The planet Mercury turned retrograde on Oct. 6, 1982, at 5:13 a.m. EDT, and it will remain retrograde until Oct. 27, when at 5:25 EDT, it will turn direct. The term retrograde denotes a seemingly backward motion of a planet through the zodiac. With the exception of the Sun and the Moon, all planets turn retrograde for certain periods of time, and at different times during the year.

The periods of Mercury retrograde last three weeks each and occur three times a year. Those periods are quite important and seem to affect everyone, and thus everyone should remember that from the astrological point of view, there are some things that are "no no" during those times.

First of all, one should never begin any new project, or sign any binding agreements under retrograde Mercury. Those times are propitious for finishing things or for reviewing any activities, but are very negative for launching new ventures and for beginning new careers. If a ship is launched under those aspects, it usually has to limp back for repairs or it sinks immediately upon hitting the water. (The same thing applies to the launching of political campaigns -- Teddy Kennedy of 1980 is an example and remember what happened?)

Any information received during those times should be subjected to the utmost scrutiny and even after that, the data received will probably be incomplete. This applies to any job offer, because the job with either fall through or will be drastically altered during the negotiations.

Planet Mercury rules all kinds of communications (spoken and written word); it also rules gadgets, appliances and vehicles (like cars, motorcycles, buses, etc.) Under the aspects of retrograde Mercury, all communications go awry -- messages and letters get lost, so do the hotel and travel reservations. Planes and trains arrive late, and one misses connections.

Home appliances and gadgets break down, tires go flat, cars develop nasty squeaks, or run out of gas while the needle is stuck on full. The same applies to TV sets that either lose the sound or the picture, or both, while the repairman either does not show up, or drags the repairs far beyond the stated time. It is not the time to buy any machinery (cars, appliances, etc.) for they will turn out to be lemons.

Human brains do not seem to coordinate very well: People get forgetful, mislay things, cannot think well, or concentrate; plans go amiss because people either change their minds for no obvious reasons or tend to misunderstand or quarrel with others for most foolish reasons. All in all, one should remember not to trust anything one hears, for the air is full of rumors, gossip and misinformation.

The days ruled by retrograde Mercury are the kind of disoriented days when everything seems to go wrong, and I never read a better description of the effects of retrograde Mercury than in Richard Cohen's column on Oct. 11. He had titled it "Blah" and, with his permission, I am quoting from his column:

"The other day I could not get out of bed. When I woke up I could not move my body, and when I finally could move, I could not decide where to go. I missed my morning run and never got around to reading the newspaper, and when I got outside, I had a flat on my car. I should have known then. It was going to be one of those days.

"I dressed in a way that didn't suit me. I chose pants I hate and a shirt I didn't like and shoes that are not comfortable . . . That should have been my first hint. I should have gone back to bed.

". . . I went to the cleaners. They had lost one of my shirts. I gave them more stuff to clean and they promised it back the same day. All but two pieces made it. They don't know what's missing. Me neither.

"I couldn't write a lick that day. The words just weren't there. There was no flow to sentences, and I couldn't remember a single grammatical rule . . .

"I got a check in the mail. That made me feel better. Later, when I looked in my pockets, no check. Finally, I went through the trash. I found the check under the honeydew melon rind. The check was torn in half.

"I knew I had done it. I knew that I had torn the check in half and thrown it away. On a day like that I am capable of doing anything. I think maybe I get this way because of my body rhythms or maybe biorhythms, assuming, as I do, that the two aren't the same thing. Maybe it is in the tides. Or the moon. Maybe it is the stars . . ."

Richard Cohen is right, even if it is not the starts but one single planet. It is called Mercury, and its retrograde motion is responsible for creating a multitude of "one of those days" described so perfectly, even if unwittingly, by the author.