Uh oh, it’s that time again: Mercury is going retrograde! Now, before you cancel all of your appointments and let your inner Hermes become a hermit, it’s worth knowing that Mercury retrograde isn’t always that big of a deal. Mercury retrograde often gets a lot of hype in popular media, and not always rightly so. It’s referred to as a time of miscommunication, delays and technological breakdown – which are all true. But where Mercury retrograde is often seen as a massively disruptive event, it’s not always as troublesome as you may think. So it’s about time to quit the fear mongering and learn what to actually expect when Mercury is retrograde.
What is Mercury retrograde?
Mercury retrograde is an astrological phenomenom that happens when the planet Mercury appears to reverse its orbit and move backwards. The word “appears” is crucial here, because Mercury isn’t actually moving backwards. The retrograde motion of the planet is in fact an optical illusion caused when Mercury briefly overtakes Earth in its orbit around the Sun. Instead of moving from East to West, it looks as if Mercury slows down and starts moving from West to East. You can compare this to the experience of driving a fast car and passing a slower one. The slower car appears to stop and reverse in motion, even though it’s still going in the same direction at a relatively high speed. The same thing happens when a planet goes retrograde. After the Earth passes Mercury in its orbit, the planet’s motion appears to resume its normal motion again, which we call “direct motion” (as opposed to retrograde). This whole cycle from start to finish lasts about 21 days, so we typically get Mercury retrograde for three weeks at a time. This retrograde motion is part of all planetary cycles (except for the Sun and Moon), so it isn’t necessarily a life changing event. In fact, out of all the planetary retrogrades, the retrograde of Mercury is the most common as it happens about three times a year. Chances are, you’ve started ventures and relationships, bought electronics and signed important documents during a Mercury retrograde cycle at some point in your life, and you’ve lived to tell the tale. That being said, Mercury is only retrograde 19% of the time. This means it’s more common to have Mercury moving forward than retrograde, and it’s still something worth noting. Especially around the days of the station retrograde and direct, you can feel some distraction and challenges with communication. This is because Mercury is at its slowest around those days, making Mercurial things such as thinking, speaking, and writing more frustrating and inconsistent.
What to expect from a Mercury retrograde transit
So what can we expect from a Mercury retrograde period and when should we really be more careful doing Mercurial things? While the actual retrograde period of Mercury lasts only three weeks or so, there are also two or three weeks before and after the retrograde that are worth paying attention to. During these two “shadow” periods, Mercury is passing the same zodiacal degrees of the retrograde period, but in direct motion. The shadow period before a Mercury retrograde can therefore often clue you into what to expect and where to focus during the retrograde. Conversely, the post-retrograde shadow period can help you review and resolve some of the things that came up during the retrograde time.
Some of the things that might happen during a Mercury retrograde are:
- Misunderstanding and miscommunications
- Traffic delays or cancellations
- Delivery issues
- Sending texts or e-mails to the wrong person
- Technological devices breaking down or malfunctioning (on the day that I wrote this, my hand blender just stopped working!)
- Old friends or lovers showing up in your DMs
During a Mercury retrograde period, it’s wise to proceed with some caution in the areas that Mercury rules, both generally and in your chart (look to the Gemini and Virgo houses in your birth chart!). At the same time, a Mercury retrograde transit can also be a perfect time to revisit somthing you’ve been neglecting, or to check in with something to see if it’s still worth your time. It’s often a good time to say goodbye to things or people that no longer fit in your life.
In every Mercury retrograde cycle, there is also an auspicious moment where the Sun and Mercury form an exact conjunction. This exact conjunction is called Cazimi and comes from the Arabic term for “in the heart of the Sun”. This condition is considered to be highly favourable for Mercury (or any other visible planet that forms this exact conjunction with the Sun) and usually gives the planet great power, strength and dignity. It’s worth keeping an eye on the dates of the cazimi as they provide a lot of opportunities to share or announce something important.
When is a Mercury retrograde cycle going to be more impactful?
Not every Mercury retrograde is going to have a major impact on your life – luckily! We wouldn’t get anything done otherwise! So how do you figure out whether a current or upcoming Mercury retrograde cycle is a big deal for you personally?
In general, Mercury retrograde is going to impact the people with Gemini or Virgo rising the most, given that Mercury is their ruling planet. If your ruling planet is retrograde, you might experience a more internal or introspective manifestation of Mercurial things. You may feel a stronger need to retreat, rethink and relax, not exert too much physical energy and spend more time meditating or journalling on your thoughts and feelings. Virgo risings might also notice some changes in their career or public life, wanting to step away from the spotlight and review whether they’re still on the right track. Gemini risings may find that family and the home life needs revisiting and require extra focus.
If Mercury is your annual timelord too, it might be worth paying special attention to the Mercury retrograde cycles that occur between one birthday and the next. These transits will likely be very notable and stand out throughout your profected year.
Lastly, if you have any important placements in the signs and degrees that Mercury retrogrades in, you’re probably going to feel the impact as well. The stations retrograde and direct are particularly sensitive points, also by hard aspect to other placements in your chart. For example, the May 2022 retrograde stations direct in early June right on my descendant, so that’s definitely something worth noting for me.
Upcoming Mercury retrograde dates and degrees
If you want to look ahead to see when and where the next Mercury retrograde cycles are taking place, here are the days to look out for in 2022, 2023 and 2024:
- Retrograde on January 14 at 10° Aquarius, direct on February 4 at 24° Capricorn, cazimi on January 23 at 3° Aquarius
- Retrograde on May 10 at 4° Gemini, direct on June 2 at 26° Taurus, cazimi on May 21 at 0° Gemini
- Retrograde on September 10 at 8° Libra, direct on October 2 at 24° Virgo, cazimi on September 22 at 0° Libra
- Retrograde on December 29, 2022 at 24° Capricorn, direct on January 18, 2023 at 8° Capricorn, cazimi on January 7 at 16° Capricorn
- Retrograde on April 21 at 15° Taurus, direct on May 15 at 5° Taurus, cazimi on May 2 at 11° Taurus
- Retrograde on August 23 at 21° Virgo, direct on September 15 at 8° Virgo, cazimi on September 6 at 13° Virgo
- Retrograde on December 13 at 8° Capricorn, direct on January 2, 2024 at 22° Sagittarius, cazimi on December 23 at 0° Capricorn
- Retrograde on April 2 at 27° Aries, direct on April 25 at 15° Aries, cazimi on April 12 at 22° Aries
- Retrograde on August 5 at 4° Virgo, direct on August 28 at 21° Leo, cazimi on August 19 at 26° Leo
- Retrograde on November 26 at 22° Sagittarius, direct on December 15 at 6° Sagittarius, cazimi on December 6 at 14° Sagittarius
Want to know how Mercury retrograde is going to impact you? Book a consultation with me!