Posted by: Donna Cunningham | July 1, 2013

Mercury’s Pre-retrograde Shadow and Post-retrograde Shadow Periods

Donna says: A few days ago, the topic of Mercury retrograde shadow periods came up in the discussions of Mercury Retrograde among Skywriter’s readers. Though familiar with the idea, I haven’t paid a lot of attention to it, since I’m usually writing my heart out in the days around Mercury’s turning from direct to retrograde and vice versa. Born during one of those turnings, I find them to be my most productive writing periods.

So, I went looking for information on the subject and came upon this gem by Dr. Z, who allowed me to reprint it here. He’s just as much a skeptic about the Mercury Retrograde hysteria as I am, but he’s even more irreverent. (Always a plus!)

Mercury’s Pre-retrograde Shadow and Post-retrograde Shadow Periods

©2012 by Guest Blogger, Dr. Z

It would appear that a large number of astrologers out there buy into (and want to make sure that you buy into) the “pre-retrograde Shadow” and “post-retrograde Shadow” periods of Mercury. Sorry to disappoint you, amigos, but I just can’t bring myself to swallow the whole enchilada.

If you’ve read my article on Mercury Retro, then you already know I’m not a typical astrologer that enjoys handing out restrictive orders involving what you absolutely must not do during Mercury Retrograde, itself. So you shouldn’t be too surprised that I can’t (and don’t) buy into these extended shadow periods.

The Evolution of the Shadow Periods

A long, l-o-n-g time ago, all you ever occasionally heard of were the alleged post-retrograde shadow periods, and that you should continue to be wary of Mercury until he once again reached the spot in the sky where he’d originally gone retrograde.

It all seemed to make a fair amount of sense… but then somewhere along the line the dreaded pre-retrograde shadow periods were added into the mix…

Do the Math For Yourself

Mercury experiences a retrograde cycle approximately once every 4 months, and during any given retrograde cycle Mercury remains retrograde for approximately 3 weeks. The pre-retrograde Shadow Mercury periods last 2 to 3 weeks. The post-retrograde Shadow Mercury periods last 2 to 3 more weeks.

So add them all up – the pre-retrograde Shadow Mercury periods that last 2 to 3 weeks, the Mercury retrogrades that last 3 weeks, and then the post-retrograde Shadow Mercury periods that last 2 to 3 more weeks.

Yep! According to these jokers, you should then refrain from significant communications, signing contracts, and the like for an average of 40% of the time during any given 365 day period.

In unique calendar years where Mercury goes retro 4 times (rather than the more normal 3 times), such as in the year 2009, sticking strictly to the 2009 calendar year, it’s slightly over 50% of the days in 2009 that you should be concerned with Mercury.

Doesn’t that sound like pure, unadulterated ________ to you? Modern astrologers with our sophisticated, cutting edge, astrological calculation software have way too much time on our hands.

Don’t get me wrong… some of my best and most talented astrologer friends believe in one or both of the shadow periods of Mercury retrograde. (And they’re probably wagging a scolding finger at me as they read this.)

Besides… being a Jungian/archetypal astrologer I almost always like a good “shadow,” but this is ridiculous! Nowadays, I’m sitting back and waiting with bated breath for the pre-pre-retrograde Shadow and the post-post-retrograde Shadow periods.

Sometimes… less is more…

About DR. Z: Sporting degrees in Theology and Jurisprudence, Dr Z (aka Anthony L Peña, JD) was one of a handful of local astrologers that, during the Internet’s infancy, recognized the potential of the World Wide Web. He opened his first astrology web site, The Zodiac Master, in September 1996. For 7 years, from 1999 to 2006, Dr Z also served as the astrology guide at (owned by the NY Times). His site provides a wide variety of astrology tutorials, articles, and resources for visitors of all differing levels of astrological interest and knowledge. Here’s how to reach him on the web:,,,

More Articles about Mercury Retrograde on Skywriter:



  1. I love this article! I tend not to go into the shadow frenzy too much myself anymore. I’m much more interested in the SR and SD days, but I have noticed that the effects of the retrograde period do seem to start happening, in relation to the actual SR day, about 4-6 days before, which can be explained by the fact that Mercury is slowing down considerably at this time. I think Mercury sensitive people, i.e. strong Mercury types may feel this more. But the day I always circle in red ink is the day of the SD. THAT ONE is usually critical, I find.

    Also, I’m not one to stop all activities while Mercury is Rx. My day job involves negotiating contracts, so that would be extremelly counterproductive if I were to take notice of all that is said about Mercury Rx. Then again, there does seem to be a trend that contracts signed during this time will somehow be brought up for examination at a later time. But I don’t have stats on this… so, it’s worth what it’s worth. The only day(s) I try not to sign anything or get others to sign anything is the day, or close to the day, Mercury stations direct…

    And as far as writing is concerned, I usually do A LOT during Mercury Rx… probably because it’s an activity towards which I cannot dedicate enough time, usually. I find that Mercury Rx somehow gives me time to do that. Then again, I’m helping this trend by now booking my vacation time during at least one of the Mercury Rx period in the year, and I use it to write.
    Thank you Donna for your very interesting articles and insights.

    • Great observations, Brigitte. I’d say that one reason Mercury Rx is stronger at the stations is because whatever aspects Mercury is making to other transiting planets last much longer than when Mercury is moving a degree or more each day.

