Even if you’re not well-versed into the world of astrology, you’ve still probably heard of the term ‘Mercury retrograde’ and wondered what the hubbub is all about. Why do us star lovers get sent into a frenzy when we hear those words? In fact, you’ve already survived two retrograde periods this year, with a third yet to come. The first in Aquarius began 30 January and ended 20 February, the second in Gemini lasted from 29 May to 22 June and the final retrograde of the year is set to be in Libra from 27 September to 18 October.
All three retrogrades of the year have been in each air sign—you’re welcome for the extra chaos (if you know, you know). I’m definitely not an expert astrologer by any means, but I am going to try to break down what this has meant and will mean for the rest of the year. But first, my starry pupils—what the hell is Mercury retrograde?
The term ‘Mercury retrograde’ is often misinterpreted. The word retrograde implies that the planet (all planets go through some retrograde periods)—in this case Mercury—is reversing its orbit, voyaging back to the previous sign it was in. However, that is not actually the case. What is really happening is (a few times a year) the planet slows its orbit of the sun causing an optical illusion of moving backwards—they always continue to orbit the sun in their original direction. The planet experiencing the retrograde only looks like it’s reversing from our perspective on Earth.
So, for example in the case of Mercury, which is the fastest sun-orbiting planet, taking only 88 days for a full orbit compared to Earth’s 365, it seems to slow down and thus appears like it’s moving ‘backwards’. Still confused? Farmer’s Almanac gives a brilliant metaphorical image that spells out what’s happening:
“Picture two cars on the highway going in the same direction in different lanes. If one car is driving faster than the other, the slower car will appear to go backward from the perspective of a person in the faster car, even though the slower car is still going pretty fast in the [same] direction.”
Simple enough, right? Well, actually there’s six stages to a retrograde but let’s leave that for another day. This usually happens for a few weeks at a time. It is during this observed reversal that the retrograding planet’s typical meanings, symbols and representations are in disarray.
So what does this mean when Mercury is in retrograde? Named after the Roman messenger of the gods—equivalent of the Greek Hermes—simply put, the planet has come to symbolise its namesake: communication. Mercury governs the less emotional aspects of your birth chart, it represents your day-to-day expressions, rationality, curiosity, and logic. Often described as ‘the mind’s planet’, Mercury (and the zodiac sign it’s in on your birth chart) thus determines your thought processes and communication skills. So, why does this planet retrograding make people panic in the way they do? How and why is it so impactful considering that it’s the smallest planet in our solar system?
So now that we know what retrograde is and what Mercury represents, let’s dive into what happens astrologically when this particular planet is retrograding. Simply put, when a planet is retrograding the things it governs are often disrupted. For Mercury’s case, this means that communication in your life could be in disarray—which could in turn create some tricky events for you in those three weeks.
Some astrologers believe that this retrograde motion of Mercury can manifest as a multitude of communicative, logical and even technological catastrophes (in our modern-day modes of conversation). These could include: communication misunderstandings, friendships being negatively affected, disruption of travel (plane cancellations, delays, etc.), losing emails and other adversities. I wonder if I should use this at work? ‘Yeah, sorry I didn’t actually get that email, Mercury was in retrograde’. Maybe not, but don’t panic, it’s not all doom and gloom.
Some astrologers suggest that it’s not as simple as just being a time of catastrophe and advise to use the time of Mercury retrograde as a moment of self-reflection in the way you communicate—analyse and evaluate that logical, decision-making and communicative part of yourself and see any potential changes you may need to make.
There’s one final Mercury retrograde of the year in Libra from 27 September to 18 October. Since all the retrogrades have been in air signs this year, it’s been even more turbulent—again you’re welcome. Not only is this because of the sometimes chaotic energy that comes from an air sign but also the things that drive them. Air signs are typically ruled by the mental, the intellectual, the communication of information and thought-provoking ideas. And you’ll never guess their night-ruling planet….Yep it’s the mind’s planet, Mercury. So what’s in store for our Libra Mercury retrograde?
The sign of Libra, known for its balanced and diplomatic approach to life as well as its large focus on relationships, will mean that these are the areas likely to be affected by the upcoming Mercury retrograde. This period could manifest as drama and communication issues in the relationships closest to you. In other words, prepare yourself for some heavy disagreements or even some intense fights.
But don’t act rashly. Like the balanced sign of Libra, try to see other people’s perspectives in these conflicts—this will aid you in resolving the potential chaos Mercury retrograde may pose to your relationships.