“Do not start anything when Mercury is retrograde. A major communications organization notes that magnetic storms, which disrupt messages, last longer when Mercury appears to be moving backwards. Mercury is, of course, the planet associated with communication.”
Those words appeared in an April 1979 issue of The Baltimore Sun, but the practice of blaming astrology in general—and Mercury retrograde in particular—started long before that (as early as the mid-18th century, in fact).
British agricultural almanacs at the time, which helped farmers know when to plant, noted the event, and 19th-century publications such as The Astrologer’s Magazine and The Science of the Stars associated Mercury retrograde with heavy rainfall.
It began to be associated with a bad omen, and since the Roman god Mercury was said to rule over travel, trade, financial wealth and communication, it followed that Mercury appearing to go backwards through the sky would be associated with bad timing.
And that, in case you’re wondering, is exactly what Mercury means in “retrograde” – it happens because a year on Mercury is shorter than a year on Earth. When Earth and Mercury are side by side on the same side of the Sun, Mercury appears to be moving east, but when it overtakes us, its straight orbit appears to change course.
According to astronomer Dr. Mark Hammergren, it’s nothing more than a trick with perspective.
“Same as you would pass a car on a highway, maybe a little faster than them. They don’t really go backwards, they just seem to go backwards relative to your movement.”
In other science news…there is no evidence or belief in any scientific community that Mercury (either way) has any effect on people or situations or anything.
“We don’t know of any physical mechanism that would cause things like power outages or personality changes in people,” Dr. Hammergren to Mental Floss. If 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 for your problems, then go for it!