The DIY Guide to Mercury Retrogrades

I’ve prattled on a lot in the past about Bali and why I love it – and the people. Possibly, though, the thing I love the most are the offerings.

The process of constructing and offering the tributes is not just a belief based ritual, but also a deliberate pause to be fully in the moment- regardless of the business of life going on around.

A local I spoke to up there said that every Australian and American he meets work so hard that they come to Bali to collapse and then go home to work so hard again to pay for the relaxation that they’ve just had and to save for the next holiday for the relaxation they need from working so hard to pay for it.

He said he didn’t understand it.

‘What do you do?’ I asked. ‘You work hard too.’

‘Yes, but we also stop for things that matter,’ he said.

‘What about the Europeans,’ I asked?

‘They seem to allow themselves more enjoyment,’ he said.

Perhaps he was typecasting, but I had similar conversations with others so maybe there’s something to it.

In our lives, we are so busy multi-tasking, juggling devices and schedules that we forget to notice the details. We miss things.

For me, Mercury retrograde has always been that time when we’re reminded that a little back-tracking, a little revision, a few deliberate pauses in the day can be a way in which we can reconnect – to our own creativity, to what’s important, to the moment.

It can be as simple as the reminder when you’re in disgusting traffic that as late as it’s making you, someone up the road may, as the result of a mechanical failure or an accident, be even more inconvenienced than you are.

Or the next time you’re delayed at the doctors being grateful that you’re not the one whose made her run late with something that could be more life threatening than what you’re presenting with.

Some years ago (back in 2010), I read this piece by Sarah Wilson:

“In my case, my computer short-circuited before I did. Yes, it’s only a computer. Computers don’t have free will. But there is NO TECHNOLOGICAL REASON for it doing what it did… So I’m taking the metaphorical route.

In the lead-up to all this, I was going too fast, loading up too much, taking on more than I could handle. My circuitry was overloaded. I was about to explode. But my computer blew up instead of me. It’s happened twice before. My computer implodes when I need to slow down. It stops me in my tracks, holds up a mirror to myself and I face what I’m doing.”

The fall out from Mercury retrogrades hits us because we need to slow down. It really is sometimes that simple.

These days our lives are ruled by Mercury things. There’s no avoiding it, and it’s great. I’d be lost without my smart phone and social media and google maps etc, but Mercury retrogrades are like a push in the e-tox direction. It’s back to basics time – almost as though the Universe is telling us that every so often we need to slow it down – listen to our own thoughts, revisit those things, issues, ideas, people, plans that need revisiting, and then move on again.

Much of what goes wrong during Mercury retrograde periods goes wrong because we haven’t done what we know that we should be doing. We should be backing up important documents/ photos/ music/whatever. We should be confirming appointments and travel plans. We should be carrying a spare pair of knickers in our carry-on. We should be leaving in plenty of time to get to where we need to get to.

We shouldn’t need a Mercury retrograde period to force ourselves into being just a tad vulnerable, but sometimes that reminder is necessary. Meltdowns as messy as they are, can also be therapeutic.

What is the Mercury retrograde?

  • The planet isn’t really going backwards, it just appears that way from where we stand here on Earth
  • During any retrograde cycle of any planet we bring our attentions within. The energy of the planet is intensified, and that energy is brought within. In that case of Mercury that means how we think, how we transmit messages and how messages are communicated and understood around us
  • this is your signal to slow down, go within, review, revise, rewind. We review and revise in our head the nature of the area of life this retrograde is happening in for us. With our brains occupied in a different way we lose focus on what is happening around us- and that is when things, generally shitty things, happen.

What is Mercury retrograde good for?

It can be a time of heightened inspiration – and as a writer, that’s a good thing. Besides, I have Mercury natally retrograde in Pisces – and that’s a little like permanently living with Mercury retrograde while the rest of the world is fast forward.

Ideas that have been lost in the whirl of busyness, pop back into my head, the words flow freely onto the manuscript, unrelated and random concepts can somehow make sense.

Mercury retrograde periods aren’t good for starting new projects, but it could be about assessing the value, scope or outcome of an existing one. It’s not about pushing forward, but rather holding back and planning. It’s when blasts from the past return to the present; and when lessons from yesterday can help you with today and tomorrow. It’s about considering your words before you say them; rethinking your message before you send it; going within and evaluating the consequences before making an irrevocable decision.

  • Take the time to recharge your batteries
  • Revise your goals
  • Review your bright ideas
  • Regain your faith in the future
  • Recommit to habits, goals, the things you need to recommit to
  • Reconnect with colleagues & friends you haven’t seen or spoken to for some time
  • Renew and refresh whatever is jaded and old
  • Revisit places, books, movies that mean something to you
  • Rest and relax

What can Mercury Retrograde affect or impact?

Anything Mercury ruled. This could include – but is not limited to:

  • Appointment times
  • Travel times and arrangements
  • Computers, phones and other electronic devices
  • Getting to and from places
  • Contracts and other documents

How to survive and thrive during Mercury retrograde

Dealing with it requires common sense, flexibility, clarity and patience. I often tell people to act as if they don’t have a smart phone, or are overseas with the data roaming turned off.

What do I mean by that?

Remember back to when you made appointments with people and you called them up and agreed a time and a place. You never knew if there’d be a pay phone handy, so you mapped out your route before you left, and made sure that you caught the train before the last train you could catch in order to ensure you got there on time. Remember then?

