Three or four times a year, planet Mercury is said to go retrograde — that is to say it moves in an opposite direction to planet Earth. Planets move from east to west around the sun, and when Mercury turns to move from west to east instead, that's when Mercury is in retrograde. Many refer to this time of year as simply Mercury retrograde.
But this backwards movement is an illusion, similar to the one you experience when you're in a car on the highway moving faster than a train alongside you. The train appears to be moving backward, but it's just moving more slowly than you are. The same thing happens when our planet passes Mercury in our orbit around the sun. Mercury is just moving slower than Earth, causing the illusion that it's moving in retrograde.
Illusion or not, astrologers believe that during this time, it has an effect on life here on Earth, specifically within the realm of communication and technology. In astrology, Mercury governs communication, travel and learning.
What happens when Mercury goes retrograde?
It's a time to be careful about the way you operate your life in order to avoid a variety of problems that tend to occur during these three weeks. During the retrograde period the world seems to go haywire with miscommunications of all types.
What causes this to happen? Astrologically, each planet in the sky exerts a unique influence on us, and the world we live in. The planet Mercury rules our intelligence, mind, memory and, all types of communication ranging from talking and texting to writing. It also affects our self-expression, and communication style. In a more public sense, it rules commerce, computers, telephones, transportation and air travel.
When this unique event happens (3-4 times a year), communications of all types go "bonkers!" Suddenly, normal communication becomes unreliable, filled with misinformation where important data is missing or misunderstood. The passage of information from one person to the other seems to be unintentionally cloudy or confused in some way. After all, Mercury does rule the mind, mental clarity, talking, self-expression and overall communication. During the Retrograde period, a person's intellectual, communication and mental processes are less acute. They become mistake-prone and forgetful.
This is why any action one takes or decision one makes during the retrograde often fail or seem sabotaged. As a result they will have to be re-done or restructured in some way when the Retrograde period ends and Mercury goes direct.
But a Mercury retrograde is a wonderful opportunity to redo, redecorate, reorganize, research, read, reunite, reconnect, and restore. Anything with a "re" in it is encouraged.
What to avoid during a Mercury retrograde is anything NEW. It is not a good idea to sign a contract, buy a new house, start a new relationship (unless it is a reconciliation), open a new business, purchase a new car, or make travel plans.
These events are often met with delays or frustrations with houses falling out of escrow, mechanical difficulties with your new car, or cancelling your trip altogether.
Remember that this does not have to be the case for everyone, but as a matter of precaution, it is good to have all the information handy, especially if you don’t like doing things twice.
Is there a positive side?
Mercury Retrograde has a way of opening our eyes up to what we were unable, unwilling, or just too busy before to actually see.
This makes Mercury retrograde a wonderful time to review what you are doing. Rather than jumping into something new, it’s a great time to finish up existing projects, refine and make your existing work better, and reveal solutions and innovations where you may have felt blocked or stagnated before.
It may also be easier to see things from another vantage, or another person’s perspective.
Yes, sometimes you will need to be patient, as transportation, technology, and communication need a bit more time. But when you’re open to the energy of Mercury Retrograde, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing and can all be like a breath of fresh air when you realize it’s ok to slow down a bit, be patient, and let things work themselves out.
Mercury Retrograde does sometimes show us things we need to redo, fix, or change completely. So rather than being frustrated when you realize something needs to be rebuilt, think of it as an opportunity to create something even better than you would have before.
We often have major breakthroughs — intellectual, emotional or spiritual — during this time.