Mercury is retrograde right now (Feb 23 to March 17). What this means is that when viewed from the Earth, Mercury appears to be traveling backwards in the sky. The traditional view is that this prevents the smooth running of Mercury type activities such as paperwork, writing, teaching and travel. Clear thinking is also an attribute of a strong Mercury, so making good decisions can feel harder under Mercury retrograde.
Mercury goes retrograde three times a year, for about three weeks each time, and as if this was not enough time to be warned not to sign important documents or travel, in recent times Mercury retrograde paranoia has gone to new extremes. I am seeing more and more blog and Facebook posts and astrological columns espousing the notion that the shadow time (from around 3 weeks before Merc goes retro to 3 weeks after) is the same as the actual retrograde period, extending the whole deal to nine weeks, 3 times a year, in which one is supposed to not sign anything and basically be an indecisive recluse. That makes 27 weeks of inaction and fear in a year. THIS IS NUTS, PEOPLE!
First of all, Mercury retro does not mean everything stops. It just means you get to review past decisions and plans, and tweak whatever needs tweaking, and that it is not always the best time to be initiating MERCURY type activities (travel, study, paperwork). It can also mean that details need extra attention and that there is a tendency to more forgetfulness and more general snafus in travel and finance.
Second, this shadow business is a recent invention and seems to be part of the astrology-as-limiting-fear-based-philosophy that is unfortunately the way some people like to play it.
Third, from my personal observations of Merc retro over the past 35 years, if you have a Mercury led or ruled chart, you will probably feel the retro period more than most. And when you will feel it most is when Mercury is stationary, ie the days around the turns retro and direct, at the beginning and end of the retrograde period. Throughout the retro period you may experience a general slowdown in communications. This time is most sensibly used for inner work and editing writing projects. But for the many people who don’t have a strong Mercury and/or work in Mercury type occupations, they may not notice Mercury retrograde at all.
Fourth, while travel on the day or two of the Mercury station is not a great idea, being away on vacation is actually one of the best ways to spend Mercury retrograde. It is also an ideal time to go on retreat or visit a spa. And if you have to work, then work! The flow and necessity of your own life is always the most important thing. Don’t let fear-inducing so-called astrology stop you from doing what you need to do.