Mercury Retrograde: A Comprehensive Guide to the Astrological Phenomenon

Mercury Retrograde

For avid astrology fans or those who casually like to read up on their zodiac signs, Mercury retrograde may be a very familiar term. This astrological event, which is said to occur when Mercury appears to be moving backward in its orbit, is believed to have both positive and negative impacts on individuals.

During this period, people across all zodiac signs might find themselves behaving uncharacteristically. So, when you feel like nothing seems to go the way you planned, it might not just be sheer bad luck. You might actually be able to blame it on Mercury retrograde.

Some people believe that by keeping track of the dates when Mercury retrograde is in effect, we can be more productive. It also allows us to sidestep some of the irritations associated with this celestial occurrence. If you’re curious to understand the essence of this phenomenon and its impact on your life, here’s a comprehensive deep dive into Mercury retrograde, what it means, and its history.

A History of Mercury Retrograde

One of the earliest records of this phenomenon was by Babylonian astronomers around the 7th Century BC. These astronomers recorded astronomical diaries into clay tablets, describing the motions of the planets. They even included how Mercury appeared to slow down and loop back on itself. Babylonian astronomers also created formulas that can predict where these celestial bodies would appear in the sky.

“They had a very clear mathematical understanding of that notion,” said Freie Universitat Berlin historian and astrophysicist Mathieu Ossendrijver. “In Babylonia, the planets and the stars were viewed as manifestations of gods.”

Ossendrijver added that any motion related to the plants was perceived as a sign that could be interpreted about the fate of “king or country.” He said that the more individual horoscopes would emerge later, in 400 BC.

Ossendrijver revealed that another set of cuneiform tablets recorded how to interpret the motion of these celestial bodies. It’s unclear what the Babylonians saw in Mercury retrograde, however, as the tablet with this detail is missing.

However, the Babylonian name for Mercury also “means something like ‘the jumpy one.’ It’s a planet that jumps back and forth it’s of course the fastest planet and so there is some quirkiness about Mercury in the sky, something mercurial, one could say, which the Babylonians already saw in this planet,” said Ossendrijver. This concept would also spread in medieval Europe.

What Is Mercury Retrograde

What is Mercury Retrograde?

Retrograde happens when a planet appears to move backward in the sky from our view on Earth. While planets don’t actually move backward, the optical illusion that makes it seem otherwise has mysterious effects on us. Of all the planets in our solar system, Mercury is the planet that enters retrograde most often. Mercury turns retrograde three to four times a year.

When a planet enters retrograde, the aspects that it astrologically rules over go out of sorts. The same could also be said for whatever is ruled by the zodiac sign that is also retrograding. In this occurrence, we tend to revisit our past and make changes for closure or for a fresh start.

In the case of Mercury retrograde, it comes in phases and has a “shadow period” and a “storm period.” The shadow period starts when Mercury reaches the point in the zodiac that it turns directly at. It will end when it last reaches the point in the zodiac where it will turn retrograde.

People usually don’t feel the effects of Mercury retrograde until it enters the storm period. The storm period is when Mercury is moving at its slowest, creating chaos as Mercury tends to move the fastest of all the planets. Mercury is thrown off as a result of moving slowly. There are always two storm periods, one is when Mercury turns retrograde and the other is when it turns direct again.

Does Mercury Really Move Backward?

As we’ve said earlier, no, Mercury doesn’t really move backward even as it retrogrades. The planet only appears to move backward, much like how the earliest astrologers saw it. Mercury is the planet closest to the sun, and therefore its orbit is a lot shorter than that of Earth’s.

What Mercury Rules Over

In astrology, Mercury rules over the aspect of communication in all its forms. This includes listening, speaking, learning, reading, editing, researching, negotiating, selling, and buying. This aspect takes from Roman (and Greek) mythology, with Mercury being the name of the Roman god who also happens to rule over communication.

