Fear of Mercury ... The Planet, Not The Element
The New York Post reminded us the other day that superstitions are omnipresent, and perhaps more importantly, unrestricted by time or age.
Their article is asks the question: Why do “smart” people believe Mercury in retrograde can ruin their lives?
The quick answer – the one very familiar to skeptics – is because people need to believe. It could be astrology, or faith-based medicine, or bigfoot. People are capable of believing anything which they feel could give them some sense of “order” in an expanding and chaotic universe.
Pertaining to “Mercury being in Retrograde”, what this means to the people who ascribe to astrology is, as defined by The Old Farmer’s Almanac:
When Mercury is Retrograde – (Mercury) appear(s) to be traveling backward through the zodiac; this is an illusion. We call this illusion retrograde motion. Three times a year, it appears as if Mercury is going backwards for about three weeks. This time was traditionally associated with confusions, delay, and frustration.
This latest “retrograde of Mercury” (deserving of quotes, because the planet is not actually retrograding – it just appears that way) started late last week and will continue through October 9th. And in sticking with their traditions from 1792, “The Almanac” continues to deliver on its astrology heritage. They offer:
Perhaps Mercury’s retrograde periods can cause our plans to go awry. However, this is an excellent time to reflect on the past. Intuition is high during these periods, and coincidences can be extraordinary.
The planet Mercury rules communication, travel, contracts, automobiles, and such. So, when Mercury is retrograde, remain flexible, allow time for extra travel, and avoid signing contracts. Review projects and plans at these times, but wait until Mercury is direct again to make any final decisions. About a week or two before Mercury retrogrades, finish any tasks or projects at hand. You can’t stop your life, but plan ahead, have back-up plans, and be prepared for angrier people and miscommunication.
Some people blame Mercury retrograde for “bad” things that happen in their lives. Instead, take this time to sit back and review where you put your energy in your life. For example if family and faith are important to you, are you putting your energies there or just overextended in other areas? Take a moment to reflect.
The entirety of this is pure nonsense. And there is a modern audience eating it up online. According to the Post’s article:
Searches for the phrase “Mercury retrograde” more than doubled between 2004 and 2015, according to Google Trends, and retrograde survival guides have seeped from hokey astrology sites to mainstream websites like Elle, Refinery29 and the Cut.
All the top searches for “Mercury + Retrograde” yield links to astrology-related websites. None on the first page yield links to any genuine astronomy or science websites. That is a digital travesty.
The adjective “smart” is irrelevant in the context of pseudoscience. People described as “smart” does not mean they have an automatic prophylactic against bad ideas. Anyone can be drawn to the allure of magical thinking. Many “smart” people believe in astrology, to the point of accommodating the “suggestions” in to some part of their lives. They know it is all an illusion, and even the astrologers acknowledge that it is a matter of perception.
The ability to acknowledge a fact is insignificant next to the power of the true-believer.