Why the F is Mercury retrograde such a big deal and how do you survive it?
Well, here’s the thing: in many ways, it’s not such a big deal and it can actually be a really useful period of the year when you embrace it instead of fighting it.
Mercury retrograde became one of the most recognizable topics in pop astrology because it’s so obvious when it’s happening. Mercury is the planet that rules communication, technology, and transportation so when it goes haywire… boy, do we tend to notice!
But like all things in the cosmos, Mercury isn’t just here to mess with us – in fact, it’s doing its best to give us a gift of pause and reflection. (Something we just tend to resist in your productivity-obsessed, hustle-focused, capitalist society.)
In this article, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about Mercury retrograde: what it is, how to survive and thrive during this thrice yearly transit, and how each Mercury retrograde differs a bit from the last.
What is Mercury Retrograde?
Mercury retrograde is a period during which the planet Mercury appears to move backwards in the night sky.
It’s important to note that the planet itself is not actually moving backwards; rather, this is an optical illusion created by the difference in speed between earth and Mercury. Retrograde is often also shortened to simply “Rx”.
All of the planets in our solar system appear to be in apparent retrograde motion on regular and predictable cycles. Venus retrogrades six weeks out of every year and a half. Mars retrogrades two months out of every two years.
All the other planets and even asteroids in our solar system are retrograde 2-6 months out of every year.
Mercury is the most well-known because it occurs the most frequently, but for the shortest periods of time. Mercury retrogrades three to four times per year for three weeks at a time, (so approximately nine weeks out of each year.)
When a planet is retrograde, its energy is expressed in a more inward, reflective, and slowed down way.
Sometimes during a retrograde, we experience a breakdown of some kind in the area of life which that planet rules.
Mercury rules communication so typos, miscommunications, and emails sent to the wrong person abound during Mercury retrograde periods, but again, this isn’t just the planets pulling a prank on us!
Mercury retrograde is an invitation and a reminder to be more thoughtful with our words and actions, to double-check our work, and to slow down and have greater patience as we move through our days.
When is Mercury Retrograde?
The big question is always: how often is Mercury retrograde and, more importantly, when does Mercury retrograde end?!
There’s a hilarious website called www.ismercuryretrograde.com where you can check if we’re currently in a Mercury Rx transit or not, but here’s a handy overview of the Mercury retrograde dates for the next few years.
- April 21 – May 14, 2023: Mercury Rx in Taurus
- August 23 – September 15, 2023: Mercury Rx in Virgo
- December 13, 2023 – January 1, 2024: Mercury Rx in Capricorn and Sagittarius
- April 1 – 25, 2024: Mercury Rx in Aries
- August 4 – 28, 2024: Mercury Rx in Virgo and Leo
- November 25 – December 15, 2024: Mercury Rx in Sagittarius
- March 14 – April 7, 2025: Mercury Rx in Aries and Pisces
- July 17 – August 11, 2025: Mercury Rx in Leo
- November 9 – 29, 2025: Mercury Rx in Sagittarius and Scorpio
- February 25 – March 20, 2026: Mercury Rx in Pisces
- June 29 – July 23, 2026: Mercury Rx in Cancer
- October 24 – November 13, 2026: Mercury Rx in Scorpio
- February 9 – March 3, 2027: Mercury Rx in Pisces and Aquarius
- June 10 – July 4, 2027: Mercury Rx in Cancer and Gemini
- October 7 – 28, 2027: Mercury Rx in Scorpio and Libra
You also want to be aware of the shadow periods. The dates above are when Mercury will actually be retrograde – when it appears to be moving backwards.
However, the approximately three weeks before and after each Mercury retrograde is what we call the “shadow period”.
The pre-shadow is when Mercury reaches the degree of the zodiac where it will eventually retrograde back to, up to the time when the retrograde starts. This is sort of like a preview of what themes and lessons the retrograde itself will bring up.
The post-shadow is from the time the retrograde ends until Mercury reaches the degree of the zodiac where it first stationed retrograde. This is a winding down of the retrograde energy and an opportunity to integrate any lessons that arose.
The shadow periods are not full-on retrograde energy, but it’s good to be aware that you may feel the reflective or inward vibes for a bit before and after.
Positive Things to Do During Mercury Retrograde
In pop astrology, and all over the internet, Mercury Rx is often talked about in negative terms.
There are warnings and foreboding forecasts galore, but less often do you hear people talk about what you can and should do during Mercury retrograde – not only what to avoid.
As I mentioned, Mercury retrograde is actually a gift from the universe. It’s a reminder to slow down and take the time to stop, double check your work and think about where you’re going next, instead of just forging impatiently ahead.
If you want to not only survive Mercury retrograde but truly thrive during these periods – and allow them to support you in thriving all the time – here are a few ideas of positive things to do while Mercury is retrograde:
- Journal: Self-reflection is essential during Mercury retrograde. Journaling, or even leaving yourself voice notes, is an excellent way to record your thoughts. Mercury rules how we think and what we think about so you may find your thoughts to be jumbled or foggy during retrograde periods. However, there tends to be a lot of wonderful insight buried in there that will become clear when the retrograde ends so you’ll want to be able to refer back to it.
