What is Mercury retrograde?
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.
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.
The empathy you transmit might be even more important than the information. When Mercury retrograde begins in the emotional water sign Scorpio, communication glitches hit us right in the “feels.” A lot of folks will respond with biting sarcasm, harsh criticism, or other “stinging” responses. Mars retrograde has already put the whammy on everyone’s physical energy and patience since September. Mercury adds logistical and communication challenges at the same time.
When Mercury backs into Libra on October 27, the energy should soften a bit, but unfortunately, we will not be completely out of the woods. Read on to find out why.
Mercury retrograde and the USA elections
The aspects that Mercury makes during the retrograde tell us how smooth or difficult that retrograde will be. Mercury opposite Uranus October 7 and the Full Moon conjunct Uranus, the planet of sudden, unexpected events on October 31 promise continued October surprises.
The beginning and end of any retrograde period are called the planetary stations. When a planet reaches its station, it appears to slow down and stop for a while. Energetically, that planet acts like a “Sharpie” marker, leaving a large energetic “inkblot” in its wake. Mercury stations direct on November 3, which is Election Day here in the United States. This communication-related inkblot in a tense square with exacting, limiting Saturn all but promises tons of wrangling over every little detail of the vote count.
The good news (as I see it) is that this will be a contact to Saturn, the planet of the rules and concrete reality– not Neptune, the planet of confusion and deception (which was in the “front seat” of the 2016 election chart). Nothing is certain in this fraught time in our national history, but due to the prevalence of mail-in voting this cycle, there is the blessing of a paper trail. I believe there will be a more decisive vote than was present in 2016.
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.
- Scorpio is associated with karma and trauma. Old, difficult feelings can come to the surface as Mercury draws awareness and thoughts to the past.
- If a co-worker, friend, or loved one is struggling to communicate their ideas and feelings, be patient. Take time to really listen and reflect back. Make sure you hear and understand what they are trying to say.
- 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.
- Mercury enters its retrograde shadow: September 23
- Mercury square Saturn (1) and opposite Mars: September 23-24
- Mercury enters Scorpio: September 27
- Mars square Saturn: September 29
- Mercury opposite Uranus (1): October 7
- Mercury retrograde at 11° Scorpio: October 13
- Mercury opposite Uranus (2): October 19
- Sun conjunct Mercury: October 25
- Mercury enters Libra: October 27
- Mercury square Saturn (2): November 1
- Mercury direct at 25° Libra: November 3
- Mercury square Saturn (3): November 6
- Mercury enters Scorpio: November 10
- Mercury opposite Uranus (3): November 17
- Mercury exits its retrograde shadow: November 19
- 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.
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 working with the planetary energy always turns out better than resisting it.
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 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.
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.
Mercury retrograde mechanics
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)
Mercury retrograde dates in 2021
- January 30 – February 20
- May 29 – June 22
- September 27 – October 18