How Mercury is Going to Throw You for a Loop in November

November 4, 2018

You may have heard that Mercury goes retrograde this month (November 2018). But did you know that this cycle is one of the most unique in years? This time Mercury will be out of bounds, squaring Neptune, and in Sagittarius – the sign of its detriment – all at the same time. This isn’t your grandmother’s Mercury retrograde!

Here are the key dates to note:

  • Mercury in Sagittarius – November 1 through December 1, 2018; December 13 through January 5, 2019
  • Mercury out of bounds – November 3 through 20, 2018
  • Mercury Retrograde – November 16 through December 6, 2018
  • Mercury square Neptune (3° orb) – November 9 through November 22, 2018
    (exact square Nov. 16, the day of the station retrograde).

So what does that mean?

One thing we can predict right off is that we’ll see many of the classic Mercury retrograde snafus (misfired communication, computer gremlins galore, and short-distance travel delays). Not every Mercury retrograde has this “classic” feel because it’s not always in the same sign when it’s retrograde. Each retrograde cycle has its own vibe. For instance, Mercury retrograde in Virgo might have more to do with catching up on busy work or making headway on our overfilled email inbox.

Every retrograde cycle has a looking-back quality, compelling us to slow down, to review, to retrace our steps according to the agendas of that planet. But in addition to that, each retrograde is colored by the topics of the sign it’s in, as well as the interactions with other planets.

So let’s break this cycle down a little to better understand it.

Wisdom Gained through Direct Experience with Mercury in Sagittarius

Philip K Dick Valis book cover

First, by sign, Mercury is in Sagittarius. In this sign, Mercury’s flow isn’t as simple because Mercury’s goals clash with the style of Sagittarius. In a person’s birth chart, this can be a gift that can lead to some pretty fabulous rewards as we wrestle with the conflicting energies. One inspiring example is sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, who helped us contemplate other worlds and explore mind-blowing cosmologies through his prolific writing. He had natal Mercury in Sagittarius, out of bounds.

But Mercury in Sagittarius doesn’t come without its challenges. One classic expression is “foot-in-mouth” syndrome. Mercury supports the dissemination of information through communication, writing, talking, etc. Mercury is about data, facts and figures. But in its trickster form, Mercury loves to challenge us with competing “facts” just at the moment when we believe we have it all figured out. Mercury, the fastest-moving planet, is always there to keep us on our toes.

Sagittarius, on the other hand, is motivated to figure it all out! Sagittarius has to do with weaving meaning into life gained through direct experience. Nothing would make Sagittarius happier than to discover (and then preach) the one true unifying theory of everything. But this is also what can get it into trouble. When off balance, Sagittarius will cling to a view of life that is based on limited experience with one cosmology. Mercury comes to the rescue here and says, “Um, I have some bad news for you – there is more than one cosmology that works.” Which, of course, gives Sagittarius a meltdown.

Facing this archetypal clash with consciousness, Sag opens up to learn more – again through direct experience. Faced poorly, Sag turns into a raving fundamentalist.

With Mercury in Sagittarius we’re all at risk of believing too fully and completely that we’re right. And then “sharing” that viewpoint with everyone we know, all while using an exhaustive number of words.

By the way, Jupiter moves into Sagittarius on November 8. I’ll talk about that later this month, but I’ll just say there that it’s only going to increase this potential.

Riding the Extremes of Out of Bounds Planets

Next let’s add in the meaning of  Mercury out of bounds. Keeping it simple for now, let’s focus on the word “extreme.” When I teach out of bounds planets, I explore many potential significations that I don’t have time for here. But this one – extreme – tends to work more often than not. You can understand why by quickly taking in what “out of bounds” means astronomically. The non-technical version is that an out of bounds planet is as high or low as it can go from our view on Earth. Imagine a midline that all of the planets more or less travel along. Each can travel above and below that midline. But some get really far up there, even further than the Sun can go. And that’s when we call them “out of bounds.”

So out of bounds planets can express with extremes of behavior. Me might use descriptive words here like “more than,” “the most,” “too much,” “extraordinary,” etc.

OK, so if we put together what we have so far, with Mercury in Sagittarius, retrograde and out of bounds this month, we have the potential for an extraordinary case of foot-in-mouth syndrome.

Now let’s add the last piece – Mercury square Neptune.

Feeling Our Way through the Fog of Mercury Square Neptune

You know those days when you could swear Mercury is retrograde but you find out it isn’t? It’s pretty common to find Mercury is square Neptune on those days. Neptune is the fog that rolls in, blurring and distorting our view. Neptune introduces the awareness that there is an energetic realm, an invisible realm of experience, and that there are realities beyond the linear and mundane. This really throws Mercury for a loop.

