And we’re back. Starting today (at exactly 5:55 AM, ET) until January 7 (4:43 AM, ET), the planet Mercury has retrograded itself—for the fourth and final time this year.
Astronomy-wise, it doesn’t mean much; it refers to the three or four times a year when the planet Mercury orbits Earth so quickly, it appears to be moving backwards, but isn’t actually. (Same concept as when you’re riding in a car on the highway, and a train speeds by so fast, it looks like it’s falling behind you).
But astrologically, this optical illusion means a great deal. For adherents, Mercury’s deceptive backwards motion forecasts a time to lay low, reflect on the past and refrain from making any big decisions. They believe miscommunication is rampant; correspondence often delayed, from emails that don’t get sent, to snail mail returned to sender. Astrologers warn against signing contracts, purchasing or using electronics or making travel plans. Essentially, it’s an excuse to space out and hibernate, which, you gotta admit, for this particular Retrograde, fits nicely with the season.
During the yearly retrograde periods, you’ll hear chatter, online and in real life, about its odious effects—both from hard-core believers and cynical skeptics, who can’t stand talk of it. Then there are the wishy-washy, flaky types who maybe don’t even read their daily or even monthly horoscope, but, conveniently, are ready to blame the planet if they spill wine or their computer or an important work email fails to send.
Here is a sampling of the usual conversation on Twitter and a new trend this year—as many liken 2016's bad fortune to a kind of yearlong case of Retrograde. Which group do you fall into?
The die-hard believers:
Looking ahead, Mercury will go Retrograde from December 19 to January 8, a time of rest and reflection but NOT a time to buy electronics— Astrology Zone (@astrologyzone) November 27, 2016
i do not sign contracts during a mercury retrograde 👓🍷— Doe Paoro (@doepaoro) December 19, 2016
The eye-rolling skeptics:
It never fails to shock me how some of the most intelligent ppl I know genuinely believe mercury/retrograde made their week suck or whatever— Sam Escobar 👻 (@myhairisblue) December 19, 2016
@itsa_talia I, too, have a theory on Mercury retrograde, which is actually just gravity, planetary reference frames, and orbital mechanics— Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) December 9, 2016
The boys and girls who cry "Mercury Retrograde!"
not to stress you all out because astrology isn't real but there's another mercury retrograde coming up— lady midnight (@solongcharlotte) December 10, 2016
me: i don't really believe in stars & shit— Adam J. Kurtz (@adamjk) December 19, 2016
also me: mercury retrograde is here ring the alarm i've cracked the code this is why i feel crazy
i love mercury retrograde because i can blame all my self created problems on something else for a while— hayden☆ (@haydendepuy) December 19, 2016
The 2016 doomsdayers:
2016 would end in a Mercury Retrograde.— Vicki Chen (@vchen24) December 9, 2016
The electoral college is voting on the first day of #MercuryRetrograde, so like nothing could possibly go wrong.— Mary McMahon (@marymacklemore) December 19, 2016
Let's be honest, Mercury has been in retrograde for all of 2016. This year was pretty messed up. #MercuryRetrograde— Megha (@itsMegha) December 19, 2016
The day before electoral college vote & Mercury retrograde Trump's misspelling is "unpresidented." Please let that be foreshadowing?— The AstroTwins (@astrotwins) December 17, 2016