What even is Mercury Retrograde?


In the age of burgeoning spiritual awakening, blaming suspect unfortunate events on mercury retrograde is all but standard.  "Mercury is in retrograde" has risen in the hall of excuses to the status of "the dog ate my homework". We blame every broken glass and strained relationship on the alignment of this astrological force, but do we really know what it is or how it effects us? 

From a purely scientific standpoint, the retrograde of any planet is based on the speed of it's movement through the sky in relationship to the movement of the earth. Much like when you pass a slower moving car on the highway, the first few seconds after you pass, the car in question can appear in the rearview as if it's moving backwards. This illusion is perception-based and rights itself soon after you begin to put space between your car and the car you had passed. In much the same way, the earth, which is moving more quickly than Mercury at the time of retrograde, "passes" Mercury and for a brief period of time, Mercury appears to move backwards in the sky. 

To understand how this impacts us, we need to dig in to exactly what Mercury represents. In the Roman pantheon, Mercury served, among other things, as the messenger to the gods. Aptly named, this planet deals with communication, especially with logic and rational thought process. But to truly understand the nature of Mercury retrograde, we have to dig a bit deeper into the shadow side of this ancient deity. Mercury served as one of the twelve Di Consentes, the twelve major gods of the Romans, and ruled over far more than communication. He was also the god of commerce, trade and financial gain and- on his darker days- the god of trickery. 

The trickster side of this planetary force is the shadow we experience during Mercury retrograde. This mischievous planet invites chaotic energy into the our communication, our logic and our business transactions until it shifts back to a prograde orbit, leaving us open for all sorts of misunderstandings and miscommunications. We may feel confused, disoriented or unable to process events and interactions in a calm, logical way. 

Mercury is most comfortable in the air sign of Gemini and the earth sign of Virgo. The air sign of Gemini appeals to the logical, communicative side of Mercury, inviting us to consider the world around us with cool logic and fact. When in retrograde, the trickster side of Mercury can combine with Gemini in a way that fogs the logical facts of the world around us, making it difficult to consider our lives with objectivity. 

Now that we understand exactly what we're facing with this retrograde, we can shift our attention to addressing the miscommunications and trickery that's arising in our lives with a return to logic. Stay tuned for a follow up article outlining tips and tricks to making it through Mercury retrograde!