Mercury has to do with communication, thoughts and words. If we’re trying to communicate or decipher information using the usual Mercurial gifts of perception – sight, sound, smell – but Neptune is at hand, those methods don’t work in the way we’re used to. Neptune has to do with doors of perception beyond the five senses.

Mercury has a trickster side that can go along for this ride in some ways. Because Mercury isn’t invested in only presenting “facts.” Mercury is really just “data” or “trivia” – factual or otherwise. Brilliant liars can have strong Mercury signatures.

But this truth-bending predilection is especially possible when Mercury is in aspect with Neptune. Mercury land gets murky and confusing here as fact and fiction blur.

Sidebar: EVERY astrological symbol has positive, negative and everything-in-between ways of expressing the energies. We’re focusing more on the shadow today. But keep in mind that you can personally do very cool things with a natal Mercury square Neptune – write wonderful fantasy novels, for instance.

But going further with the shadow, when Neptune is involved, we might fully believe we’re telling the truth, or that we’re seeing all of the facts. Or that our decisions are based on facts. All the while Neptune is making it extremely difficult to get to the bottom of things – because that’s not where Neptune wants to take us. This is a problem when we’re trying to manage our tangible, physical world problems. We might find that the medical report we’re using to make an important health decision got switched with someone else’s in the lab. Or that the “expert” we’re following is misleading us (either on purpose or by mistake). Maybe we retreat into a fantasy belief as a coping mechanism and we start to believe our own exaggerated stories.

Let’s come back to our big-picture sentence.

Thinking about the peak time of November 14-20, when all of these energies converge, we have the potential for an extraordinary case of foot-in-mouth syndrome based on untruths, ungrounded beliefs or ideas, or complete fantasy.

This spells fun times ahead, especially as all of this unfolds during an especially volatile US election. 😉

That’s just one potential of many, and again, it’s weighted towards the shadow. Many of you will experience (and intentionally create) more life-affirming as positive expressions of these energies.

Tips for Successful Navigating

So, what can you do to work with these energies intentionally? That’s always my favorite question. Here are some starting thoughts:

  • Do less, sleep more. During Mercury-Neptune times, information, inspiration and guidance filters in from the non-linear realms. Give space for it. Trying to “figure it out” isn’t the best approach right now. Get comfortable with the fog, which means: walk slowly; use other senses besides your sight to guide you.
  • Mercury is retrograde so either slow down or approach delays and mishaps with acceptance and patience. When the fire of Sag rises up in you, compelling you to blurt something out, apply a heaping helping of reserve, and reflect on what you want to say before saying it, while giving respectful space for others’ words and ideas too.
  • Know that what you think you know right now, what you feel absolutely sure about, might be coming from a limited/distorted vantage point. Hold that in mind before you jump on the pulpit. Qualifying what you say with “in my experience” can go a long way towards having more pleasant conversations – especially when you stand in the awareness that you have something to learn from the totally different experiences that others are sharing with you.
  • If you’re not a natal out of bounds person, and you just “have this crazy idea,” explore it without acting on it for now. It could be something very cool but it might really be a crazy idea. Wait for Mercury to come back to a more stable state to take action. If you have carefully considered the ins and outs, verified the data, and still feel like it’s a great idea by the second week of December, move forward. You might find that some of the “crazy ideas” that emerge during this time are brilliant insights delivered by your favorite muse. While others come courtesy of trickster Mercury, who hopes to get a laugh by steering you down the wrong fork in the road. It’s up to you to figure out the difference.

Wishing you safe navigation ahead.

-Tony Howard

Vocation, Mission and Calling

Explore the chart significations for career and vocation. We’ll ruminate deeply on calling and life purpose and look at ways the birth chart can help speak to these compelling issues.

Mars Retrograde in Gemini 2022

This year, Mars will be retrograde in Gemini meaning Mars will spend a little more than 7 months in one sign! We’ll review Mars retrograde theory and meaning and then look at the specifics of this 2022 cycle in Gemini.

How to Interpret Your Grand Trine

The grand trine suggests gifts, talents or ease that we might take for granted. You’ll learn not only how to spot a Grand Trine, and what each elemental focus could represent, but also how to jump start this inner generator so that it can lead you to its greatest gifts.


Get my 5 Keys
to Saturn Mastery!

Subscribe to my newsletter for astrology news and new class alerts.