Mercury Retrograde is a phenomenon that has worked its way into mass consciousness. The moment a communication snafu occurs, folks blame Mercury Retrograde!

The truth is, not all miscommunications can be laid at the feet of this little planet. But it does behoove us to observe a few simple principles about this event.

Mercury appears to turn backward in its path around the Zodiac three times every year, for about twenty-one or twenty-two days at a time. So every four months, you get a three-week pause in which to catch up on old correspondence, read the book that’s been sitting on your nightstand and make phone calls to friends and family.

Everyone knows that Mercury Retrograde is a great time to do things that start with ‘re’: repair, reduce, reconsider, recreate. But what else can you do to bring out the best energy of this period?

Certainly, thoughts turn more inward than outward, so taking care of personal affairs is a great idea. Follow your gut instead of following your head. This is a great time to practice yoga, meditation or any activity that centers your mind and body.

If you can avoid signing a contract during Mercury Retrograde, fine. If not, go through it carefully a couple of times and get help if you need it. Try not to buy electronic equipment during this period, or travel, because delays and snafus seem to abound. Above all, don’t worry! Life moves forward even when Mercury seems to be going backward.

Find out more about Mercury retrograde in AriesMercury retrograde in TaurusMercury retrograde in GeminiMercury retrograde in CancerMercury retrograde in LeoMercury retrograde in VirgoMercury retrograde in LibraMercury retrograde in ScorpioMercury retrograde in SagittariusMercury retrograde in CapricornMercury retrograde in AquariusMercury retrograde in Pisces

Pluto has an energy that is as subtle and yet powerful as mind control, which is just one of the many things that falls within this planet’s realm. Sometimes referred to as the planet of power, Pluto seeks to control and influence on a grand, if hidden, scale.

In fact, Pluto is all about the hidden side of existence -- secrets, affairs, behind-the-scenes manipulations and so on. But more than that, it’s about power, whether it’s negative or positive. Powerful experiences such as sexuality, death, destruction and regeneration are within this planet’s realm, as are powerful urges like will, control, obsession and, again, sex.

In order to understand Pluto’s influence in your life, think of a time when you were utterly overtaken by something or someone. Perhaps you fell in love and grew obsessed with the object of your desires, or maybe you were involved in a relationship with someone who tried to control your every move. Maybe you’ve had a memorably intense sexual experience, or an equally memorable period of self-destructiveness or addiction.

All these experiences define Pluto’s energy, one that has the simultaneous power to create and destroy, to make life both amazing and terrible; or, in short, intense. It can grip you in its jaws and rip down everything you’ve come to depend on, but it can also force you to learn the power of strength -- of standing on your own two feet, come what may.

Pluto rules the intense sign of Scorpio. Read about Scorpio to learn more about this sign and Pluto's influence on it.

Pluto is a very dark, cold, slow (dwarf) planet, and is the furthest known planet from our Sun, visible only with a powerful telescope. It was only recently discovered, in 1930. Unlike other faraway planets, Pluto is not gaseous: It has a sold body.

Pluto takes 245 years to orbit the Sun. It is quite eccentric in that its orbital plane is tilted by about 17° off the ecliptic, unlike the orbital plane of other planets. This creates a strange effect as Pluto circles around the Zodiac, because it spends much longer in some parts of the Zodiac than in others. For example, it takes thirty years to travel through Taurus, but only fourteen years to make its way through Scorpio!

From Earth’s perspective, Pluto appears to be retrograde 54% of the year, which makes the retrograde somewhat insignificant in itself. However, the stationary position of Pluto -- when it seems to stand still as it changes directions -- is when the qualities and characteristics of Pluto are likely to be very noticeable.

During a retrograde period, we are often forced to step back and pause in our own evolutionary processes. The stations and retrograde periods of Pluto give us a chance to stop and consider our situation and the next course of action.

The Pluto Return occurs outside of the human life span, so we look to other points in the cycle for significance, such as the Pluto square which often indicates a time of mid-life changes and turmoil.

However, because of Pluto's eccentric orbit, it’s not always a mid-life thing: The square can happen as early as age thirty-seven and as late as age ninety-two!

The retrograde Mercury in Taurus affects your judgment and interactions on financial matters, so you will need to use extra care as you go about your business during this period.

Any new venture should be regarded with a great deal of caution, especially when dealing with large sums of money. You're more likely to meet with resistance during negotiations, so allot extra time for compromise and last-minute details. Avoid taking any risks, especially with regard to the stock market or even with big purchases.

If you must make important decisions on money matters, read through details carefully. Do not skim lightly over clauses and disclosures on contracts, use your magnifying glass, and ask questions when in doubt. One of the more effective uses during this planetary period is to revisit your financial papers of the past. Look through receipts, review your financial statements, refinance mortgage payments, and solve any tax questions you have.

This period may also find you at odds with others during conversations. Try not to be too rigid in your thinking and know when to yield, when given good reason. Bullheadedness can be a potential symptom of this celestial influence, so try not to inspire resistance.

Learn more about Mercury retrograde in the signs: Mercury retrograde in Aries, Mercury retrograde in Taurus, Mercury retrograde in Gemini, Mercury retrograde in Cancer, Mercury retrograde in Leo, Mercury retrograde in Virgo, Mercury retrograde in Libra, Mercury retrograde in Scorpio, Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius, Mercury retrograde in Capricorn, Mercury retrograde in Aquarius, Mercury retrograde in Pisces.

The retrograde Mercury in Capricorn doesn't provide much inspiration if you're searching for lovely lyrical luminous words that poetically reveals your heart and mind.

In fact, language seems to be somewhat stilted in general. It is not as if you're incapable of communicating a point, it's more as if the words you select don't come off quite as you planned.

