Before Mercury retrograde summer 2018 set in, many of us knew what to expect. Relatively speaking. In the last few years, the impact Mercury retrograde has had on us has fascinated people who both believe and don't believe in the power of the stars and planets with which we share the Universe. Even those who are likely to shrug off astrology just might perk up their ears when hearing that Mercury retrograde is on the way. Why? Well, for the most part, Mercury retrograde tends to screw things up a bit, especially when it comes to communication.
Mercury retrograde is when Mercury, which is the planet of communication, looks as though it's moving away from the Earth, which can be a little startling because it's such a powerful planet.
"When a planet is retrograde, they appear to be moving backwards from Earth's perspective," astrologer and psychic, Cindy Mckean, tells Bustle. "But what's really happening is that the Earth's orbit is moving slightly ahead of the retrograde planet at that view of space."
And some Mercury retrogrades can be worse than others. For example, this summer, Mercury isn't the only planet in retrograde, so naturally the combination will have an impact.
"Five planets are still retrograde this summer, including Mercury," says Mckean. "If you feel lately like things have been hectic, chaotic, or just not going as planned, maybe the planets apparent backwards movement in the sky has a role." Also, let's not forget that the blood moon on July 27 also threw a wrench in lots of things, if not pretty much everything.
Has Mercury Retrograde Always Instilled Fear?
As Mckean points out, while life on Earth is "fickle" and unexpected, complicated, and sometimes even a mess, the heavenly bodies are not. They stay on track and stick to their plan unlike humans here on Earth. Planets and stars are relatively reliable, but before that fact was discovered through science, anything that was a bit off could shake an our ancestors to their core. Especially since the word "planet" comes from the Greek word of "wanderer," according to Mckean. Those who wander do so because they've lost their direction and are trying to get back on the path on which they began.
"Instead of using landmarks, our ancestors relied on the positions of planets, stars, and constellations to help them determine what season it was, the direction to navigate towards, and what to expect as a general forecast."
"Instead of using landmarks, our ancestors relied on the positions of planets, stars, and constellations to help them determine what season it was, the direction to navigate towards, and what to expect as a general forecast," says Mckean. "As heavenly bodies were used for tracking, a planet's trek back to previous spots in the sky was enough to send people for a loop... This is how retrograde planets got their doom-and-gloom reputation for being omens of disaster. In truth, what's more likely to happen is that you'd have a few trip-ups. However, sometimes it just takes one misstep for everything to fall apart (which leads back to doom-and-gloom again). See how retrogrades get such a reputation?"
These Are The Parts Of Our Lives That Are Most Affected By Mercury Retrograde
While you may encounter some travel delays or run into an ex (again) during Mercury retrograde, it should be noted that Mercury retrograde isn't likely to destroy your whole life. Well, not intentionally, of course.
"The archetype of Mercury is the winged messenger of the gods," says Mckean. "It represents how we think, process our thoughts, interact and communicate with one another, transactions, trickery, our movements, data, our immediate community, commutes, and short trips, among other things. When it moves backwards in the sky, there's an apparent repeat, redoing, and sometimes undoing of those aspects of our lives that translates down to Earth. Since Mercury is most known for communication you can expect misunderstandings to occur in our social lives."
Because it can mess with communication, for sure, if you're aware of this fact, then every time Mercury retrograde rolls around you can prepare by watching your tongue and, ideally, not destroy your life with biting words that you should have kept to yourself. Words can do a lot of damage in general and even more so during Mercury retrograde. As Mckean points out, humans are social creatures which means communication is paramount and relationships will be affected in one way or another during Mercury retrogrades.
When Did Mercury Retrograde First Make Its Way Into Pop Culture?
According to Mckean, the term "Mercury retrograde" wasn't as trendy a few years ago as it was today. She recalls a colleague mentioning it as far back as 2008, as this person blamed Mercury retrograde for a faux pas at work, but then admitted that she didn't really understand what it meant. "Nor did that person believe in astrology," says Mckean, "but it didn't stop her from blaming a failed email attachment on Mercury retrograde."
