In the third installment of Spirit-21, we present a planet for the first time. Of all Earth's "brothers", Mercury is the one that revolves closest and most quickly around the sun. Its speed allows it to pass through the entire zodiac in a calendar year, so one might have their natal Mercury in any of the 12 signs. However, since the planet orbits near the sun, an individual's Mercury placement, if not in the same sign as the sun, is never more than one sign away from the sun sign. As Mercury is the planet which influences the mind, astrology teaches us that the mind can never get very far away from the soul (sol/sun).
There are additional orbital characteristics that also hold true for all the other planets, yet are not as dramatically displayed as they are by Mercury. With an orbital periodicity of 88 days, Mercury is subject to retrograde every 3 months. "What's a retrograde?" you may well ask. Retrograde motion occurs when, from our point of view from Earth, a planet apparently moves backwards, although it actually is moving forward. When on a highway while passing another vehicle, it appears that the passed auto is moving backwards, although it is in forward motion. When Mercury, or any other planet, is retrograde, it backs up over space already transited and is therefore reviewing territory already covered. In terms of its influence on our minds, retrograde Mercury periods are times best spent reflecting upon recent, past events rather than planning anything new.
Mercury also influences travel and communications as it is the Roman name for the god the Greeks called Hermes, who traveled all over the place delivering messages for the Father of the Gods, Zeus. Some people will not take extended trips or enter serious negotiations during its retrograde; it is not so much a case of averting a major disaster as it is a prudent way of avoiding a series of minor "drags". Attempting to do something new while the time calls for reflection can leave one distracted and annoyed. In the situation where one has retrograde Mercury in the astrological birth chart, it is more a case of having a naturally reflective mind rather than the fully active mind of a direct motion Mercury.
As Mercury moves between direct and retrograde motion, its speed slows down to a standstill before changing direction. Remember our analogy of a faster vehicle passing a slower one? There is a brief period of time when both autos are parallel and the slower one appears motionless. The astrological determinant as to whether or not one is "quick witted" has everything to do with the relative speed of Mercury at the time of birth. The improvisational and glib likely has been born when Mercury is moving at top speed.
As with all the planets, more important than the relative motion of Mercury is the astrological sign it occupies. Whatever sign in which Mercury is to be found will determine in what areas of life the mind dwells. Similarly, the Mercury placement in the natal horoscope indicates of what one innately thinks. One does not have to be a mind reader in order to know what others are thinking; all one has to know is their Mercury placement.
Note: the general meaning of Mercury placements in any of the astrological signs may be determined by referring to Issue #2, the Sun, for a summary of the 12.