You didn’t squeeze in an extra coffee meeting knowing you could punch out a text to the person you were going to be keeping waiting. You didn’t turn up for meetings late knowing that you could dial in on the way.

If you needed a map, you’d print out the directions, or at least make a note of the details in the notebook you always carried.

Despite what some will tell you, life doesn’t stop just because Mercury has decided to pass between the Sun and the Earth and look like he’s going backwards. I might suggest that you delay signing contracts and making major purchases – if at all possible – but the reality is, there’ll be times where it can’t be delayed and how would you feel if you missed out on a fabulous opportunity just because Mercury was retrograde?

How to mitigate the possible damage?

  • Re-confirm appointments
  • Check and re-check your travel arrangements
  • Insure your luggage and tickets and make sure you have copies of all travel documents – preferably not in your bag
  • If travelling carry a spare toothbrush and change of clothes as carry on – just in case
  • Avoid mechanical problems, by making sure your car services are up to date
  • Back up computers
  • Avoid purchasing any major technology over this period
  • Avoid signing contracts, but if you have to, make sure you have read & re-read all the fine print
  • If you must commence a new project, do the scoping work carefully – and seriously people, we should be doing this anyway!
  • If you have any changes going “live” or being implemented, test, re-test, regression test, test the back out, test the install & test again. Test. Oh, and schedule enough time for testing and re-testing.
  • Don’t overbook
  • Leave plenty of contingency between appointments
  • Make sure that meeting minutes are thorough and accurate. The same goes for emails and change communication

Hmmmm sounds awfully like common sense, doesn’t it? Like the sort of things we should be doing anyway?

If it’s a major purchase ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I need it?
  • Do I really need it?
  • Do I really need it now?
  • Have I shopped around?
  • What’s my back up plan?
  • Can I afford it?
  • What happens if I don’t buy it?
  • Do I really need it?
  • Does it fit?
  • Am I buying it with a view to changing or renovating it?

If it’s a contract, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I need to sign?
  • Do I need to sign now?
  • What happens if I don’t sign now?
  • Have I read the contract?
  • Have I read the contract properly?
  • Have I read the fine print? Twice?

Get the idea?

Doing the above doesn’t mean things are perfect – heaven forbid. But if you keep your plans flexible and don’t get too hung up on frustrations, it’s all quite ok.

I dare you to give it a try.

Who is most affected by Mercury Retrograde?

  • People with strong Mercury charts eg people with the Sun, Moon, Ascendant or Mercury in Mercury ruled signs ie Gemini or Virgo.
  • People with these planets in the 3rd house
  • People who have the Sun, Moon, Mercury or Ascendant in the sign which is receiving the retrograde
  • People who have planets or chart points at the position where Mercury stations – either to go retrograde or direct.

What about the shadow?

Lots of astrologers will talk about the “shadow” period of any retrograde phase. Some will go as far as saying the rules above apply through the shadow period. I’m not convinced- but don’t take my word for it…you might be one of those that is sensitised to all things Mercury.

What I have found is that whilst things tend to have the potential to go more haywire during the actual retrograde period, things that stall early in the shadow period tend not to be resolved or green lighted until the end of the shadow…if that makes sense.

The shadow period lasts from when Mercury first passes the point at which it will later turn direct and lasts until it passes for the second time the point at which it turned retrograde.

For example,

Mercury turns retrograde at 11 Virgo 38′ on 13 August, 2017 (or thereabouts- depending on what part of the world you are in) and turns direct at 28 Leo 25′ on 5 September 2017 (or thereabouts- depending on what part of the world you are in). This means that the so-called shadow period will last from July 25 (when Mercury reaches 28 Leo 25′ ) until September 20 (when Mercury reaches 11 Virgo 38′ for the second time). Although the period when Mercury is retrograde will be from 13/8/17 – 5/9/17, the period in which it will be in shadow is from 25/7/17 – 20/9/17. That’s nearly 2 whole months…and therein lies my problem with the shadow theory. With 3 Mercury retrogrades per year, if we also pulled up stumps during the shadow we’d be looking at nearly 6 months each year when we can’t be as productive as we’d normally like to be.

But, as I said, that’s just me.

Mercury is next retrograde from 13 August, 2017

For Mercury retrograde dates, see this page.

For more on planetary retrogrades, see this edition of the Toolbox

For information on the Mercury shadow, see this edition of the Toolbox

Eclipses: The DIY Guide

Eclipse season is almost with us again- we have two in August:

8/8/17 Full Moon/ Lunar Eclipse 15 Aquarius 25′

22/8/17 New Moon/ Solar Eclipse 28 Leo 52′ Yes, if you’ve been playing along at home you’ll know that this is the 2nd Leo New Moon this year…just in case you missed the first.

Solar eclipses occur at a New Moon. During a solar eclipse, the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, blocking out the Sun for just a few short, dramatic moments. During a solar eclipse, you may feel like something is about to happen…and maybe it will.

Lunar eclipses occur at a Full Moon. The Moon passes behind the Earth and into its shadow. During a lunar eclipse, it could feel as though there’s something- an awareness maybe – taking place inside you that could be portentous.

The thing with eclipses is that often that the things that happen to, around or within you could have the ability to change the course of your life – although you may not recognise it as such at the time.

Regular readers will know that I tend to be a tad ambivalent around eclipses.

When I was first learning astrology, I saw eclipses as these mysterious and explosive events that could blow my personal universe off its self-important axis. That was until the first time I had a direct hit – well, close to it… that I was aware of, anyway.

