Mercury retrograde * January 30 – February 20, 2021

What is Mercury retrograde?

mercury retrograde - spilled coffee
I think Mercury retrograde is probably the number one “gateway” event that pulls people into the realness of astrology beyond the horoscopes. I have not done a formal survey on this. But it’s one of the easiest astrological events to witness in real-time. For one thing, its influence on everyday things is so apparent that even people who aren’t “into” astrology can get on board with it. And it happens regularly, every four months. Like a familiar friend (or frenemy).

In astrology, Mercury represents communication, logistics, and everyday, mundane details. Mercury retrograde is the time when little things can become big things. The computer barfs. The car barfs. The cat barfs. The internet connection goes out. There’s confusion about the schedule. You can’t find that piece of paper you need. The traffic is horrendous. The cat barfs ON the computer… There are literally a million little details that can blow up and cause you to slow down, adjust, and look at things in a new way.

Don’t think of this as a flashing red light, instructing you to crawl into a hole and do nothing. Think of it as a flashing yellow light. Slow down. Take your time with things. Mercury is the planet of communications, transportation, and ideas, as well as the day-to-day minutiae of our lives. So be flexible. Many folks will tell you not to sign any contracts of any sort during Mercury retrograde. That’s kind of silly. But you do need to be cautious, read the fine print, and write any contingencies into the contract before signing. And you may want to put off any major equipment or software upgrades if possible.

This “backtracking” energy has its benefits too. Use Mercury retrograde to revise a writing project or artistic piece that you started in the past. Or review your files at work. Revisit plans for your house, your garden, whatever. Or look up old friends. This is a great time for catching up.

George Bernard Shaw was correct when he said: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Even with the best intentions, what you say may not come across in the way you meant it.

2021 Mercury retrograde in Aquarius

The sign Aquarius has been in the news lately. Aquarius was the setting of December 2020’s Great Conjunction, with Saturn and Jupiter continuing their journey through this progressive and humanitarian sign. Mercury transiting the sign attunes the flow of information to this experimental, scientific, objective way of communicating and solving problems. Mercury brings the flow of ideas and activity into this realm. Although the retrograde presents logistical and communication challenges, it also offers an opportunity to take a step back and review the plan, open your mind and ask “what if,” experiment. Be careful with new devices and major updates while Mercury is retrograde in the sign of technology.

Mercury retrograde ends with Mercury in an extended “mingle” with the slower-moving Jupiter. Mercury will meet with Jupiter twice– on February 14 and March 4. Look for a piece of good news around that time frame. Mercury-Jupiter promises open-minded and enthusiastic optimism  on the one hand– and wild exaggeration on the other. As Jupiter symbolizes legal matters, look for important announcements from Congress and Department of Justice.

Mercury retrograde meaning

Astrologically, when a planet goes into retrograde, the conditions that the planet governs are altered and do not function as expected.

As the messenger of the gods, Mercury in astrology governs details, communication, and travel. Retrograde means it’s Murphy’s Law time. Machines tend to go a bit screwy— cars, computers, phone, fax, printer, bulldozer, and the doctor’s machine that goes ping. Miscommunication is also a common byproduct of Mercury retrograde. Contracts signed and matters begun during Mercury retrograde are subject to unexpected twists and turns in the future.

Expect heavy traffic, delays, machinery malfunctions, computer problems, and typos. Mercury retrograde is typically not a huge deal unless having accurate information is of utmost importance. Surgeries and medical tests, for example. What might happen is the test, or even the surgery, must be repeated at a later date.

On the positive side, retrograde planets draw our attention inward and to the past. Mercury retrograde is a great time to review or finish up an old project, contact an old friend, or clean out the closet. It’s also a good period for introspection, dreaming, and deep thought.


  • Double-check all outgoing messages before you seal the envelope or hit the “send” button.
  • Text-astrophe! Errors, typos, crossed wires, connectivity problems, traffic, and schedule changes are typical of Mercury retrograde.
  • If you find it difficult to move forward on a writing or communication project, try going backward! Review, update, and edit your old work.
  • Look to the past notes and plans for answers. You may rediscover a valuable nugget in your old files, notes, and archives.


  • I usually have a private laugh with myself on Valentine’s Day, because it falls in the season of the most logical, detached, objective sign. Aquarius has more to do with friendship and teams than with love affairs romantic partnerships.
  • Focus on clear communication, building the friendship, building the team.
  • Reach out and make valuable connections in the last 2 weeks of February.
  • You may reconnect with a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while.


  • If you are feeling unsure about a diagnosis or treatment plan, keep asking questions. Make sure you understand and agree with the plan before you move forward.
  • Use this period to research treatment options or get a second opinion.
  • Diagnostic tests may come up inconclusive or need repeating later.
  • Mercury rules children, siblings, and pets– the kids and critters may need extra attention.

