Three to four times a year, for six weeks at a time, social media blames the nebulous astrological calamity known as Mercury retrograde for everything terrible in life. I've seen Mercury retrograde blamed for everything from L-train malfunctions to Uber-app crashes to texts from your exes just "checking in." In honor of Susan Miller's new Fresh Zodiac Oval Soap collaboration which features 12 astrologically-themed soaps, the Cut talked to Miller to truly understand why Mercury is to blame for your faulty toaster and exes, the importance of your rising sign, and the worst time this year to get a makeover.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about astrology that you would like to dispel?
The biggest misconception is when people say, “Susan said I would meet the man of my dreams.” This is not predestination. You have to leave the house! I can ask you the right questions to go home and think about it. My job as an astrologer is to ask questions. I can’t tell you, take that job, marry that man, move cross-country. That’s not my job, that’s your job. No astrologer should ever say, “You’re going to be hit by a truck when you’re 35.” You can’t see death in a chart!
What is the importance of one's rising sign? How does it relate to which horoscope to read for the month?
Everything in astrology is based on mathematical cycles. We get our information from NASA — many institutions know where Jupiter is right this minute. Most people are exposed to astrology from your sun sign [the sun determined by your birth date]. The rising sign is on the eastern horizon and is the sign that was there as you were being born. Your rising sign is the sign naturally adapted to cope with life. To simplify it, you can think, God chose your birthday, but you chose your rising sign. It’s not quite accurate, but kind of. You should read your horoscope for both — it will never change and will always describe you for the rest of your life. But all signs are good and can give so much. No one will ever be born on the same day as you and contribute to the song in your heart.
But won’t reading horoscopes for two signs create conflict?
No! Let’s say in your regular sun sign, I’m saying a lot about friends. And in your rising sign, I’m talking a lot about home and real estate. So it could be that your friend helps you find the perfect apartment and not a broker. There is a link between the two.
Which planets rule beauty? How does the zodiac relate to beauty?
Venus rules loves and appearance. Aries has such an emphasis on love until August 11. In the second half, Taurus does. They will be paying more attention to their looks because they’re getting more attention, and so will the Leos and Virgos. But Venus is going to settle down for a nap from July 25 to September 6. If you want to do a makeover or change your hair completely, you don’t want to do it when Venus is sleeping. You want a wide-awake, strongly orbiting Venus. But I don’t want people walking around like ragamuffins. Grooming is fine! You just don’t want to make a radical change. You don’t want to buy expensive jewelry. I would say to Elizabeth Taylor, “Why don’t you and Richard go shopping after Venus?”
What does Mercury retrograde really mean? Everyone treats it like the world is falling apart.
Mercury is the thinking planet. It’s rational and objective. Every 12 weeks, when Mercury goes more than 27.5 degrees away from the sun, the sun says, “Where are you going?” and yanks him back. It rules communication, negotiation, perception, and judgment. It wants you to go back to the past.
Can I give you examples of a few common incidents people attribute to Mercury being retrograde, and you can tell me whether it's at fault? Say, an ex reaches out to you out of the blue?
Mercury wants you to see if there is something you can do to make more of a former relationship. That’s when we have a chance to fix things. Maybe he still loves you, you still love him. Love is hard to find. Maybe you should have lunch. If you have an inkling, Mercury is a good time to get more.
You dropped your new iPhone.
Yes, Mercury rules all electronic items, including the moving parts in any machine or appliance. Even your toaster. My daughter bought a beautiful Mac computer, and then she told me she had to sell it because she didn’t buy enough storage, and then admitted she bought it when Mercury was in retrograde. I said, “Diana, I tell millions of people not to buy electronics during Mercury retrograde!”
You slipped and fell in the subway while dancing and listening to Beyoncé.
Well, I’m not sure of this one, you may have just not been paying attention!
What if someone is dating someone who is "astrologically incompatible"?
I have a friend, and when she has a new date, she says, "Do his chart!" And I say, “No, no, no. Give him a chance and go out with him a few times.” But then let’s say he never takes you out to eat and you've only eaten from trucks. I dated someone like that once, he was a senior VP of a bank, and we went to Governor's Island and we only ate from trucks! I was like, [makes noise of disbelief]. Come to me when you have a good, specific question. But I would never tell someone not to date someone based on their sign. Oh, no. We have so many planets.
This interview has been condensed and edited.