Posted by: Donna Cunningham | January 12, 2015

Mercury Retrograde Makes the New York Times Sunday Magazine

 © January 12, 2015 by Donna Cunningham—and the New York Times

 I never thought I’d see the day, but Mercury retrograde was given an entire article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine yesterday. The article was articulate and informative in enumerating both the astrological and astronomical facts about the planet Mercury.

Due to its closeness to the sun, it has 372 craters, each one named for a creative artist of some sort, from writers to poets and graphic artists. There’s even a Walt Disney crater and one for Hemingway and another for Johan Sebastian Bach. (“Retrograde Beliefs– in Defense of Magical Thinking,” © by Kristen Dombeck, New York Sunday Times Magazine, January 11, 2015, pp. 11-12.)

Since most copies of that issue will be in the recycling bin by the time this appears on Skywriter, I’ll quote verbatim from the article. I plan to willfully exceed the 40-word limit on quotations by several hundred words, so please don’t rat me out. Wouldn’t want the New York Times coming down on me like a ton of bricks!

Here’s what the author had to say:

“The astrological belief that Mercury retrograde leads to confusion and breakdown is inherited from the time before we understood that the earth is not the center of the cosmos. From our perspective, Mercury appears to move quickly and erratically, so the ancients called it a messenger and a trickster. It took three millenniums for the ancients to figure out that this was an illusion…

“This is not to say that the astrological belief is childish, but that the critiques of astrological thinking that assume it is opposed to science tend to ignore the radical utility of narratives that provide a sense of connection to a cosmic drama. In the case of Mercury retrograde, it’s not clear how “magical” the thinking is…

“What’s striking about the online commiserating during the retrograde period—the labeling of thousands of different experiences as one thing—is how un-Mercury it is; how it narrows language and experience.

“Blog posts and tweets about Mercury retrograde fantasize about a kind of technological anarchy so extreme that we’d have an excuse to hide from the devices supposed to connect us but that speak the suffocating and reductive language of branding.

“Perhaps the problem is that we don’t let this particular planet influence us enough. Mercury, icon of creativity, has much more to say to us—much more, I think, to mean.

“To believe in Mercury’s powers is to express a fear that masks a very legitimate desire: to drop our iPhones in the toilet, to not respond to email, and to stop working so hard at constant communication. And the planet tells more stories than that. If it tells a story about our connection to the stars, it also tells one about how easy it is to misstate that connection. If it tells the story of miscommunication, it also tells one about how good we are, as humans, and at striving to know beyond what we can see.

“Its reverse motion is an illusion, like all that we see when we imagine ourselves central in the world, a reminder of how much work empathy for the positions of others takes, and how tied that is to the imaginative labor both of science and art.”

Not bad about the astrological teachings, not bad at all from the lofty air of the New York Times. Here’s a link to the complete article: “Retrograde Beliefs,” 

Update:  Philip Levine sent a link to an article from the New York Times about Mercury Retrograde that appeared in 2006 ( 
I’ll be taking a much-needed vacation from writing and blogging during the upcoming Mercury retrograde phase in Aquarius that lasts from January 21 through February 11. Below are links to some of the articles about Mercury retrograde that have appeared here on Skywriter.


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