in mind, I’m reposting an article from last November with top tips for surviving and making the most of the challenging astrological climate – although whether it’ll help the candidates at this late stage is anyone’s guess!
In ancient times it would have been unthinkable for rulers to embark on any pivotal course of action without seeking the advice of the court astrologer. Consequently it does give pause for thought that tomorrow’s election, which augers far-reaching repercussions not only for the US but for the wider world, should occur at the start of an astrological cycle synonymous with miscommunication, delays and back-tracking. Wrapping my stargazy cloak about me and with my left eyebrow a few degrees short of perpendicular, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the ballot is hampered by low turn-out (perhaps as a result of more bad weather) and subject to recounts. We already know the race is too close to call but it will be fascinating to see what effect this retrograde period will have as the process unfolds. I’m sure playful Mercury has a few twists and turns in store over the coming weeks. Fasten your safety belts…!
With party dresses already inducing sequin fatigue in the high street, it seems like a good time to flag the final Mercury retrograde of 2011. Taking effect from the 22nd November until 13th December, Mercury will turn to forward motion just in time to usher in the New Year. Falling as it does just prior to and during the festive period, this particular retrograde threatens to add more chaos than cheer to what is often already a stressful time, with the potential to throw travel plans and communication into disarray – and yes, that includes letters to Santa and arrangements over who was supposed to bake the mince pies and bring the extra chairs. So, what can one do to minimise retrograde-related SNAFUs and above all, enjoy glad tidings?
In astrology the planet Mercury – just like the same-named winged messenger of the gods in Greek mythology – governs communication, travel and mechanical things. During its retrograde period, when the planet appears to be moving backwards from our earthly perspective, we can expect these three areas to be adversely affected to some degree. Those whose ruling planet is Mercury (typically Gemini and Virgo natives) often feel the retrograde effects more profoundly; some complain they can’t think straight compounded by a sense of treading water. Although progress may be hampered and tempers short, thankfully Mercury’s influence is fairly benign; more mischievous sprite than malevolent meddler.
In light of this, astrologers routinely caution against initiating major projects, signing contracts or embarking on far-flung trips lest frustration and delay cause you to regret the decision and retrace your steps. It may also prove difficult to make yourself understood, and you may find yourself at cross purposes with others leading to petty bickering and hurt feelings. Typically emails will fail to arrive and cheques get stuck “in the post”. Similarly, meetings might suddenly be cancelled or rescheduled and transportation may become unreliable and erratic. Don’t be surprised if your car won’t start, your phone goes dead half-way through an important conversation and the TV decides to go on the blink, along with the DVD player and the toaster. Commonplace objects such as keys and remote controls inexplicably go astray; it’s almost as if someone is playing a game with you – that someone being playful Mercury.
So aside from resigning yourself to Christmas cards that won’t arrive until January, what else can be done to minimise the impact? As ever, the secret lies in being prepared:
- Back up your work. If you use a computer regularly (and most of us do these days), ideally you should be saving your work to disc or to a separate drive as a matter of course, and during a Mercury retrograde it’s essential. Make duplicate copies of important documents and keep them somewhere safe. Festive tip: make sure you’ve printed off your Christmas card list and address labels well in advance of the 9th, if only to ensure your cards and gifts arrive in good time.
- Re-read all correspondence before sending it. Check for misspellings, ambiguities and tone (be on your guard for snarkiness masquerading as light-hearted banter; in-jokes and teasing are likely to fall flat at this time), and make sure the recipient’s address is correct before you drop the letter in the postbox or hit the send button. Festive tip: just as you would for your gift shopping, block off time for writing your Christmas cards and allow for lengthy queues at the post office. Be sure to heed the post-by dates for overseas mail and parcels, and don’t be surprised if you later find little scamps have swapped around the gift tags on your presents.
- Allow extra time for journeys and if possible, avoid longer trips. Even routine errands in your immediate locality can be subject to disruption so don’t bank on anything going to plan. Road works may suddenly appear overnight with diversions that take you ’round the houses literally and metaphorically. Festive tip: if you’re travelling over Christmas, factor in extra time for heavy traffic, travel disruption and where practicable, formulate a contingency plan. That last minute dash to the supermarket for cranberry sauce is likely to take longer than usual so aim to buy your non-perishables well in advance. And don’t forget spare bulbs for the tree lights and batteries for toys!
- Postpone complex discussions and the signing of contracts. Decisions made during a retrograde will most likely be subject to costly or time-consuming revision later so, if you can, avoid committing yourself verbally or on paper until after Mercury changes to forward motion. Festive tip: Try to finalise family arrangements as soon as possible to reduce the likelihood of squabbles or misunderstandings. Granted it’s a balancing act, but try to stay flexible as plans are virtually guaranteed to change. So, keep it simple: rather than prepare a sit-down dinner on Christmas Eve, opt for a buffet with dishes than can be easily reheated for last minute stragglers or eked out to accommodate surprise guests.
- Double-check your diary Some Mercurial types can find themselves suffering from dyscalculia during a retrograde, transposing the digits of phone numbers or writing down dates and times incorrectly, especially when listening to information over the phone. Don’t be afraid to ask the caller to repeat themselves; better to flag your brain fog that than suffer the embarrassment of missing an important deadline or meeting. Festive tip: When you feel your diary starting to close in as you struggle to juggle the shopping, office parties, carol concerts and school plays, take care to ensure you haven’t doubled-booked yourself and don’t be afraid to say no to some invitations. What’s the point of running yourself ragged only to wake up on Christmas morning with the ’flu? Been there, done that and it’s no fun (not even with South Pacific providing the backdrop to one’s delirium).
- Don’t start new projects Instead use the retrograde energy to take stock, complete outstanding admin, filing and generally tidy your desk in readiness for the shot-in-the-arm which invariably accompanies Mercury’s change to forward motion. After spinning your wheels, when you get the green light you’ll want to be ready to roll. Festive tip: If you can get your preparations underway and completed early (aim for the 30th November but pat yourself on the back if you hit the 7th December), you may actually find you have the energy to enjoy Christmas rather than feeling it’s something to be endured through a haze of exhaustion. If your favourite B&W movie is on TV, just think how much more you’ll enjoy it knowing your to-do list is all ticked off and tickety-boo.
Retrograde energy lends itself it to nostalgic musing so indulge that tendency by reminiscing with friends and family, and watching The Man Who Came To Dinner for the umpteenth time. Although at times it may feel as if everything is conspiring, keep your cool, put the kettle on, make a list (be checking it twice) and you’ll have yourself a merry l’il Mercury retrograde!