What is Mercury Retrograde?
If there’s one astrological phenomenon that is bandied about most
often these days, it is the subject of Mercury retrograde. So, let’s
explore what this cycle is all about.
When a planet moves retrograde, it appears to be moving backward in
relationship to the Earth, as if retracing its steps. The closer a planet is
to the Sun, the faster it moves and conversely, the farther away a
planet is from the Sun, the slower it moves. Since Mercury is the inner-
most planet of our solar system, it moves the fastest and moves
retrograde in shorter intervals than the rest of the planets. In fact,
Mercury moves retrograde roughly every four months for a period of
In the days leading up to its retrograde, Mercury slows down in its rate
of motion and is virtually at a stand-still for about a week before its
actual retrograde, and for about a week into the retrograde cycle. Then,
as it is getting ready to reverse its track in preparation for its direct
motion, it will once again slow down for about a week leading up to
direct motion and slowly speed up to its “normal” rate about a week
after going direct. The point at which it or any other planet moves from
direct to retrograde or retrograde to direct is called its “station.”
Leading up to the retrograde, Mercury enters the path of the degrees it
will ultimately retrace. This path is referred to as the shadow period,
and there are two of them. The first is the pre-shadow period, as
Mercury is in the path that it will ultimately retrace. The second period
is the post-shadow as it’s moving direct, progressing through the
degrees through which it had been retrograde.
When a planet goes retrograde or “backward,” it is viewed as a time
when we revisit the issues associated with that planet or the things that
are considered to fall under its rulership or auspices. Therefore, let us
consider those things associated with or ruled by Mercury.
Mercury is considered the Messenger God and is sometimes referred to
as “The Trickster.” Since it is the messenger, it rules anything that is a
message or conveys a message. A “message” can be information, such
as data, facts, news or ideas. Anything or anyone that is a “message,” a
“messenger” or a conduit, comes under the rulership of Mercury.
Therefore, it covers a good bit of ground.
Things Mercury Rules
Let’s start with travel and transportation. Anything associated with
getting something or someone from Point A to Point B comes under
Mercury’s domain. So that includes all vehicles and air travel as well. (In
the larger picture, air travel and aviation are ruled by Uranus and
Aquarius since aviation is a more advanced form of transport.)
Pipes, tubes, wires and keys because they are conduits of things.
Computers and anything with computer chips since they process data
People who act as or facilitate messages or things: delivery people,
postal workers, journalists, teachers, lecturers, authors, writers,
broadcasters, as well as repair workers.
In the animal kingdom, anything that has wings.
In the physical world, desks and desk drawers, things that store
Mercury-ruled items such as papers and books.
In the physical body, anything that is dual, primarily in the upper torso
of the body, such as hands, arms, lungs, shoulders, nostrils (the nose
acts as a conduit for the air we breathe), eyes, the senses in general –
they all convey messages, data or ideas.
As we can see, there is quite a laundry list of things ruled by this planet.
What happens when Mercury goes retrograde?
This is a time to go back and rework, edit, fine tune, revisit, repair or
reorganize. It is more productive to focus on these “reflective”
processes rather than plant new seeds. If Mercury’s retrograde motion
is impacting your chart, you may notice that things break down and
need to be repaired, things go awry or mistakes happen, motivating us
to go back, rethink or rework.
The processing of data and information tends to get glitchy during this
cycle, so it’s best that we operate under the assumption that things we
are doing during this time may have to be tweaked. This isn’t
necessarily a “bad” thing. There’s nothing “bad” or “wrong” about
retracing one’s steps. It’s time to learn from mistakes, reconnect with
people or events from our past, and “revisit” old ideas to position them
for a revised concept. When it comes to keeping things organized, this
is a good time to clean out closets and drawers, sift through paperwork
and storage places so we “refresh” our awareness of what we have and
where it’s located.
“Forewarned is Forearmed”
It is not uncommon for the general public to bemoan the fact that
Mercury is retrograde because, admittedly, there is a greater tendency
for a monkey wrench to be thrown into the works. The saying
“forewarned is forearmed” reminds us that if we are aware that things
are more likely to go awry during a given cycle, it behooves us to have a
heads-up and prepare.
Things to do to be pro-active when Mercury is retrograde:
Be sure your phone is charged, and you have working cables and cords,
i.e., conduits that allow gadgets to function.
Double check the calendar to be sure you have the right place and time
Confirm appointments with the awareness that things often require
rescheduling during this cycle.
Have a back-up plan: Keep spares such as keys, chargers and data.
Double-check to verify you have what you need before venturing out.
Check with your friendly astrologer to see where Mercury will be
retrograde in your chart and if it’s going to be triggering sensitive points
Pay close attention to people you meet during this cycle. You may meet
people who know people you know. Again, this is another conduit of
connections. Or new people you meet may feel very familiar, as if you
feel like you already know them. From a past life perspective, that may
very well be the case, so you are in essence, “revisiting” your past lives.
These people you’re bumping into may play a critical role in the future,
so take note.
If you’re a writer of any sort, use this as a time to edit, fine tune or
rethink your story line.