It was March 2007 and the solar eclipse was at 28 Pisces – just 1 degree from my Moon. What happened? Nothing, not really.

Later that year the lunar eclipse fell just 1 degree shy of my Mercury, and another solar eclipse missed my descendant by, yes, you guessed it, 1 degree.

Since then, I’ve had eclipses very closely aspect key planets and chart points- mainly MC, ASC and DC – yet…nothing.

Looking back, plenty happened – plenty was happening – I just didn’t know it at the time. These were years when important issues were faced or changes occurred. Hindsight is a truly wonderful thing.

The thing is, eclipses are not necessarily something to be scared of. They can be invigorating, they can be momentous, they can be electrifying and unpredictable – a little like Uranus in nature, a little like Pluto in nature.

How do you interpret an eclipse?

In short, the eclipse takes on the theme of the planet being aspected and creates a crisis of sorts – and when I say crisis, please don’t think about this literally. Think about keywords associated with those planets to determine the nature of the “crisis”.

For example, eclipses in aspect to Venus will have something to do with relationship and values or your relationship to what you value or even how you are valued in relationship. Eclipses in aspect to the Moon will be about your defences and emotional security – the whole breakdown and breakthrough theory. You know the thing – your walls come down in some way so that you can get closer in another. When the eclipse aspects Jupiter, the theme is one of faith and growth – where you need to grow and need to dream and need to take risks in order to do so. Likewise any eclipse aspecting the Sun will raise issues of ego and self-expression.

The houses receiving the eclipse will give you an understanding of the area of life being affected, and the type of aspect can give an indication of the speed of “ease” with which the impact occurs – and when I say “ease”, I don’t mean “nice”, I mean, instead, speed or relative speed.

It’s also good to remember that eclipses are often not about immediate activity, but something that does spark within a period of time after the eclipse occurs. Check out April Elliot Kent’s Big Sky Astrology for some really cool information around timing eclipses.

Finally, the more total the eclipse, the stronger the effects.

What could happen?

What will happen? Good news or bad? Not so easy to predict – in fact damn near impossible. Eclipses are wild cards, the jokers in the pack, and most astrologers have eclipse war stories. As Bernadette Brady writes in The Eagle and the Lark, “armed with (this) information, astrologers then delineate the effect of the eclipse as some type of random, possibly, but not necessarily stressful, event occurring in a particular area of the clients life.”

Sometimes the stress seems like extraordinary busyness, sometimes chaos comes out of the blue, sometimes it’s good news from nowhere, and sometimes it seems like a whole lot of not much at all.

Sometimes the effects are subtle – sometimes they’re explosive. The eclipse that occurred a couple of days before my birthday in 2016 fell on my ASC, next to my Sun and opposite Pluto. I spent my birthday in bed with a massive dose of salmonella – talk about a Pluto purge. Plenty of other stuff happened – like really happened – and continued to happen. In one short month, every single previously stable structure in my life was rattled. Every. Single. One. I’m talking health, relationships, work, home, faith, friends, money.   I won’t bore you with the details, but in hindsight, it was all quite textbook in the way the transits built, were sparked, and continued to unfold. There were some big transits behind this including Pluto, Uranus and Saturn that were triggered into action. It really was the perfect storm, and because of that perfect storm, opportunities opened up that previously weren’t there. It was the events that began at that set of eclipses that resulted in us selling up and moving 1000kms north to the Sunshine Coast of Queensland.

2016 was a seriously crappy year, but because of that for the first time in I have no idea how long, I can say that I feel that we’re where we need to be. If the crises that occurred didn’t occur, we wouldn’t be here now – and that would be a tragedy.

Saros Series

Eclipses run in cycles or family groups, called Saros Cycles. Each Saros Cycle has a beginning, an end and a middle- and can last for over a thousand years. Each cycle will repeat every 18 or so years- as will the themes associated with that cycle.

The series of eclipses (Saros Series 18South- SS18 South) that so knocked me around in March is associated with endings and partings. Indeed, each of the active years in this cycle of eclipses has been associated with partings for me – although the angst and pain of that separation has, as Bernadette Brady writes in The Eagle and the Lark been tempered by exciting new opportunities opening up. And open up they have – and will, I assume, continue to do so.

What’s next?

You can look at each eclipse as it comes up as a new or full moon (albeit one on steroids) in isolation. To begin to understand them, though, you need to look at the pattern, the upcoming cycle, the ones that have gone before and even the ones that occurred before you were born. And that’s where Big Sky Astrology’s report comes in. The Moonshadow report is personalised to you, and will talk about the aspects being made by eclipses this year and next, the eclipses that have been and the planets that are being aspected – and what it all means for you…as well as some other bits and pieces about eclipses.

If you’re interested, click on the link in the side bar* on the website. I purchase one every two years and refer to them each eclipse season and again at the start of the year when I’m mapping my transits

More information please…

Bernadette Brady’s book The Eagle and the Lark is a brilliant resource. It’s where I go to for information on each Saros Series. It’s the only place I’ve found that lists each and the meanings. If you know of another resources, please share!

If you’re really technically minded, you could also find this link interesting…

This article, originally posted in The Mountain Astrologer, is also worth a read.

*In the interests of full disclosure, I get a small cut from sales of the report stemming from this website…


What house system do I use?

