Mercury’s In Retrograde, But What Does That Actually Mean?
Collage by Emily Zirimis; photos by Arthur Elgort/Conde Nast/Contour via Getty Images and Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Paige Knapp didn’t think moving in with her boyfriend would be such a headache. Shortly before her lease was up, when they were soon to live in blissful cohabitation, her longtime partner had a revelation: “I think I’m going to move back home to Long Island.” She knew he’d been looking to make a career shift, and decamping to his parents made more logistical sense then remaining in Philadelphia. Knapp, who works in PR, was supportive of his choice but was left stressed and without a plan. “I had nowhere to move into.”

For most of her life, Knapp was convinced that any time things in her life were out of whack, it was due to a full moon. This time, blindsided by the turn of events and in search of an explanation, she discovered it wasn’t a full moon but, in fact, Mercury retrograde, an astrological phenomenon in which the planet appears, from Earth, to move backwards in its orbit. In the astrology world, Mercury retrograde is believed to cause communication issues, contractual headaches, technology blips and/or financial headaches. Astrology experts say, in Knapp’s case, moving in with a new roommate or making big decisions during Mercury retrograde is risky, since you may not have all the information needed to make a realized choice during this time. Mercury retrograde is also said to present the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past, pick up old hobbies, reevaluate current routines or reconsider old flames.

Mercury retrograde occurs three to four times a year due to the planet’s 88-day orbit around the sun. (If you divide Earth’s 365-day orbit by Mercury’s 88, you’ll get roughly four.) Mercury has the appearance of moving backwards in the sky because it’s catching up to and passing the slower-moving Earth. August 2017’s retrograde began on the 12th and will last until September 5th.

While it’s easy (and sometimes fun) to claim Mercury retrograde is the culprit for our misfortunes, is it possible that anyone really believes in this stuff?

“It’s something I knew about but I didn’t know the connection,” Knapp says. “I would see people tweet ‘Mercury is in retrograde so my life is shitty.’”

This time around, Knapp isn’t just a believer, she’s prepared: She’s paid all her bills early and vows to slow down and take more mindful approaches to any decisions that have to be made.

“I’ve quite literally planned my life around the next few weeks,” Knapp says. “During a former retrograde, I somehow forgot to pay my electric and credit card and my gym, which I would never do.”

Astrologer Eric Francis Coppolino, who writes the horoscopes for Marie Claire and New York Daily News, among others, says that the mind is most greatly impacted during periods of Mercury retrograde compared to times when Mercury is stationed direct, so acting too quickly and not paying attention to details would account for these slips in responsibility. We can even create nonexistent problems for ourselves, he says.

“The most important thing to do is to stop and think before making any major decisions or trying to solve problems,” Coppolino explains. “Often during Mercury retrograde you think you have a problem you don’t really have. If you try to fix it, you’ll make it worse. Slowing down is about making sure you actually do have a problem and you’re actually solving it.”

Coppolino also notes that this current retrograde occurs in Virgo, which allows for the potential for information to be dug up or some truth to come to light. More fun planetary stuff: There’s a solar eclipse set during Mercury retrograde.

“It’s turning up the energy on everything,” he says.

If it seems like the masses have decried the effects of Mercury retrograde more so in recent years, it’s because of our tech obsession, according to Coppolino. As a society, we’re more attached to our phones and computers than in decades past. Since Mercury retrograde can impact communication and gadgets, there’s more of an opportunity for glitches.

Keiko El is a 24-year-old Philadelphia-based model, entrepreneur and founder of a program called Afro Witch, which promotes the growth, education and practices of witches of color. Like Knapp, after a rough Mercury retrograde that included leaving a job and starting therapy, Keiko made plans to face the current retrograde fully armed. She’s changed her outlook on any possible hardships that may arise and is prepared to see them as an opportunity to reflect and adjust.

“I’ve tried to change my perspective and think, ‘This certain thing is happening now because I’m not meant to be going down this path.’ It’s all about perspective when it comes to handling Mercury retrograde.”

Galina Nemirovsky, a 43-year-old writer based in New Jersey, is trying to keep that approach in mind as she embarks on a road trip this Mercury retrograde. During other times of planetary shifts, her apartment has flooded and, on a separate occasion, she’s gotten some minor bumps and bruises. Her prior experiences aren’t enough for her to cancel her vacation, but she’s aware of the season’s effects on her plans. She’s allotted an extra day of travel and was sure to book hotels that had an extra star.

“You can look at it two ways: ‘Shit I’m doomed’ and hole yourself up, or you can be really cautious,” Nemirovsky says.

