Yes, There IS Something Weird In The Air Right Now

This article was originally published on January 23, 2015.

You know when you’re having one of those days. You were already running late for work. Then, your car broke down. An innocuous chat with your best friend turned into an inexplicable blowout fight. To top it all off, none of your texts seem to be going through to anyone.

If you complain about any of these things, someone will probably say to you, “Well, Mercury’s in retrograde.” Meaning: The orbit of the planets might be affecting you more than you think. But it's a little more complicated than that. Ahead, we break down Mercury retrograde and how it affects you.


Illustrated by Tim Lahan.
What is Mercury retrograde?

In mythology, Mercury was the messenger of the gods. In astrology, the planet Mercury governs communication, travel, and learning. For this reason, Mercury retrograde has earned a ruthless reputation for sending conversations haywire, scotching carefully laid plans, and wreaking havoc on everything from important work contracts to your home computer.

Despite the phrase, Mercury itself doesn’t actually move backward — “retrograde” refers to the apparent change in motion of the planet when it's viewed from Earth. Fast-moving Mercury has a highly elliptical orbit, meaning that it travels more quickly when it’s closest to the sun. Three or four times a year, the planet “catches up” to Earth’s orbit, giving the illusion that it’s changing direction in the sky for around three weeks.
Illustrated by Tim Lahan.
Confused? Think of two cars traveling in the same direction on the freeway. If one keeps speeding up and slowing down, it will appear, from the viewpoint of the other car, to be moving back and forth — even though its real forward-moving direction doesn’t change.
Illustrated by Tim Lahan.
When will it happen?

Mercury will go retrograde in Virgo today and will remain there until September 22.
Illustrated by Tim Lahan.
How can I avoid the chaos?

Making it through Mercury retrograde doesn’t have to be an ordeal. It just may not be the best time to take a running leap into a huge project, lay down your hard-earned cash for a fancy computer, or sit your partner down and ask just where, exactly, your relationship is going. Expect the unexpected, especially when it comes to communication.
Illustrated by Tim Lahan.
Back up your data, triple-check travel plans, and, if you can’t avoid signing contracts, read the fine print twice. It’s better not to buy electronics during a Mercury retrograde, but sometimes those purchases can’t be helped — just be sure you have a warranty. Give other people the benefit of the doubt and try not to take mishaps personally. Remember that responding to slights — or perceived slights — from a place of hurt and defensiveness only worsens skewed communications. Take a deep breath and don’t let misbehaving Mercury get to you.
Illustrated by Tim Lahan.
Are there any benefits to a Mercury retrograde?

In astrology, it’s believed that capricious Mercury can teach us flexibility, quick thinking, and, above all, patience. A Mercury retrograde can reveal what isn’t working in your life (sometimes the hard way). Use the opportunity to rest and reboot — to examine your habits and relationships and pick out the pieces that are no longer serving you. Instead of seeing Mercury retrograde as a giant pain in the ass (which it certainly can be), look at it as an occasion to finish projects and tie up loose ends.

It’s also the perfect moment to dump your garbage, literal and figurative. Rearrange your apartment, update your résumé, donate that giant pile of clothes you’re never going to wear again. While Mercury retrograde isn’t the best time for big purchases, it’s a great period for planning and research. Do your homework now and put your plans into action as soon as Mercury goes direct again.