What is Mercury Retrograde and How Does it Affect Me?

Mercury Retrograde (and any other planetary retrograde) is a significant astrological event that can impact our lives. Mercury Retrograde impacts all forms of communication and the way we think about things. During these periods, we often experience delays, mix-ups, and accidents when it comes to communication, transportation, and technology. Connections of all kinds don’t seem to follow the rules we’ve become accustomed to.

There are many negative associations with Mercury Retrograde, but that’s just one way to look at it. Keep in mind that along with all astrological activity, Mercury Retrograde is not doing something to us. It’s simply reflecting our experience here on Earth – “As above, so below.”

Retrograde Planets

The term “retrograde motion” comes from the illusion that another planet is orbiting the Sun in reverse, which stargazers have observed since ancient times. During planetary retrogrades, we have the opportunity to revisit, reclaim, redefine, and reconnect with the energy represented by the retrograde planet. Retrograde periods invite us to slow down and re-vision how we want to go forward. If we keep pushing in all the same ways we have been, we’ll hit walls of resistance in all forms. This is true personally and collectively. We can’t sustain ourselves and our planet without serious adjustments, and in many cases, complete reinvention.

Mercury Retrograde Technically Speaking

The backward motion of any planet in the zodiac is actually an optical illusion from our perspective on Earth. Mercury can’t be more than 28 degrees from the Sun and it changes direction each time it reaches its furthest distance. The relative positions of Earth and Mercury and how they move around the Sun make it look like Mercury spends time in reverse. Mercury turns retrograde three to four times a year – almost 20% of the time. It spends more time retrograde than any other planet.

You can visualize the retrograde motion illusion like two runners in a race. It’s like you’re sprinting, trying to catch up with the runner ahead of you, and this runner gets tired so he or she starts to slow down. You keep steadily sprinting at the pace you were going and fly past this runner. Even though this person is still moving forward, it appears to you that he or she is moving backward as you run past.

Each retrograde cycle has a “shadow period” before and after the appearance of backward motion. Mercury’s shadow period is approximately two weeks before and two weeks after the retrograde. The shadow period can be understood as an adjustment time, and we can experience Mercury Retrograde effects throughout the transition between “forward” and “reverse” motion.

Learn More

Check out my blog “Managing Mercury Retrograde and What to Do When it Turns Direct” for more information and tips to make the most of these times.

How Mercury Retrograde Affects Us

Mercury rules all forms of communication, logical thinking, signals, travel, and connections of all kinds. The success of business partnerships, creative projects, friendships, and romances are dependent upon effective communication. So are we fated to conversations, meetings, and everyday exchanges going backward during Mercury Retrograde? Will our cars breakdown and computers crash? Not exactly. It means things can go awry more easily than usual, but there are lessons to be learned during these phases. Astrologers recommend easing off certain pursuits, like starting new projects, signing contracts, completing tasks, and building new relationships. If traveling, it’s a good idea to give yourself extra time, just in case plans “change”.

Mercury Retrograde is one of the best times to pick up old ideas and bring them back to life. Anything you’ve already started in the realms of writing, speaking, teaching, and learning are great things to focus on during this period. Remember: Mercury Retrograde = Revision, Redefine, Reconsider, Reclaim. Reworking existing plans and projects fit with this energy perfectly. You may find that things now come together with new ease and in ways you never would’ve imagined.

Why I Love Mercury Retrograde

Mercury Retrograde is a cosmic do-over. If you want to try again – at a relationship, a project, an idea, a conversation – you get a second chance with Mercury who (from our view) stops, backs up, and gives you another shot. Mercury Retrograde also brings communication from old relationships so I’m often revisited by people who have been out of my life for days, months, or even decades. I love seeing old faces again and hearing familiar voices that for now live only in my memory. So for me, the medicine of Mercury Retrograde is that we can always go home. We can always try again. We can always turn back time.

How to Work With Mercury Retrograde

If you’ve been chasing the future in full-steam-ahead mode and stressing yourself out like crazy, Mercury Retrograde says “Let Go!” You don’t control everything. And isn’t that welcome news sometimes?

Generally, take this time to be mindful, stay calm, and reflect. Practice compassion with yourself and everyone else. That way, when Mercury Retrograde comes to an end, you can get back on your path full speed ahead, with few casualties. While pausing certain activities during Mercury Retrograde is good advice, if your heart 100% tells you to go for something, throw out the rule book. You don’t need to miss out on an amazing opportunity waiting on Mercury. You are the best expert on you – just make sure you’re tuned in to your intuition and acting in alignment and integrity.

