Sometimes, stuff just happens. If you're concerned that the
cosmos had it in for you recently, check the table below
to see if Mercury might have been retrograde.
Retrograde Mercury is the most commonly known astrological
signature for Murphy's Law ("If something can go wrong, it will"), and is
one of the first features intermediate astrology students learn about. Say it
to a seasoned astrologer and you'll likely get an amused smile and some
delightful stories about how things can get quite unexpectedly unhinged.
Computers crash, software develops unexpected glitches, traffic jams
ensue, telephone service snarls up, letters get lost in the mail, machinery
breaks down, new projects fail. Ah, yes, the trickster Mercury is up to his
old pranks again. In fact, at least three times a year for about three weeks
each time Mercury has his way with us.
First let's look at what Mercury retrograde is, and then look at what
can be done about it.
Those of a keen astronomical bent actually watch the planets each
night as they travel through the zodiac. Mercury, which is only visible
just before sunrise or just after sunset travels in a forward direction most
of the time.
But three or four times a year, if you care to watch carefully, it
appears to turn around and go backwards for about three weeks! Now
Mercury really isn't going backwards. It's just an optical illusion based on
the relative speeds and orbits of the Earth and Mercury around the
Here's an easy example. Think of riding in a fast car on an
expressway which is passing a slower-moving car. The slower moving
car appears to be moving backward, but it isn't
really. It's just the relative speed and direction of the two cars gives
that illusion. Retrograde Mercury is similar to that.
The apparent backward motion of Mercury is called retrograde, and it has been known and studied in western astrology for thousands of years.
In general the effect of Mercury retrograde is annoyance. Little things get snarled up and a low-grade frustration emerges. Anything involving communications, verbal activity, technology, short trips and journeys, primary education, and siblings can be affected.
While Mercury retrograde usually is in the minor irritant category, every now and then a colossal screw-up can take place.
For instance, the stock market crash of October, 2008, took place while Mercury was retrograde, although in all fairness a large number of other much stronger astrological indicators were also present pointing to a major financial failure. Retrograde Mercury was more like the astrological straw which broke the camel's back.
However, consider the Bush-Gore 2000 American presidential election in Florida. Now there's a classic colossal screw-up, and we can point our finger directly at Mercury retrograde.
For reasons best known to the Americans, they chose to have their 2000 presidential election on the exact day when Mercury retrograde energy peaked, called stationary direct. Oh, my goodness. In the end, after weeks of wrangling and legal battles, George W. Bush was declared the winner. History now records what a mess he made of virtually everything he did for the next eight years, a classic Mercury retrograde presidency.
(FWIW, astrologers, too, learned much from that Florida election. For instance, prior to the Florida election I had always thought a dimpled Chad was a good-looking man.)
One might think that after eight years of George W. Bush, the Americans might show a bit of respect for what Mercury retrograde can do to an election. But, no, that's not how things are done in the United States. The 2012 presidential election went ahead as scheduled to be held on Nov. 6, the exact day when Mercury is stationary retrograde.
Note two differences between the 2012 and the 2000 elections. The first is that in the 2000 election the Mercury retrograde was at the station which ended the retrograde, and in the 2012 election the Mercury retrograde will be at the station which begins the retrograde. Having made that distinction (which astrologers will relish thoroughly), for the rest of us just understand that both stations can snarl things up enormously. The beginning and ending stations are when the retrograde is the strongest.
The other difference is that in 2000 there was no incumbent running for re-election. It was anyone's race. In 2012 we had President Obama running for re-election. He's a Leo and Leos love the imperial limelight. The Republicans nominated Mitt Romney, a Pisces, as their candidate. A fire sign (Leo) versus a water sign (Pisces). Either the fire is extinguished or the water boils away.
But in the end Obama had won his re-election. The water got boiled away, and with no rerun of the 2000 Bush-Gore fiasco. Does that mean the US is out of the woods? Not a chance. Mercury retrograde and its snarls and upsets will permeate Obama's second term of office. Imagine a US president with a four-year-long Mercury retrograde to contend with. Ouch. We can start with the still-rancorous Congress and then move on to a shaky economy. That's enough right there, but who knows what snarlups await undetected? We'll find out sooner rather than later.
Anyway, getting back to your life, with only a small amount foresight here are the precautions you can take to prevent colossal screw-ups in your life during the next Mercury retrograde:
- If at all possible, avoid signing legal documents.
- If at all possible, finish projects which involve communication before
- If at all possible, avoid closing big deals during the retrograde
- If at all possible, avoid launching new projects during the retrograde
- If at all possible, avoid scheduling meetings to make a big decision
- Allow extra time when travelling
- Backup your hard drive before the retrograde
- If at all possible, avoid installing new computer software during the
- Do needed repairs on machinery before the retrograde
- Do not hold an election during the retrograde.
This is not to say Mercury retrograde is always a bad thing. Far from
it. It is actually an ideal time to do some other things, like:
- Do the follow-ups on a project already started
- Wrapup or complete a project already started
- Research a new project thoroughly
- Catch up on paperwork
- Hold an information-sharing meeting
- Enjoy someone's wacky sense of humour
To find out how Mercury retrograde might affect you personally usually requires a fair knowledge of astrology (which could take months or years to learn) or a visit to your friendly local astrologer who can check the unique placements in your natal chart and guide you appropriately.
Check the table below for the next few times when Mercury will be retrograde. Note that the retrograde is particularly strong at the very beginning and the very end (as the Americans are learning the hard way). These beginning and ending points are called stations by astrologers.
All listed dates and times are GMT, Greenwich Mean Time, so you will have to do a conversion to your local time zone. A conversion table for standard time zones is listed below as well.
Upcoming Mercury retrogrades