And then there are those who use Mercury retrograde to throw caution to the wind. Coppolino says that creative types tend to thrive during this time because it offers different ways of thinking and approaching challenges.

“There’s a tweak in the normal pattern of thought,” Coppolino says. “If you’re going on a canoe trip, of course you want rapids. No one wants to paddle through a lake.”

Still, why rock the boat during a risky month? Coppolino suggests slowing down, considering all the points of view and not making any rash decisions, especially during the planet’s reverse in Virgo, where much will be revealed in early September when retrograde is complete.

“With Mercury retrograde, the principal metaphor is there’s more information coming,” he says. “You have to admit you don’t know everything when Mercury’s retrograde.”

What I do have to know is: how do you feel about Mercury retrograde? Do you prepare for it?

Allie Volpe is a culture, music, and entertainment writer based in Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter @allieevolpe

Mercury’s already in retrograde, but you can still get a head start on the return of baguette before September.

Get more Pop Culture ?
  • Well, I am using it to do good deeds 🙂 – if someone complains about bad things happening to them, I mention Mercury with a wink and hope to ellicit a smile, which usually lightens the mood and can be helpful.

    (I have managed to cause a few financial problems for myself these few days, due to bad luck and lack of attention, so I have decided to skip doing anything “dangerous”, like shopping, going some places etc. I don’t really care whether this is the retrograde or something else (i.e. lack of sleep, the usual stupidity) – I can feel I am not at my best and it’s better to lay low for some time.)

    • JON B.

      Well stated, as Mercury goes direct on September 5, 2017. There are 4 Mercury cycles this year; one in January, another in April, the 3rd one now, and the last, in December. This usually brings ominous happenings, and can be a forewarning of wars and conflicts globally.

      Try and buy nothing during a Mercury retrograde cycle, which usually lasts about 3-3 1/2 weeks in duration. For if you do sign contracts, purchase major things or make major purchases, chances are VERY GOOD that you shall get a bum rap soon afterwards. Don’t trust ANY electronics, cell phones, cars, etc., as they have a tendency to break down now, and anything new that is purchased will be broken or come with hidden defects and so forth. Never fails. These things have gone on in the universe for literally billions of years. Mercury Retrograde is an event that has been occurring for millions of years. It didn’t just start when WE bloody well showed up! People are so deluded. They think that there was no other truth prior to man’s arrival on earth; as though everything started with HIM! Ridiculous! Insane!

      Or they think that just because they don’t understand something that automatically makes it false or strange or untrue. How foolish is man.


      • Jeanne P

        “It is a wise person who rules the stars, a fool who is ruled by them – Over and out.” -Darrell Martinie, The Cosmic Muffin

  • starryhye

    I stopped believing in astrology in middle school. I find it funny that so many people put so much stock in their horoscopes. It’s all too hippy dippy voodoo for me

  • Amelia Diamond


  • Pterodactyl111

    Astrology is fun – I clicked on this article and read it, after all – but I would never ever plan my life around it.

    • JON B.

      Then you, my friend, have never studied TRUE astrology, but are instead addicted to othe bubble gum astrology found in most news papers that focus merely on ONE aspect of your chart; your SUN sign, at the exclusion of everything else. THIS IS NOT ASTROLOGY; it is protracted nonsense and has no place in the research and science that is astrology.

      I urge you to study deeper to understand more of the secrets of the universe.

      They are there, if you learn to ask the RIGHT questions!

      “It’s only impossible until it isn’t. Then what? Guess it was possible all along; we just needed to wake the hell up first!” – Jon B.


      • spicyearlgrey


        • JON B.

          How easily entertained are the ignorant and small minded. Never takes much to make them laugh at themselves, either.


      • Pterodactyl111

        Astrology is not a science.

        • JON B.

          YOU are not a scientist, therefore, the burden of proof is on YOU, dishonest and uneducated derelict!


  • Court E. Thompson

    On one hand, I don’t believe astrology directly affects and changes my life but on the other, I feel like I’ve noticed too many small correlations between my life and astrological happenings to totally discount it. Like the Saturn returning to my birth chart at age 29 thing was all too real.

    That said, bring it on Mercury.

    • Jasming Arce

      The energetic weather that is described through astrological readings are quite useful when used to create a life you desire instead of letting life just happen to you. With that being said, you will notice small correlations when you are more closely aligned to the truth of who you are (so I applaud you). If you begin to view these readings, btw, Thank you Allie, as blueprints on how to proceed in a new season of your life you will definitely be very pleased by all of the magical experiences you get to witness. Best of love, joy and happiness <3

  • granny franny

    ummmm a lot to consider here. I’ve only hear the term “mercury is in retrograde” twice in my whole 47 yrs of life and since a pretty big part of it has been the result of bad decisions maybe i should actually pay attention to the charts from now on.

