Rocketing through space in dangerous proximity to the sun, the planet Mercury must surge forward, faster than any of its siblings in our solar system — at approximately 108,000 miles per hour — or else be devoured in the womb of fire. It cannot stop, slow down, or look backwards. Mercury completes its orbit around the sun in 88 days, bringing it into a drive-by with Earth three times a year. In the carnage of contact, the planet of swiftness, action, communication, and manifestation pulls up beside us, laughs at our horse-and-pony operation, and blurs past, leaving us in dust and chaos. These brusque, brutal speed-by encounters, which make our planet feel stalled in a jammed turnpike of personal progress, are lovingly known as retrogrades. And from May 29 until June 22, we’re in for another hit as Mercury retrogrades in Gemini.
During retrograde periods — when one planet catches up to, and outpaces, another — ancient astrologers would perceive the other planets to move backwards. But it’s an illusion, based on the delightful proviso that the Earth is at the center of the universe. Planets don’t turn back — ever. And for those of us left behind, kicking up another planet’s smoke, this period reminds us of how little centrality and dominance we have over our own grand progression. We are not at the center of the universe, and we are not leading the race.
For this round — the second of three in 2021 — Mercury retrogrades in its home sign. Here, the planet would normally thrive as it makes introductions, hits multiple events in a day, posts online, and embraces sheer nuclear dynamism to thaw out of the long winter we’ve endured. Mercury, the fleet-footed messenger of the gods, served as a clear antecedent for DC’s quick-witted, ever-dynamic superhero, the Flash. In the Gemini network of contact, society, writing and pure experience, Mercury chooses to act first and worry about the details later. There can be no going back, or losing momentum, regardless of the consequences.
And so comes Mercury retrograde, when the manic spree comes skidding to a halt. Travel plans and projects encounter snags; posts and personal declarations take on unintended meanings; and the “new you” of late-pandemic life meets some roadblocks along the way to its ideal manifestation. This is a period of acute humiliation, as you realize that your carefully constructed life is built on a house of cards. This is not the end of the world, nor is it the harshest astrology we’ll encounter this year (watch this space on June 14 for the Uranus-Saturn square!), but it certainly gives you ample opportunity to rage against the gods, for whom you, like Mercury, are a mere servant, with no authority over your destiny.
Perhaps it’s a good thing. A sun in Gemini, especially in a year like this, often leads to chaos. Too much possibility, with no mooring or ethos, crashes in overdrive, or sags into ambivalence. Masks are coming off, tits are coming out, and venues are opening. Anything can happen. A dual reality, so definitive of the twins, emerges — one in which the world finally returns to us, and, in a fit of Gemini disappointment, we realize that it was shit to begin with. We want to make up for lost time, for missed connections, and the idea of a self that could have been. We want to be everywhere, with everyone, and do everything. But the world is not enough. Mercury, moving between us and the sun, its fire illuminating, awakening, and ultimately annihilating, forces a confrontation between the real and the illusory, the potential and the accountable.
This retrograde halts the manic spree out of quarantine life which many of us have adopted, and calls on the skills of discernment and self-protection — cultivated at high stakes during the pandemic — which must be revisited during a reckless summer of love. The sudden availability of in-person socializing, at first dazzling, will become exhausting. Who do you actually want to spend time with? How much of yourself can you give to others? Where must you return to feel like yourself again? And then comes the larger accounting, not just of vaccines and CDC relaxations, but of the world we left in free-fall last March. Gemini, like Mercury, would prefer to flash past the gritty ethical details, if they threaten to slow down its momentum. This retrograde, yanking the speedster out of his usual blur, will initiate a real-time scope of the surroundings: apartheid, obscene wealth disparity, and the slouching complacency to go back to the way things were. The illusion of the retrograde forces a review of our own warps in perspective.
Consider this a moment for the Earth to catch up to itself. All projects and plans, already initiated, should be looked over, reviewed and cancelled if they aren’t germane to who you are right now. Gemini is the domain of short travel, social contact, writing and everyday rituals. Don’t think of this time as a retreading of peak-pandemic Misery, or a total bungling of everything you’ve got going. Instead, embrace this as a review: How do you want to spend your time? Where do you want to be going? What do you want to focus on, in your career life? When have you said yes before thinking it through? By the time Mercury stations direct, on June 22nd, you’ll have had an opportunity to come to clarity and singularity of purpose, all during Gemini season. Imagine?!