Mercury Retrogrades Don't Have To Be A Bad Thing—Here's How To Make The Most Of Them
Uh oh—Mercury is retrograde again. But before we start cracking jokes and making memes, what does Mercury retrograde actually mean? And further, how does it impact us?
Here, we're answering all your Mercury retrograde queries, from why it happens, to how to get through it, according to astrologers.
What is Mercury retrograde?
Astronomically speaking, Mercury retrogrades occur when Mercury passes the Earth in its orbit around the Sun. From our perspective on Earth, Mercury appears to be moving in a different direction, even though it's not actually moving backwards.
As astrologer Molly Pennington, Ph.D. tells mindbodygreen, no planet will ever actually go in reverse motion, but she likens it to when you're sitting in a parked car, and the car next to you starts moving. Suddenly, you feel like you're in motion too, even though you're not.
"So Mercury is not actually going in reverse, but it it feels like it has first stopped or "stationed," and then feels like it's going in reverse across the path where it's already been," she explains.
What does Mercury retrograde mean in astrology?
So, why do people freak out about Mercury retrogrades? We covered the literal astronomy of it, but astrologically speaking, there are some other implications that tend to make people a little nervous.
For one thing, Mercury governs themes around communication, technology, and travel—so when it's retrograde, those are exactly the areas that tend to get hit the hardest. Think travel delays, miscommunications, accidentally sending an email too soon...things of that nature.
As the AstroTwins previously explained to mindbodygreen, "During [Mercury retrogrades], astrologers advise against buying new computers, electronic devices, appliances, and cars," adding that signing contracts is also tricky during Mercury retrograde, as you can easily miss an important detail.
But according to Pennington, Mercury retrogrades aren't totally a bad thing. In fact, she says, they offer us the perfect opportunity to "go back in time" and make any revisions necessary before moving forward.
Sure, your texts might not send as quickly, or you might get a flat tire on the way to work, but in terms of the big picture, Pennington explains, "It kind of forces the idea that editing, revising, cutting things out, going back to something and reworking it—these things are just part of the process."
So instead of looking at Mercury retrogrades as something to fear, she tells mindbodygreen, use it as a chance to ensure you're getting things right.
Don't forget about the Mercury retrograde shadow period
If you thought you only had to factor in Mercury retrograde's effects during the retrograde itself, think again. There's a "shadow period" that comes along with Mercury retrogrades in the weeks leading up to it, and the weeks after.
This "shadow" phase starts a few weeks before the actual retrograde and ends a few weeks after, which the AstroTwins describe like "the lingering fumes of a bus or car after it's driven away."
And according to Pennington, the shadow period can also be of use to you, because it can show you what exactly is going to be addressed or revisited during the retrograde period.
As she explains, during the shadow period before Mercury retrograde begins, "You can start paying attention to the things that are happening in your life, and which house of your birth chart this retrograde will be in, and know that this is the stuff that's going to be 'up in the air' over the next few weeks."
How often do Mercury retrogrades happen?
You can expect at least two, but often three, Mercury retrogrades each and every year. It typically has the most retrogrades of any planet per year.
Upcoming Mercury retrogrades
- April 22 to May 14, 2023
- August 23 to September 14, 2023
- December 14, 2023, to January 2, 2024
- April 3 to April 25, 2024
- August 4 to August 28, 2024
- November 25 to December 15, 2024
- March 14 to April 7, 2025
- July 17 to August 11, 2025
- November 9 to November 29, 2025
- February 26 to March 20, 2026
- June 29 to July 23, 2026
- October 24 to November 13, 2026
How to handle Mercury retrogrades
- Do consider Mercury retrogrades a time to regroup, revisit, and revise anything that needs your attention
- Do figure out which house of your birth chart the retrograde is taking place in (i.e. If Mercury is retrograde in the sign of Taurus, find which house of your birth chart is ruled by Taurus. The themes of that house will be impacted by Mercury retrograde)
- Do slow down, think twice, and be open to lessons
- Do lean into rest and relaxation
- Don't panic
- Don't hit send or sign a contract before double-checking everything
- Don't rush ahead on big projects, decisions, or agreements
- Don't start a new project
How does Mercury retrograde affect us?
Mercury retrogrades affect us by impacting Mercurial themes like communication, travel, and technology.
What does the Mercury retrograde mean?
"Mercury retrograde" means the period of time when the planet Mercury passes the Earth in its orbit around the Sun. From our perspective on Earth, Mercury appears to be moving in a different direction, even though it's not actually moving backwards.
What should you not do during Mercury retrograde?
During Mercury retrograde, you should avoid moving too fast, rushing things, and not double-checking everything before signing, booking, sending, etc.
Is Mercury retrograde good for anything?
Yes, Mercury retrogrades offer us a chance to revisit things that need our attention so we can move forward with more clarity and precision.
The next time Mercury goes retrograde, don't let it send you into a tizzy. While it's not always the easiest few weeks, it can be made a lot easier when you take the time to slow down and use it to your advantage. Life can't always be a straight shot to the top, and carving out time to retrace our steps is essential to the big picture.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.