“Mercury is the winged messenger of the gods in mythology,” said astrologer Emily Ridout. “That imagery indicates the intellect, because we use our intellect to communicate: writing, spoken word, email, contracts, agreements, etc.”

However, when Mercury enters retrograde, there will be some problems related to communication or technology. As Mercury rules the mind, business, and communication, it’s important to avoid getting into new things. The planet rules over formal contracts and important documents like manuscripts for books, term papers, agreements, deeds, leases, and wills, among others.

All types of code are also ruled by Mercury, like computer codes, for example. Transportation, shipping, and travel are also ruled by Mercury. So when the planet retrogrades, these aspects would go out of sorts.

This is because, whether it’s for work or personal purposes, of what happens when Mercury returns to its normal orbit. When the planet reaches its normal orbit, it may reveal that whatever foundation the agreement was made on, wasn’t what you thought it might be.

What to Do During Mercury Retrograde

According to astrologer Kyle Thomas, Mercury retrograde provides a good time to do certain things. Because Mercury is a planet that represents communication in astrology, retrograde is a good time to reach out to previous projects, events, and/or relationships. Reaching out to old friends, former flames, and old business partners is something to do during the retrograde period.

This is because this rare period allows truths from the past to surface. With this, we can bring them into the present and maybe find a way to resolve old issues and let them go. It will be hard to move forward if the past is holding us back, and so retrograde will be the time for some reflection. If the time is right, then retrograde is also a good time to start over.

Spend time looking into your subconscious. Mercury retrograde is a time to meditate and get in touch with yourself on a spiritual level. If you must take on a new job at this time, be sure to look into the details. But if you can wait, wait until this period is over to pursue that new career path.

Ultimately, Ridout says, nothing catastrophic will happen to you whenever there’s such a period.

“Nothing about Mercury in retrograde is catastrophic,” said Ridout. “It’s just annoying.”

“The modernized, technological world is very dependent on Mercury,” Ridout adds. “Ours is a culture of hyper-connectivity and hyper-productivity.”

Reconnect With Old Contacts

One of the things to do during a period of Mercury retrograde is to get in touch with old contacts. It’s the time to reconnect with old friends, old acquaintances, possibly old business colleagues, and maybe old flames. This is a time when you can make any changes to the connection and maybe venture into a new path together.

If you’re finding yourself rekindling your relationship with an ex, avoid officially getting back together until after the retrograde period. This is so you can make sure that this reunion is stable. The same may go for weddings, according to Thomas.

Mercury retrograde is a time full of “re”s, so take this period as a time to reflect, reinvent, and repair what is needed. In making these adjustments, you’ll be able to come out of Mercury retrograde transformed and happy.

“We’re so busy panicking because we want to move forward that we forget about the importance of reflection,” said Ridout. “Maybe the way we’ve been moving forward is not the most optimal way.”

Go on a Trip

Another thing to do during Mercury retrograde? Go on a trip. While this period is affecting everyone, take some time off and enjoy a vacation. Make sure that this trip is solely for leisure and not for business. This is because Mercury rules commerce and business, and during this retrograde period, deals may end up falling through.

Aside from that, Mercury, Thomas said, can bring on mishaps when it comes to travel and logistics. Give yourself more time to prepare and go over your travel itinerary.

Back-Up Old Documents and Look for Missing/Old Things

It might sound strange to do, but your future self might thank you for it. What better time to create backups of important documents than during Mercury retrograde? Photocopy any important documents, including your ID, social security, and passport, among others, as backups.

At the same time, Mercury retrograde is the best time to find things that you think have been missing. It might be time to do some cleaning and see which things pop up from under the clutter.

Mercury Retrograde

What Not to Do During Mercury Retrograde

Mercury retrograde is a time to do some revisiting and repairing. Generally, pursuing new things is not recommended for this period.

“It’s a time of reflection,” said astrologer Emily Ridout. “Not a time of initiating new conversations or activities.”

Despite the advice of holding back from making new big decisions at this time, it’s not always realistic. Ridout explained that not everyone might have the privilege “of completely planning things around.”

