If you haven't yet heard, Mercury is in retrograde — but what does that mean? It turns out that "Mercury in retrograde" is actually a scientific term that refers to the planet's motion. In popular culture, however, the phrase has become synonymous with bad luck. Breakups, screwups, and any other negative "ups" can be blamed on Mercury being in retrograde. But how much stock should we put in the position of certain celestial bodies? We did a little digging, and here's what the stars have in store for the next few weeks.
Mercury in Retrograde Meaning
When Mercury is in retrograde, the smallest planet in the solar system appears to be moving backward — but don't worry, it isn't actually going in reverse, NASA's Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) clarified in a blog post. Planets normally move in a west-to-east pattern called prograde motion. Sometimes, though, planets will move from east-to-west, and this is called retrograde motion. Eventually, a planet in retrograde motion will switch back to prograde motion.
Why does this change happen? When a faster planet, in this case Earth, passes a slower planet, Mercury, the slower planet will appear to move backward before "righting" itself and moving "forward." To test out this phenomenon for yourself, you'll need a friend. Stand next to your friend, side-by-side. Then, instruct your friend to start walking forward slowly. Now, you walk past her at a faster speed. "At first, they move away, then as you pass them, they appear to be moving backward relative to you — even though they are still walking forward," ASD explained.
Mercury in Retrograde Effects
On the celestial calendar, having Mercury in retrograde is an event many people dread. Astrologists look at Mercury as the communication planet — so it's not surprising that you can expect conversations to get a bit cloudy and miscommunications to arise when Mercury is seemingly moving backward. But astrology is never a perfect predictor, and sometimes, Mercury in retrograde can work in your favor. According to astrologist Greg Tufaro, now may be a good time to revist old, unfinished conversations. People from your past may reappear in your life, and now is the time to confront any unresolved issues.
During Mercury in retrograde, there's a shift in your energy from the conscious to the subconscious. As a result, things your conscious mind might repress come bubbling to the surface as your subconscious takes over. Because of these new heightened feelings and emotions, astrologists warn against starting something new — be it a relationship, a project, a purchase, etc. You want to make these decisions when your conscious mind is the one that's in control.
However, Mercury is in retrograde only until August 19. So in three week's time, we can all get back to being our normal selves.