One of the most common questions I get is a variation on the following:

I’m an Aries Rising and Leo is on my 6th house, but you said that if I’m a Leo Sun this New Moon will be in my 1st house, 


I’m a Virgo Sun, but I have no idea what time I was born, so how do I know what house the New Moon is in for me

Each month, when I do the posts for New and Full Moons, and, indeed, when I do the posts for the Sun changing signs, I usually say something like:

If you don’t have any idea about your birth time, or can’t be faffed working it out, you can follow the solar guide:

  • If your Sun or Ascendant is in Virgo, this New Moon will be in your 1st house.
  • If your Sun or Ascendant is in Libra, this New Moon will be in your 12th house.
  • If your Sun or Ascendant is in Scorpio, this New Moon will be in your 11th house.


What I’m doing here is using Solar or Sun Sign Astrology.

Ok, let’s back track a little.

When you cast a chart on, the calculation will probably default to Placidus – arguably the most commonly used method of house division. There are, however, others – and most astrologers will be able to tell you the reasons why they use the one they use. We won’t get into it now, suffice to say that most house systems do require you to know the exact time and place of your birth in order to determine both the way in which the houses will be divided and which sign and degree is on the Ascendant. It’s why we can have houses of different sizes (although remember, they will always be the same size as the opposite house) and why we can have houses that intercept or encompass entire signs. Refer back to Toolbox no. 1 and 1.1 for more on this

If you want to know more about these, there are plenty of articles available – I’ll pop a few links at the end of this post for you.

Sun sign astrologers, however, use the solar sign or solar house system. In this method, each house is equivalent to an entire sign, with the sign that the Sun is in placed on the Ascendant. I use this method when I’m writing horoscopes for publications.

In this way, regardless of what time you were born, if your sun is in Pisces, Pisces will be on your 1st house, Aries on your 2nd, and so forth. If your sun is in Scorpio, using solar houses, Scorpio will be your 1st house, Sagittarius will be on your 2nd and Capricorn on your 3rd.

Unfortunately, sun sign astrology is often (I think unfairly) dismissed as being “popular” astrology or “media” astrology – labels which attack its legitimacy in much the way as the fiction genre I write – chick lit or popular women’s fiction – is seen as being not as meaningful as other genres.

Solar Astrology is, however, incredibly useful – and not just if you don’t happen to know what time you were born.

My chart is almost naturally a solar chart – I was born at dawn, so the Sun in Pisces was rising at the time I was came kicking and screaming into this world. My placidus chart is above – and my solar chart is below.

I’ve been experimenting with whole sign houses for the last 6 – 12 months, and I’ve pretty much made the switch. I find that it really works – especially when looking at transits.

With whole signs, whatever sign the Ascendant is in, the first house starts at 0 deg of that sign, with the next house starting at 0 deg of that sign…and so on.

The actual Ascendant will be a point within the 1st house, and the Midheaven (instead of being on the cusp of the 10th) will be a point somewhere within the 9th or 10th (usually) house.

Why do I like whole signs? Mostly for it’s simplicity. Each house encompasses a whole sign and there are no intercepted signs. It especially feels right when I look at transits, ingresses and lunations. But, as I said, that’s my personal opinion.

Because my Ascendant and Sun are in the same sign, my solar chart is also the same as my whole signs chart.You can see that my 1st house Saturn becomes a 2nd house Saturn, and my very 8th house Scorpio Mars is just as Scorpio but now motivated by 9th house concerns. Yep, I can see how that works. Same for my previously 12th house Mercury, that’s now just as Piscean, but perhaps a tad more motivated to act in the 1st.

The next most common question I’m asked is something like:

If I know my birth time, should I still look at the solar chart?

You know what? My answer is yes.

Why? I happen to think you can learn a lot from watching transits to the solar chart – and I don’t think it’s just because my chart is as close as it is to a solar chart.

My daughter is an Aries Sun with a Capricorn Ascendant. Her placidus chart is to the left. (I’ve blocked out her birth date and time for privacy reasons). Her solar chart is below – it’s a very different looking chart, but in it’s way suits her as well. I know her birth time, so you can see the actual ASC and MC are known.

I look at the transits to her chart using the Placidus system, but I also take note on which of her solar houses the Sun is transiting. Eg when the Sun was in Virgo and moving through her 6th (solar) house she got her first job – working in a gym. How very 6th house. Her MC is at 20 Virgo.

Her whole sign chart is below:


So my answer to your question is?

Look at both. The information is available, so play with it, see how one or the other works for you. Set intentions on both. Or don’t…there are a million ways to complicate a chart – and very possibly, this could be one of them…then again, it’s also a mighty good way to get back to basics and uncomplicate it as well. Your call.



Some links you could be interested in…

In defence of solar astrology

Something by Aquamoonlight about different house systems

A great article in Mountain Astrologer

As I mentioned earlier, I’m now using (mostly) whole signs – even though I was taught in placidus and really thought I was too lazy to make a change. Go figure.

Five reasons to keep an astro journal…

The New and Full Moon posts that I publish here are excerpts from my journals – and I share them with you.

Each time we have a New or a Full Moon, before writing a post, I read what I wrote at last year’s lunation. Sometimes it surprises me how similar the themes are. Sometimes it surprises me how far I’ve come.

Reading last year’s Taurus New Moon entry yesterday made me tear up. It also prompted me to write what is, for me, an extremely personal (and overly long – for which I apologise in advance) post for this year’s Taurus New Moon. You’ll see that in a couple of days.

