Whether you're into Astrology or not, Mercury in retrograde has become a modern catchphrase … preceded by a sigh of foreboding. This weird planetary phenomenon occurs three times in most years, but as if we are not challenged enough at the moment, it goes into retrograde four times this year and on December 29th it goes into retrograde again. Mercury is the planet of communication, technology and travel; it also has domain over the five senses.
So, what does Mercury in retrograde mean? Does this quicksilver planet literally go backwards? Can that happen? No, it's actually an optical illusion where it appears to go backwards - the science behind it is as follows: this speedy planet sits closer to the sun (as one of the inner planets) than the Earth, and its orbit around the sun is just 88 days compared to Earth's which is 365.25 - in lay terms it travels four times as fast around the sun in comparison to the one cycle it takes the Earth.
Therefore, when Earth and Mercury are on the same side of the sun, Mercury moves through the sky from west to east, and as it overtakes Earth in its inner orbit, it looks like its changed direction and goes retrograde, from our POV here on Earth. In truth, it has just slowed down. A good analogy would be when you're on a stationary train and on another platform the train begins to move; it can make you feel like your train is going backwards, its all down to position and perspective.
All planets in our solar system go retrograde; in September, we had 6 planets in retrograde - Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto; think of the planets as how we develop ourselves; Jupiter relates to how we gather knowledge, Saturn how we work, and Mercury how we think. These three are known as inner planets due to their proximity to the sun, whereas Neptune, Uranus and Pluto represent a particular generational time and perspective, and their retrograde could be considered a group call to action concerning our community. So you can imagine the intensity felt collectively at the end of September and into October.
Mercury rules over all the moving parts of life and tends to play havoc with things like travel (inevitably, there will be a delay or something will break down). Don't even think about buying a computer or new phone while it is in retrograde as it will likely have a problem. And try not to sign a contract as you may find you've missed a detail and will only have to renegotiate later. Communication is affected too, there's a strong chance of some misunderstanding or of being misconstrued.
Mercury in retrograde is the only event that affects everyone, but more significantly, the signs Gemini and Virgo because it’s the star sign they're ruled by. The general feeling is one of chaos and flux with no clear understanding of what direction things are moving in, creating a sense of instability and foreboding.
We live in empirical times, we place a lot of focus on science; the truth is that our ancient predecessor’s, many thousands of years ago were much more connected to the stars, planets and earth cycles than our civilisation today. This was their science, they charted their routes with the stars and fully understood the push and pull of the magnetic flow and the celestial bodies that influenced them, later called planets. Of course, there are lots of theories that try to rationalise this phenomenon, because we see humankind as outside of nature.
The truth is that with the inception of quantum physics, many of the concepts initially described and dismissed as woo-woo have now found credence through great thinkers like Einstein who spoke of his theory of relativity. Later this was described by physicist Max Planck who was one of the originators of quantum theory as follows:
'As man has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, the study of matter, I can tell you through my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such.
All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds the most minute system of atoms together.
We must assume behind the force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.'
With this in mind, I reflect on the idea of frequency and vibrations, terms used a lot in the healing spectrum, and often dismissed as unfounded. The basis of energy work acknowledges the magnetic flow of energy; yoga practitioners believe that prana flows through our body or the Chinese understanding of the sensation and flow of Qi. Yet we still find it hard to understand these magnetic forces and their effect on our own electro-magnetic field that push and pull the subtle energy balance of our body. One explanation of the impact of Mercury in retrograde is the powerful gravitational force that Mercury exerts on the water in our bodies, we are 60% water and our blood is 90% water and highly conductive.
I know there are a lot of negatives around Mercury in retrograde, but conversely, it's a great time to review old projects and reconnect with old friends - it's the perfect time to reassess and reevaluate your life and see if there are changes to be made. Just remember to be extra careful, don't over stretch yourselves and fall in to familiar old habits to comfort you. Instead, find good in stillness, always check you have your keys if you're going out and computer-wise, make sure you’ve backed up everything.