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COLUMN: Mercury is in retrograde this month. What does that even mean?



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Mercury, the left symbol, retrogrades, or appears to orbit backward, three to four times a year. Mercury will retrograde in Pisces from March 5 to 28. Kathryn de la Rosa Buy Photos

Mercury will go retrograde for almost all of March.

Astrology’s re-entry into pop culture has made Mercury retrograde an instant Twitter trend as amateur astrologists use it as an excuse for mistakes and see it as a harbinger of doom. But what Mercury retrograde actually is gets lost in all this panic. 

A planetary retrograde is when a planet appears to spin backwards from our Earth-centric point of view. Astronomers call it “apparent retrograde motion” because planets don’t actually reverse their direction of orbit. It’s an optical illusion caused by planets moving at different speeds.

When a planet retrogrades, its astrological function is thrown off balance. We lived through Venus retrograde last fall, a nearly two-month struggle with romance and self-love. I was born during a Mars retrograde and I've never confronted anyone in my life.

Mercury retrogrades this Tuesday through March 28. Since Mercury rules communication, this month is difficult for making plans and maintaining contact.

It’s not the greatest transit to loom over spring break or the slog of springtime job applications. I’ve heard astrologers specifically point to technology during Mercury retrograde — shattered phone screens, undelivered emails, data loss and all manner of 21st century horrors.

Mercury isn’t here to help anyone working with fine details. This month, quadruple check your calendar. Hit  “save” more often than you think you should.

While all of this amounts to a month of external, practical nuisances, Mercury also rules intellect. The ways we process information can suffer during Mercury retrograde. If your brain feels scrambled or you struggle to articulate your thoughts, be patient with yourself.

This transit is a prime time for putting your foot in your mouth and unintentionally offending others, which can go both ways. If you perceive someone as attacking you, consider that both their expression and your reception are not their sharpest this month.

Be patient with yourself and sensitive to those around you. You can’t blame Mercury retrograde for everything. Take care and take responsibility.

Transits for March 3-9

New moon in Pisces, March 6: The perfect alignment of the sun and moon marks the beginning of a new lunar cycle and an opportunity to set goals. This new moon fits snugly into the start of Mercury retrograde, so take a second to set the foundations you need in order to make it through the month. But because it’s in Pisces, this isn’t a time for practical tasks. Prioritize your spirit.

Sun conjunct Neptune, March 6: Since it’s a new moon — when the sun and moon sit on top of each other in the same degree — consider this a triple conjunction of the sun, moon and Neptune all in Pisces. Neptune is Pisces’ ruling planet. It’s the planet of intuition, fantasy and anxiety that isn’t too concerned with the physical plane. This conjunction can make entering Mercury retrograde feel like a fever dream.

Sun sextile Saturn, March 8: Saturn rules structure, self-discipline and staying organized. With Saturn favorably aspected to the sun, this is a good time to sober up from the whack Pisces energy of the week and check back in on reality. Bust out the planner you’ve neglected. Make a master list of emails to send.

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