Things that can carry you through Mercury Retroshade (AKA Mercury’s shadow period) and beyond
Of all the astrological occurrences, Mercury (in) retrograde has earned the worst of reputations. This is where Mercury, the planet that rules communication, expression and coordination, appears to go backward in its orbit, ultimately turning things topsy-turvy in these three arenas and disrupting any smooth-sailing sequence of life events.
“Mercury retrograde brings communication and technology breakdowns, nervous anxiety, travel delays and lost items,” explained Jamie Partridge on Astrology King, pointing out the inconvenience and even chaos often left in its wake. Mercury retrograde is described, in some extreme cases, as a flat-out communication crisis: a reason to lay low and a cautionary sign to duck for cover or else run the risk of getting into arguments at home, encountering rifts at work, missing an important meeting or having a trusty gadget fail when you need it most.
The good news for believers in astrology is that after a taxing 24-day stretch, Mercury retrograde in July has finally passed. (Enjoy until the last one in 2019, which begins on October 31 and ends on November 20.) The supposed bad news is that a new demanding chapter is upon us and stands to shake things up just as much. It’s Mercury’s shadow period, the two weeks after this planet goes into retrograde, also known as Mercury retroshade.
“Still feeling a lingering hangover from the July 7 to 31 Mercury retrograde? We wouldn’t be surprised,” said Tali and Ophira Edut, more popularly known as the AstroTwins online. The latter is responsible for coining the term now used to describe this pre and post-retrograde period. “During a retrograde, a planet ‘backs up’ through the zodiac, like a car driving in reverse. Once it turns direct, it has to make up the distance to travel back to that same starting point. In this case, Mercury started at 4º26’ Leo, reverse commuted to 24º01’ Cancer and will take until August 15 to get back to 4º26’ Leo again,” they discussed. “Because we’re in retroshade until August 15, proceed a bit more gingerly with those Mercurial makeups, makeovers and makeunders.”
Is Mercury retroshade really worth approaching with caution? Is it truly worse than retrograde as one headline spelled out? With all the mystical talk about the planets, the stars and our fates as human beings, a lot about this New Age take on decoding the now and the next is open to interpretation. Anyone who champions science-based evidence will tell you to take all this with a grain of salt and that none of it is real––just confirmation bias working overtime. But maybe that’s beside the point. “In a stressful, data-driven era, many young people find comfort and insight in the zodiac––even if they don’t exactly believe in it,” wrote Julie Beck in her 2018 piece for The Atlantic. “Millennials and Gen Xers have been significantly more stressed than older generations since 2012. If stress makes astrology look shinier, it’s not surprising that more seem to be drawn to it now.”
RELATED: On Politics and Spiritual Healing
In order to explore a nice middle-ground for believers and non-believers (namely those who fall under the “reads up anyway because, hey, where’s the harm?” category), this Mercury retroshade special comes in the form of a chat with yoga therapist and Reiki practitioner Mara Andres, who would much rather integrate mindfulness and the use of energy (yes, that which can neither be created nor destroyed even in interpersonal scenarios) into the larger cosmic equation. Recounting her experience with alternative means of tapping into her spirituality, the 32-year-old admits that she, too, had her reservations at the beginning. “I was going through a very difficult time where I felt like I wasn’t in touch with myself. A friend of mine who goes to a reader told me to try it out,” she shares. “I was skeptical at first, but when he told me that the reader’s approach veers towards mindfulness instead of the perceived ‘prediction of the future,’ I decided to give it a shot.” The appeal of astrology, however, isn’t lost on her. It’s only that her familiarity with zodiac signs is something she uses as a starting-off point [for discussion or reflection] rather than a way for people to justify their behavior. “This has a lot to do with accountability,” she addresses. “A lot of people use their signs as an excuse for their behavior. Oftentimes you have to remind them how they are more than just their signs and that they still need to be aware of how they speak, act or think.”
