What is Mercury Retrograde?

I started this blog as a way to vent about the things in my life that bothered me. Usually it’s been different aspects of religion invading my life that made me so upset. Since those days, I’ve managed to separate myself from religion, and so I haven’t blogged many rants for a while. Well, today’s post is in a nostalgic spirit as another rant rears its ugly head just in time for Mercury to enter retrograde tomorrow, February 17th.

I started my first full-time job as a graphic designer almost one year ago. Usually, I really enjoy what I do. And usually, I even like my coworkers, and I barely ever like anyone. But never in my life, before starting this job, had I ever heard anyone voice legitimate concerns that mercury was in retrograde. After leaving Grove City College, I thought I was leaving anti-scientific nonsense behind me. But I was wrong.

It is a far too frequent occurrence that I’ll sit at my desk as I fret over which font to use on a banner and hear, “Why is everything going wrong!? Is Mercury in retrograde?” followed by “It is! Oh my god, I hope it ends soon!” or “It’s not even in retrograde! So why is everything so terrible!?” (And don’t worry. I’ve learned the hard way not to write anything online about people that you wouldn’t be okay with them eventually finding and reading. So I’ll say right here that I hope they read this one day. Hey coworkers, Mercury is just a planet. Its orbit doesn’t affect your life at all. Please, I beg you, and I mean this kindly: shut up about it!)

There lies the end of my rant, but I think that after dismissing the astrological beliefs behind Mercury in retrograde, my readers, and especially my coworkers, deserve to know what it actually is and what it actually means. You don’t want to be like this person:

I don’t know who this is but their comment is funny and I don’t hate them!

Barring the part about Gatorade, the first thing that we’ve been getting wrong is that Mercury isn’t in retrograde at all: it is retrograde. So if you are into astrology, you still shouldn’t be asking if it is in retrograde; you should be asking if Mercury is retrograde. As a matter of fact, every planet retrogrades sometimes. Neptune will typically retrograde from June all the way until November. It seems that the reason why Mercury retrograde is the only one that non-astronomers and non-astrologers have heard of is because being closest to the Sun, Mercury moves fastest through its orbit. It retrogrades most often, three to four times a year for about three weeks each time.

Retrograde isn’t a place or a state of being, it’s an adjective and a verb. It describes any planet that appears to be moving backward from its usual direction across the night sky. So starting tomorrow, and ending on March 9th, if you had some way of knowing where the planet Mercury is (which is very difficult) in relation to the Earth and the Sun, it would look like it stops, moves backward, stops again, and continues moving in the right direction. This video does an absolutely fantastic job of explaining it in more, clear, detail, although what I said is the very basic idea of what happens.

This is the video that earlier comment was from. I’m glad they had the chance to learn!

No matter what you may have heard from other YouTubers, Mercury does not stop moving. It doesn’t even actually move backward. Retrograde motion is all an optical illusion, albeit a really cool one! The planets are always moving in their orbits in the same uniform direction, but they all move at different speeds. Apparent retrograde motion is what you see when Mercury laps around the Earth as if we were racing around a track.

So if you were stressed because tomorrow is the beginning of a time when communication breaks down, technology stops working, and you’re in constant terror of stepping in dog poop, take a deep breath. You could look at the meaninglessness of Mercury retrograde as a bad thing, sure: you have had and will continue to have problems all year round, and not just for the next three weeks. But on the good side, there’s no reason to believe that it will be any worse, unless you project your fear onto the way you live. It’s all in your head, so stop worrying about it!

7 thoughts on “What is Mercury Retrograde?

  • On the list of things that used to keep me awake at night, workmates and bosses may have an unfair large share of nights. But my education continues. I now understand retrograde, and just last week I learnt of The Nebular Hypothesis. Who knew? Not me. Thanks for the post, Rebekah.

    Liked by 1 person

  • That was a great video explanation of retrograde. I thought retrograde was some “woo-woo-cosmic-unseen-energy” believed in by cults or witches. I never took it seriously, but I never took the initiative to research it. Cool.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Far to often humanity clings to what it hopes is true and pushes on, rather than observing what is actually true and moving forwards from there.

    It has taken us so very long to get to a place where we are comfortable enough as people to not have any ‘complete’ answers, but rather live ‘as if’ things are defined and complete.

    For example, until Charles Darwin delivered his ‘Origin of Species’ people legitimately thought that a God created their first ancestor from thin air and/or dust. Today, our best guess, albeit with a lot of evidence to back it up, is that we came about due to evolution and all that it entails in it’s currently accepted form. We strongly believe this is ‘true’, but we allow enough space to readjust our hypothesis if needed.

    Claiming something is ‘true’ without any evidence that you can critically examine is a dangerous way to live your life.


  • If one of my colleagues said “Why is everything going wrong!? Is Mercury in retrograde?” then I would take them as joking. Of course, they might have been serious, but I would prefer to assume that they weren’t.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Religion and superstition came from the same place, not being able to understand what was going on around us. Now that we do understand a great deal of what is going on around us and explanations are available at the tips of our fingers it is very frustrating that people still “believe” such nonsense.

    But part of being human is fitting into various social groups and we take on or expand such nonsensical beliefs or even create new ones (I have witnessed this!) to establish a connection with others one likes. A common bond is “common understandings.” If you look at life through Jesus goggles, you will attract other people who do the same and through your interactions, those “understandings” will be reinforced.

    So, we are back to “forgive them for they know not what they do” … but they can … and should! <Argh!>

    Liked by 1 person

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