Donna says: April Elliott Kent’s new book is a highly readable tour through the astrological fundamentals for beginning and intermediate astrology students. This excerpt is reprinted with permission of the publisher.
(c)An excerpt from The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology (Alpha Books/Penguin 2011), by April Elliott Kent
Because a planet doesn’t seem to function as expected while retrograde, astrologers tend to issue dire warnings about not getting your computer repaired while Mercury is retrograde and not buying a house while Venus is retrograde.
There’s something to these warnings, but proclamations like that always make me feel rebellious, and at the very least it’s fair to ask “Why?” After all, it’s not practical to spend nine Mercury retrograde weeks out of every year in communication/technology lockdown mode.
In fact, what I’ve often found is that Mercury (mischief maker that he is) often likes to push the issue; that just before Mercury turns retrograde, the car breaks down, your computer gives you the blue screen of death, or you accidentally drop your cell phone in the aquarium. Well, what are you gonna do? If you live 20 miles from your job and public transportation isn’t an option, you make your living as a website designer, or you don’t have a landline obviously, you’ve got to play ball with Mercury.
So what does it mean when Mercury, or indeed any planet, is retrograde? It means that you may not have all the facts you need to make an informed decision about matters related to that planet. It’s the reason astrologers urge clients not to make big, not easily reversible decisions like getting married or buying a home when Venus (planet of property and marriage) is retrograde, or to perhaps rent a car instead of buying one when Mercury is retrograde, or to resist following their guru to India when Neptune is retrograde.
AstroTip:Retrogrades are not, generally, the right time to begin things; rather, they’re times for finishing up unresolved matters. The popular thinking is that anything that begins with re- is appropriate to do during a re-trograde period: rethink, reissue, refinish, refresh, and, most of all, reflect.
The Shadow Period
So up until the minute the planet turns retrograde, and the minute after it turns direct, you’re in the clearright? Sorry. You also need to know about a little something called “the shadow period,” which begins before the planet turns retrograde and extends after it turns direct again. These are periods when the planet is still functioning in a sort of retrograde fashion even though it is, technically, moving forward.
It works like this. On April 17, 2010, Mercury turns retrograde at 13 degrees of Taurus, which for the sake of narrative interest we’ll call “Disneyland.” Mercury continues on its backward trajectory until May 11, 2010, when it turns direct again at 3 degrees of Taurus–let’s call it “Dodger Stadium.”
But of course, this is not the first time in recent history that Mercury had visited Dodger Stadium; in fact, he had caught a game there on April 3, 2010, on his way to Disneyland. Now, it’s well known that Mercury has a bit of a short attention span, to the extent that I rather suspect he keeps forgetting about the whole retrograde business entirely.
And on April 3, when the Dodgers waved up at Mercury and told him, “See you again in a couple of weeks!”, Mercury had gone on his blithe and merry way, not quite sure what to make of that comment, so distracted by it that he started losing people’s mail and scrambling their phone calls and crashing their hard drives. He was still moving forward, but his mind was back at Chavez Ravine with those inscrutable, irreverent Dodgers.
So on April 17 Mercury gets to the ticket booth at Disneyland when he realizes that somewhere along the way, he’s lost his wallet. He turns retrograde, to retrace his steps and find it. He’s now in full-on backtracking/misplacing things/forgetting stuff mode, stumbling along until eventually, on May 11, he finds himself right back at Dodger Stadium, where the entire team snickers and veteran sportscaster Vin Sculley holds up Mercury’s wallet.
Mercury slaps his forehead; says, “Oh yeah. Retrograde!”; turns direct again; and starts the same tedious trip down Interstate 5 toward Disneyland, for the third time. But he’s still a little rattled, plus he keeps finding lost mail along the way, discovers his lost car keys, and meets up with old friends. At last, on May 27, Mercury again reaches Disneyland, where he finally buys a ticket and gets to ride the Matterhorn bobsleds. That’s the real end of the “shadow” period.
Reprinted with permission. The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology, April Elliott Kent, Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
About the Author: April Elliott Kent, a professional astrologer since 1990, is the author of The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology (Alpha/Penguin, 2011) and Star Guide to Weddings (Llewellyn 2008). Her articles have appeared in The Mountain Astrologer and Dell Horoscope, on the websites Beliefnet.com and Tarot.com, and in Llewellyn’s Moon Sign and Sun Sign books. April is a member of ISAR and graduated from San Diego State University with honors in Communication, Her website is http://www.bigskyastrology.com . The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology is available from Amazon.com and other online booksellers: http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Guide-Practical-Astrology-Alpha/dp/1615640932