What it means for Mercury to be in retrograde


It’s that time of year again, folks: Mercury retrograde is officially here. If you’ve seen all the memes, read all the articles and are still scratching your head wondering what this astrological phenomenon is actually about, keep reading.

In Western astrology, Mercury is known as the planet of communication. Named after the Roman god, Mercury the planet is similarly responsible for sending and receiving messages and also rules language, writing, research, technology, learning, intellect and travel.

Mercury is one of the quickest-moving planets in our solar system, which, astrologically speaking, means that when it’s in forward motion it works like a well-oiled machine, managing all of its aforementioned tasks.

However, at least three times a year, our super-efficient messenger takes what appears to be a brief pause and reverses its trajectory in the sky. During these roughly three weeks, all the areas that Mercury governs are similarly affected by its “backward” movements. As a result of its antics, down here on Earth, people are expected to experience glitches in technology, communication, travel and the like.


To clear up any confusion, Mercury is not actually moving backward in the sky at this time. This is solely a visual phenomenon based on our relative position to the planet that makes it appear as if it’s slowing down or reversing.

One of the most common and talked-about themes during Mercury retrograde is the fact that you may find that people from your past come back to visit you. This could mean you receive communication from old friends or exes who want to reconnect. While it can feel nice to hear from someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, Mercury retrograde isn’t the time to dive headfirst into old relationships. Instead, it should be a time to reflect on your experiences and how they’ve made you into who you are today.

Important Mercury Retrograde Dates

If you’ve been on this planet for more than three months and are reading this, you’ve already experienced a retrograde and survived it, so there’s a strong chance you’ll make it through this one, too.

So far in 2023, we’ve already experienced two retrogrades: from Dec. 28, 2022 to Jan. 18, 2023, and from Apr. 21 to May 14. The current retrograde started on Aug. 23 and will go until Sept. 14. The last one of the year will start on Dec. 13 and end on Jan. 1, 2024.

Note that each retrograde is said to have a pre-shadow and post-shadow period, which extends the retrograde by roughly two weeks on either end (annoying, we know).

While the retrogrades will officially end on the previously mentioned dates, the pre-and post-shadow periods are akin to a retrograde-lite, where some of the effects can still be felt, but not as strongly.

Mercury Retrograde in Virgo

This current retrograde is unique in that it is occurring in the sign of Virgo, one of the planets that Mercury rules. Astrologers explain that Mercury is at home in Virgo, which means the effects of the retrograde may not be as taxing as when it’s retrograde in other signs.


“Since Mercury rules Virgo it is happy here, which could, at times, soften the effects of the retrograde,” Narayana Montúfar, Astrology.com’s senior astrologer, told Refinery29. “The toughest part of this retrograde is that it will overlap with Venus retrograde from Aug. 23 to Sept. 3. This means that the very beginning of the retrograde will be trippy and challenging. However, if we are open to making changes, we can come out of it successfully!”

Ways to Prepare Yourself for Mercury Retrograde

So what are ways you can prepare yourself to come out of the retrograde as unscathed as possible?

First of all, know that going full speed ahead during this time will not likely be your best bet. Retrogrades can be a great time to slow down and reflect on our journeys instead of barreling through.

Furthermore, if you’re experiencing changes to your plans —or any change at all — it’s best to roll with the fluctuations instead of forcing things through to completion.


​​”Don’t get discouraged if plans seem to be stalled or delayed. This is an opportunity to take your time, adjust, and pivot on your own timeline.” Stephanie Campos, astrologer and author of the upcoming book “Seasons of the Zodiac: Love, Magick, and Manifestation Throughout the Astrological Year,” told Refinery29.

Key words during this time are flexibility, patience and trust.

Lastly, because Mercury is known to be mischievous when it comes to communication, data and information in general, be sure to double (or triple) check all communication before you hit that send button.

Happy retrograde!

MORE: This Starbucks drink chart finds the perfect drink for your Zodiac sign

Curiosity, Science & Nature

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About the Author
Lauren Alexander
Lauren is a freelance lifestyle editor and writer who sources inspiration from her international travels. If she's not on the beach, you can find her eating her way through local markets or at home DIYing self care products.

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