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On Sept. 27, Mercury will go retrograde for the third and final time in 2021. During this period of Mercury retrograde, which ends on Oct. 18, you’ll probably hear a number of people carrying on about how everything is going wrong — and it’s all because of Mercury retrograde.
But what exactly is Mercury retrograde, why are people so afraid of it and is there anything that can be done to avoid its wrath?
Jaya Saxena, the author of “Crystal Clear: Reflections on Extraordinary Talismans for Everyday Life,” says, “From an astronomical perspective, Mercury retrograde is an optical illusion. Mercury’s orbit around the sun is shorter than the Earth’s, which means that when Earth passes Mercury in orbit, there is a moment when it appears to move backwards.”
But when it comes to the astrological significance of Mercury retrograde, Saxena explains, “It’s a different story. According to modern, Western astrological traditions, Mercury is the planet that represents communication of all kinds. When it goes retrograde, the theory is that our communications get thrown out of whack.”
You’ve probably heard warnings about not buying a new computer during Mercury retrograde, or horror stories about dropping a phone in the toilet; electronics gone haywire are typically associated with Mercury retrograde because they’re items we use to facilitate communication. But it’s not just the electronics themselves to look out for, Saxena says. You may find yourself replying all to an email you meant to forward or sending text messages that don’t go through.
But it’s not just electronic communication that’s impacted by Mercury retrograde — all forms of communication can go sideways during this time. “Perhaps you worded something sloppily and now your friend is mad at you, or you forgot to make a point in a meeting you wish you had, or you just feel generally flustered and misunderstood,” Saxena says. She also warns that Mercury retrograde can influence the way we communicate with ourselves, “so you may have a harder time being in touch with your own feelings and motivations.”
If it sounds like Mercury retrograde can and will make everything that could possibly go wrong actually go wrong, well … yes. “Basically,” Saxena says, “anything that involves you having to communicate, which is unfortunately just about everything, can be affected.”
So what’s to be done about this difficult time? While it may be tempting to go inside and lock the door for the duration, that’s not an especially realistic way to cope with Mercury retrograde’s disruptions — try these ideas instead.
Birthdate Co. Survive Mercury Retrograde Candle ($34, originally $42; birthdate.co)
Birthdate Co. Survive Mercury Retrograde Candle
Birthdate Co., the company that makes those customized birthday pillar candles you’ve definitely seen all over Instagram, has added a new candle to its lineup: a Mercury retrograde survival candle. The 8.5-ounce single-wick candle is hinoki cypress scented and contains a clear quartz stone to provide reflective, positive energy.
ZenergybyMaria Mercury Retrograde Crystal Set ($14.50; etsy.com)
Mercury Retrograde Crystal Set
If you do find yourself being more reactive than usual in your communications, Saxena recommends working with crystals. “Have a crystal like carnelian or blue chalcedony around,” she says, “which are stones that support clarity and confidence, or a stone like amethyst, which helps balance emotions when your iPhone breaks.”
Kitoo Military-Grade Phone Case ($13.85; amazon.com)
Kitoo Military-Grade Phone Case
Of course, it would be much better if your iPhone didn’t break at all! A military-grade phone case won’t help if your phone falls in the toilet, but because it’s shockproof, snowproof, dustproof, sandproof and drop-proof, it will protect against pretty much every other major accident your phone might have during Mercury retrograde.
Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager ($49.95; amazon.com)
Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager
Stress is another hallmark of Mercury retrograde, and something as simple as taking a beat to acknowledge that, yup, you’re stressed can be helpful in managing overwhelming emotions. It’s also good to consider how you typically carry stress — for many people, stress manifests in tight, knotted-up shoulders or aching lower backs.
Bearaby Cotton Napper ($199; bearaby.com)
Bearaby Cotton Napper
Anxiety often takes root at night, making sleep impossible and causing even more stress. A weighted blanket can help by mimicking the feeling of being held, which signals the brain that it is safe to release tension. The Bearaby Napper’s woven design allows for airflow, making it a perfect choice for people who find standard weighted blankets too hot; our reviewer calls it “among the best weighed blankets we’ve ever tried.”
Twinings Herbal Tea Bags, 40-Pack ($14.99; amazon.com)
Twinings Herbal Tea Bags, 40-Pack
Mercury retrograde is probably not the best time to try to kick a daily coffee habit, but avoiding excess caffeine is a good idea to help prevent stress-related anxiety and clumsiness. Drinking herbal teas like mint, camomile or lavender, all of which have soothing properties, can help you relax and unwind.
FuglyBarbie ‘I Can’t … Mercury Is in Retrograde’ Mug ($14.99; etsy.com)
“I Can’t … Mercury Is in Retrograde” Mug
Humor is a great way of coping when things go sideways! This mug is the perfect vessel for your evening tea, or for use in the office to send a message to a chatty co-worker that you’re just not in the mood for them.
Seven Salts Bath Salts ($25; witchbabysoap.com)
Witch Baby Soap
Seven Salts Bath Salts
Another great way to unwind when stress levels go through the roof is to slip into a relaxing bath.
“Anything you do should involve giving yourself extra space and time to think through your communications, and to react to communications from others,” Saxena says. “After all, during this time you can word everything perfectly and someone might still get upset.”
These bath salts by Witch Baby Soap feature a blend of seven natural salts and seven essential oils that promote luck, prosperity, purification, protection and peace — all of which you might feel you’re sorely lacking during Mercury’s retrograde period.
CatherineDesignNYC Amethyst Mala Beads ($15.80; etsy.com)
Amethyst Mala Beads
“Meditation can help you take a moment to think through what you want to be saying instead of running with the first thing that comes into your head,” Saxena says. Mala beads are traditionally used in prayer and meditation, and this set is made of amethyst, which she recommends for maintaining balance during Mercury’s disorienting retrograde period.
CalicoMoonOracle Mercury Retrograde Advice Cards ($60; etsy.com)
Mercury Retrograde Advice Cards
For people who are curious but intimidated by tarot, oracle or advice cards are a fantastic entry point into cartomancy. There are oracle decks for just about every mood and theme you can imagine, but this deck, designed specifically to address the upheaval Mercury’s retrograde can cause, is a natural starting point for those looking to dabble in card divination.
SaracenProvisions Mercury In Retrograde Survival Kit ($32; etsy.com)
SaracenProvisions Mercury In Retrograde Survival Kit
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking you need it all: the crystals, the candles, the bath products, all of it. Well, this kit has you covered. It comes with a 4-ounce candle, roll-on lavender oil, a white sage smudge stick, crystals and a set of written affirmations and reflections to use to guide meditation.
PageFiftyFive ‘I’m Sorry Mercury Must Have Been in Retrograde’ Greeting Card ($5; etsy.com)
“I’m sorry Mercury must have been in Retrograde” greeting card
Since communication going awry is one of the major hallmarks of Mercury retrograde, you may find yourself needing to make a few amends when the pesky planet finally turns direct. If you really step in it during this tricky time, a humorous card paired with a heartfelt written apology can go a long way in setting things right with a friend or loved one.