Mercury Retrograde Meaning & More

Of all the planets that wander in the night sky, Mercury wanders most swiftly—fitting for the planet associated with our searching, changeable minds.

2021 Mercury Retrograde Dates

  • January 30 - February 20
  • May 29 - June 22
  • September 26 - October 18

Mercury in Astrology

Mercury is a celestial anomaly and a singularly disruptive, tricky character, in both mythical and astrological interpretation. Infinitely clever and full of wiles, Mercury in the natal chart embodies the ways we think, speak, and write, as well as the ways we use our cunning to bend the truth and sidestep responsibility. Every time we pick up a pen, state our case, or travel hither thither, we are in the grips of Mercury.

Unlike other planets, Mercury is not considered feminine or masculine, benefic or malefic, diurnal or nocturnal. Instead, Mercury shapeshifts in relationship to the planets with whom he is in closest contact. Mercury is the ruler of both Gemini and Virgo and is said to be exalted, or strongest, in Virgo; Mercury is considered weakened in Sagittarius and Pisces. Traditionally, Mercury's house of joy is the first house, where he can dance above and below the horizon, like the liminal journeyman that he is (coincidentally, Mercury was said to have been born at dawn, which would place him in the first house)....

What is Mercury Retrograde

All planets save for the sun and moon appear at various times to reverse direction in the sky; in astronomy, this is referred to as 'apparent retrograde motion', but in astrological parlance, this term is shortened simply to 'retrograde.'

Although the word 'retrograde' stems from the Latin meaning 'to go backward,' it's important to note that no planets move backward, they only appear to do so, owing to our Earth-bound perspective. When planets are retrograde, they appear to stand still, then visually retreat backward, tracing curly-cues in the sky; as they station direct, they appear to stand still once again, slowly regaining speed before they amble forward....

Mercury Retrograde 101

Like all other planets, Mercury has a cycle of separation and return between itself and the sun, known as its synodic cycle, from the Greek root synod for 'meeting.' Studied metaphorically, this creates a cyclical experience of Mercury akin to the moon and its cycles of birth, fullness, death, and rebirth and helps to expand our understanding of Mercury beyond simplistic binary periods of retrograde hell and salvation.

Every four months, and roughly three to four times every year, Mercury is in retrograde for approximately twenty-two days. As part of this cycle, Mercury makes four key movements....

How does mercury retrograde affect us?

The Bad

During Mercury retrograde, things typically do not go as planned: your airline ticket was never valid for travel, the oh-so-important meeting you cannot miss is rescheduled at last minute, your credit card disappears into the dark recesses of your local ATM. Communication, technology, and travel can be particularly chaotic, and it is not at all unusual for items to mysteriously go missing during Mercury retrograde.

At times, it may feel as if forward movement is impossible during Mercury's retrograde transit; this may be for the best, as arrangements made under the auspices of Mercury in retrograde have a rather infuriating way of unraveling post-retrograde. However well-laid these plans may feel at the time, they may later be waylaid by unexpected information that calls all your decisions into question....

The Good

Although the most obvious effects of Mercury in retrograde happen externally, the most important work manifests when we undertake deep internal reviews.

Mercury's retrograde cycles, however disruptive they may be at times, offer us the ability to gain greater objectivity in a particular area of life. In normal waking consciousness, and in an increasingly over-scheduled, distracted world, we have left ourselves precious little time for reflection. For many, once we are on a given path, we can end up myopically married to it, losing all perspective; viewed in the right light, Mercury retrograde becomes an opportunity to re-approach important aspects of our lives with renewed vision....

The Dos and Dont's of Mercury Retrograde

Do:

  • Re-do, re-think, review
  • Check and double-check travel plans and schedules
  • Leverage old contacts
  • Revisit leads that had previously fizzled out
  • Approach previous clients for business
  • Repair old items
  • Search your closet for forgotten goodies
  • Back up your computer, phone, etc.
  • Tie up loose ends

Leave for Later:

  • Final negotiations, especially with new/unknown partners
  • Starting a new job
  • Launching a new venture
  • Purchasing electronics or big-ticket items
  • Sending or receiving shipments (buy insurance!)
  • Last-minute travel
  • Highly-detailed tasks, especially numerical/mathematical ones