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Summer is officially here, which means BBQs and vacations and day drinking rosé. There's a lot going on in our lives, and a lot going on within the planets, too. On July 7, Mercury will enter its second retrograde of 2019, ending on July 31.
Mercury retrograde has a reputation for causing miscommunications, lateness, and general annoyances, but you don't have to be afraid of it—you can actually use it to your advantage. Before you set your OOO email and hide from the world, read what VICE senior astrologer Annabel Gat told us about what to expect from this retrograde.
VICE: What is Mercury retrograde and why is everyone so scared of it?
Annabel Gat: Mercury is the planet of the mind. It's the messenger of the zodiac, the planet of communication and commerce, and all about moving things around. Ideas and conversations are some of the biggest things about Mercury that you may be familiar with.
During a Mercury retrograde there can be miscommunications, misunderstandings, delays. It’s a period when people may show up to work late and they'll blame Mercury retrograde, or the proverbial wrench thrown into the plan—anything but business as usual.
Is it risky to start a relationship during Mercury retrograde?
People often advise not to start new relationships during Mercury retrograde, but if there's one thing I know, it's that you don’t schedule love. If things are developing, let them develop.
Just know that part of the connection you have with this person is one that's around learning, communicating with each other, and making space for different communication styles. But that doesn't mean you should put up with any bad behavior! Don't let your date use Mercury retrograde as the excuse for why they didn't call you.
Another thing to remember: most relationships that break up during a Mercury retrograde end up getting right back together, so don't dump someone unless you want to reunite. You can learn more in my book, The Astrology of Love & Sex, which comes out on July 30.
What else should you avoid during Mercury retrograde?
Mercury is about communication and negotiation, so it’s a good idea to avoid signing contracts unless you're okay with the possibility that the terms will be changed later. That being said, you can totally use Mercury retrograde to your benefit: Let's say you don't want a commitment to be permanent. Now's a good time to do it, because things are unlikely to remain the same. During Mercury retrograde, we reconsider a lot of the conversations and ideas that have taken place, specifically in the pre-retrograde shadow period.
Mercury also rules commerce, so it’s ideal to avoid expensive or important purchases at this time. This might not be the best time to splurge if you've been saving up for a new cell phone. Buy it after retrograde because some snafus can take place.
Mercury's also about getting from one place to another, so during retrograde, watch out for traffic, mixups, and other delays. If you're traveling, double check your itinerary and confirm that you have all the facts straight—make sure that you're boarding the correct flight!
It can also be a fun time to reconnect with friends from the past. Mercury retrograde can find us running into people we haven't seen in a long time, which isn't always ideal. That said, sometimes you may want conducive astrological weather to, say, text an ex. If you've been meaning to reconnect with someone, Mercury retrograde is actually a good time to do it.
You mentioned the “pre-retrograde shadow period,” what is that?
There are two retrograde shadow periods. Mercury entered its pre-retrograde shadow on June 20. Conversations, ideas, and plans you’ve had between June 20 and July 7 are going to be up for review during the retrograde. There’s also the post-retrograde shadow period, which begins when Mercury retrograde ends on July 31, and is complete on August 15. The post-retrograde period is when you move forward around all the things you processed during the retrograde period.
Things can be confusing when, during retrograde, Mercury retraces the steps that it took before the retrograde, and you feel you’re going back through motions you experienced in the pre-retrograde shadow. It won’t be until after the post retrograde shadow clears that you have all the information. Don’t look at a retrograde as an inconvenience or a waiting game, though—if you do, you’ll be miserable, working against the energy. Try to slow down, relax, turn your mind off a bit instead. It’s a period to pause, to work on projects that were put on the back burner, or to redo what’s already been done.
Through Mercury retrograde, you’ll have a lot of that "here we go again" feeling. You've gone over the idea first in pre shadow, then during the retrograde, and then again during the post shadow. But seen a different way, Mercury retrograde brings us as the ability to stop, pause, reflect, review, and then really make sure that we want to stick with something before going further. It’s amazing for slowing down, for catching your breath, taking a break, and saying, "I am going to go into work a little bit later than usual because I need time to regroup."
My birthday falls during Mercury retrograde this year. How should I and other Cancers handle it?
