Woman to Women
Blame It on Mercury in Retrograde
It’s coming round the corner in September, so plan now to carry your luggage and back up your computer
Normally I would have walked, but the weather was foul and I wanted to look over some papers before an appointment. Seconds after I sat down on the train, I realized my folder was still on the kitchen counter. The train slowed to a crawl. The lights flickered and dimmed. I reached for my iPod, but after turning it on I was greeted with a sad-faced Apple. I’m sure you’ve had one of those days too. Instead of cursing the gods of Apple or of train service, I double-checked my calendar. Sure enough, Mercury was in retrograde.
Mercury, young messenger god in his winged sandals and hat, is the namesake of the smallest, swiftest planet in the solar system. In astrology the planet rules communication, transportation, mechanical things and planning. Kind of like an astrological Murphy’s Law, a retrograde Mercury allegedly causes computer glitches, misunderstandings among friends, deals to turn sour and typos to sneak into text.
I first became aware of the Mercury retrograde phenomenon when I worked at a radio station with Darrell Martinie, a syndicated astrologer known as the Cosmic Muffin. He was a star and I was starting out, but he always had time to ask about my life and show me his shopping finds. I particularly remember his purchase of a pink jumpsuit. Flamboyantly dressed in fur and cowboy boots, he was a true entertainer and painfully incisive in his personal observations.
Darrell tsk-tsked me for signing a lease and moving into a new apartment under a retrograde Mercury. On a dark street on the edge of a decent neighborhood, my tiny new apartment had a fireplace and an exposed brick wall, and the neighbors seemed so friendly. It was the only place where I could afford to live without a roommate. But things are not as they seem under a retrograde Mercury, and I soon found out my lovely upstairs neighbors were turning tricks.
I began to pay more attention to Darrell’s radio broadcasts and learned that the planet Mercury goes retrograde three times each year for approximately three weeks. The planet is not actually moving backward; it’s an illusion created by Earth’s orbital path, kind of like if you were on a fast-moving train and a slower one was riding next to you. The slower train would appear to be backing up.
During the times when Mercury is retrograde, astrology advises that you do not sign contracts or begin new projects – they’ll manifest in unexpected ways. But it’s a great time to revise plans or reflect on new directions. It’s a good idea to have a hard-copy backup of the phone numbers in your cell, since mechanical problems are likely. Do look over that list, and use the time to reacquaint yourself with old friends. Long-distance travel is not advised, but you’ll find great success with your home-improvement projects. Mercury rules the thinking process, so you’ll be more likely to forget names and crucial details but also might come up with an unexpected idea. It’s not the best time to get married, give a party or wait for a check to come in the mail. During a retrograde Mercury period, you should expect delays. As Darrell always advised, leave extra time, carry your luggage instead of checking it and pack an extra dose of patience.
I was wise to the ways of Mercury when I moved into my current home eight years ago; scheduling the move after Mercury turned direct in early November 2000. Who would have thought I’d be unpacking boxes to the talk of dimpled chads while the Bush-Gore election results were tallied and tallied again? The 2000 presidential election, held while Mercury was still in retrograde, evidenced all its telltale signs – mechanical breakdowns, botched communication, things not being as they seemed.
Mercury is direct for the 2008 election, but as former Vanity Fair astrologer Michael Lutin pointed out in the Huffington Post, the Super Tuesday primaries were held during the a retrograde Mercury period earlier this year. Because of this, he’s not surprised that no clear Democratic front-runner emerged and the primary battle dragged on.
But does retrograde Mercury really have an effect? The New York Times set out to see if there was any validity to astrologers’ claims. Some impacts defy easy quantification (personal miscommunication, botched restaurant orders, etc.) so the reporter turned to public transportation records. There was no evidence of an increase in reported traffic incidents or delayed regional trains. Air-travel delays were not statistically different during retrograde Mercury periods, but there was a slight uptick in lost-baggage rates. Based on this, the Times concluded, there was no noticeable Mercury retrograde effect.
I’m a Capricorn, a sign known for practicality, more likely to subscribe to what a newspaper concludes than to follow the advice of a guy in a pink jumpsuit and gold chains. Still, just in case, from September 24 to October 15, you’ll find me researching a new project, rearranging my living room, clearing out my desk and renewing friendships – after I back up my computer. I’ll watch for media snafus and miscommunication as the presidential campaign draws to a close – if I can get a cable signal. After all, as Darrell used to end his radio broadcast, “It’s a wise man who rules the stars and a fool who’s ruled by them.”