Those of you who know me personally, read me regularly, or enjoyed my horoscope series and planetary series know that I love all things astrological and astronomical. I have always wanted to write about Mercury Retrograde, that particular phenomenon that occurs in the heavens but also affects us so tremendously here on earth, but the dates never seemed to coincide with a blog post. Well, it just so happens that yesterday began a new retrograde cycle that will last until August 19th, so I now have the perfect opportunity to write a Friday Musings post about it. Those of you who are aware of Mercury Retrograde know firsthand the havoc it can wreak, and how its meddling can range from the interference of a mischievous poltergeist that loves to watch us make wrong turns while driving, to the full on destruction of a major demon that has burst through the gates of hell. If you’ve never heard of Mercury Retrograde I might refer back to the lyrics of “Gimme Sympathy,” the Metric song I wrote about this past Wednesday and tell you that you’re “so close to something / better left unknown.” I won’t be offended if you stop reading right now.
If you’ve stayed with me, I applaud you. There’s strength in knowledge! I’ll begin by talking about what a retrograde actually is, and then move on to why the very mention of the word strikes panic in the hearts of people everywhere. Retrograde at its simplest is backward motion, but let’s be clear, the planet isn’t actually moving that way in the sky. That’s not possible. Yet if you’re stargazing, it does appear to be going in reverse. So what’s going on here? It all has to do with the difference in the orbital patterns of Mercury and Earth, and the rate at which each one completes that rotation. Mercury is a speedster that zips around the sun every 88 days in a strange elliptical shaped orbit. Earth, on the other hand, seems to plod along slowly in comparison, taking 365 days to complete its trip around the sun. Because of Mercury’s speed and its elliptical pattern, there are points in the year where it appears to pass the Earth, and then seems to travels backwards while the Earth catches up and passes it. So we are actually talking about an optical illusion that just happens to have real consequences.
In astrology, when a planet goes into retrograde its energy becomes reversed and turns inward. Since Mercury is the planet of communication, it makes sense that a reversal of its energy would create a great deal of confusion. Think back to Roman mythology where Mercury was the fleet-footed messenger of the gods. Imagine the mess that would ensue if he suddenly started running backwards. For us, Mercury rules the way we receive, interpret, and relay information, so to say that misunderstandings are likely during a retrograde is quite the understatement. Communication in general is challenged, and we can find ourselves searching for words while speaking and taking forever to write a coherent sentence. Mercury also claims ownership of all things related to negotiating, buying and selling, contracts, documents, travel arrangements, and sending things in the mail. It’s very common to hop on the wrong train during a retrograde period, or to learn that your latest Amazon order was delivered to someone three states away. As if all of this is not enough information, here’s the one other thing that is so very important. It also matters what sign the retrograde is occurring in. This particular one that has just begun is happening in Leo, so we want to be especially aware of communication problems that stem from being self-centered, prideful, or righteous. We may also find ourselves having a tendency to exaggerate during this period, or even lie, and since Leo is such a passionate sign, we can expect to feel an impact on our love lives as well.
So who is affected by all this? Unfortunately, the answer is all of us, but the Leos of the world will feel it the most because the retrograde is occurring in their sign, and Virgo and Gemini always suffer during these cycles because Mercury is their ruling planet. Being the consummate Virgo, I can attest to this. There is some good news. Retrograde periods also offer us an opportunity to slow down the mad rush of life and take some time to reflect, reevaluate, and recalibrate. We might as well take it easy since nothing is going to go right anyway. It’s also a perfect time to finish up projects that we’ve had laying around for a while, although it’s not necessarily a good idea to start anything new. Since outward communication can be so challenged, retrograde cycles force us to rely more on our intuition. It becomes so important to pay attention to this, sensing whether we’re about to say or do the wrong thing, and thinking before we speak, text, or send that email, especially if we are reacting in anger. Since this retrograde is in Leo, we’ll also be given the chance to find closure in old relationships that still feel like an open wounds. We can seize the moment over the next three weeks to delete old text messages, emails, and pictures, recognizing that although we may feel like we’re moving backwards just like Mercury, forward motion is still really what’s occurring. The most important thing of all is to try not to panic. This will pass, as all retrogrades do. We need to go slowly, think carefully, take care not to be too prideful, double check our travel arrangements and driving directions, and use the time to reflect on where we want to be when Mercury’s energy goes direct again on August 19th.
For today’s cocktail, I decided it was the perfect time to reprise the one that I created for Mercury during my Celestial Cocktail series. Since it pertained mostly to the planet’s physical characteristics, it had to reflect temperature extremes and have a lovely grayish-green color. I had also wanted the photo to capture the blinding sun because of Mercury’s proximity to it. I decided that Aquavit should be my base spirit because of its smooth anise-like flavor that always suggests coolness to me. I went with Barrow’s Intense Ginger liqueur to bring on the heat, along with muddled ginger and peppercorns. I also made a peppercorn and arugula simple syrup which contributed a bit more heat, but there was something about the vegetal notes of the arugula that had a cooling effect too. I chose lemon for my citrus and used a half an activated charcoal capsule to get the color right. When I tasted it, the Aquavit and the arugula hit me first, and then the ginger and peppercorns. It felt like a transition from cold to hot, which was just what I was hoping for. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday and Happy July Retrograde 2018. Having a cocktail or two over the next few weeks will help things to go more smoothly!
Muddle 2 ginger slices and a handful of peppercorns with the simple syrup in the bottom of a shaker tin. Add the remaining ingredients with ice and shake until very cold. Double strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon wheel. Sprinkle some cracked pepper on top of the drink. Enjoy!
*Make a standard 1:1 ratio simple syrup and then throw in some arugula and cracked peppercorns. Allow it to steep in a mason jar until cool. Strain it and store it in the jar in the fridge for 2 weeks or so.