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!?”
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:
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 retrogrades 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.
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!