There was so much going on back then that I still can’t share with many people and although, I’ve censored some of what was happening in my post, the memory of that pain lingers. I suspect that bitterness is what I need to let go of this Taurus New Moon…but more on that tomorrow.

The thing is, I’m a mad journaller- it’s something about the notebooks, I think. I’ll start a new journal for each major trip, and a new notebook for each fiction project. I also have an astro journal. I used to put all my transits in there. I was still learning about astrology- although, really, there’s never a time when you’re not- and also going through a heap of really scary looking transits.

These days although it’s mainly used it for New Moon intention setting and Full Moon insights, lately I’ve had cause to add some of my other impressions regarding particular transits in there. Reading it helps make sense of the chaos. I think it’s also helped me to be a better astrologer – a more intuitive astrologer – and one that looks beyond the literal meaning of a transit to identify the bigger picture.

Anyways, whatever stage of the astrology journey you’re on, here are five ways an astro journal can help you…

New Moon intentions…

As a minimum I jot down the aspects made by each New Moon, and the houses being transited. I also set my intentions for the month. It really helps me focus my energy. Plus, I can flick back to see what was happening last year – what my concerns were in that last cycle. You’d be surprised how the patterns repeat.

Full Moon insights…

Again I make a note of aspects and houses, but I also always just sit with this for a few minutes and think about how the concerns of these houses are balancing themselves out – or, more usually, over-balancing.

Moon days…

If you’re into something a little more regular, keeping a view of your mood and concerns during the cycles and transits of the Moon can help you maximise your good day quotient. Always tend to take things personally when the Moon is in Cancer? Avoid or re-schedule performance sessions or the like. Totally chaotic when the Moon is in your 10th house? Factor this in and avoid plans that require you to leave work on time or early.


I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get so caught up in the detail of analysing a single big transit, that I completely lose the big picture.

The thing is, most of these transits don’t operate in isolation, it’s when we see them together that we begin to see themes emerge- and also regain perspective. Journalling helps with that.


You know how they say that if you notice something once it’s interesting; if it comes up again it’s a coincidence; and the third time? Hello, you should be paying attention. Keeping a journal helps you identify these patterns and repetitions. If the last three New Moons have transited your 10th house, or aspected a planet ruling the 10th house, or aspected a planet natally in the 10th house, it’s a fair bet that the Universe wants you to have a good hard look at the work you do, who you do it for, and how you’re seen in public. Just saying.

It was through a journal entry that I realised that every single Saturn transit, regardless of what else occurs around it, will coincide with my back or shoulder problems flaring up. Responsibility issues anyone?

What about you? Do you keep a journal?

Many Happy Returns…

It’s my birthday tomorrow, and although I’ll be spending much of the day in transit from the Sunshine Coast to Sydney, I fully expect it will be a substantially better day than last year with the salmonella incident.

Anyways, a birthday means that it’s time to look back at last years Solar Return, and look forward to the next one.

The Solar Return Ascendant tells a lot about your approach to life in that year- and mine was very definitely Aquarian- in both good and bad ways. Last year was about looking forward and future plans – and independence and detaching. I learnt a lot about saying goodbye over the last 12 months.

The purge that accompanied my birthday dose of food poisoning was the theme of much of the year.

Last year was a profected 2nd house Mars year (for more on this concept, check out this post) and Mars years tend to involve a lot of activity and unavoidable conflict. Both were also appropriate themes for last year.

Now, onto this year. First up, I’m experimenting a little with whole house signs at the moment, so my solar return chart probably looks a little different to last year. It’s something that I’m playing with, so if you are also interested in working with solar returns, feel free to use the house system you’re used to.

First Impressions…

Aries has been brought to the Ascendant. After 2 years of fixed sign ascendants, this feels as though rather than reacting, I’m now in a position to take the reins for myself. It very much has a new start feel to the chart.

The other things I’ve noticed first up is that the Ascendant and Uranus are both at 22 Aries – which is also the degree that my natal Uranus is at. This year feels very much as though it will be tied to my personal Uranian story. Independence, individuality, and self-reliance will be a theme for the year.

What sign is the Ascendant in?

This year my SR Ascendant is Aries. 22.

Check out the ruler of the Ascendant

Mars is the ruler of my Ascendant this year.

  • At 0 Taurus Mars is in the sign of his detriment ie not comfortable here. But 0 degrees of any sign is an important one – because the energy is fresh.
  • Mars forms an exact trine to the Moon in Virgo. I’ll be much more productive and comfortable this year by making a conscious effort to ground myself and form sustainable routines. Mars in Taurus can go the distance – once he sets his mind to it.

What House is the SR Sun in?

This is the area of life that is most in focus for the next 12 months. Mine is in the 12th along with Mercury and Neptune. I’ll be working from home on the Sunshine Coast – splitting my time between some casual (remote) work for the partition job and a concentration on my own production.

Interestingly, where we’ve moved to is a place that has always been a place of both escape and spirit for me – and I intend to explore both of these concepts a lot more.

What part of life is being brought to the Ascendant?

Aries is natally in my 2nd house, so this brings 2nd house themes to the solar return chart. It’s not just about money and possessions – and how I earn and accumulate both – but also my attitude to them and what I hold to be of value.

What aspects are made by the Sun?

The Sun is sextile Pluto, conjunct Mercury and square Saturn (wide). There is a lot of progress that is possible to be made this year, but the danger will be if I dwell too much on regrets or do the glass half empty thing.

