Current Moon Phase

Waxing Crescent
6% of full

Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Mercury Retrograde? What Does That Mean?

Mercury Retrograde? What Does That Mean?

If you have friends who reference astrology, but don’t follow it much yourself, you may have heard people complaining about, or dreading, something called Mercury retrograde.

As of Monday, October 21st, the planet Mercury is currently retrograde and will remain so until November 10th. But what does that mean?

The term retrograde comes from the Latin word retrogradus, which literally means “backward step.”

As the name suggests, retrograde is when a planet appears to go backward in its orbit, as viewed from Earth. Astronomers refer to this as “apparent retrograde motion,” because it is an optical illusion. The opposite of retrograde is direct or prograde motion. Prograde motion is the term astronomers prefer, while astrologers are more prone to use the term direct motion.

Every planet in our Solar System travels in the same direction in its journey around the Sun, and none of them ever pause and turn back in the opposite direction. Yet, all of them appear to do just that from time to time.

Because of the Earth’s daily rotation, the objects in the night sky appear to move from east to west through the night sky. While the location of the stars relative to the Earth is fixed, at least from our vantage point, the other planets in our Solar System all orbit the Sun at varying speeds. The outer planets — Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune — all take longer to orbit the Sun than the Earth does, because their orbits are larger. Because of this, the Earth often laps these planets in its journey around the Sun. When the Earth overtakes an outer planet, that planet appears to travel backward, as compared to the stars, for a time. Picture two cars on the highway going in the same direction in different lanes. If one car is driving faster than the other, the slower car will appear to go backward from the perspective of a person in the faster car, even though the slower car is still going pretty fast in the same direction.

For the inner planets, Mercury and Venus, the mechanism that causes them turn retrograde is the same, but in reverse. Mercury and Venus appear to go retrograde when they lap us.

Because Mercury completes its orbit around the Sun in only 88 days, the Swift Planet becomes retrograde three or four times in a calendar year, for about three weeks at a time. Outer planets have less frequent, but longer lasting, periods of retrograde motion.

So what does all of that have to do with people wanting to hide in their rooms for weeks at a time?

Astrologers believe that the Moon, stars, planets, and Sun affect happenings here on Earth, and that each planet in our Solar System rules a different aspect of life. Like the Greek messenger god it was named for, Mercury is said to govern transportation and communication.

Those who dread Mercury’s retrograde motion say that, when the planet travels backward, its power to positively influence these domains is stifled, leading to chaos. Believers in the malevolent power of Mercury retrograde blame the phenomenon for everything from arguments to lost mail or luggage to automobile accidents, and warn people to hold back on conducting important business during this time.

Of course, few of us can afford to hide under our beds for three weeks, so for most people, life goes on as usual during Mercury retrograde. And if you choose to be more cautious during this time, well, a little extra caution never hurt anyone.

Here’s a list of all of the periods of Mercury retrograde for the next few years:

2013
October 21 – November 10

2014
February 7 – March 1
June 8 – July 2
October 5 – October 26

2015
January 22 – February 12
May 20 – June 12
September 15 – October 10

2016
January 6 – January 26
April 29 – May 23
August 31 – September 23
December 20 – January 9

Have you ever had a negative experience you think is the fault of Mercury’s retrograde motion? Share it below!

12 comments

1 Sun moon stars { 02.25.14 at 12:09 am }

For as long as I can remember my mom and grandma have said be careful, Mercury is about to go retrograde. And until I became a truly open minded adult did I understand what that meant. Boy does the fit seem to hit the shan! I try not to make any important decisions, nor do I push for important things to be completed. I also notice people seem to lose their minds! I still have to live and let live, however I try hard to do it carefully and quietly! Easier said than done usually. I also realize that “bad” things that happen can be changed for the better when it goes direct.

2 Blueviolet { 11.06.13 at 7:15 pm }

I”m a virgo HELP.

3 Walter { 10.30.13 at 9:08 am }

This is very enlighting to say the least.

4 kennak { 10.28.13 at 8:44 pm }

I like the part where you explained the phenomenon of two cars passing on a highway. the one being passed appearing to be going backwards. I knew what going retrograde meant but did not know it was an optical illusion. all along I know the planet actually went backwards. thank you for this article, it’s such an eye opener

5 Chelsea { 10.25.13 at 9:27 am }

Wow. That might explain a bit of our recent misfortunes- my fiance was hospitalized with pulmonary embolism, we had to cancel our original wedding day and reception, he was released for light duty at work but work doesn’t do light duty so we lost our income until he’s back to normal, the speedometer needle fell off my van, we can’t afford the rent, or the repair on the van… Not sure I can take another 2 weeks of this though :(

6 Elana { 10.25.13 at 9:06 am }

Thank you for not coming at this as a skeptic, and just explained what it means.

7 Michael Cleland { 10.24.13 at 10:04 am }

Mercury Retro grade is also a good time to make up with past friends that we have fought with.

8 Janet groves { 10.24.13 at 9:59 am }

im blameing the cardnals loseing last night on Mercury retrograde ! lol

9 N Crowell { 10.23.13 at 10:14 pm }

Thank You for the article – I now feel validated! I have been aware of the effects of Mercruy R for many years – especially paperwork issues creating delays …it’s good to triple check and check again during Mercury R. (I use the knowledge effectively at work, though I can’t really talk about it, because I get the crazy looks – I just find the mistakes and correct the problems as much as possible.)

10 Christina { 10.23.13 at 5:05 pm }

Thank you very much for explaining this. I have always heard people talk about “Mercury in retrograde” but I never knew what they meant exactly.

11 Marilyn J { 10.23.13 at 10:07 am }

Jaime, great explanation of retrograde! I learned a lot from your article.
thank you!

12 Ken { 10.23.13 at 9:00 am }

I remember a friend who use to be a regretionist told me about Mercury moving excessively in its retrograde and warned me by saying Uranus might heat up. Crazy ole coot.

Leave a Comment

Note: Comments that further the discussion of the above content are likely to be approved. Those comments that are vague or are simply submitted in order to promote a product, service or web site, although not necessarily considered "spam," are generally not approved.

If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.