Having a bad day, a bad week or maybe two? Technology fails, travel delays, work issues, random arguments with your significant other… If any of these feel familiar, you could be experiencing some Mercury retrograde mischief right now. A few times a year, Mercury passes the earth in its orbit, creating an illusion that it's spinning backwards while seemingly causing things to go erratic. As a result, many people tend to blame Mercury, the internet's favorite scapegoat, for going retrograde when life gets a little kooky. But does it really cause the dysfunction we attribute to it, and if it does, how can we work it to our advantage?
First up is looking at it from a planetary perspective. “On Earth, we’re all connected to a field of magnetic energy,” explains astrologer Leslie Galbraith. “When Mercury is retrograde, it only appears to move backward from the earth’s perspective, but in fact, it’s actually getting closer to us — a big ball of iron core, pulsing and interacting with our magnetic field." The phenomenon experienced on Earth is that the magnetism here get skewed, she adds. Try thinking about it this way: We are magnetic beings. Our thoughts have magnetic energy, our emotions pulse magnetic energy, and we live in a world that operates with magnetic technology. Cue magnetic mishaps en masse.
Occurring on average three to four times a year, depending on its orbit, not only is it a magnetic-disrupter, it can also affect the ways in which we communicate. “In astrology, Mercury is the principal ruler of communication — how information is sent and how information is received,” notes Galbraith. “When it’s in retrograde, it’s out of its rhythmic pattern of connecting the flow of information.” Typical symptoms of this could be silly conflicts or miscommunications at work, at home or in your social groups, scheduling mistakes, and delays. It’s also thought to be more common, in this period, to run into exes and maybe even rekindle a romance with them, as the slowdown can bring up old feelings.
So, what exactly can you do to stay sane during this time? Try not to start anything new. “People talk about things like avoiding signing contracts, but this is tricky because often we can’t wait another two weeks. Just make sure everything is checked over extra thoroughly, not to miss any important information,” Galbraith advises. Take a moment to pause and think before speaking, proofread emails before sending them, confirm all the appointments and/or social events on your calendar, and practice forgiveness (to yourself and others).
Now’s also not the time to invest in new technology. “I’ve personally tested this theory myself when purchasing a new camera, which had a load of faults, so I’ll never buy anything electronic under a Mercury retrograde again — unless it has a great warranty,” say Galbraith. Instead, make sure your phone is backed up and computer updates have been made.
But with all the planets going into retrograde at certain points in the year, why is it just Mercury’s backflips that get such a bad rap? “All the planets and cosmos affect us. It’s easy for us to understand the sun’s effect because we feel the sun’s rays, and the moon elevates the water on our planet,” says Galbraith. “Mercury has become more mainstream because we live in more technology-focused times, and like the sun and moon, we can see the real tangible effects of it in our day.”
Add to this the focus it gets. “People are increasingly paying attention to and relating their experiences to its energy,” she continues. “The negative associations with Mercury retrograde come from a place of fear, often because something isn’t working out for us in the way we would like it to.” It’s worth remembering, too, that while there are collective characteristics of which we can all relate, ultimately how each person experiences the effects in their daily lives is unique.
Switching up our attitudes to work with Mercury retrograde rather than trying to resist or see it as bad ju-ju is, as Galbraith suggests, the most positive way to work it in our favor. “It’s helpful to look at things this way: We are always in the right place at the right time, and Mercury retrograde is a time to review, restructure, and rebuild,” she says. “If you see someone you haven’t seen in years, honor that it’s meaningful and try connecting with them again. If you feel like reaching out to someone, then it’s important that you do so. We are all psychically calling out to each other, and often when someone pops into your head, they could be in need of a nice word of encouragement or simply someone to listen.”
Mercury retrograde is also associated with being more introspective, as things slow and the energies turn our minds inwards. Ideal ways to dial this in would be to make a little time for yourself, take a break from technology, try yoga — particularly slower modes like Yin or Restorative — do some meditation practice, read a book you’ve been holding onto for a while or even try journaling your thoughts and feelings. If you’re feeling less sociable during this time, don’t force yourself to go out.
Ultimately, however you choose to navigate life during a Mercury retrograde, try to make the most of its energies. Go with the flow. Take advantage of this time to tie up loose ends and make plans for the future. And, of course, back up your digital data and add extra time for travel — cosmic mayhem is not an excuse for being late for work.