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Computer crashed? Train delayed? Spilt coffee all over your new top? Blame it on Mercury… Yes, until 22nd September, Mercury is in ‘retrograde’ once again, a phenomenon the least starry-eyed amongst us is liable to contemplate with roughly equal parts apprehension and downright terror. This is a time when, according to astrologists, miscommunication rules. Ironic, then, that a 2,000 year old miscommunication has just been brought to light. And it’s a biggie. Our zodiac sign system is out by about a month.
NASA says your star sign is wrong
Yep, according to NASA, we’ve been reading the wrong horoscopes all our lives. When the dates were first assigned by the ancient Greeks, over 2,000 years ago, star signs corresponded to the constellation which appeared behind the Sun on your date of birth. Over the course of the past couple of millennia, though, an astronomical phenomenon known as ‘precession’ has caused the positions of the constellations, relative to the positions of the Earth and the Sun, to drift. To complicate matters further, it turns out the Greeks left out an entire star sign! The Sun passes in front of ‘Ophiuchus’ for 19 days between Scorpio and Sagittarius.
This is your real star sign, according to NASA:
Capricorn: 20th January – 16th February Aquarius: 16th February – 11th March Pisces: 11th March – 18th April Aries: 18th April – 13th May Taurus: 13th May – 21st June Gemini: 21st June – 20th July Cancer: 20th July – 10th August Leo: 10th August – 16th September Virgo: 16th September – 30th October Libra: 30th October – 23rd November Scorpio: 23rd November – 29th November Ophiuchus: 29th November – 17th December Sagittarius: 17th December – 20th January
What is your Rising sign, and why does it matter?
To complicate matters further, we’re also being told that our Rising signs may be just as important as our star signs. Do other people’s descriptions of you tend to be at odds with the way you see yourself? Your Rising sign may be to blame…
What you think of as your star sign is technically your Sun sign – the zodiac sign the Sun was in on your date of birth. Your Rising sign is the sign that was ‘rising’ on the eastern horizon at the exact time of your birth. There are plenty of Rising sign calculators online but, to figure yours out, you’ll need to know the time and place of your birth, as well as the date. Astrologers believe that your Rising sign represents your instinctive approach to life and determines how others see you, and say that your Rising sign horoscope may be more accurate than (either of) your Sun sign horoscope(s).
Now we’ve got those little miscommunications cleared up (and tripled your weekly reading requirements), let’s try another – Mercury retrograde.
What is Mercury Retrograde?
According to science: Three or four times a year, the planet Mercury appears to move ‘backwards’ in its orbit (i.e. in retrograde). This is an illusion which occurs whenever Mercury passes by Earth, or Earth passes by Mercury. The phenomenon is simply a function of two objects orbiting around the same object (in this case, the Sun), in the same direction, at different speeds. It isn’t confined to Mercury – every planet will appear to ‘go retrograde’ from our perspective on Earth at some point during its orbit. So why has a simple optical illusion become so important to us?
According to astrology: Astrologers believe that Mercury has dominion over communication (which could include contracts and agreements, as well as computer code). When a planet ‘retrogrades’, it is thought to be in a ‘resting’ or ‘sleeping’ state, causing the functions it governs to plunge into a state of flux. Given that Mercury is held to govern communication, all kinds of human and mechanical miscommunications can be expected to ensue, from lovers’ tiffs to railway signalling failures.
Given that Mercury’s apparent retrograde motion is, in fact, illusory, could the planet’s increased physical closeness to Earth at these times provide an explanation for its apparent effects? According to Susan Miller, “as Mercury speeds by, it is like a train flying past, creating a powerful, turbulent gust of ‘wind’ in its wake. The turbulence and disruption Mercury creates when it retrogrades can affect what we feel on Earth in our everyday lives.” Mercury’s core is thought to contain the highest iron content of any planet in our solar system. Eric Francis Coppolino explains the Mercury retrograde phenomenon in terms of the functional equivalent of “a huge magnet” passing between the Earth and the Sun.
Astrologers warn that we should avoid launching new endeavours, making important decisions or plans or sealing deals – even accepting job offers – during Mercury retrograde periods, as conditions are liable to change later on. According to Leslie McGuirk, who recently released ‘The Power of Mercury: Understanding Mercury Retrograde and Unlocking the Astrological Secrets of Communication’, though, there is an upside. “It’s just the Universe’s way to slow us down,” she says, asserting that Mercury retrograde periods provide us with the perfect opportunity to stop, reassess and redirect our energies. Could now be the time to try mindfulness or reconnect with an old friend or lover?