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.
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. Mercury is the planet of communication, transportation, and ideas, as well as the day-to-day logistics 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 major equipment or software upgrades if possible.
This “backtracking” energy has its benefits too. Use Mercury retrograde to revise a writing project or artistic work from the past. Or review your notes. Revisit plans for your house, your garden, whatever. Or look up an old friend. This is a great time for catching up.
2021 Mercury retrograde in Gemini
You don’t know what you don’t know
Mercury retrograde may seem to come on a bit early this time, as Mercury pulls into a 90° “square” angle with Neptune– god of the ocean and other inscrutable realms, like art, music, and imagination. You may feel the energy start to shift around May 22.
On the one hand, this is great– folks have access to their imagination and intuition. It’s a great time to freshen up an old article or poem, interpret your dreams, get spiritual insights, and let your mind align itself with the formless, flowing vibe of this period of time.
A more problematic tendency with a Mercury-Neptune contact is that folks will believe what they want to or trust someone who isn’t who they seem. Neptune’s artistic gifts as well as the tendency to fear, anxiety, and worry are about the same thing: Illusion. Neptune often shows up as misinformation, poisonous gossip, and/or outright lies. Neptune symbolizes the power of imagination for good and for ill. Disappointment or disillusionment may be part of the story.
George Bernard Shaw was correct when he said: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Mercury-Neptune makes you more likely to miss an important detail or make a hasty decision when you’re confused or distracted. Or before you have all the important information. This is especially important to keep in mind in the first 5 days of June.
And that’s not even all that’s going on right now. The Titans are clashing overhead. Saturn and Uranus– the forces of tradition, stability, rigidity, the Old Guard on the one hand. On the other hand, we have Uranus, the force of chaos, change, reform. Remember January 2021? That was chapter 1. May-June is chapter 2. That’s why things are feeling increasingly tense now.–> Saturn square Uranus
Mercury retrograde at work
- 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.
Mercury retrograde in close relationships
- Outright dishonesty is one possible manifestation of the energy.
- More common is the garden variety “not wanting to deal with it right now”. Or feeling too confused about your own feelings and state of mind to talk about it.
- Keep this in mind if things feel weird & unsettled in the last week of May and the first week of June.
- You may reconnect with a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while.
Mercury retrograde and your Health
- 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.
- If you’re sensitive to airborne toxins or allergens, change the air filters and take any other precautions you need to protect yourself.
- Mercury rules children, siblings, and pets– the kids and critters may need extra attention.
- Mercury enters its retrograde shadow: May 14, 2021
- ☂ Mercury square Neptune 1): May 22
- Mercury retrograde at 24° Gemini: May 29
- (☂☂ Mars opposite Pluto – June 1-5)
- ☂ Mercury square Neptune (2): June 5
- New Moon conjunct Mercury: June 10
- ☂☂☂ Saturn square Uranus: (in force all of May & June) peak June 14
- Mercury direct at 16° Gemini: June 22
- ☂ Mercury square Neptune (3): July 5
- Mercury exits its retrograde shadow: July 7
- 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 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.
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?
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?
- January 30 – February 20
- May 29 – June 22
- September 27 – October 18
- source: Molly’s Astrology Calendar