Please Stop Saying “Mercury is in Retrograde.” What Does That Even Mean?

Mercury in retrograde

This morning I burned my hand, spilling boiling hot coffee on it. My first thought was, “That hurt like a bitch!” My second thought was, “Mercury must be in retrograde,” even though I have no clue what “Mercury in retrograde” actually means.

I do know, however, that over the last couple of years, every time something goes wrong in my life, from spilling coffee to a leak in my roof to being late to pick up my kids, all my mommy friends tell me, “It’s because Mercury is in retrograde.”

So, every time something has gone wrong or didn’t go my way, I’d just think, “Mercury is in retrograde!” because it’s easier to accept things going wrong by blaming…astrology?

I did some research, mostly to find out what exactly people mean. Spoiler Alert! According to this site, in 2018, Mercury is in retrograde between March 23 through April 15, July 26 through August 19, and November 17 through December 6. All you mothers can breathe a collective sigh of relief, because Mercury is not in retrograde now, and won’t be until mid-November, even though you may profess that your vacuum cleaner broke this week because mercury is in retrograde.

The thing is, I did (sort of) start to believe, even if I had no idea what it actually meant, that Mercury in retrograde may have been responsible for my computer acting up on me, for the fact that I was going through a breakup, that my roof leaked, that my daughter broke the screen of her phone – only because all these things did, indeed, happen while Mercury was in retrograde in August.

I like reading fortune cookies and occasionally my horoscope, and I do see fortune tellers, usually when I’ve had too much to drink. But it turns out that this “superstition” has a long history. “Don’t start anything when Mercury is retrograde,” an April 1979 issue of The Baltimore Sun instructed its readers, as seen in this article. “A large communications organization notes that magnetic storms, disrupting messages, are prolonged when Mercury appears to be going backward. Mercury, of course, is the planet associated with communication.”


“The power attributed to the event has become so overblown that today it’s blamed for everything from digestive problems to broken washing machines.” Dr. Hammergren, who is quoted in the article says. He’s right! I want to tell people, “Please stop telling me that Mercury is in retrograde because you have a headache!”

So what does it mean when Mercury is in retrograde? According to this article, “three or four times a year, planet Mercury is said to go retrograde” — meaning, it moves in an opposite direction to planet Earth. “Planets move from east to west around the sun, and when Mercury turns to move from west to east instead, that’s when Mercury is in retrograde. Many refer to this time of year as simply ‘Mercury retrograde.’”

Apparently, this is simply an illusion. Mercury is just moving slower than Earth, causing the illusion that it’s moving in retrograde. Still, illusion or not, believers and astrologers and, now apparently most of my mom friends, believe it really does have an affect on us earth people, especially when it comes to communication, technology, communication, travel and learning. So you know, basically every…single… aspect of our lives.

“For this reason, Mercury retrograde is blamed for everything from miscommunication to technological bugs, botched business deals, missed flights, a mechanical issue with your car or even a broken cellphone.”

But there is no science to back this up.

Still, for whatever reason, every time I complain to someone about something, these days, the answer now always seems to be, “Mercury is in retrograde!,” which has left me thinking, that no, Mercury is not in retrograde four times a year, but at least four times a week! I’ve heard it so many times that I am starting to believe that every time I’m feeling a little “off,” that Mercury must be in Retrograde. Yes, I think I drank the Kool-aid.

My house, for example, is 90 years old. Something is always breaking (but could that be because my house is 90 years old?) My son’s iPad battery has become super slow (but could that mean it just needs a new battery?)

But let’s be real. Even though Mercury is technically NOT in retrograde now, it’s almost been hammered into my brain not to make big life choices, and I’ve even sometimes become almost comatose, when I need to make a big decision, because WHAT IF MERCURY IS IN RETROGRADE?

Even though I’m not a total believer, I need to blame something or someone when something goes awry. Better to blame my off mood and vibe on a planet than to to take out my bad mood on my children or colleagues, right?

“Astrologers also believe you should take extra care during this time, don’t buy a new phone, computer or car (lest it turn into a lemon), take extra care to protect your electronics (keep your phone in its case, be sure to keep your water bottle far away from your computer), double check your flight times, don’t sign any business deals and avoid relationship-defining conversations.”

But isn’t this just avoiding life? Shouldn’t we always keep our water bottles or coffee away from our computers? Shouldn’t we always check our flight times? And, really, if you want to ditch your partner, do you really need to wait until Mercury isn’t in retrograde?

Still, when I look back to when Mercury really was in retrograde, some shit has gone down in my life. I can’t deny that. But even if you’re not a believer, “Mercury must be in retrograde” has become such an oft-use phrase these days, amongst us moms, that even I found myself saying it to my friend, who was complaining about how exhausted she felt for no reason. It wasn’t at the time. Still, it did make my friend feel better. Maybe all of us mothers are just looking for something abstract to blame our bad days on.

“[Believers] will say, ‘Aha! See, there’s a shake-up in my workplace because Mercury’s retrograde,” Dr. Hammergren says. He urges people to “review the past year and see if the periods of their lives when Mercury was retrograde were especially catastrophic.”

He says that miscommunications, technical problems are common throughout the year. Well, duh. He’s, obviously not wrong. As he also says, when things go wrong and Mercury isn’t in retrograde, “We don’t get that hashtag. It’s called Monday.”

So, tell me. Are you a believer? And do you notice a change when Mercury is in retrograde? Do tell! But, please, stop telling me that every single one of my problems is because, “Mercury is in retrograde.” Or at least get back to me in November.


Leave a Comment