Of course, we now know planets don’t actually stand still (station) and back up in the night sky. It only looks this way from our vantage point on planet Earth.
If we lived on Mercury there would be times when the earth appears to be traveling in the wrong direction as well.
It’s called retrograde motion. And it took ages for sky watchers to figure out they were dealing with an astronomical illusion.
The reason why distant orbiting planets appear to travel through the zodiac at different speeds – and at times in opposite directions – has to do with orbital proximity. And the fact we’re observing our solar system neighbors from a rotating platform that also is hurtling through space.
Retrograde planets have been likened to two cars traveling in the same direction on a highway in the fast and slow lanes. The slower car is still moving forward but as the faster car speeds by the slower car appears to be traveling backwards in the fast car driver’s rear view mirror.
Astrologers have studied the retrograde phenomenon for centuries and claim it messes with the traditional archetypal meanings associated with the planets, astrologer Chris Brennan explains.
In a column posted on The Political Astrology Blog, Brennan says astrologers associate fast-moving Mercury with mental acuity and duality. Among the things the planet influences are speech, writing, technology and the reckoning of numbers.
When retrograde, Mercury is associated with uncertainty, delays, false starts, miscommunication, miscalculation and the need to do things over, he said.
Brennan describes the problem that occurred on inauguration day 2009 when President Obama was being sworn into office by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts during a Mercury retrograde transit. Roberts messed up his lines and had to return to the White House the next evening to repeat the swearing-in ceremony that made the change-over official.
This may seem like a small act but from an astrological perspective it changed the timing and therefore the trajectory of the Obama Presidency.
Mercury is retrograde for periods lasting several days about three times a year. However, the planet has been retrograde on Election Day only three times before in recent U.S. history – in 1960, 1980 and again in the year 2000.
Brennan says the monumental “hanging chads” debacle in Florida on Election Day 2000 provides a classic example of what can go wrong with Mercury retrograde in the heavens. In this instance cranky punch-card machines failed to properly tally votes, effectively disenfranchising many voters in the state.
With Democrats crying foul the U.S. Supreme Court listened to arguments but voted to vacate an earlier Florida Supreme Court decision calling for a recount. This handed the state’s 25 disputed Electoral College delegates to George W. Bush, pushing his candidacy over the top in a tight election.
In Roman mythology, Mercury is the god of commerce, travel and thievery. After the 1960 election that sent Richard Nixon packing and John F. Kennedy to the White House it was the Republicans claiming the other party “stole” the election.
“The 1960 election was the closest in the 20th century with Kennedy winning the popular vote by a slim .01 percent margin. There were widespread issues with voter fraud, which may have decided the outcome,” Brennan said.
Mercury was also retrograde during the 2010 parliamentary election in Australia. This contest ended in a virtual tie that eventually was resolved in favor of incumbent Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
What’s interesting in this example is the uncanny parallel between the Australian election and what the U.S. electorate can look forward to on November 6, Brennan says.
On the day Ausies went to the polls Mercury stationed and went retrograde, just as it will on Election Day in the U.S. this year. Weeks later the outcome in Australia remained uncertain and the Prime Minister wasn’t sworn in until Mercury stationed and started to move forward again.
“Ominous in the build-up to Election Day in the U.S. are reports of potential legal battles over voting ID laws in several states that could lead to delays in determining the outcome in a tight race,” he added.
Brennan’s blog can be read here.