What to Do when Mercury Turns Direct

During retrogrades, we’re called to stop and be fully present before resuming forward motion. When planets resume their apparent forward motion, we also make a 180 and have a chance to progress with new awareness and direction. When we just keep going, par for the course, it’s easy to go through the motions and not pay attention to major signals trying to get our attention. It’s like falling asleep in the car as it coasts at a steady 50 mph. But when we have to hit the brakes and take a detour for 200 miles in the direction we just came from before getting back on the highway, we wake up! And when the detour is over, we really pay attention to make sure we’re on the right road and going in the right direction.

Are you on course? When it comes to communication, are you speaking your truth clearly? Do you really listen to others? To your inner voice? What’s going on with those thoughts in your head? Are they supporting your true desires or stuck in a negative loop? When Mercury goes direct, check yourself before hitting the accelerator. This is the time to choose your words carefully, spoken and unspoken. Think of The Magician in the Tarot, Mercury’s card. Just like him, you have the power to create reality with your mind. When you reinvent your thoughts, you reinvent your life!  

How Mercury Retrograde affects your Sun or Rising Sign

Aries

Aries prefers direct communication and has a keen sense of discipline when it comes to organizing thoughts. However, when Mercury turns retrograde, confusion and misinterpretation are likely, causing your fiery nature to become even more impatient. Breathe and do something active to relieve some of the building pressure.

Gemini 

It’s not that Mercury Retrograde doesn’t affect Gemini, but the Geminian mind and communication are always all over the place. A little Mercury moonwalk won’t phase you much but will increase your tendency to mix things up and change your mind, which can frustrate others. Take an extra moment to think before you speak, and when it matters, check your facts.

Leo 

Quirky things happen during Mercury Retrograde; funny things that make a good story…unless they put you in a bad mood or light. Leo has a good sense of humor when the joke’s not on them. Practice laughing at yourself, use your creativity when things start to go sideways, and follow your heart over your head. 

Libra 

Libra doesn’t like conflict and Mercury Retrograde can blow harmony out of the water. Practice patience when communicating, including giving people time to gather their thoughts and respond. Remember, not everything is going to be nice – it may even get ugly, but don’t get too stuck on appearances. Listen and look for where people are coming from. 

Sagittarius 

Vibrant Sagittarius loves to express honestly. Sometimes, a little too honestly. Sagittarius can give and take it straight, but some people just can’t handle that. Before you fire-off your opinion, take the opportunity to consider how it will come across. It may seem silly, but especially during Mercury Retrograde, a little sensitivity goes a long way.

Aquarius 

What does Aquarius care if weird things happen and life gets a little chaotic? Unless it threatens a firm Aquarian belief or ideal, let Mercury Retrograde shake things up! Some of the most mind-blowing epiphanies came when the rug was ripped out or the floor became the ceiling. If something gone wild annoys you, remember to take your own advice and level-up.

Taurus 

Consistency and dependability matter to Taurus, and during Mercury Retrograde, things tend to go a little haywire. Try to remember that a little game-changing helps you be more flexible. Taurus also gets stuck in old grooves and likes to take the same route. Whether it’s a road detour or dead-end conversation, be prepared for obstacles in your path. 

Cancer 

Cancer can be incredibly caring and sensitive to the needs of loved ones – but watch out when their feelings are hurt. Mercury Retrograde can be a frustrating time for you because you take words, and how people say them, personally. Just because it doesn’t sound nice, doesn’t mean it was meant that way. Try to assume the best in people.    

Virgo 

“The best-laid plans…” We all know how it goes – don’t expect life to follow your lists, priorities, and procedures. Virgo wants to get it right and can’t help but see what’s wrong. Virgo’s a fixer, and Mercury Retrograde is famous for things breaking or not working. This is the perfect time to accept that doing your best is enough.

Scorpio

Scorpio’s already suspicious of anything that sounds or feels “off,” and Mercury Retrograde just gives you more chances to suspect the worst. Scorpio is INTENSE, no question about it, but not everything is so serious. Mixed signals and words don’t always point to ulterior motives. No one likes being told to “lighten up,” but it’s good advice.    

Capricorn 

Mercury doesn’t follow rules, especially when retrograde. Capricorn holds standards and expects things on time. Control is always an illusion, but Mercury Retrograde madness makes it even more obvious. Capricorn works so hard to keep everything, including themselves, together. It’s good medicine to let some things fall apart. 

Pisces 

Of all signs, Pisces may be least affected by Mercury Retrograde. Pisces has one foot in and out of this world and doesn’t live in “normal” space and time anyway. When Mercury tricks us with some backward moving and thinking, Pisces might even feel more at home. During these periods, it’s easier to access alternate frequencies and holographic versions of yourself. Explore your limitlessness!