  • JON B.

    Astrology and Astronomy were once brothers, but after the sinking of Atlantis approx. 13,000 years ago, they were DELIBERATELY separated by the Brotherhood of the Snake, who felt that this knowledge was better off left in the hands of the secret societies down through the ages including, but not limited to the Knights Templar, Rosicrucians, Illuminati and the NWO. Thus keeping most of mankind in the chains of spiritual bondage and ignorance for thousands of years. Most evil bit of business it is but now they are beginning to be destroyed, as all the truth is now coming forth and outward, just as the prophets of every race and society have foretold for thousands of years, thus freeing mankind from the shackles and chains of the wheels of repetitive vile, violent, sorrowful incarnations and endless reincarnations once and for all.

    Therefore, Astrology and Astronomy shall once again be united in the brotherhood that they were originally conceived in millions of years ago on other worlds and in other galaxies far away from earth.

    “Knowledge is power, yes. But only if we possess the common sense and courage to use it. This isn’t easy. It takes more strength than you might believe.” – Jon B.

    • Ha ha ha … 😀

      • JON B.



  • Laura Trouille

    I have so much respect for this online space, how you strive to create an empowering and supportive space. Please, please don’t post pseudo science articles that undermine all that you are building and creating together.

    -a devoted reader and fan

  • I Believe 👽

    When Mercury was in retrograde during a vackay last winter, I left my laptop on a plane (!), had my luggage lost by the airline, and then handed my phone to my husband and had it handed it back moments later with a cracked screen. While on that vacation, I got Zika virus (!), a parasite, and nearly died while SCUBA diving.

    My family jokes that it only affects me because I believe in it… but tell that to the airline and mosquito! That ish be real!

  • Mariana Zanatta

    there is something that really bugs me when it comes to horoscope. In fact there are things that happen exactly how they describe in the charts, but how I am and how I deal with things that really makes the difference. For exemple: I know that mercury retrograde means all those things, but I am in a really good phase right now. I don’t feel like its hitting me. But in others times of my life, when all the planets are going strong and blissful for everyone, my life sucks. What I am trying to say is that maybe they have these influences, but it all comes to how you really are in that specific time of your life. Somehow like PMS. There are months that I am feeling amazing and the hormones just not have power over me. But after a break up, they are so mean to me. And I know that the amount of hormones are just the same every month. So what really makes a difference here is how I am feeling and how I deal with this.
    For me, the overall problem is that people tend to say “oh, you are Sagittarius with Capricorn. That means your month will suck”. Well, fuck you, universe. My month will be fantastic, thank you very much. You can try to influence me, but I am very aware over my power here. I don’t like the idea that we are just products of how the sky looks today or tomorrow. I am not trying to say that we are stronger than the forces of nature. But we are not puppets as well.

  • Ruth E Schmidt Collins

    i woke up this morning with a migraine, my glasses broke. over the last few days, my computer is dying, acts weird otherwise, my back door either wont open or wont shut, screws popping out, the threshold thing falling apart. I wondered “Is Mercury retrograde?” and here I am, with a resounding YES!

    I feel oddly proud of myself.

    • Allison Fishhead Burbank

      Yessss!!! Endless tales of things gone awry in my life this week…of course!

  • CM

    Astrology is a >5000 year old science and these types of articles are way too simplistic to do it any justice. Jyotish (Indian astrology) is something that takes years of study to fully comprehend, so taking one planetary alignment and asserting to understand all of its implications is just fallacious.

  • Néo Bourgeois — Christum

    Bums moving back home lol, what does that have to do with astrology. The eastcoast sucks can’t even see stars over there.

  • claraj

    I so wish this had included even a sentence or two noting that science has proven no connection ever, even slightly, for a nano-second between how the planets move and whether you break up with your boyfriend. This is optional belief stuff, enjoy it if you will, but it has zippo basis in provable scientific fact.

  • Gabe Vangilder

    It totally effects my life in a negative way, i feel groggy, even when i get lots of sleep, spritually messed up, it makes me look at my hobbies as bad things, at work life sucks when it nornally doesnt! Weird and horrible events happen, like i just lost my boss and they replaced em with somebody off the steeet who i bet hasent even been there a year! Yeah some august retrograde can bite my ass! I always go in with full knowledge of how horrible retrograde can be, try too be possitve, i always end up being torn down, longing for its end!