- Breathwork: In the body, Mercury rules the lungs. During retrograde periods, we tend to get frustrated and annoyed easily – not the least of which because there tends to be a lot to get annoyed at. Instead of letting that frustration overrun you, practice some soothing and grounding breathwork before reacting. Even a few big deep breaths can work wonders.
- Proofread Twice: Whether you’re sending off an email to your boss or coworker, signing contracts, or drafting a manuscript, odds are there will be some typos and broken links during Mercury retrograde. These might not be avoidable, but slowing down and proofreading carefully will help!
- Pay Attention: Take note of what conversations you seem to have over and over again during this time, what themes come up for you to revisit that you thought were resolved, and what lessons you learn. This is Mercury directing your attention where it needs to go!
What Not to Do During Mercury Retrograde
Obviously, I’m all for having a positive outlook on Mercury retrograde and on everything in astrology. However, it’s also good to know how to protect yourself during Mercury retrograde.
It’s not a time to be afraid of AND… sometimes things do go a bit haywire. There are a few good rules of thumb around what tasks or activities to avoid during Mercury Rx, if possible.
However, I also think it is so important to remember that you never need to put your life on hold during Mercury retrograde or during any transit.
With that said, here’s your Mercury retrograde survival guide:
- Don’t sign papers or contracts: Ideally speaking, it’s a good idea to put off signing anything until after the retrograde ends, but again, this doesn’t mean delay an escrow or a new job or anything like that. If you need to sign papers during this time, just read through them very carefully, even the fine print!
- Don’t get your haircut: Haircuts often go awry or hair grows slowly after a Mercury retrograde haircut.
- Don’t travel, (or at least build in lots of extra travel time even on a regular commute): Flights and trains are often delayed or cars break down, for example, during Mercury retrograde since the planet rules transportation. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leave your house, though – just give yourself plenty of time and patience to get where you’re going.
- Don’t make huge life-altering decisions: If possible, try not to find a new house, break up, accept new positions, etc, while Mercury is retrograde. I often find that Mercury retrogrades occur shortly before or after life-altering situations anyway, as a way to help us find the clarity we need. But if you’re wrestling with a decision during Mercury retrograde, try to wait it out and see how you feel when the retrograde is done. And maybe don’t shop for big purchases!
Don’t stress too much about any of this, though. Even as a professional astrologer, I break pretty much all of these “rules” almost every time Mercury is retrograde!
Mercury Retrograde through the Zodiac Signs
Much of what we’ve covered in this article has been about Mercury retrograde in general. However, the energy of a particular retrograde is also colored through the sign(s) it occurs in.
Sometimes, Mercury retrograde occurs entirely within one zodiac sign. Sometimes, it starts in one sign, before retrograding back into the sign before.
One fascinating thing you may notice about the Mercury retrograde cycles listed above is that they occur in roughly the same elements each year.
In 2023, Mercury is mostly retrograde in earth signs. In 2024, Mercury is mostly retrograde in fire signs and in 2025, mostly in water signs.
This gives us a common theme to explore throughout the year, connecting each retrograde to the next. We then drill down to focus on an even more specific theme depending on which individual sign the retrograde is occurring in.
When Mercury is retrograde in fire signs, we are collectively reflecting on our passions, what makes us angry, and what inspires us. Miscommunications are likely to arise in passionate moments.
- Aries: Reflect on what really fires you up and angers you.
- Leo: Reflect on what allows you to express yourself most authentically and creatively.
- Sagittarius: Reflect on what inspires you – travel, spirituality, education, etc.
When Mercury is retrograde in earth signs, we are collectively reflecting on what makes us feel grounded, (or not), finances and material things, and on pleasure. Miscommunications are likely to arise at work or around money.
- Taurus: Reflect on how you can slow way down and take time to smell the roses.
- Virgo: Reflect on your rituals and routines and how you can feel more grounded in them.
- Capricorn: Reflect on your work and calling in life.
When Mercury is retrograde in air signs, we are collectively reflecting on how we communicate, think, and share ideas especially with other people. Miscommunications are likely to arise with those close to you, such as with friends, siblings, and partners, or sometimes online.
- Gemini: Reflect on how you communicate most naturally and especially with friends.
- Libra: Reflect on how you communicate your love languages, especially in your love life with partners.
- Aquarius: Reflect on how you communicate your values and politics, especially in your community.
When Mercury is retrograde in water signs, we are collectively reflecting on our emotions, connecting with our intuition, and what makes us feel safe and nourished. Miscommunications are likely to arise in emotional moments.
- Cancer: Reflect on what makes you feel safe and nurtured and how you can practice more rest and self-care.
- Scorpio: Reflect on your shadows, especially around feeling powerful, magickal, sexual, and capable of transformation.
- Pisces: Reflect on your intuition and how it most naturally speaks through you.
For me, Mercury retrograde is the perfect time to slow down, spend time with loved ones and others who make me feel safe, or just kicking back and reading a good book. Let me know how you spend your Mercury retrograde 2023!