      Let’s say transiting Mercury is squaring transiting Neptune and then slows down for the station. Rather than being in aspect to Neptune for only 4-5 days, it could be making the square for as long as 2 weeks. Since Neptune’s presence in the mix tends toward fog and confusion, things can get muddled indeed. Seeing that square forming in the sky, we’d need to be more careful about double-checking or even postponing for a couple of weeks mission-critical projects. Common sense, not hysteria. Donna

      • How right you are! Of course, makes perfect sense!
        Thank you!

    • Agreed… planetary stations are definitely often the most significant times to pay attention.

  2. Ha! Couldn’t agree more! Millions of people out there who have never heard of Mercury Rx, etc manage just fine, thank you very much!

    BTW, I have a Uranus-Mercury inconj (Mercury is conj my ASC) & when transiting planets trigger it that is when I have the kind of events usually associated w/Mercury Rx.

    Thanks for posting these reminders, Donna! 😀

    • Hi, Diane, long time no see. Yes, transits like that usually do activate an aspect and go along with events related to the combination of planets.

      People with Mercury-Uranus aspects have a quirky way of thinking and an oddball sense of humor, but a quincunx between them would take quirky to a whole new level. (Folks, there are a number of articles about quincunxes–a.k.a inconjuncts–on Skywriter), so to learn more about how to interpret them, use the on-site search engine on the top right hand side of the front page.) Donna

  3. Mercury retrograde gets blamed for the bad stuff that happens!!!! If things go bad during this time, I can blame Mercury. If things are good, I don’t even think about Mercury!!

  4. Mercury retrograde, how did this become so popular as a catch phrase for the non-astrologer out there? I do know the sun sign was made popular at the turn of the century when journalists sat around and conjured up what might be popular for their newspaper readers. Ah-ha, astrology. Everybody shares roughly a month together with a sun sign. So the weekly, daily sun sign articles were born. Before that it was farming, agriculture that followed the moon.
    Yet, with all that aside, I personally enjoy Mercury retrograde.Always a time I relish.
    I can get some writing done, re-visit actions I might want to re-think and re-negotiate.
    Being an aries sun, mars and jupiter with an added sag moon, to say the leas I can be the type that leaps before looking.

  5. Mercury (Hermes) is the grand patron of the “Freudian slip.” Greek mythology relates that “once upon a time,” Hermes was interested in gaining the sexual favors of a certain young princess of Crete named Apemosyne.
    However, the interest was not mutual for the princess – and Apemosyne turned Hermes’ invitations down.

    So Hermes strategically placed several wet, slick animal hides on the ground in a place where he knew she’d be walking. Apemosyne slipped and then Hermes “had his way” with her…

    Sadly, as a result of this action, Apemosyne’s brother murdered her… Ever had one of your “slips” get you in some serious trouble?

  6. I am always astounded by the people and places from my past that I encounter during a mercury retrograde period. There always seems to be a wedding, funeral, family reunion during these times. Astrology at work!

    • Interesting. Is your natal Mercury in aspect to Saturn or Pluto? That might explain it. Donna

      • I thought it occurred for everyone. My Mercury is in Aquarius and it sextiles Saturn in Sagittarius. Would the fact that the original ruler of Aquarius is Saturn be more the reason for this or its aspect to Saturn. Also I have Virgo Rising. I’m curious as to which of these placements cause this phenomenon.

  7. I clearly understand what you are saying and have never been too strict in regards to whether or not Mercury is indeed in retrograde. However, lately with some of the work that I am doing outside of my individual influence (and of those above, smile), a serious lack of communication has been going on. Although, I was successfully able to intervene with the help of the ancestors and realign the direction, I begin to question myself as to whether or not Mercury was in retrograde. I found out that Mercury will go into retrograde as of May 19, 2015 and that currently we are in a pre-retrograde of Mercury period. Well, with what I have been going through, it makes sense that something is going on.

    • In Greek mythology there was a special helmet rendering invisible the person or god wearing the helmet. Although associated mostly with Hades/Pluto… archetypal author James Hillman in “The Dream and the Underworld” pointed out that this helmet of invisibility rightly belonged the messenger god Hermes (Mercury).

      Worn over the head, Hermes’ helmet signifies hidden thoughts and secrets. Much of the time Hermes enjoys hanging out unnoticed in the background.

      As a Mercurial individual I’m a bit amused that Mercury/Hermes has been relegated to little more than the god/planet of miscommunication

      • That’s interesting, Dr. Z. I have 5 Mercury-ruled planets in my chart, 4 of them in Gemini, including Mercury itself. I have ALWAYS, always yearned for a cloak of invisibility. Donna C.

      • I’ll be glad to loan you my cloak… but only if you promise to return it? The gods are indeed alive and it never ceases to surprise me when they show themselves in unexpected ways.

      • LOL! If you give me the name of your tailor, I’ll get one myself. Donna

  8. In the last year or two I’ve noticed that the pre-retro shadow phase acts a lot like the actual retrograde phase. I agree that it doesn’t make sense to put life on hold for that amount of time, but it’s usually events/actions of other people who seem to get put on hold, not mine. I’m usually the person who has to wait for someone else to do something during the period.

    I really like the Pluto and Saturn blog content on this site, by the way. Thank you!

    • That does make sense about the pre-retrograde shadow, Christine. After all, Mercury is slowing down to make a full stop for days before it’s stationary. It’s kind of like a car slowing down when you pump the brakes just before the car comes to a full stop. Donna

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