The final Mercury retrograde of 2023 is in motion. This time, the planet of communication will retrograde from the astrological sign of Capricorn to Sagittarius, starting on December 13th and ending on January 2nd, 2024.

Astrologer Lisa Stardust explains how the timing of this year's retrograde coinciding with the holiday season could lead to some chaos at Christmas, especially when it comes to travel plans.

“Remember to stay relaxed,” she wrote in an article for British Vogue. “And go with the flow to enjoy the holiday spirit and festivities without any unnecessary stress.”

“You might meet people you haven’t spoken to in a while. Use this as a time to let go of any past issues or arguments and to heal old wounds. After all, this is the season for forgiveness and kindness, so let it go and try to move forward in a positive way if you can,” she said.

Themes that prevailed during Sagittarius season, which runs from November 22nd to December 21st, will also be revisited during this period. This retrograde has a planetary square to Neptune, which astrologers predict could result in previously internalized frustrations becoming known. Stardust warned that people should be mindful of how they phrase their sentences and what they say to others in the coming weeks.

According to Vox, astronomers have long believed that it is a basic fact of the universe that Mercury “enters apparent retrograde motion.” Meanwhile, astrologers consider Mercury retrograde to be the least wonderful time of year, believing that planetary movement is the cause of an extraordinary amount of chaos.

The idea that planets can influence people's lives has existed for centuries. However, astrology has recently become more prominent in pop culture thanks to the prevalence of social media. New age astrology has gained popularity among Gen Zers for its relatable horoscopes and astrology-centric lists.

“There is something that has happened in the last five years that has given it an edginess, a relevance to this time and place, that it hasn’t had for a good 35 years,” astrologer Chani Nicolas explained to The Atlantic in 2018.

While astrology has become ubiquitous in pop culture, the idea that Mercury retrograde could cause chaos is a much newer idea, according to independent researcher Joanna Martin. While conducting research for his 2018 master's thesis on the cultural history of Mercury retrograde, Martin explained the Harper's Bazaar that she had tracked Mercury retrograde as early as the 1970s.

While the idea of ​​Mercury retrograde may be recent, both astrologers and astronomers can agree that something is going on with Mercury — but it may not be what you think. Because of the way Mercury appears to humans in the sky, they see the planet seemingly moving backwards in an optical illusion.

Planetary scientist David Rothery explained the The Atlantic that the planet was essentially “overtaking us on the inner path” and when Earth catches up to us, Mercury appears to “progress” or retrograde. This is mainly because Mercury orbits closer to the Sun and therefore makes its journey around the Sun in a shorter period of time – 88 days, as opposed to Earth's 365 days. As a result, humans witness the optical illusion for three weeks, three to four times a year.

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