“So I would say if you do choose to move into a new venture, take an extra beat to deeply consider it,” said Ridout.

Avoid Buying Expensive Items

One thing to avoid doing during Mercury retrograde is buying expensive items. It’s good to keep in mind that people may not think clearly at this time.

To avoid buyer’s remorse, try holding back from high-end shopping until after retrograde. At least by then you won’t come down with buyer’s remorse over an expensive purchase.

Avoid Stressing Yourself Out

Many of us have minds that are running a mile a minute, which obviously stresses us out. Avoid thinking too much during Mercury retrograde. Think of this time as the time to step back, relax, and get out of our heads. We sometimes miss out on important things by continuously thinking of how to charge forward.

Mercury retrograde is there to remind you that rest is just as important as work.

How It Affects Relationships

Diving more into revisiting and repairing relationships, astrologer Emily Ridout said Mercury retrograde would see miscommunication heightened at this time. Seeing as communication is one of the essential aspects of a relationship, a misunderstanding can lead to arguments and/or chaos.

“You might realize your partner communicates in a very direct way and tells the facts,” said Ridout. “And you communicate in a very feeling-centered, roundabout way. Sometimes there’s a mistake where they don’t hear your message or you take theirs as being too harsh.”

With that in mind, take this time to be mindful of how you can articulate your point of view without hurting the other person.

“Take this time and use it to make the relationship stronger,” said Ridout. “We always have that choice when things aren’t working the way we planned. Are you going to say, ‘How can we look at how we’re communicating to make this run more smoothly in the future?’ Or are you just going to blow up and blame someone else?”

Mercury Retrograde Dates for 2023

Now that we’ve got an idea of what to do during Mercury retrograde, fortunately, we know when this period will happen this year. 2023 saw Mercury retrograde enter the seasons of the three earth signs of the zodiac: Taurus, Capricorn, and Virgo. Ridout said that these three signs would feel Mercury retrograde more intensely this year, but that they will have a good experience.

More on material items, Ridout said to look out for the effects of Mercury retrograde in this aspect. Pay attention to inconveniences that may come up, or people from the past that suddenly turn up out of nowhere.

“These situations tend to arise to spark your inner mind to work in new ways,” said Ridout. “Thereby overcoming past challenges with the inner reflection and insights you’ve had since the last time you faced similar situations.”

The first instance of Mercury retrograde stretched from December 29, 2022, to January 18, 2023. At this time, Mercury retrograde goes directly into Capricorn. The second Mercury retrograde in 2023 is from April 21, 2023, to May 14, 2023. This period goes into another earth sign, Taurus.

From August 23 to September 15, during the Virgo season, is the third Mercury retrograde of the year. The last retrograde that we can anticipate for 2023 started on December 13. The retrograde will be in effect in the fire sign Sagittarius until January 1, 2024.

Dates for 2024

The dates for Mercury retrograde for 2024 stretch from the 2023 date. This time will go into effect again from April 1 to April 25 during the Aries season. The retrograde will then happen again from August 4 to August 28 in the earth sign and ends in another fire sign, Leo. Mercury retrograde will enter Sagittarius again when it takes effect from November 25 to December 15.

Mercury Retrograde for 2025 to 2028

There are already predictions for Mercury retrograde for the next five years after 2024. In 2025, expect Mercury retrograde to take effect in both water and fire signs. From March 14 to April 7, 2025, the retrograde will happen in the fire sign Aries and end in the water sign Pisces. This period will take effect again from July 17 to August 11 in fire sign Leo.

For the fourth time in 2025, Mercury retrograde will start from November 9, 2025, to November 29, 2025. This starts in the fire sign Sagittarius and ends in the water sign Scorpio.

Water signs will get into Mercury retrograde in 2026. This period will first start from February 25, 2026, to March 20, 2026, in Pisces. It will enter Cancer from June 29 to July 23, 2026, and again from October 24, 2026, to November 13, 2026, in Scorpio. A mix of water and air signs will enter Mercury retrograde in 2027.