Still, she acknowledges that Mercury retrograde is a phenomenon that plenty of people subscribe to and are wary about––herself included. “I was born during a Mercury retrograde so let’s just say that my life, by default, is in retrograde,” she mentions. “I feel I get more affected after the retrograde (this falls under the shadow period, which, in some case, affects some more than others). I usually feel the need for an emotional cleanse or a purge of my physical space for a couple of days during this retroshade.”
In dealing with this follow-up to Mercury retrograde, which is more like a cooling down period where the effects of the aforementioned are only beginning to wear off, Andres has her share of learning by trial and error. “I used to go against the slow pace of the retrogrades, always ending up frustrated because nothing seemed to get done,” she says. “Retrogrades taught me how to read and trust my surrounding energies. The answer was always to just go with the flow: no rushing, no forcing. I’d even go into my semi-hermit mode in order to rest and reflect. I’d also double up on my meditation practice if needed.”
Regardless of the zodiac sign, she says the important thing to note here is that retrogrades aren’t all indicative of negativity. “A lot of people think that Mercury retrogrades are bad news when they’re really more of checkpoints in life,” she points out. “Retrograde season is a good time to slow down, reflect and see what you can bring with you and what you can leave behind. Of course, it does get a little tiring when you have to go through so many simultaneous checkpoints.”
True enough, astrologers declare that this month’s Mercury retroshade is a moment to pause and shake things off. In this way, it’s made clear which pieces to pick back up and which ones to leave behind. “Attunement is key,” says Andres. And this is something that speaks to finding “me” time for rest and recuperation (the Aries and Pisces horoscope for the retroshade period) and weeding out the toxic “frenemies” to cut out of your life (horoscope for Taurus). This applies in decluttering to remove distraction (Cancer and Gemini), getting your financial ducks in a row (Leo and Aquarius) and clearing the air from a miscommunication so everyone can move forward (Virgo and Sagittarius). This makes sense in seeking to live a life outside of work (Libra), being on high alert over a part of your history that could easily repeat itself if you don’t actively insist to learn from it (Scorpio) and bowing out from drama you aren’t involved in anyway (Capricorn). “This is where the importance of boundaries comes in,” she adds. “As an empath, this, for example, has really helped me a lot in managing myself: in knowing when to say yes and learning how not to feel guilty when saying no.”
That said, Andres believes that protection from any kind of retrograde is unnecessary: “Again, because retrogrades––and by extension, retroshades––aren’t necessarily bad,” she says, likening these trying events to that one friend in your life who happens to be a fan of tough love. “It’s someone who will call you to tell it like it is and let you know upfront what you might need to work on and improve. Instead of protecting ourselves, perhaps we can consider learning how to embrace our vulnerability and finding strength in it.”
In learning to grow from the Mercury retroshade, what this Reiki healer suggests is more of the following: First, find time with yourself. “Create space within,” begins Andres. “Meditate, write, draw, dance or create––expressing yourself within your space is a good way to get to know yourself again.” Second, acknowledge the discomfort. “See it as a sign of growth and evolution,” she adds. Third, listen to your body. “If you’re tired, rest,” she reminds. “If you don’t feel like socializing, there’s no need to force it.” Lastly, Andres recommends that you cleanse your space: You can do so by smudging or making a salt bowl.”
Alternatively, there’s a lot to be gained by doing less of the following: rushing and dwelling on the past. “Yes, this is a time to reflect but do not allow yourself to be pulled into that void,” says Andres, referring to the past as a jumping-off point meant to propel us in the right direction where we can begin a new chapter…this time, more intelligently. Lastly, the Mercury retroshade is a time to lessen certain habits or perhaps get rid of them altogether. Habits like smoking, drinking and eating fast food, according to Andres, “make your energy murky and get in the way of attaining clarity.”
While this perspective has less to do with astrology per se, shifting the focus toward mindfulness and managing our energy is a lot more sound than leaving things up to the universe…or as August 11 through January 10, 2020 would have it: Uranus in retrograde.
Will you still be getting yourself ready for this one?
Art Alexandra Lara