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Iron, Not Quicksilver: From Astronomy to Psychology
Mercury retrograde happens when the planet Mercury passes between the Earth and the Sun. Because Mercury's orbit is about 84 days, this happens three times a year. While the retrogrades typically last about 22 days, there is a margin on either side of two to three weeks where the influences can be felt—I will get to that in the last section.
Mercury is not made of mercury. It has a huge core with a very high density, leading astronomers to believe that it's made mostly of iron. In fact Mercury is believed to have the highest iron content of any planet in the Solar System.
This is all another way of saying Mercury retrograde means a huge magnet passes between the Earth and the Sun, making its closest pass to our planet at the same time. This may explain why devices act weird, but I think that it also helps explain why the mind gets wonky, tends to lose things, or perceives problems as being worse than they are—the nervous system runs on electricity. The mind is a device that is, at least on the physical plane, rooted in electricity and magnetism.
In my view, the effects of the retrograde are evenly distributed between a perceptual event and one in the world outside the mind. The combined interaction is powerful, the more so for not being easily discernible either as reality or illusion.
With the space remaining, I will pass along, in summary form, some of what I have learned about Mercury retrograde. I don't mean what I have learned from books—I mean what I have observed tracking, experimenting with and doing consulting about every Mercury retrograde since 1994, and some going back to 1987.
I agree with don't sign, don't buy. That is, when you can avoid doing so. I have experimented with making purchases during or near Mercury retrogrades. Most of the time, it turns out that I don't need or don't use what I purchased. Sometimes it does not work, works strangely or does not do what I intended it to do. So I divide my life into times when I buy things and times when I don't. I will generally make major purchases with Mercury direct and out of echo phase. There are rare exceptions, but not so many. If you buy something during a retrograde, try not to be too attached to it, or expect a break-in period, while you work out the bugs. Really, most things can wait a week or two or three. If they cannot wait, be extra conscious, keep your paperwork, and make sure there is a good return policy.
As for contracts, it's not always possible to determine when you sign your lease or make the deposit, but I have been known to make landlords wait for weeks before even leaving a deposit. (Hi Stefan!) Plan ahead and use what flexibility you have. It's worth finagling this when you can. The operative events are the first payment and the signature on the contract. The problem if you sign with Mercury retrograde, or about to retrograde, is that something is likely to reverse itself. Or, you will learn something you wish you had known sooner. Which leads to my second point.