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Murphy's Law

as defined in the cosmos
Mercury retrograde

Sometimes, weird stuff just seems to 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 Sun.

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 on Nov. 6, the exact day when Mercury was 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.

In the end Obama easily won his re-election. The water got boiled away, and with no rerun of the 2000 Bush-Gore fiasco. Did that mean the US was out of the woods? Not a chance. Mercury retrograde and its snarls and upsets permeated Obama's second term of office. Obama had a four-year-long Mercury retrograde to contend with. Ouch. Let's take a look: a rancorous Congress and then move on to a shaky economy. That's enough right there, but the snarl-ups didn't stop at that. How about Obamacare? Uh, yes, politely one might call that a big snarl-up. Do we dare mention Edward Snowden? The Obama administration used stronger language than "snarl-up" to describe Snowden and his revelations about NSA spying.

Is there more to come? Perhaps. It's now the end of the Obama years and the fat lady is getting ready to sing. We'll have to wait and see what president-elect Trump might do to wipe out the Mercury retrograde legacy of President Obama. ObamaCare has proven to be such a mess that revisions or repeal may be in the offing.

The only consolation in all of this is that the Americans did their 2016 election a bit differently. Mercury was *not* retrograde, and yes the result was clear and decisive. But pay attention to President Trump. He is a Gemini, which is ruled by Mercury. When Mercury goes retrograde during his presidency (see the chart below for dates), look for presidential snarl-ups.

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 the retrograde.
  • 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 retrograde
  • 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 really need to learn). 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

Begins:     (stationary retrograde)
Ends:     (stationary direct)
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
18:13 p.m. GMT
Thursday, March 28, 2019
13:55 p.m. GMT
Sunday, July 7, 2019
23:10 p.m. GMT
Thursday, August 1, 2019
3:54 a.m. GMT
Thursday, October 31, 2019
15:35 p.m. GMT
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
19:06 p.m. GMT
Monday, February 17, 2020
0:48 a.m. GMT
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
3:44 a.m. GMT
Thursday, June 18, 2020
4:54 a.m. GMT
Sunday, July 12, 2020
8:22 a.m. GMT
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
1:00 a.m. GMT
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
17:45 p.m. GMT
Saturday, January 30, 2021
15:46 p.m. GMT
Sunday, February 21, 2021
0:48 a.m. GMT
Saturday, May 29, 2021
22:29 p.m. GMT
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
21:57 p.m. GMT
Monday, September 27, 2021
5:04 a.m. GMT
Monday, October 18, 2021
15:11 p.m. GMT


You will have to convert the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) listings above to your local time. Check the listing below for your time zone, and you can convert the beginning and end of Mercury retrograde to your local time. The listings below are in standard time and do not take into account daylight (summer) time, which is still irregular in many places. If you are unsure about the time zone conversion, then Click here for the GMT website which can give you today's date, exact current time, and time zone (including daylight/summer time) for your locality.

Western Hemisphere:
Brazil Zone 2 subtract 3 hours
Newfoundland Standard Time subtract 3 1/2 hours
Atlantic Standard Time subtract 4 hours
Eastern Standard Time subtract 5 hours
Central Standard Time subtract 6 hours
Mountain Standard Time subtract 7 hours
Pacific Standard Time subtract 8 hours
Yukon Standard Time subtract 9 hours
Alaska-Hawaii Std Time subtract 10 hours
Hawaiian Standard Time subtract 10-1/2 hours
Bering Standard Time subtract 11 hours
   Europe,   Africa,   Asia,  & Pacifica:   
Greenwich Time (UK) Add 0 hours
Central European Time Add 1 hours
Eastern European Time Add 2 hours
Baghdad Time Add 3 hours
Iran Time Add 3 1/2 hours
USSR Zone 3 Add 4 hours
USSR Zone 4 Add 5 hours
Indian Time Add 5 1/2 hours
USSR Zone 5 Add 6 hours
North Sumatra Time Add 6 1/2 hours
USSR Zone 6 Add 7 hours
Java Time Add 7 1/2 hours
Australian Western ST Add 8 hours
Moluccas Time Add 8 1/2 hours
Japan Standard Time Add 9 hours
Australian Central ST Add 9 1/2 hours
Australian Eastern ST Add 10 hours
USSR Zone 10 Add 11 hours
New Zealand Time Add 11 1/2 hours
New Zealand Standard Add 12 hours

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