As we have seen in the overview of 2021, this year Mercury is going to form an Elemental Triangle of Air in the sky. This means that Mercury is going to stop and turning retrograde in all three zodiac signs of this element: Aquarius, Gemini and Libra.
This post is a generic overview of this phenomenon. We are going to talk about what Mercury retrograde means, what are the phases or steps that it usually undertake, and the most important dates for each retrograde period. Let’s start by talking about the Air element and how it relates to Mercury.
The Elemental Triangle of Air
As you may know, Mercury is the planet of the Mind and it rules both thinking and communication. From this perspective, when Mercury is in air signs it’s perfectly at ease. This because the element of communication itself is indeed Air, hence it matches excellently with the mercurial force.
If you think about it, we literally talk, meet and see each other through this element. Which is not only the element of communication but also of all kinds of relations. Friendships, relationships, partnerships and even contracts are different expressions of the same force.
So what exactly is this Triangle of Air we are talking about? In astrology signs of the same element are displayed in the zodiac wheel at the vertices of a triangle. Since they are three, a set of zodiac signs of the same element is also called a triplicity.
During the year Mercury is going to stop and turning retrograde in all these zodiac signs, so it’s as if Mercury drew a great triangle in the sky. Of course this is true from our perspective, looking at the sky from the Earth. In the picture above we can see in white Mercury performing this three-fold pattern.
We can find it in Nature every time we look at a three-petal flower. Those kinds of flowers follow the archetypical movement of Mercury, bringing it to expression through their delicate shapes.
We can’t hide that in the astrological community Mercury retrograde is one of those things that fuels superstition. When Mercury turns retrograde some people roll their eyes, giving shrugs whenever they see things going wrong. They have an excuse for that, and they know that it’s just a matter of time for things to fix themselves. Eventually “it will pass”.
On the other hand we have some classical astrologers that simply refuse to recognize that a single transit is capable of producing any effect whatsoever. They don’t give it too much attention. I respect that perspective because there are many approaches to Astrology. And after all the Mercury retrograde drama is a relatively modern thing.
Personally, I think both perspectives share one thing in common. In two different ways, they don’t enter into relationship with the transit. They don’t recognize it and view it as an opportunity for inner growth and awareness.
But the development of the human Soul and the manifestation of the highest qualities of the Spirit should be a priority for any person on a spiritual path. In Anthroposophical terms, we can say we practice Astrosophy when we start valuing each cosmic event as an opportunity for developing our inner Wisdom and our relationship with the spiritual world.
So what does Mercury retrograde mean?
Mercury is the god of the Mind and Intellect, ruling communication and the exchange of both information and goods. Usually we use this force to solve problems in the outer world and to relate to other people. When Mercury is direct its force functions this way..
But when Mercury turns retrograde the Mind turns its attention within to better understand and process inner issues and problems. Communication becomes not as effective, and outer problems get more challenging as well.
We need to understand that this is functional. The more we insist on seeking answers outside of us, ignoring the inner issues that arise, the more frustrating and challenging external circumstances will get. All this happens because our mind goes against the flow of the cosmic mind. Let’s now look at the phases of a Mercury retrograde transit to understand it better.
Mercury Retrograde Phases
If you look at the planets from the Earth, we can see them advancing in the zodiac day after day. But due to their movement around the sun, from our perspective sometimes they seem to stop and to reverse they course. Then, we say that from having a direct motion they now have an (apparent) retrograde motion.
In the picture below we have an example of the path traced by Mercury in the sky during a retrograde period. Following the impulse given by Rudolf Steiner for the development of Astrosophy (Star Wisdom), I used a lemniscate shape to represent it.
It’s the shape of the infinity symbol, or of an eight-figure. If you open the lemniscate, setting it in motion, you get a curve similar to the one here below. Please note that this is an archetypical shape, and that Mercury doesn’t always draw a clean lemniscate in the sky. Even the one I proposed here is pretty squeezed, yet likely.
We can divide this curve in different phases, according to two important points: ST1 and ST2 in the figure. They are the so called Stations—the points where Mercury seems to completely stop in the sky. They divide the whole path into sections or phases. As you can see the colors change according to the position (longitude) of the stationary points.
- Direct: we have our starting point on the right, in yellow. Mercury is moving direct here and it still has enough speed to make things flow and connect properly in the outer, natural world. All is good.
- Pre-shadow: Mercury enters the loop space into which it’s going to be retrograde. It’s still direct but it’s entering what in modern astrology we call the pre-retrograde shadow area (pre-shadow in short). From a classical astrology point of view, Mercury is getting slower and slower. Meaning that the energy of the planet projected in outer nature is getting weaker and weaker. This phase lasts until Mercury reaches its first station and eventually stops.
- Retrograde: in red we have the core phase, the retrograde motion. As you can see in the picture here Mercury is retracing its steps back. This is the period of time when we are supposed to be looking within and processing what’s going on. The Mind and the forces of the cosmic intellect aren’t looking outside to solve external (natural) problems. They are questioning inner issues, related to our psychological and spiritual problems. Anyhow, this is going to involve also external factors, since they are going to act as triggers for our inner issues to manifest. This phase lasts until Mercury reaches its second station, where again it stops.
- Post-shadow: in this phase Mercury is direct again. However, it doesn’t have enough speed to make things go back to normal yet. This means that we might still experience the aftermath of the previous phase. This is a settling phase that ends when Mercury goes beyond the ST1 longitude.
- Direct: all back to normal. Mercury has gained enough momentum to go back to its usual speed. Or at least enough speed to make things go back to normal.
Mercury Retrograde 2021 Dates
When is Mercury going to be retrograde? In this section we are going to provide all the dates for Mercury Retrograde 2021 in the three air signs. We are going to talk about each single transit in specific posts.
Mercury Retrograde 2021 in Aquarius
- Direct [Pre-Shadow] : Jan 15, 2021 reaching 11° 01′ Aquarius
- Retrograde : Jan 30, 2021 first station at 26° 25′ Aquarius
- Direct [Post-Shadow] : Feb 21, 2021 second station at 11° 01′ Aquarius
- Direct: Mar 13, 2021 leaving behind 26° 25′ Aquarius
Mercury Retrograde 2021 in Gemini
- Direct [Pre-Shadow] : May 15, 2021 reaching 16° 07′ Gemini
- Retrograde : May 29, 2021 first station at 24° 43′ Gemini
- Direct [Post-Shadow] : Jun 22, 2021 second station at 16° 07′ Gemini
- Direct : Jul 8, 2021 leaving behind 24° 43′ Gemini
Mercury Retrograde 2021 in Libra
- Direct [Pre-Shadow] : Sep 7 2021 reaching 10° 07′ Libra
- Retrograde : Sep 27, 2021 first station at 25° 28′ Libra
- Direct [Post-Shadow] : Oct 18, 2021 second station at 10° 07′ Libra
- Direct : Nov 4, 2021 leaving behind 25° 28′ Libra
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I consider myself a free researcher in western spiritual disciplines, in particular Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy and the Neoplatonic Hermetic tradition. I have a three-year training in Astrology at the CIDA delegation of Trieste, the Italian Center for Astrological Disciplines. I graduated in Computer Engineering from the University of Trieste.