But, if we have to look way back to the 1960s, during the Age of the Aquarius (ask your parents or grandparents about this era when peace, love, and the sexual revolution reigned supreme), there's also evidence of there being an interest in Mercury retrograde then, too. I mean, it was known as the Age of the Aquarius after all.
Then, in the 1980s, there was another revival of interest in Mercury retrograde thanks to, of all people, Nancy Reagan — yes, President Ronald Reagan's wife.
"Nancy Reagan [was] open about having their own dedicated astrologer serving cosmic advice while Ronald Reagan was president," says Mckean.
Here's Why You're So Obsessed With Mercury Retrograde
Well, to quote Bob Dylan, "When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose." It's this mentality that's leading more people — millennials especially — to astrology.
"According to the New York Times, though the rise of New Age practices, including astrology, are trendy, and it's also one of ways that millennials are acknowledging that the current system isn't working," says Mckean. "They're willing to try and see what else could make life a little more meaningful and bearable. If the mainstream isn't working, why not look at the fringe?"
Basically, can the study of astrology and belief in Mercury retrograde, as well as the retrogrades of other planets, perhaps, offer some insight into a future?
Between The Internet & Social Media, Mercury Retrograde Found A Home In Pop Culture
We also live in a time where access to astrology is, well, far more accessible. Not just because we can easily read our horoscopes online, but we can educate ourselves about what the placement of planets and stars really mean to us here on Earth.
"Access to astrology has also become more and more available, with dozens of free apps and blogs online," says Mckean. "Interestingly, the first spike in interest about Mercury retrograde in 2009 coincides with the boom of social media sites as news sources like Facebook. By then, the internet became more reliable, more stable, and more mature. Grade schools (a Mercury ruled area) started requiring internet connections for education. On social media, Memes of Freddy Mercury posing, 'May your Mercury be more Freddie, less retrograde' started circulating. Twitter started catching in on the trend. Online news brands started reporting more and more about Mercury retrograde, and it's popularity grew, especially as being a convenient excuse as to why communication breaks down, including the internet."
Sure, the hippies of the 1960s had no shame when it came to such beliefs but to place all, or even most of your bets, on what we see in the night sky can seem a little "flighty" to some.
"Mercury retrograde is becoming even more popular with Gen Z (18 to 24 year olds), as evidenced by Google trends showing a 200 percent increase in the last decade with queries about 'Mercury in Retrograde'," says Mckean. "A poll conducted in 2014 by the National Science Foundation reports that within that age group, more than half of that age group believe astrology to be a science, and 25 to 34 year olds trail them closely. With all that, why not look more into Mercury retrograde with some credence? Or at least with less shame."
Why You're More Into Mercury Retrograde Vs. Other Retrogrades
Not only does Mercury retrograde happen so often, as Mckean points out, with it comes inconveniences, communication misunderstandings, and general mayhem that can often be out of our control.
"With its retrograde frequency, the quick turn-around, and a representation of communication and trickery according to astrology, it has become a convenient scapegoat to explain any foot-in-mouth situations."
"All the other planets from the Earth's perspective also retrograde with the exception of the Sun and the Moon," says Mckean. "Mercury is the second fastest planet in our orbit (the Moon is fastest with an approximately 28 day orbit). Mercury retrogrades three to four times a year. With its retrograde frequency, the quick turn-around, and a representation of communication and trickery according to astrology, it has become a convenient scapegoat to explain any foot-in-mouth situations." And, let's be honest, who doesn't want to pass the buck when things fall apart?
"Eventually, the newer generation might become so familiar with Mercury retrograde that it becomes more rote information and less of a need to find out more about," says Mckean. "As Gen Z reaches the big 3-0 and millennials can finally start saving for retirement, we can look forward to hearing more and more about Saturn returns (typically happens around people at 30 and 60 years old). Besides, Saturn looks so cool with those rings!"
If that ends up being the case, then we're all going to have to find something else to blame when sh*t hits the fan during Mercury retrograde. Or we'll just be so used to it, that we'll be prepared and can finally shrug it off. "Oh, it's Mercury retrograde again? OK; whatever. That's cool with me."