Oh, Mercury retrograde. Even if you’re new to astrology and the world of the woo-woo, you’ve probably heard the phrase before.

An email you KNOW you sent never shows up in your coworker’s inbox. While you two are discussing what exactly could have happened to that email, someone else in the office shakes her head and says, “Mercury retrograde.” Dropped phone calls? Mercury retrograde. Checks that get lost in the mail (or cashed at inopportune moments)? Mercury retrograde. Miscommunication about times, dates, and places? Mercury retrograde.

Great, so now you know what it looks like. But why does this planet’s motion wreak such havoc? Glad you asked.

In The Inner Sky, Steven Forrest explains retrogradation like this: “Planets are channels for expressions of signs. In that sense, all of them are extroverted. But when a planet is retrograde, it is going against the ordinary currents. Its polarity is reversed. Instead of flowing outward in the normal extroverted pattern, a portion of its vitality is directed deeper into the mind, toward the unconscious, away from the world.” He goes on to describe planets in retrograde as foreigners, feeling out of place and afraid of doing something wrong.

Then, most importantly, Forrester reminds us that a planet in retrograde still carries the same fundamental meaning and influence.

Let’s unpack that.

Mercury governs messages, communications, and perception. So when he’s on track, everything flows smoothly and all the trains run the way they should. When he’s off-track, well–consider how you function on a bad day.

Maybe your alarm clock doesn’t go off, so you oversleep. You’re running late for work and when you hop in your car, you realize you don’t have enough gas to make it in, so you have to stop for fuel. Now you’re running even later. When you arrive, you discover that someone called a last-minute meeting for the time you normally get in and… you missed it. Your boss noticed and isn’t happy about your absence. Someone else asks you how you’re doing. Even though you’re typically easy-going and like the person who posed the question, you snap at him. Because you’re all off-kilter and nothing seems to be working in your favor.

That’s Mercury in retrograde. He’s off-kilter, and it interferes with his ability to do his usual job at peak performance.

The rest of the gang

But Mercury doesn’t operate alone. Other planets can influence him, helping to either complicate or ameliorate the retrograde effects. Mercury’s interactions with other planets (his relative position to them) can impact the types of issues that are likely to come up.

Take Saturn, for instance. He governs responsibility, karma, and learning from our experiences. So with both planets moving forward, if Mercury and Saturn are at an odd/uncomfortable angle, you’re likely to have some unpleasant realizations about how you handle your responsibilities. Think of it as two reasonable adults having a difficult conversation. It’s not a great time, but it’s probably not terrible.

Now throw Mercury in retrograde and… it’s as if one of the parties engaged in conversation is drunk. Or violently ill. Or speaking a foreign language. The discussion is suddenly much more likely to get frustrating and ugly. Think karma coming back to bite you in the ass on an epic scale.

If Mercury and Venus are the players in that awkward conversation, expect relationship fallout. Or to hear from long-lost old flames… the ones you wish you’d set on fire while you had the chance. This is not a friendly facebook message from The One Who Got Away who now happens to be single, living in your neck of the woods, and extremely interested in rekindling a relationship. This is the embarrassing dude you hooked up with after your cousin’s wedding trying to get you to house-sit his ferrets by serenading you from the courtyard of your condo complex. Or your baby-daddy deciding he suddenly wants to go back to court for custody of your daughter… who he hasn’t seen in 8 years. Big old boxes of WTF, delivered straight to your doorstep.

During this most recent Mercury retrograde, I deleted the spreadsheet that had all the financials for my business. All my data about events, money, ordering history… gone. Along with my tarot tracker, which had four years of records of my daily draws. The internet at both home and work has been sporadic at best. My dad’s facebook page got hacked. My mother’s arterial CT scan appeared to show 70% blockages in her arteries, which a cardio catheter found were just shadows on the image from calcium deposits on the outside artery walls. Her heart and circulatory system are fine (Which is awesome news but… getting to that point? Eff you, Mercury retrograde. Eff you.).

What Mercury mayhem have you dealt with over the last few weeks? Share below for some sympathy.