What Is Mercury Retrograde?

Posted by – August 09, 2016
Categories: Metaphysics & Unexplained Phenomena Science & Cosmology

Chances are you’ve heard at least one person blame a Mercury retrograde for their busted phone, missing emails, or other technological misfirings. Living and working where I do, I’ve grown fairly comfortable with the idea—I’ve had at least one meeting rescheduled because of Mercury retrograde-related issues—without ever thinking about what it means, and why it happens.

So, what does it mean for Mercury to be in retrograde, and how does it have anything do with someone’s car breaking down?

Mercury orbitIn this case, the word retrograde refers to the orbital direction of the planet. When Mercury is in retrograde, it appears to be moving backwards through the zodiac, travelling East to West rather than its usual West to East direction. The planet isn’t actually moving backwards—it just looks like it is because it’s orbiting the sun a lot faster than we are. So, a few times a year, for about a month Mercury will appear to be moving the wrong way.

In astrology, Mercury represents the mind. How we think and how we communicate are ruled by Mercury, which affects both the verbal and electronic transfer of information. When the planet is retrograde, personal and technological issues often abound.

While Mercury retrograde happens the most frequently and has become the best known, other planets go retrograde as well. In Divine Love Astrology, Shiva Das writes, “Metaphysically, a planet in retrograde generally means that the lesson of that planet must be reviewed again and again until its meaning becomes well ingrained in us so that we are solid on that issue and can hold strong when challenged.” Mercury retrograde asks us to evaluate how we think and how we communicate, presenting obstacles to drive home the point and offering opportunities for growth.

The Night SkySo let’s take a closer look at Mercury retrograde with a passage from Richard Grossinger’s The Night Sky to better prepare for the next time it happens!

Mercury is not only Hermes the thief and the messenger of the gods but a celestial incarnation of Hermes-Thoth, who transported magical lore from the ancient Near East to Eurasia and was associated with the origin of language. Hermes-Thoth is a wise but dangerous sorcerer, who brings things into being too rapidly for them effectively to be used, like blinding sunlight on rivers of bismuth, thorium, lead, and antimony…

On the psychological plane, Mercurian consciousness is quick and brilliant, spirited and fragmented, full of merry thoughts, puns, half-words, sounds, phonemes on the verge of meaning but dissociating before it can occur. The metal itself is mobile, forming tiny soft globules. It represents lungs, which are symbolically a forest of droplets connecting all oxygen-breathing life on the planet.

Astrologers advise people not to go about one’s ordinary business, not to begin relationships or undertake negotiations when Mercury is traveling backward in relation to the Earth because nothing here works real well then: machines break or fail, and messages are misunderstood. It seems ridiculous that is could be true, but the next time Mercury goes retrograde, check computer glitches, program breakdowns, email corruptions, modems needing to be reset, transportation delays, fender benders, leaky pipes and roofs, dropped glasses or dishes, dead batteries, flat tires, lost objects that have no explanation for going missing, and burned-out starter motors, thermostats and light bulbs, etc.; it’s downright uncanny.

A custom in many New Age circles is to avoid critical activities during “Mercury retrograde” and thereby game the universe which—guess what?—can’t be done. Mercury is orbiting the Sun so much faster than we are operating on Earth that it will always complicate and boggle matters here. Continually generating its own fresh contexts, it jangles strategies, skews systems and schemes, divides partnerships, befuddles any airtight plans. We can dodge a few inauspicious Mercurian bullets and tangled wires here and there, but we can’t get out of the shooting gallery that birthed us.

Avoid Mercury on the surface and it will go for the next deeper layer, and then the next; it will blow off our petty interferences and plant its spores so deep that berserk silver will sprout and bloom everywhere like mushrooms after rain.

Tags: Astrology Astronomy Richard Grossinger

About the Author

After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2007, Julia was delighted to find out that “professional book recommender” was a job. She has been working in marketing and publicity with independent Bay Area publishers ever since. She joined North Atlantic Books in 2014. She lives with her husband and two very nice cats in Oakland.