From February 9, 2027, to March 3, 2027, retrograde will enter Pisces and end in air sign Aquarius. It will enter retrograde again from June 10, 2027, to July 4, 2027, in Cancer and will end in Gemini. For the third time in 2027, retrograde will start from October 7, 2027, to October 28. The third arrangement will start from Scorpio and end in Libra.

In 2028, this period will take place from January 24 to February 14, 2028, for Aquarius. It will continue to its other air signs. From May 21, 2028, to June 13, 2028, retrograde enters Gemini. Retrograde will enter Libra from September 19, 2028, to October 11, 2028.

Retrograde from 2029 to 2030

For 2029, Mercury retrograde will enter Aquarius and Capricorn from January 7, 2029, to January 27, 2029. From May 1 to May 25, it will enter Taurus, and from September 2 to September 24, it will enter Libra and Virgo. By December 21 to January 10, 2030, retrograde is set to enter Capricorn.

Lastly, for 2030, retrograde continues from December 21, 2029, to January 10, 2030, in Capricorn. Mercury retrograde will happen again from April 12 to May 6, 2030, in Taurus and ends in Aries. This period will happen again from August 15 to September 8 in Virgo, and from December 5 to December 25 in Capricorn and Sagittarius.

After Retrograde

When Mercury retrograde finally leaves us, there are astrologers that believe that there is a “shadow period” of adjustment. This period also takes a few weeks as Mercury moves forward in its normal orbit again. What you can do during this time is let things work itself out. In particular, let any miscommunication that might have happened within retrograde sort itself out.

It’s also advised to anticipate electronic kinks to get resolved. Stay calm but start planning on how to move forward. Other things you can do at this time? Return to your routine. As we’ve mentioned earlier, this is now the time you can start pursuing new agreements or financial decisions.

Use the energy you get from this period of retrograde leaving to make smart changes.

Other Retrogrades

Mercury may retrograde more often, but there are also Mars and Venus retrograde, when the two planets seemingly move out of their normal orbit. Unlike Mercury, the two planets orbit the sun a little longer because of their distance to it.

Mars Retrograde

The planet Mars shares its name with the Roman god of war. In astrology, this planet rules over energy, action, and sexual desire. Mars retrograde usually lasts between two to two-and-a-half months. It is also a little less rare for Mars to retrograde compared to Venus, which enters this phase even less.

Mars represents our drive and our ability to act, and psychologically, this is associated with individuation and the gradual unraveling of selfhood. This may also turn into action when traumatized enough. Mars also represents a person’s inner survivalist.

So, when Mars retrograde comes on, we may find ourselves struggling and frustrated by not moving forward enough. Any plans made under Mars retrograde also tend to fall through, but not as quickly as during Mercury’s time. The same can be said for relationships, as a budding romance may fizzle out once Mars retrograde takes over.

Venus Retrograde

The second closest planet to the sun, Venus is also the name of the Roman goddess of love and beauty. In Greek mythology, she would be known as Aphrodite. Venus is the ruling planet of both Taurus and Libra and its most dominant ruling aspect is pleasure.

Compared to Mars and Mercury, Venus spends the least amount of time in retrograde. The planet enters retrograde every 18 months in a span of 42 days.

During Venus retrograde, issues related to love and money may run cold. It also isn’t uncommon to face incredibly difficult challenges in relationships at this time. Much like with Mercury and Mars, old romantic flames may resurface again. But the tension during this period may help give the person perspective.

Those who are already in relationships during Venus retrograde may wind up in a romantic stand-off as problems start to come up or come back. This may be the time for the hard conversations about romantic misgivings in order to come out of this stronger.

For others, however, this period may spot serious deal breakers that may be a sign that the love is no more. New relationships that may come up during this time may also tend to feel intentionally done to piss us off.

As Venus is also associated to aesthetics, beauty, art, and luxuries. Venus retrograde will ultimately give us a productive period to revisit our creativity.


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