By Molly Hall, from the About.com Guide
This happens three to four times per year, when the planet Mercury slows down, and appears to stop (station) and move backward (retrograde). It's an optical illusion, since there is forward movement, like speeding by a slow-moving train -- as it recedes, it appears to go backward.
What are the Mercury Retrograde dates for 2010?:
The dates are: December 26th, 2009 to January 15th, 2010 in the earth sign Capricorn. April 17th to May 11th in the earth sign Taurus. August 20th to September 12th in the earth sign Virgo. December 10th through 29th, in the earth sign Capricorn and fire sign Sagittarius.
What happens during Mercury Retrograde?:
Since Mercury rules communication, it's said that everything goes haywire in that area -- emails get deleted or bounced back, mail is returned, calls go out into the ethers, etc. Some people find that their computers go on the fritz or phone lines go down. I've never seen the hard data on this, so make your own observations. It does seem though that miscommunications abound during the retrograde period.
Mercury retrograde gives us time to catch up with ourselves, and to look back. Something from the past might return in a different form. This can mean people, ideas or buried insights that need to surface for you to move forward. Often it's felt as a contemplative time, depending on the sign, a chance to go over old ground again, to claim what you missed the first time.
There's a long-held belief that it's best to avoid making set plans during the Mercury Retrograde. This means being cautious about things like signing contracts, and forming partnerships and corporations. What gets put in writing at this time may turn out to need serious revising after Mercury goes direct. But since tying up loose ends is the domain of retrograde, this type of finalization might fly.
Can you repeat that?:
In our relationships, sometimes we gloss over things that pushed buttons at the time, but which we let slide. What seemed not worth the trouble may reveal itself as a major issue in need of our attention. The Mercury retrograde is a time for review, when the underlying patterns come to light.
Back to the Drawing Board:
Some dreams and goals get lost in the hectic rushing around of daily life. The Mercury Retrograde period can be a rich time of reflection on those longings. This makes it a time for the soul to ponder its destiny. You might look over old journals, review your creative work, muse on serendipities of the past that have pointed you toward your spirit's calling. It can make the retrograde period a time of solidifying a sense of your personal story and where you're headed.
What does it mean in each different sign?:
The Mercury retrograde is shaped by the sign through which it is cast. For example, a Mercury retrograde in Cancer turns the mind toward things like family, home and the invisible emotional bonds that connect us. On the other hand, a Mercury retrograde in Aquarius gives it a different spin, with a review of group dynamics, the larger human community, all from a detached perspective.
Making the Most of Mercury Retrograde:
Astrology is a tool that can make you aware of patterns, like those that come during a Mercury retrograde. Just observe and see what happens, and be open to the past returning for review. If it's coming back, there's likely something more to learn or release from it. You don't have to retreat to the zen monastery, but a little solitude and quiet reflection never hurt anybody.