Reality check: Can Mercury retrograde really affect your life?

Mercury is known as the planet that rules all communication. Illustration: Laura Whelan

You’re fighting with your partner, you lost a piece of important paperwork, and an old friend called you out of the blue. A series of odd events? Maybe, but some folks may chalk it up to Mercury retrograde.

Mercury retrograde is when the planet Mercury appears to be moving backwards (or retrograde) when viewed from the Earth. This is an optical illusion due to differences in orbit, Time notes. But for those who believe in astrology, Mercury retrograde holds great significance.

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Mercury is known as the planet that rules all communication, B.C.-based astrologist Georgia Nicols explains. This means that when Mercury appears retrograde, people may experience communication issues, problems with technology, or even things like lost mail.

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“Mercury rules everything that goes from A to B: information, cars, trucks, bikes, transportation, courier services, postal services. It also rules any kind of service, like accounting services,” Nicols told Global News.

What can happen when Mercury is retrograde?

Nicols says Mercury retrograde occurs around three times a year, and when it happens, the things the planet rules tend to be “buggered up.”

This may mean if you’re meeting a friend for coffee, you go to the wrong cafe. Or you experience minor car troubles, like a flat tire. Since technology is also affected by Mercury retrograde, Nicols said, you may have internet problems or issues with your cell phone.

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Mercury retrograde can also bring up things from your past.

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“You run into exes and old friends,” Nicols explained.

“It’s [also] easy to be contemplative and to think back during Mercury retrograde, and it’s a very good time to see a shrink because you can more easily pull up stuff from your memory.”

According to Toronto-based astrologist and tarot reader Liz Worth, Mercury retrograde is not an all-or-nothing event.

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“I won’t tell you that all your technology will go haywire or that your summer vacation will be ruined because Mercury is retrograde,” she said.

“Instead, I encourage alignment with this energy. Know that mistakes and misunderstandings have a higher chance of happening now. Focus on improving your communication, be open and honest, and double-check important documents before finalizing them.”

How does Mercury retrograde work?

Worth explains that all planets go retrograde throughout the year, but since Mercury is the fastest moving planet, it has three retrograde periods this year, whereas Jupiter and Neptune only have one.

Nicols says that Mercury moves through different astrological signs throughout the year, like Leo or Taurus, every two to three weeks.

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“But when it goes retrograde, then it is hovering in that sign for about six weeks,” she said.

What sign Mercury is “hovering” in can affect people in different ways. Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo, meaning those with that astrological sign may be more affected by Mercury retrograde.

“Every time Mercury goes retrograde it’s in a different sign, therefore it has a different quality,” Nicols said. “It will hit people in a different way because it falls on their chart in a different area.”

What does science say?

According to Dan Falk, a science journalist and author of The Science of Shakespeare​, the idea that Mercury retrograde can affect people’s lives is nonsense.

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“All of the planets sometimes appear to move in ‘retrograde’; it’s a label that astronomers use to describe a certain kind of apparent planetary motion (‘apparent’ because it’s just how the planet appears to move as seen from Earth),” he told Global News.

“Of course, it has no effect whatsoever on anyone’s lives… astrology is basically bunk.”

Nicols agrees that the planets do not affect our behaviour — only the sun and the moon do, she said — but still maintains that when Mercury appears retrograde, people notice.

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While she cannot explain it, she says some people may be more sensitive to events, or are more firm believers in astrology.

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“We all feel Mercury retrograde, there is no question. Some less than others,” she said.

Should you be concerned about Mercury retrograde?

While skeptics may not care when the planet is retrograde, those who do believe may want to take note of certain things. Nicols says Mercury retrograde isn’t a scary thing, but it can affect starting new projects or tasks.

Both Nicols and Worth say Mercury retrograde may not be the best time to buy any new technology, or start a new business venture. You may experience issues or delays, or face continual roadblocks.

“If you have to move ahead with something like a major decision, then by all means do it,” Worth said.

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“Trust that there are always other influences at work; Mercury isn’t the only game in town. Just take extra time to read through any agreements and ask the questions you need to feel totally clear.”

What Mercury retrograde is helpful for, however, is getting old tasks done. Nicols said if you’ve had a home project you’ve been sitting on for months, it’s a great time to finish it once and for all.

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And even though Nicols says people shouldn’t be overly worried about Mercury retrograde, she still advises folks to avoid certain things while the planet is doing its thing.

“Never buy a car, a truck or computer,” she said.

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