Where is the SR Moon?

This year it’s in Virgo – at 0 degrees – in the 6th house, exactly trine the Moon. There’s security to be found in routine and work, but chaos is also possible if I step too far away from these boundaries.

Are there any planets on the angles of the SR chart?

Yes – Uranus…on the Ascendant. Exactly. Pluto is also conjunct the SR Midheaven, so there could be big things happening from a career viewpoint. One of those – a major career bucket list item – has been offered to me. I can’t say any more than that just yet, but watch this space…

Check out also:

Much as you would a normal chart, are the planets scattered or concentrated in one hemisphere of the chart.

The planets are reasonably well scattered, although there’s an emphasis on the 1st and the 12th houses.

Much as you would a natal chart check out the position and condition of planets ruling your money house or relationship houses.

Even though this is essentially a transit chart, it is still interesting to see. Venus rules the 2nd and is in the 1st house – I’ll be relying a lot on myself. Venus is, however, retrograde, so there could be delays around anything that’s coming. Mars rules the 8th house and is in the 2nd. Mars in Taurus is careful with money and quite risk adverse. This is a good thing while we establish ourselves and hubby looks for new work.

In the same vein, check out the ruler of the Midheaven.

Jupiter is the ruler of the MC. It’s in the 7th house, opposite the Ascendant and Uranus. Partnership and collaboration will be an important factor this year – although maintaining independence within relationship will also be a theme.

Are any planets or points in the natal chart brought to angles in the SR Chart?

Not within a few degrees.

Are any planets or points in the degree of the nodes?


Are any planets or points in the critical degrees of a sign? Ie 0 or 29?

Yes- the Moon and Mars.

A Different Sort of Time Lord- Annual Profections & the Solar Return

(For a recap, check out the link to last years post.)

So this year, on my (gulp) 50th birthday, I have moved into a 3rd house or Taurus profected year. This means that Venus, as the ruler of Taurus, is my “Time Lord” for the year. This planet will be sensitive to giving and receiving transits and progressions over the coming 12 months. The concerns of this planet will be important this year.

Examine the condition of the Time Lord in the natal chart:

Time Lord: Venus

Profected House: 3rd

Houses ruled by the Time Lord in the natal chart: 2nd and 7th

House Time Lord occupies in the natal chart: 1st


  • Condition of the Time Lord in the natal chart: Venus is in Aries – in the 2nd house, aspecting Jupiter.
  • Examine the condition of the Time Lord in the Solar Return Chart: Venus in Aries is in the sign of her detriment. Venus is also retrograde in the SR. In all, she’s not in great shape, but is given extra power by being in the 1st Venus in Aries likes to move – something I haven’t done enough of lately.
  • Which house in the natal chart does 12 Aries (the position of the Time Lord in the SR chart) fall? This is the natal 2nd
  • Does the position of the Time Lord in the SR chart form an aspect to the natal position of the Time Lord? By sign is enough. Yes – they are in the same sign.

Look at the strength of the Time Lord in the SR chart. The better the condition, the more ability the planet has to act on your side in the coming year- even if it is a malefic like Saturn.

  • Is it in a sign where it has dignity through rulership or exaltation (see the table in last years post). No.
  • Does it have accidental dignity ie does it have more strength by being close to the angles or the cusps of the 1st, 4th, 7th or 10th houses? Yes, in the 1st
  • Is it retrograde? Yes
  • Is it combust ie does it fall within 8.5 degrees of the Sun? There is no greater affliction as the planet is said to be blinded & unable to see clearly. No.
  • Is it cazimi ie with 17’ from being exactly conjunct the Sun? This is, in contrast, as really good thing as the planet is considered to be in the heart of the king. Note, to be either combust or cazimi, it must be in the same sign as the Sun. No.
  • Is the Time Lord aspected by either of the malefics (Mars or Saturn) or the benefics (Venus or Jupiter)? By sign is enough. Yes, opposite Jupiter (by sign) and (wide) trine to Saturn.
  • Aspects to the Nodes. Any time the SR Time Lord conjoins the natal nodal axis is a big year. Not this year.

What else?

Check out any repetition of themes. For me, there are many 2nd and 8th house themes. Yes, money and values, debt, taxes and other unspeakables. This year is all about me, my relationship to myself, my ability to work alone and my self-reliance.


Remember, the Solar Return can only deliver to the promise of the natal chart!

DIY Mercury Returns


Warning: This is a bit of a technical post…

My Mercury is having a birthday today.

Just like our birthday, or the day when our Sun returns to its natal position, is a recharging of our vital energies, when Mercury returns to its natal position, it’s a time when our mind- and how we use it to think, learn and communicate- is revitalized. New ideas are inspired, new ways of thinking, new channels of communication.

Just as we cast a chart for the Solar Return (see my post for more info and a “how to” guide), we can also do one for the “return” of other personal planets to their positions on the birth chart:

  • In the case of lunar returns, the Moon returns home 13 times a year and the “lunar” return gives you the emotional themes for the month
  • The Venus return will show the upcoming themes around Venus issues ie relationships, finance, partnership
  • The Mercury Return is concerned with all things Mercurial eg communication, thinking, learning, study, perceptions. It gives you an idea about where your thoughts, ideas and learning will be focused.
  • The Mars return (about every 2 years) is about Mars type of things- courage, independent action, where you may need to stand up for yourself and exert your will.
  • The Jupiter return (about every 12 years) is about growth, expansion and opportunities and where you may need to believe and have faith.
  • Saturn Return (about every 28 years) is about reality and life in all of it’s responsible glory.

