Whenever Mercury’s movement in the sky reverses itself, due to an astronomical phenomenon called Apparent Retrograde Motion, things generally get screwy here on earth.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

In olden times, when Astrologers were doing their best to correlate events on the human plane with the movements of the Wandering Stars, Mercury was singularly wacky. Like the other Wandering Stars (or “planets,” as we call them now) Mercury did not occupy one fixed place in the sphere of Fixed Stars. It moved around, in all sorts of crazy directions, leading Ptolemy to stack epicycle upon epicycle to try and describe its motion in a geocentric cosmos.

Every 88 days, Mercury stops its motion across the sky, and moves backwards for almost three weeks. Today marks the latest iteration of Mercury Retrograde.

It was generally noticed during these periods that the plans of mortals have a tendency to go awry. Astrology back in ancient times involved trying to make broad generalizations about a period of time, and seeing if those same generalizations stayed true when the astronomical events repeated themselves.

The Zodiac birth signs are a great example of this. People born when the sun is in Capricorn tend to have certain characteristics (awesome ones, I might add), while those born under Leo are different, as a generalized group. This could easily be due to one group of people being born in the winter, and another in the summer; if the weather is balmy or frigid when you are a newborn, it can theoretically have certain developmental impacts on you, and everyone born during the same time period as you. If you spend age 3-6 months bundled up in warm clothes and fighting colds, and age 9-12 months overheating and sweating, this will have correlative effects on others who have shared this developmental stage.

Zodiac? You make sense, but it might not be due to the stars.

Full moon? You change the height of the oceans. I am not surprised to find behavioral differences in some people due to your influence. (This is actually where the word lunacy comes from.)

Retrograde? Hmm.

Periods of Mercury Retrograde don’t have such an easy comparison in environmental effects, yet they still have an undeniable similarity about their periods. Mercury goes into retrograde happens in every season of the year, at every time of the month, and if you pay attention to how your life generally goes during these periods, things get messed up.

It’s a lot of little things, too; missing a bus, stubbing your toe, dropping your phone and missing a call, trying twelve times to reboot your computer successfully. Mercury Retrograde is not marked by cataclysmic events, but by the inability of smooth accomplishment to have a presence in your life.

Psychologically, I may notice these things more because I’m looking out for them during this period of time. Applying the Law of Attraction, if I’m thinking about things messing up more, things will mess up more, QED. Mercury Retrograde can be nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What it does not explain is the relief I see in the eyes of harried friends who are wondering WHY everything is repeatedly going wrong. When I tell them about Mercury being in retrograde, they recognize that they are in a period of instability, where things have been going wrong more often than normal. Giving them a frame of reference (things will be dastardly until December 13! There’s a light at the end of the tunnel!) simultaneously gives them hope and clarity.

Even people who don’t know about Mercury Retrograde find these periods to be difficult and changeable, like the fickle character of Mercury himself. The Messenger of the Gods, Hermes looks after functions such as commerce, communication, and travel.

Activities in these areas are traditionally disrupted during times of Retrograde. Astrologers would advise you, “Don’t make any big plans.”

My advice?

When things start to go awry, remember another one of Mercury’s traits: fluidity. The chemical compound associated with Mercury is Quicksilver, the most fluid and changeable of substances.

Adapt fluidly to any change in plans, and you can follow the movement of the Wandering Star, as he wanders (once again) where he’s not supposed to be going.

Mischievous Mercury. He certainly does keep us on our toes.