Ever Wonder Why Mercury Turns Retrograde So Often?

by Lily Feinn

Hold on to your butts, friends, because Mercury is retrograde yet again. The harbinger of communication snafus, upset travel plans, and heightened flux will plague us with its pesky presence for another few weeks, so feel free to commence groaning. You might, of course, be wondering, why does Mercury turn retrograde so often, anyway? While all planets are guilty of turning retrograde, the small planet closest to the sun certainly gets the most attention; indeed, it sometimes feels like Mercury is constantly retrograde. So: What gives?

When planets are retrograde they appear to move backwards in the sky. Planets moving in a prograde motion appear to travel eastward relative to the starry night sky, but every now and then, a planet may look like it's changed course, seeming to drift west. Astronomers call this switcheroo "retrograde motion" — an illusion created by the movement of the Earth and planets in their trajectories around the Sun. And yes, I do mean illusion; the planets seem to move backwards, but they don't actually.

Due to its speedy, elliptical orbit, Mercury experiences frequent periods of apparent retrograde motion — between three and four each year, in fact. But the good news is that the planet's intervals of apparent retrograde motion are also the shortest, usually lasting between three and three and a half weeks. This is a blessing when you consider that outer planets, such as Jupiter and Saturn, have retrograde periods that can last months. Oy.

Astrologers believe the movements of these planets affect human behavior and relationships. "As Mercury speeds by, it is like a train flying past, creating a powerful, turbulent gust of 'wind' in its wake," notes AstrologyZone. "The turbulence and disruption Mercury creates when it retrogrades can affect what we feel on Earth in our everyday lives."

Mercury's influence is wide-reaching, which is the main reason its retrograde periods are such a big pain. The planet is said to rule all kinds of communication, contracts, and code (including tech and travel). Some Astrologers advise that important decisions be put off until Mercury moves direct, and that new endeavors should be put on hold — so mark your calendar for the upcoming retrograde periods. But while it may not be ideal for business, Mercury in retrograde is a great time for a little vacay or spring cleaning, just as long as you don't let little frustrations get under your skin.

Mercury has already gone retrograde once so far this year (in January); we can also anticipate two more three-week-long stints before 2017 is out. It's best to use the unique energy to take a moment to reflect, relax and move forward in a productive manner.

Mercury will move direct May 3 and then we will have a lovely respite until August. If you feel like you are constantly beset with Mercury's puckish fiddling, don't put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect. After all, it's just Mercury being Mercury.