The Mercury Return (MR) chart is a transit chart, like any other, and forecasts the Mercurial themes for the next 12 months. As such, we read it much like we’d read any other transit chart.

In this way, it isn’t a lot different to reading a Solar Return chart – the principles are the same…with the exception that Mercury is now the star of the show.

  • The return chart can be read in isolation, but really makes sense against the natal chart. As with all transits, they will only deliver to the potential of the birth chart – and this potential within the birth chart becomes really important if any Mercury aspects are replicated in the return chart eg Mercury and Mars are linked by sextile in my chart. If this is repeated in the return chart by any aspect those parts of life will be areas of focus
  • Return charts are similar to transit charts – they are temporary and will apply only for the period of the return. In Mercury’s case this is usually a year – unless your return occurs during the Mercury shadow period… in which case you will have three returns. Each return will last until the next.
  • The chart can be relocated ie cast at the place where you are at the time of that return rather than the birthplace. I tend not to do this, but many astrologers do – besides, I’m a boring sod and live in the city where I was born.

Last year…

Last year the sign of Cancer was on my MR Ascendant. The degree of the Ascendant brought matters of the heart and house firmly into all matters Mercury. Both were pretty much behind every thought and decision last year.

Mercury fell in the 9th house beside Neptune and the Pisces solar eclipse. Publishing and different locations were also themes – both of which have now come to pass.

This year’s Mercury Return…

What Sign is on the Ascendant?

Scorpio. This adds an intensity and focus to all things Mercurial. It makes it a great year to get to the bottom of things, to deal with detail, and to address thoughts and ideas that could be a tad darker in nature. I intend writing a cozy murder mystery later this year – I’m hoping this will be good for that!

What natal house is being brought to the Ascendant?

I’ve started working with whole signs very recently – particularly in my return charts. It’s something I’ve been reading up on and something Astrosparkles and I tossed around on our last lunch date.

Anyways, it’s making sense. For me, anyway. You feel free to do what you’d normally do.

Where was I? Yes, the 9th house is being brought to the ASC of the return chart. I have a busy publishing year ahead – and publishing is a 9th house activity.

The Ruler of the Ascendant?

Mars (traditionally), Pluto (modern)

It’s in the 6th house, conjunct Uranus and (a little wider) also the Moon.

Mars also opposes Jupiter and squares (again, wide-ish) the modern ruler of Scorpio – Pluto.

With a packed 6th house, routine will be important, as will be a just get on with it attitude. Jupiter will provide opportunities for expansion, and Pluto challenges –if met – will bring lasting change.

The House of Mercury in the Return Chart

The 5th house.

As I said, this is a busy creative year.

Aspects to Mercury in the Return Chart

Mercury is just a few degrees away from the Sun and Neptune conjunction.

Neptune adds inspiration and intuition, and reinforces the Neptunian nature of my natal 12th house Mercury.

Other stuff…

  • Speaking of which, the Moon needs to be looked at- this shows where the heart is in relation to Mercurial issues…it’s in the 6th.
  • Check out any planets at the degree of the nodes- this always indicates something quite karmic. Nothing there this year.
  • Lastly, take a look at any planets at critical degrees ie at 0 or 29. Again, nothing at these points this year.

Obviously, this is a quick look/ interpretation designed just to give you an idea of how a Mercury return can work. This is the way that I do it- although other astrologers may have different ideas…as always, the best method is the one that works for you.


How do you work out when your Mercury return is? Technically it’s the time that Mercury returns to the exact degree and minute of your birth. I use astro gold on my phone and on my mac (both paid apps but so worth it). The dynamic reports function of this will tell you the time of each aspect to your personal planets. I cast the chart from that.

Happy Valentines Day…

So it’s Valentines Day.

I know it’s a travesty to my Pisces-ness, but I’ve never, and I mean never, done Valentines Day. Perhaps it’s my Venus in Aries. Perhaps it’s my 7th house Uranus.

In every other way I consider myself a romantic – after all, as a romance novelist, my business relies on me contriving happily ever afters – but Valentines Day? No, I don’t get it…but, that’s just me.

Seven years ago I was in New York with a friend (hello Astrosparkles) over Valentines Day. We contemplated going up the Empire State Building on Valentines Night – you know, like in Sleepless In Seattle. I didn’t want to queue – as well as not doing Valentines Day, I don’t do queuing either. Instead we went up on the night of the 13th, which was Valentines Day In Sydney anyway.

Honestly it was so freezing up there that if I was Meg Ryan, there’s no way I would have waited any longer than I had to for Tom Hanks.

Anyways, Valentines Day turns the mind to relationship.  Are we meant to be together for, like, ever? In fact, the most common question I’m asked is: how do I know who the right person is for me?

My quick answer is – I have no flipping idea. Love is not an exact science, and (even though I’ve been with the same man for 28 years) I’m not sure that I think there is one perfect person for everyone. I definitely don’t believe in the idea of perfection when it comes to love and relationships – but that’s just me, so please don’t write to me.

The thing is, relationship is complex. It isn’t just a matter of Sun sign compatibility, it’s so much more than that. It’s how we react emotionally to each other, how we communicate, what each of us needs from relationships and how we are in the bedroom.