What you consider as direct verbiage may be misconstrued as an accusation or command. Even a simple request that you regularly make may be heard as an aggressive order. This planetary period is not conducive to flowery expressive language, so creative writing and song lyrics aren't to be attempted just now.

Your tolerance for idle chatter is also at an all-time low. You would rather get straight to the point, which leaves you little patience for Grandma Betty's long-winded explanation of her quilting strategy.

Make sure to say 'please' and 'thank you' often, however. Avoid controversial subjects and certainly don't initiate new projects. Use this time to check on your financial health. Do home repairs, and reassess career goals you made five years ago. This is a fine time to take catch up on piles of old work.

Jupiter, that big, fat, gaseous giant of the solar system, is retrograde about one-third of the time. Both the retrograde and direct stations -- the points at which Jupiter seems to turn around in its orbit -- occur when the Sun trines Jupiter, which is considered to be a favorable aspect.

This leads us to suspect that, unlike the common perception of other planets’ retrograde periods, Jupiter Retrograde has a positive effect.

During Jupiter Retrograde, the Sun opposes Jupiter. At that time, Jupiter rises exactly at sunset and grandly marches across the sky all night long. It is very bright and close to the earth during this time.

Since Jupiter rules expansion and exaggeration, these regular turning-back periods are kind of like a self-cleaning oven: They keep things from getting out of hand. Retrograde motion slows down Jupiter’s tendency to make things bigger. It’s almost a sort of automatic braking system.

Jupiter is very much about our belief systems, and when it’s retrograde, we are more likely to follow our own path rather than be led by others. It’s an excellent time to clarify within yourself where you stand on any particular issue, and also to develop personal faith, self-reflection and independent learning.

At the times when Jupiter turns in either direction, it’s best to avoid long-distance travel or legal appointments, if possible. Jupiter’s energy is strong at these times, and you may find headlines that reflect Jupiterian themes.

Learn more about the other retrograde planets: Mercury retrograde, Venus retrograde, Mars retrograde, Jupiter retrograde, Saturn retrograde, Uranus retrograde, Neptune retrograde, Pluto retrograde

When a planet changes sign by moving backwards or forwards into a new sign.

The retrograde Mercury in Sagittarius can trigger an onslaught of opinions that would be better left unspoken. The tendency, under this planetary influence, is what is known as 'inserting one's foot into one's mouth.' You may feel the urgency to express yourself, feeling that your input is badly needed.

However, what can result from your high-minded comment is a high-volume response. Although you may feel the need to address a particular matter, you may in fact, make things worse. Generally speaking, your judgment isn't quite on the mark.

You could be overly optimistic, expecting your listener to embrace all of your views wholeheartedly. You may feel that you have all the right answers while your poor misguided friend doesn't see the simple solution right before them. Don't assume that your audience is receptive to your insights.

You run the risk of coming off as self-righteous or just plain old annoying. No one likes a 'smartie pants.' Use this time to focus on yourself. Review old notes from your current job or class.

Do recreational activities, but don't travel to far from home. Brush up on a foreign language. Try to be mindful before you offer your two cents.

The retrograde Mercury in Pisces is not the best influence for composing lengthy statistical reports on the use of widgets in the 1800s. Nor is this a great time to read up on the latest tax laws for the coming year. In fact, any task that requires detailed scrutiny should best be left alone until another time.

This dreamy period will make you stare off into space for hours on end. Conversations have a way of drifting into strange and surreal territory. Facts are hard to hold on to and your memory may be less dependable than usual. You are highly sensitive to the energy around you.

If you sense any aggression from the other party, you'll probably be tempted to run away and hide. This would not be the time to engage in any intellectual debates, for you may have a hard time defending your views. You can use this period for your creative benefit.

Artistic work that you might have started once, but shelved, can be revisited with positive results. You are also especially gullible and should avoid fast-talking salespeople peddling pink robots. Take this time to clean up clutter and organize papers.

Learn more about Mercury retrograde in the signs: Mercury retrograde in Aries, Mercury retrograde in Taurus, Mercury retrograde in Gemini, Mercury retrograde in Cancer, Mercury retrograde in Leo, Mercury retrograde in Virgo, Mercury retrograde in Libra, Mercury retrograde in Scorpio, Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius, Mercury retrograde in Capricorn, Mercury retrograde in Aquarius, Mercury retrograde in Pisces

Mars, the Action Planet, normally spends four to six weeks traveling through each sign in the Zodiac. But when Mars goes retrograde -- and that’s only about nine percent of the time -- it spends more than six months in one sign! Talk about focus!

Let’s consider what happens when the most assertive, forward-moving planet in the solar system slows down, stops, and seems to start moving backward in its orbit.

This doesn’t seem to make Mars happy. To top it off, Mars is as close as possible to the Earth at this time, so when retrograde, it shines very brightly, all night long. This adds up to a very strong influence.

Of all the planets, Mars Retrograde indicates the need to ‘do it again.’ Actions and work that you’ve already done come back for revision, and current projects run into snags. You’ve got a long to-do list but can’t seem to get anything accomplished.

Your to-do list may seem like some sort of exasperating sticky-note that you can’t get rid of. It’s frustrating and annoying. Sometimes projects you’ve been working hard on will even come to an unexpected end.

Mars Retrograde can indicate anger and temper issues, and these feelings may be turned inward instead of being openly expressed. This can lead to all sorts of unfortunate effects, including temporary depression. Initiative can be thwarted during this time.

Not everyone will be affected equally. The sign in which Mars makes its retrograde matters a lot, both on a general level and also in determining who will be more personally affected by its retrograde motion.

Learn more about the other retrograde planets: Mercury retrograde, Venus retrograde, Mars retrograde, Jupiter retrograde, Saturn retrograde, Uranus retrograde, Neptune retrograde, Pluto retrograde