“Don’t start anything when Mercury is in retrograde. A large communications organization notes that magnetic storms, disrupting messages, are prolonged when Mercury appears to be going backward. Mercury, of course, is the planet associated with communication.”
So read an April 1979 issue of The Baltimore Sun, but the practice of blaming astrology in general – and Mercury retrograde specifically – began long before that (as far back as the mid-18th century, actually). British agricultural almanacs at the time, which helped farmers know when to plant, noted the event, and 19th century publications like The Astrologer’s Magazine and The Science of the Stars both connected Mercury retrograde with heavy rainfall.
It began to be associated with ill omen, and since the Roman god Mercury was said to govern travel, commerce, financial wealth and communication, it followed that Mercury appearing to go backward across the sky would be associated with poor timing.
And that, in case you’re wondering, is exactly what Mercury being in “retrograde” means – it happens because a year on Mercury is shorter than a year on earth. When Earth and Mercury are next to one another on the same side of the sun, Mercury looks like it’s moving east, but when it overtakes us, its straight trajectory seems to change course.
In 2019, that means March 5-28, July 7-August 2, and October 31-November 20.
According to astronomer Dr. Mark Hammergren, it’s nothing more than a trick of perspective.
“Same thing if you were passing a car on a highway, maybe going a little bit faster than they are. They’re not really going backwards, they just appear to be going backwards relative to your motion.”
In other scientific news…there’s zero evidence or belief in scientific communities that Mercury (going either direction) has any effect on people or situations or anything at all.
“We don’t know of any physical mechanism that would cause things like power outages or personality changes in people,” Dr. Hammergren told Mental Floss. When things go wrong and Mercury isn’t retrograde, “we don’t get the hashtag. It’s called Monday.”
But if it makes you feel better to have something out of your control to blame your troubles on, by all means, carry on!