Key Dates

  • Mercury conjunct Jupiter (1): January 14
  • Mercury enters its retrograde shadow: January 15
  • Mercury retrograde at 26° Aquarius: January 30
  • Mercury conjunct Jupiter (2): February 14
  • Mercury direct at 11° Aquarius: February 20
  • Mercury conjunct Jupiter (3): March 4
  • Mercury exits its retrograde shadow: March 13
  • via Molly’s Astrology Calendar

What is Mercury retrograde good for?

When you hear about Mercury retrograde in astrology, you’ll usually hear it described as– at best– an annoyance. At worst, a reason to stop in your tracks and pull the covers over your head for three weeks.

Mercury on the dollar
Who, me?

That Mercury rx is annoying is undoubtedly true. With the lights blinking off and on, wind and weather kicking up, technology glitches, misunderstandings, wrong turns, and traffic jams, we have reason to be annoyed and reason to be extra cautious during Mercury retro.

But you can come out from under the covers. There is a method to the madness, and I want to help you understand and take advantage of it.

Why is Mercury retrograde so irritating?

When we set our goals and intentions for the hour, the day, the week, most of us bring our agenda to the table. We want to be “on” all the time, and we expect the world around us to cooperate. When Mercury retrograde comes around, our reaction is to resist it. Oh, bleeping bleep! Look at all these bleeping obstacles. But it doesn’t have to suck.

The Magic of Mercury retrograde

If you can find space to slow down, let go of expectations, and go with the flow, you can get some very important work done. You could pick up an important thread from the past. Then you’ll come out on the other side well-informed, rehearsed, and ready to move forward once again.

Retrogrades draw the energy to the past.

A retrograde planet retraces its steps, revisiting the territory it covered before. Retrogrades draw your energy to the past. In the case of Mercury retrograde, it’s your thinking, communications, day to day activities. You might find an object you thought you had lost, catch up with an old friend or colleague, or rediscover something valuable in an old notebook or computer file.

(You could even go back and touch up your astrology skills with a review of the basics.)

Fill in the frameworks you created in the past when things were moving along at a faster rate. Develop those ideas. This isn’t the time to write new chapters. It’s time for a round of edits on the ones you have.

Retrogrades draw the energy inward.

Reliable information may be difficult to come by during Mercury retrograde, but you make up for it with inner awareness! Pay attention to the deeper issues during Mercury retrograde. Let your dreams and meditations inform you. Go back and ask the “why” questions. Look past the surface chaos to the inner root causes of the thorny issues.

Are you an Underdog?

In sports, Mercury retrograde gives the underdog an edge. I think the same principle must apply in other matters too. It’s Rocky Balboa time.

Recalibration, reorientation

Woman dancing backward

Imagine Mercury as a character who must walk backward for a time. Moving backward is harder than forward because the pattern is contrary to your usual. You have to slow down and pay closer attention to what you’re doing and where you’re going.

What’s the upside of walking backward? You gain a new perspective. You use different muscles groups and neural pathways. It is much easier to see where you have been, and what you might have missed or overlooked along the way while you were moving faster in the other direction, with a different part of your mind switched on.

So take your time when Mercury is retrograde. Don’t rush to a decision or “bang the puzzle piece” to make it fit. If you try to barrel ahead at the same rate of speed that you normally do, you might fall on your butt! But if you respect the energy and work with it, you can get a lot of good out of Mercury retrograde.

What does it mean that Mercury is in retrograde?

mercury retrograde pattern
Middle dot: earth
Black dot: Sun
Red dot: Mercury.
Image: Wikimedia commons

A planet being in retrograde means that, to us here on Earth, it appears to be going backward. The opposite of retrograde motion (or Rx for short) is direct motion. Of course, Mercury is not really going backward. It is an optical illusion. Take Mercury retrograde for example. Mercury travels around the Sun faster than we do, and every 4 months, it passes us. Here on earth, we witness Mercury appearing to move backward for three weeks.

When you were a kid, did you ever go on long car trips, lie in the back seat, and stick your feet out the window? If a big car or truck passed you, it felt like you were going backward. Retrograde motion is kind of like that.

For more explanation and diagrams: Retrograde planets (Birth Charts for Beginners)

What are the dates for Mercury retrograde in 2021?

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One Response

  1. Thank you so much Molly for sharing your interesting and informative article on Mercury Retrograde. As an Aquarian born on Valentines Day, I have noted that Mercury will meet with Jupiter on February 14 so will definitely be on the look good news on my birthday! Am really hoping to finally find love – what are the chances?

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