If you don’t follow astrological things and aren’t friends with those that do, you might want to skip this. If you’re like a lot of people, though, you know at least one person whose life seems to have to go on hold when Mercury is retrograde. What is Mercury retrograde, and why is it actually not a big deal?
What is Mercury retrograde?
Mercury retrograde is an optical illusion witnessed from our earthly vantage point. Three or four times a year, the planet Mercury appears to move backward through the sky for roughly three weeks at a time. Needless to say, this doesn’t have anything to do with Mercury’s actual orbit– it’s happily spinning along around the sun the same as it ever was. Mercury also isn’t the only planet that can be retrograde (though I’m a little loath to say that, because I have a feeling the next fad is going to be guides on “How to Survive Venus Retrograde”).
According to Western astrology, this illusion can result in some negative effects.
Negative effects? What kind of negative effects?
Mercury governs communication, intelligence, the mind, and memory. As a result, guides on “surviving” Mercury retrograde generally emphasize the deleterious effect it can have on relationships, contracts, and basically anything else to do with having to communicate with others. I’ve even seen some people blame computer problems on it!
According to some astrology guides, you aren’t supposed to:
- Start a new job (Good luck explaining needing a three-week vacation to your new boss, though)
- Sign contracts (You don’t really need a place to live for the next month, do you?)
- Schedule meetings (Your co-workers will understand. Maybe)
- Close deals (The people who’re trying to buy your house may have mixed feelings about this)
- Start new relationships or friendships (“sry, awesome new person I really like, but I’m going to have to friendzone you until next month b/c of reasons :(“)
- Or buy things (It’s cool, though. Pinterest probably has a ton of recipes that use canned soup)
Considering that Mercury is retrograde three or four times a year, for three weeks at a time, that’s up to twelve weeks of every year that you’re effectively told to hamstring your communications with other people (and money, and– apparently– grocery shopping).
That sounds like kind of a big deal.
It isn’t. It really, really isn’t.
Even if you aren’t an astrology skeptic, there’s no reason to overly concern yourself with Mercury retrograde. For one, not everyone is equally affected by it– a lot of that depends on your sign and the position of planets in your birth chart. For most people, the sky will not fall when Mercury is retrograde.
Second, Mercury also impacts the mind. That means that a not-insignificant portion of the things that people ascribe to Mercury retrograde are due to deficits of perception. In other words, it’s a “them” problem, not strictly a “communicating with others” problem. A whole lot of the things that Mercury retrograde doomsayers point to can be overcome by taking more time to think, exercise empathy, and take some extra pains to speak and write clearly.
Third, Mercury retrograde is not entirely negative. Many guides emphasize the gloom-and-doom aspects of it, while ignoring that this is also supposed to be a pretty awesome time for connecting with past acquaintances, finishing old projects, finding lost items, and all kinds of other things related to discovering hidden information. (That probably doesn’t generate as many clicks, though.)
How did Mercury retrograde end up so scary, then?
It’s hard to say. The cynic in me wants to blame it on cunning astrologers who saw the opportunity to create (and take advantage of) a market for “Mercury retrograde survival” paraphernalia. This astrologer has an interesting theory about Mercury retrograde-fear as a misinterpretation of some ideas present in Vedic astrology.
And there you have it. Whether you’re the kind of person who occasionally scans newspaper horoscopes for a chuckle or two, or someone who’s had their complete birth chart done and follows the motion of every planet in the solar system, you’ll make it through Mercury retrograde without any of the “cures” shilled by unscrupulous sellers.