Can you believe it? Mercury is not retrograde! Mercury is also not going through the roughly two-week "shadow" period before the retrograde—when we get a sneak peek of what shit shall hit the fan during the main event—or in the approximately two-week shadow period after the retrograde, when we get to tie up loose ends before moving on in our lives. Since Mercury is all good right now, you have no excuse for being late, all your electronics will work just fine, and you will not hear from any of your exes.
Just kidding! Do you hear how silly these claims sound? As a professional astrologer, I hate nothing more than pop astrology written by wannabe mystics (Hitler was not an Aries!). Pop astrology has many faults: Not only does it generalize the signs and symbols of the movements in the sky, but it also makes things sound unnecessarily scary and difficult. This is especially true when it comes to the world's most newly infamous planetary movement, Mercury retrograde. Mercury retrograde has gone mainstream, the subject of articles and tweets by Real Housewives alike—poor Bethenny Frankel once wondered if her "shit day" was due to Mercury retrograde, and Lisa Rinna, Kyle Richards, and Dina Manzo have flexed their astrological knowledge as well.
The superstitions surrounding Mercury retrograde are well known. Common warnings include: don't start new projects or sign contracts, don't buy electronics, and don't travel or expect anything to happen according to schedule. These are all accurate generalizations based on themes relating to Mercury, which rules communication, logic, information, movement, and commerce. However, there's a lot more to Mercury retrograde than frustration and delays. In fact, retrogrades can be wonderfully productive times to review your past and your direction in life—and to slow down in general. Let's take a look at some of the major misconceptions and inaccuracies surrounding Mercury retrograde:
Let's get this out of the way first: Mercury is never "in" retrograde. This mistake comes up a lot—take, for instance, this bumbling video about Mercury retrograde starring Taylor Swift. Taylor's a big-mouthed Sagittarius, and we know that most Sagittarians don't care much about detail or preparing ahead of time; that's something their opposite sign, Gemini, is more into. Of course I'm not happy about Taylor feeding the public's fear of Mercury retrograde here, but what I really, deeply hate about this video is the fact that she says Mercury is in retrograde. Mercury is never in retrograde. It either is retrograde or it isn't.
That said: While I can't be sure, it seems to me like this was an impromptu video, so I applaud Swift's ability to improvise—so Sagittarian!
There's a misconception that Mercury retrogrades are surprising, rare, and/or random occurrences. They're not: We know when they will occur, and they occur three, sometimes four, times a year. 2016 will be a year with four Mercury retrogrades. There's no real special significance to this, except that you get one more opportunity that year to complain about the retrograde.
Is Mercury really going backward during a retrograde?
Nope! It's an optical illusion created when Earth and another planet move at different speeds, like when you're on the train and another zooms past—the other train can look like it's going backward. That optical illusion can be confusing and disorientating, but just like a retrograde, it does give you a moment to pause and consider a new perspective.
Other planets go retrograde, too
Not counting the Sun and the Moon, all the other planets in the sky also go retrograde. We actually have a Venus retrograde coming up this summer: Venus goes retrograde from July 25 to September 8.
As mentioned earlier, retrogrades give us a chance to slow down and reconsider decisions we've made before moving on with our lives. Venus is associated with love, beauty, and luxury; expect these themes to get turned on their head when the retrograde kicks in. (Note: Venus retrograde is not the time for a makeover, so if you want to try something new, book your appointment before July 25!) During Venus retrograde, you may not feel so seductive, and your self-esteem may even take a hit, but this is an indispensable chance to review your love life and financial situation. Sometimes we need to wake up feeling gross, without any money for morning coffee, in order to look around and really wonder, What the hell am I doing here, with these people, in this city, with this job? After Venus goes direct again, you may find that not only have your wardrobe and hairstyle been revamped, but your values and ideals around Venusian themes like love and money have, too.
Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto are also currently retrograde. Saturn deals with responsibility and structure, Neptune's all about fantasy and confusion, and Pluto seeks transformation. We're all currently redoing and reviewing these themes, whether or not we're conscious of it. (Being conscious of these movements is how we make the best of them.) Uranus, an inventive and rebellious energy, will go retrograde on July 26, which may push us to make some unexpected, surprising changes in our lives. Jupiter—the planet of philosophy, growth, and abundance—will turn retrograde on January 7, 2016, inspiring introspection.
The shadow period
Although the shadow period isn't often discussed, it's arguably as significant as retrograde itself. The shadow period before Mercury retrograde gives clues about what areas of your life you can expect to revisit during the retrograde. The shadow period after the retrograde offers you yet another chance to reconsider the situation, tie up any lose ends, or clarify any remaining confusion. If you and your partner fight a lot during the pre-shadow period, you might find that during the retrograde, those issues will pop back up, possibly resulting in a break-up—only to be reconciled during the post-shadow period!
There's an old saying that says that whatever you lose during Mercury retrograde will be returned to you. The pre-shadow period reveals what that may be, and the post-shadow period resolves the issue.
Will everything be fucked up, late, and/or broken?
Mercury retrograde is a great excuse for your lack of time-management skills, relationships not working out, or your shitty cell phone finally breaking—especially since Mercury is retrograde three to four times a year, and there's also a shadow period on either side. That's not an insignificant amount of time! You're basically constantly covered for your inability to be reliable—not.
It's important to remember that the stars don't hold absolute power over you. You have free will. I look at astrology for what it is: a calendar. You're likely to do certain things during certain planetary transits, and astrology is a great way to watch out for those time periods. But it's never an excuse for bad behavior or lack of organization. Furthermore, it's said that people who are born during a Mercury retrograde thrive during the retrograde period. Could you be one of those people? Ask an astrologer or google the Mercury retrograde dates for your year of birth.
But it's really not so bad, and you can totally work with the energy
The best piece of advice I can offer you about Mercury retrograde—other than not to worry about it too much—is to not make any commitments, unless it's about something that's old news. Mercury rules logic, and if a retrograde is hitting you hard, your thinking may not be totally straight. However, letting your fear of Mercury retrograde guide your behavior would make life nearly impossible. If you need to sign a new lease, or sign a contract for a new job, you likely won't be able to ask if you can hold off until Mercury is direct. Do what you have to do when you have to do it—things will work out the way they will, Mercury be damned!
The mythological roots of Mercury retrograde has a lesson for us: A few hours after his birth, Mercury decided, as siblings often do, that it would be fun to steal his brother Apollo's cattle. For some extra fun, he turned the cattle's hooves backwards (what a trickster). Apollo was appalled, but Daddy Jupiter thought this was pretty funny. I think we should all take on Jupiter's attitude and just drop this drama with Mercury retrograde. I don't know about you, but I love being able to take a break. Taking one's time, reconsidering, reflecting, and generally getting a grip on life is mandatory for happiness—as is having a sense of humor. Laugh at the blunders Mercury retrograde brings your way. Instead of saying, "Oh, it's Mercury retrograde; everyone will be running late," why don't we all say, "Hey, it's Mercury retrograde, take your time!"?
Mercury retrograde shouldn't be a disaster. It should be an excuse to leave work early (or arrive late), to chill the fuck out, look at old photo albums, reminisce, reconnect, and reflect. Jupiter could cut Mercury some slack; I think we can, too.