Mercury retrograde is one of the most talked-about transits in astrology. Even if you're not into the cosmos, you know that when Mercury goes retrograde, things are about to get seriously out of whack. It's become almost a joke, something to blame no matter what's going wrong. Emails aren't sending? Thanks, Mercury retrograde. Ex paperclipped you? Thanks, Mercury retrograde. Broken nail? Don't tell me — Mercury's in retrograde. But how did we get here?
Mercury retrograde's popularity can be tracked back to a certain political figure, Lisa Stardust, astrologer and author of Saturn Return Survival Guide and The Astrology Deck, tells Refinery29. "In the 1980s, Nancy Reagan’s interest in astrology brought more insight into retrogrades and astrology," she says. "In modern times, it’s become the go-to meme on social media, so we can thank the internet for making it big."
Mercury retrograde definitely gets a bad rap. Sure, the messenger planet backtracking through the sky can cause communication to go haywire, words to be misconstrued, and travel plans to be upended. But its effects aren't as intense as many of us tend to make them out to be.
Leslie Hale, psychic astrologer at Keen.com, blames what she calls pop astrology, and "the variety of overly dramatic descriptions on the internet" for Mercury retrograde's scapegoat. Memes about the transit tend to trend when one is taking place, and they're often very relatable. No one can blame us if, after laughing at a few dozen "Thanks, Mercury" Instagram posts or tweets, we're more inclined to blame the planet for whatever little thing goes wrong in our own lives, without fully understanding what the effects of retrogrades really are.
Narayana Montúfar, senior astrologer at Astrology.com and Horoscope.com, says that another reason this particular cosmic event has become so popular is because "our society is highly dependent on technology, so when a text or an email gets lost, or our computer crashes, we are highly inconvenienced."
"We are beings who talk, travel, and rely on information and news," Stardust agrees. "Obviously, this retrograde would be the biggest one we discuss."
What's more, Mercury goes retrograde the most often out of any planet — at three to four times a year. So it's no surprise that it's the one we tend to hear the most about. But there are worse retrogrades out there.
Montúfar names two in particular: Venus and Mars. When these two planets go retrograde, we feel it. But they don't happen often, so they're not as talked about. "Because Venus goes retrograde every 18 months, and Mars every 2 years, we get to experience these the least, even though they are hardest to navigate," she says.
Montúfar says that we tend to overlook Mercury retrograde's positive effects too. "Mercury retrograde is a time to slow down, a time to revisit, redo, and rethink plans or projects," Montúfar says. "But in a fast-paced culture like ours, that is seen as negative, when the truth is it offers us a chance to fix projects and situations that actually needed revision in order to be successful."
So why don't we reframe the current Mercury retrograde mindset? Thinking of it as a short break we're given a few times a year to slow things down could be more beneficial to us all. "We can’t go full steam ahead every day of our lives, therefore retrograde Mercury is part of the natural process," Hale explains. She has a point.