Mercury’s In Retrograde, But What Does That Actually Mean?

Collage by Emily Zirimis; photos by Arthur Elgort/Conde Nast/Contour via Getty Images and Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Paige Knapp didn’t think moving in with her boyfriend would be such a headache. Shortly before her lease was up, when they were soon to live in blissful cohabitation, her longtime partner had a revelation: “I think I’m going to move back home to Long Island.” She knew he’d been looking to make a career shift, and decamping to his parents made more logistical sense then remaining in Philadelphia. Knapp, who works in PR, was supportive of his choice but was left stressed and without a plan. “I had nowhere to move into.”

For most of her life, Knapp was convinced that any time things in her life were out of whack, it was due to a full moon. This time, blindsided by the turn of events and in search of an explanation, she discovered it wasn’t a full moon but, in fact, Mercury retrograde, an astrological phenomenon in which the planet appears, from Earth, to move backwards in its orbit. In the astrology world, Mercury retrograde is believed to cause communication issues, contractual headaches, technology blips and/or financial headaches. Astrology experts say, in Knapp’s case, moving in with a new roommate or making big decisions during Mercury retrograde is risky, since you may not have all the information needed to make a realized choice during this time. Mercury retrograde is also said to present the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past, pick up old hobbies, reevaluate current routines or reconsider old flames.

Mercury retrograde occurs three to four times a year due to the planet’s 88-day orbit around the sun. (If you divide Earth’s 365-day orbit by Mercury’s 88, you’ll get roughly four.) Mercury has the appearance of moving backwards in the sky because it’s catching up to and passing the slower-moving Earth. August 2017’s retrograde began on the 12th and will last until September 5th.

While it’s easy (and sometimes fun) to claim Mercury retrograde is the culprit for our misfortunes, is it possible that anyone really believes in this stuff?

“It’s something I knew about but I didn’t know the connection,” Knapp says. “I would see people tweet ‘Mercury is in retrograde so my life is shitty.’”

This time around, Knapp isn’t just a believer, she’s prepared: She’s paid all her bills early and vows to slow down and take more mindful approaches to any decisions that have to be made.

“I’ve quite literally planned my life around the next few weeks,” Knapp says. “During a former retrograde, I somehow forgot to pay my electric and credit card and my gym, which I would never do.”

Astrologer Eric Francis Coppolino, who writes the horoscopes for Marie Claire and New York Daily News, among others, says that the mind is most greatly impacted during periods of Mercury retrograde compared to times when Mercury is stationed direct, so acting too quickly and not paying attention to details would account for these slips in responsibility. We can even create nonexistent problems for ourselves, he says.

“The most important thing to do is to stop and think before making any major decisions or trying to solve problems,” Coppolino explains. “Often during Mercury retrograde you think you have a problem you don’t really have. If you try to fix it, you’ll make it worse. Slowing down is about making sure you actually do have a problem and you’re actually solving it.”

Coppolino also notes that this current retrograde occurs in Virgo, which allows for the potential for information to be dug up or some truth to come to light. More fun planetary stuff: There’s a solar eclipse set during Mercury retrograde.

“It’s turning up the energy on everything,” he says.

If it seems like the masses have decried the effects of Mercury retrograde more so in recent years, it’s because of our tech obsession, according to Coppolino. As a society, we’re more attached to our phones and computers than in decades past. Since Mercury retrograde can impact communication and gadgets, there’s more of an opportunity for glitches.

Keiko El is a 24-year-old Philadelphia-based model, entrepreneur and founder of a program called Afro Witch, which promotes the growth, education and practices of witches of color. Like Knapp, after a rough Mercury retrograde that included leaving a job and starting therapy, Keiko made plans to face the current retrograde fully armed. She’s changed her outlook on any possible hardships that may arise and is prepared to see them as an opportunity to reflect and adjust.

“I’ve tried to change my perspective and think, ‘This certain thing is happening now because I’m not meant to be going down this path.’ It’s all about perspective when it comes to handling Mercury retrograde.”

Galina Nemirovsky, a 43-year-old writer based in New Jersey, is trying to keep that approach in mind as she embarks on a road trip this Mercury retrograde. During other times of planetary shifts, her apartment has flooded and, on a separate occasion, she’s gotten some minor bumps and bruises. Her prior experiences aren’t enough for her to cancel her vacation, but she’s aware of the season’s effects on her plans. She’s allotted an extra day of travel and was sure to book hotels that had an extra star.

“You can look at it two ways: ‘Shit I’m doomed’ and hole yourself up, or you can be really cautious,” Nemirovsky says.

And then there are those who use Mercury retrograde to throw caution to the wind. Coppolino says that creative types tend to thrive during this time because it offers different ways of thinking and approaching challenges.

“There’s a tweak in the normal pattern of thought,” Coppolino says. “If you’re going on a canoe trip, of course you want rapids. No one wants to paddle through a lake.”

Still, why rock the boat during a risky month? Coppolino suggests slowing down, considering all the points of view and not making any rash decisions, especially during the planet’s reverse in Virgo, where much will be revealed in early September when retrograde is complete.

“With Mercury retrograde, the principal metaphor is there’s more information coming,” he says. “You have to admit you don’t know everything when Mercury’s retrograde.”

What I do have to know is: how do you feel about Mercury retrograde? Do you prepare for it?

Allie Volpe is a culture, music, and entertainment writer based in Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter @allieevolpe

Mercury’s already in retrograde, but you can still get a head start on the return of baguette before September.

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