If you’re traveling, be sure not only that you have what you need but
also confirm schedules in case something has changed. For example,
there may be more flight delays, errors in timing and conveyance of
messages. A perfect example of this was the meltdown that Southwest
airlines experienced over the Christmas/New Year’s holidays of 2022-
2023. Thousands of flights were cancelled and luggage piled up for
what seemed like an eternity, so a lot of people were forced to drop
back and look for Plan B. They also had to go back to “retrieve” their
Helpful things to keep I mind
Let’s say you have a meeting during a time when Mercury is retrograde
or that was set up when Mercury was retrograde. It’s not a bad idea to
do your due diligence and confirm not only the time but the location. Is
your meetup place still there? Is it still open? Did it move? Are you sure
you have the correct address?
How does Mercury retrograde by transit impact people who were
born during Mercury retrograde?
It’s not at all uncommon for those who were born during Mercury
retrograde to feel quite comfortable during its retrograde cycle. It’s as if
they are back on familiar territory and can find this a most productive
time. So, this may be a cycle that serves you better and may be
experienced as much less glitchy.
What happens during the shadow periods?
During the pre-shadow period, it can feel as though we’re feeling the
impending retrograde. Some people actually find that this is a more
potent time than the actual retrograde, itself. At the very least, start
paying attention to logistics. Things may not be on as solid a ground as
we might like to think.
During the post-shadow period, it’s not unusual to feel additional
“fallout.” For example, if you mailed something during the pre-shadow
period or even a few retrogrades back, that item may inexplicably be
returned during the post shadow. It doesn’t seem to be nearly as
problematic as the retrograde cycle itself.
Things to avoid during Mercury retrograde
Let’s be realistic about this cycle. Yes, things can get a bit dicey, but the
whole world doesn’t come to a screeching halt just because the winged
messenger is retracing his steps. Does it make sense to put
EVERYTHING on hold during this time? No travel, no decision-making,
no purchasing of machinery, no purchasing of vehicles or anything else
ruled by Mercury such as cell phones, computers, printers or anything
else that has a computer chip? If the answer is YES, then no one would
travel for at least nine weeks out of the year, and proprietors of
anything Mercury-ruled might as well just close their doors. So, if one
has no choice but to embark on these tasks, the wise thing is to be
aware, do your homework, follow the cautionary notes and move on. Is
it an ideal time for these things? Possibly not. But this is planet Earth
and life goes on.
If you have a choice as to whether or not to undergo major elective
surgery, it might be a good idea to hold off. But sometimes we have no
choice, so we do what we can with what we’ve got.
What about signing contracts? If a contract has been in the works for a
long period of time and has gone through multiple revisions, this may
not be the worst move. If you’ve done your homework, the documents
have been analyzed from several different perspectives and everyone is
in agreement that no further changes are needed, go for it. Just be
aware that a little snag might still arise. Maybe there’s a last-minute
typo, the printer jams or maybe all parties involved don’t receive all
necessary pages. Okay. That’s par for the course. But if a complex
contract first comes across your desk during a retrograde, it’s a good
idea to take some time to have it reviewed by several sets of eyes
before jumping at the first opportunity to sign it.
If you need to start a major project that will take a significant amount
of time to complete, it’s probably best to avoid starting it during a
retrograde, because the chances are there will numerous delays along
This may not be the best time to close on a major purchase such as real
estate. If you can avoid it, that’s probably best. If you have no choice,
be doubly certain that every detail has been examined with a fine-
toothed comb. Make sure you receive several forms of copies in case
one fails. Be sure there aren’t any nebulous clauses that could be
misconstrued down the road.
If you have no choice but to make travel plans during a retrograde,
keep checking on the details the closer you get to the trip to be sure
there haven’t been any changes in such things as the flight times,
connecting times or flight numbers and the like. Sometimes flights get
If you must travel during the retrograde, it’s a good idea to give
yourself extra time to get to your points of departure and give yourself
a wider berth of time when it comes to layovers. Maybe keep extra air
tags on items so you can keep track of them.
This may not be the best time to buy an old klunker, used device or
appliance, on an “As Is” basis. If you’re having something repaired, see
if you can get a warranty on the work in case something goes awry.
Are some people more heavily impacted by Mercury cycles than
Mercury travels rather close to the Sun. They are never more than 28
degrees apart, so there’s a good chance that it will be in an allowable
orb of a conjunction to the Sun at the time of birth. A conjunction
occurs when planets are anywhere from 0-10 degrees apart, and some
astrologers will stretch that orb a couple of degrees if one of the lights,
the Sun or Moon, is involved. The closer they are, the more the nature
of the two bodies are intertwined and in turn, the greater the likelihood
that you’ll be impacted by Mercury’s motion. Similarly, if Mercury is
sitting on one of the angles of the chart, with the possible exception of
the 4 th , where things are hidden from view, there may be a greater
sense of impact. And, as mentioned earlier, Mercury’s path at any given
moment in time needs to be factored in to your own chart to see if it’s
triggering any aspects.