Have a fun party with all of your friends—especially the ones that you haven't seen in a while. Reach out to people from your past; it's a productive way to work with this energy.
Pick a spot where none of your friends could get confused about the location, and make sure it's somewhere easy to get to. This birthday may not be the birthday for a dinner reservation at a place where you have to wait for all the guests to arrive before you're seated, because somebody is going to be running late.
Astrologers call birthdays “solar returns,” or the time when the sun returns to the position it was at the time of your birth. In general, having Mercury retrograde take place during yours tells us that the coming year has a lot to do with reflection, introspective work, and finding a new perspective on life.
What does it mean when Mercury retrograde is "in" a sign? Which sign is this retrograde in?
In astrology, the planets move through the zodiac (which is comprised of twelve astrological signs) in a “forward” motion. Occasionally, from our perspective on earth, the movement of the planets give the illusion that they’ve reversed their course, though they’re not literally moving backwards. This is called a retrograde.
Mercury begins its retrograde this time in Leo, a sign that's not afraid of expressing itself. When Mercury retrograde is in Leo, the energy is much more about quiet introspection. It’s a time where we could express ourselves, but we’d rather take a moment of introspection of silence, stillness.
Leo is a fixed sign, which means it falls in the middle of the season. It symbolizes strength and loyalty. Mercury retrograde in Leo asks us to meditate like a big cat basking in the sun, rather than roaring.
Leo is also the sign of royalty, and loves to be cool and popular. This means we should be patient about speaking, or we may find ourselves going, "Did I really just say that?" Think twice before you send a text message, especially if realize you’re sounding a little snobby or conceited. Leo can think it’s too cool for school on a bad day! On that note, double check who you're even sending those texts to, because retrograde can be a tricky time: you may mean to text your boyfriend, might end up texting your boss instead.
On July 19, Mercury retrograde will reenter Cancer. Cancer is a totally different energy from Leo, and Mercury in Cancer doesn’t always have the easiest time expressing itself verbally because it’s such an intuitive, nonverbal energy. When this happens, we're working very deeply with our intuition and really thinking about things on a very sensitive level. We're thinking a lot about safety and protection, which are Cancerian themes.
When Mercury entered Cancer in June, we might have had some things on our mind that we didn't know how to express, because Mercury can have a hard time finding the words when in such an intuitive, watery emotional space. Its dip into fiery Leo for a while, gives us the ability to see it in a new light, and then its retrograde reentering Cancer has us reexamining all of those things that we couldn't put our finger on initially. Now that a second pass gives us a fresh perspective, we're able to reorganize the whole thing within ourselves.
An important time during this retrograde will be on July 21 when the Sun and Mercury meet. As it's Mercury's retrograde, you might not know how to word it, but an important turning point or a new perspective will arrive.
On the last day of the month, July 31, we have a new Moon in Leo, which brings an exciting new beginning. This is the same day that Mercury retrograde ends. Conversations will finally begin moving forward, and the pace returns to what we think of as being normal.
Are there other cosmic events occurring during this retrograde we should care about?
There are outer planets that are also retrograde, including Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Pluto, that find us reconsidering issues in our lives. But what is really big, is that we actually are in eclipse season. There was just a solar eclipse in Cancer, and during the retrograde, there will be a lunar eclipse in Capricorn.
These eclipses are asking us to get real. Power structures and how we look at our authority figures are going to be shifting. Secrets will be coming to light, information will be revealed. If we aren't on the right path, these eclipses will put us on the correct one. And the harder you cling to the past, the harder it's going to be.
Is there anything else we should know about this retrograde?
If you want to take your Mercury retrograde preparation to a more advanced level, you can look at an ephemeris, a list of all the dates and the planetary positions.
Here's an example: If you got into an interesting situation any time during the pre-shadow period (June 20 through the start of the retrograde on July 7) or the retrograde, look at the degree Mercury was in and find the next date that Mercury returns to that degree to see when you might next find that situation popping back up. Those are days for you to work with, or reflect on, those issues. Tracking planets is what astrology is all about!
The last thing you should know about Mercury retrograde is that you shouldn’t stress too much. Mercury is the planet of the mind: Let yours rest!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What's in the stars for you in July? Read your monthly horoscope here.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.