Mercury Retrograde or Mercury in Retrograde started Monday, May 18, according to astrologers, and doesn't end until June 11. Astrologers who believe that planetary positions affect our everyday lives see Mercury in Retrograde as one of the few times a year when the planet Mercury rotates at a slower-than-usual pace, giving it the illusion that it's moving backwards. This backward-seeming illusion has its parallel in our lives, they say, creating problems in communication, travel and even technology, hence its reputation as the planetary troublemaker.

"Mercury in retrograde has became the default explanation of what’s wrong with our world," writes one astrology debunker. "Don’t start a new job. Don’t close a deal. Avoid traveling. Don’t buy anything. Interestingly, Mercury’s retrograde is an illusion. This optical trick is a perfect metaphor for what astrology does to our brains: It gives order to a seemingly random universe. That doesn’t meant it’s real, however."


Real or not, people are looking up the definition of Mercury Retrograde in Google. And perhaps they're not just the 25 percent of Americans who dare to admit they believe in astrology, according to Pew Research, although "believe" might be a strong word for people who look up "mercury retrograde" in Google searches.

"I think that like most things it is a matter of context," Dr. Rami Kaminski, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, told International Business Times. "If it adds something to those who believe in it, then it is a positive thing. As conscious beings we have a complex relationship with the time behind us and ahead of us. We rue the past and fear the future. So anything that gives us some reassurance (even a false one) about the future is potentially positive. So the believer him or herself is not a problem. It is those who exploit others who have this belief that are the problem, but that is another issue."


Although Susan Miller of Astrology Zone, the most popular online astrology site, is prescriptive about Mercury in Retrograde, Aquarius Papers sees it more as a time for self-reflection, using the themes of Mercury Retrograde as signposts in a kind of guided self-analysis.

"Mercury rules all types of communication, including listening, speaking, learning, reading, editing, researching, negotiating, selling and buying. Mercury also rules all formal contracts and agreements, as well as important documents such as book manuscripts, term papers, agreements, deeds, contracts, leases, wills, and so forth. Included under this planet's domain are all types of code, including computer codes, as well as transportation, shipping and travel. When this planet retrogrades, these areas tend to get scrambled or spin out of control," writes Miller on Astrology Zone.

As a result, she advises readers not to: move; do "anything involving communications," including launching a magazine, website, or ad campaign; sign contracts; close on houses; start a new job; or hire someone. 


Although there's a tendency to see people who consult astrology as passive people who don't believe in their own volition ("The person who has an internal locus of control would not believe this nonsense"), or worse, as stupid ("epistemological bulls---"), astrological calls to self-examination could be seen as a form of self-help.

Says Robert Wilkinson of the Aquarius Papers, "Consider the next three weeks as an opening of new perspective, new understanding, and new ways of approaching or exploring something. This time will bring interesting insights through looking back or within about prior interactions, misunderstandings or miscommunications, and why certain things came down the way they did."

Or maybe just turn off your computer and pull down the shades on Memorial Day.