More than that, it’s how our charts interact and combine. It’s complex.

Some of you like challenge in our relationships and are drawn to partners whose planets aspect yours by square or opposition. Some of you need harmony and a relationship that settles into something inherently easy. If this is you, you’ll be looking for someone whose chart seamlessly aspects yours.

Some of you are drawn to the unattainable, the unavailable, the “unsuitable”. Some of you are drawn to the missing elements in your own chart. Some of you are drawn to your opposites. Some of you are a combination of all of these things.

There are some relationships where the charts compared against each other would be either ho hum or short term in nature, but that when combined are long term and stable. It’s a little like that in my relationship – on paper we’re far from “perfect” yet are better together than we are apart. Over the years there have been times when it’s been far from easy – I suspect that will continue to be the case.

So, how do you know if you’re meant to be together? If you’ll hook up? If he likes you as much as you like him? A chart comparison won’t show you that. A chart comparison will only show you the potential if that relationship ever comes to pass. Incredible synastry between your chart and George Clooney’s chart means nothing unless you’re actually in a relationship with George Clooney.

Horary is a good quick answer- and can be scarily accurate…but before you ask, I don’t do relationship horary. I refuse to. Why? Horary is supposed to be question and answer. Short, simple, no nonsense. In my experience, relationship horary questions are rarely simple, and the answer is rarely the answer you want to hear. This leads to questions and more questions and what ifs. My Venus in Aries has moved on already. I do also have this theory that love isn’t meant to be certain. If it were, the 5th house – the part of life where we give birth to things and take risks (including risks with our emotional security) – wouldn’t be where we fall in love.

If, however, you do want a horary chart done, Kelly Surtees is fabulous with horary. Her details are here..

So, it’s Valentines Day, and you are fortunate enough to have a significant other, or a significant other in mind, and you want to know if 2 + 2 equals something magical?

Check out this post for a quick and easy pointer to how you two combine. You don’t need birth times, just a birth date. If you need to cast a chart for your other half, check out this post.

Remember, keep an open mind on this- challenging aspects bring with them spark and interest, and encourage growth. If it was all hearts and flowers it would be as boring as batshit – or that could be just me too…

Jupiter through the signs

I’m doing the Toolbox sessions a little differently this year. Rather than me trying to guess what you want to learn, this year you’re telling me that. In last weeks newsletter, I invited subscribers to submit questions about their charts that they wanted answering. No, I’m still not doing readings, or extended personal quasi readings. What we’re talking about here is questions about specific aspects, or placements…I’m sure that you get the idea.

This one arrived the other day:


I have a Scorpio Ascendant. I’ve read the post about Jupiter crossing the Ascendant, but when was the last time that happened?

A very good question – thanks for asking it.

Jupiter cycles are approximately 12 years in length, so the last time Jupiter was in Scorpio was around 12 years ago – from October 2005.

If you have a similar question, I’ve popped the Jupiter dates for the last 20 years (or so) below. If you want to know when Jupiter was at a specific degree during that period, you’ll need to refer to an ephemeris – I’ve told you how to do that here. If you want dates outside of this, you’ll need to refer to an ephemeris.

You’ll find the full list of Jupiter through the houses posts under the Jupiter tab. Why not grab a pen and your notebook and make a few notes using these posts and the table below and see if you can’t pinpoint themes from those years and those house transits.

If you have a burning chart question that you need answered, the details of what you can ask and where you address the questions to will be in this weeks newsletter too… so if you haven’t subscribed, you can do so here.

Oh, as an aside, the dates are as per my ephemeris (ie midnight Universal Time), so could be up to a day different depending on your timezone. Try not to get too hung up about this.

Capricorn 4 January 1996- 21 January 1997
Aquarius 22 January 1997- 4 February 1998
Pisces 5 February 1998 – 13 February 1999
Aries 14 February 1999 – 28 June 1999

24 October 1999 – 14 February 2000

Taurus 29 June 1999 – 23 October 1999

Feb 15 2000 – 30 June 2000

Gemini 1 July 2000 – 13 July 2001
Cancer 14 July 2001 – 1 August 2002
Leo 2 August 2002 – 27 August 2003
Virgo 28 August 2003 – 25 September 2004
Libra 26 September 2004 – 26 October 2005
Scorpio 27 October 2005 – 24 November 2006
Sagittarius 25 November 2006 – 18 December 2007
Capricorn 19 December 2007 – 5 January 2009
Aquarius 6 January 2009 – 18 January 2010
Pisces 19 January 2010 – 6 June 2010

10 September 2010 – 22 January 2011

Aries 7 June 2010 – 9 September 2010

23 January 2011- 4 June 2011

Taurus 5 June 2011 – 11 June 2012
Gemini 12 June 2012 – 26 June 2013
Cancer 27 June 2013 – 16 July 2014
Leo 17 July 2014 – 11 August 2015
Virgo 12 August 2015 – 9 September 2016
Libra 10 September 2016 – 10 October 2017
Scorpio 11 October 2017 – 8 November 2018
Sagittarius 9 November 2018 – 2 December 2019
Capricorn 3 December 2019 – 19 December 2020
Aquarius 20 December 2020 – 14 May 2021

29 July 2021 – 29 December 2021

Pisces 15 May 2021 – 28 July 2021

30 December 2021 – 11 May 2022

29 October 2022 – 20 December 2022

Aries 12 May 2022 – 28 October 2022

21 December 2022 – 17 May 2023