No matter where you look online where astrology is discussed, you’re bound to see Mercury Retrograde come up as a topic of discussion. While Mercury isn’t the only planet to experience retrograde motion, it has become the most popular retrograde cycle that people recognize and discuss. From people freaking out about it to declarations of technological breakdowns and exes popping up with messages, it is inescapable online. But what really is Mercury Retrograde, why is it an astrological phenomenon, why is it significant, and how can you thrive during Mercury retrograde?

What Exactly Is Mercury Retrograde?

Three or four times a year, from our vantage point on earth, the planet Mercury appears to move backward in motion in what can best be described as an optical illusion. This occurs because Mercury is very close to the Sun and unlike Earth, which takes roughly 365 days to orbit the Sun, Mercury takes just 88 days. While all the planets in our Solar System move in the same direction around the Sun, Mercury’s short orbit causes an apparent lap with Earth’s orbit around the Sun and results in it appearing to reverse directions or be in retrograde motion.

British space scientist, Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock, author of Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour Of the Solar System, explains, “Mercury travels around the sun over four times for every one of our orbits. When Earth and Mercury are on the same side of the sun in their orbits, Mercury appears to move through the sky from west to east. As Mercury overtakes Earth in its inner orbit, it looks as if Mercury has changed direction and is in retrograde.”

She goes on to explain, “Imagine we’re sitting on a stationary train. The train on the next platform slowly starts to move forward, but then our train takes off quickly and overtakes it. If we don’t know that our train is moving, what we see is the train next to us moving slowly forwards, then leveling up with us, and then apparently moving backward. We see this even though neither train is actually moving backward. It’s all about the relative positions.” The apparent retrograde motion of Mercury is simply due to our vantage point from earth, and it really isn’t moving backward.

Astrologically speaking, when a planet is retrograde it is not operating in its direct expression and the planet appears to be holding back its energy. Over time, astrologers have observed that when a planet goes retrograde that it seems not to express itself as easily or directly. Many explain this as saying the energy of a retrograde planet is “pushed inward” rather than expressed as it is accustomed to expressing itself. Mercury going retrograde is indicative of a slow-down in the realms of communication and connectivity. The effects of Mercury being retrograde vary depending on the Zodiac sign Mercury is in.

Mercury is the messenger, the trickster; the way thoughts, ideas, and information are exchanged. Mercury rules communication and when I think of Mercury, I automatically think of Gemini and Virgo, the two signs it rules; Gemini for its wit and chattiness and Virgo for its discriminating logic. Information is vital to both, but processed differently. Their differences, however, can be reconciled when we consider Mercury’s role in connecting people.

Mercury is associated with travel, information, writing, memory, speech, the nervous system, connection, respiration, perception, the rational mind, reason, jokes, gossip, and coordination. Mercury connects us to one another in thought, word, and deed. Sometimes Mercury requires us to be open to collecting information and a variety of ideas (Gemini) and sometimes Mercury prefers we take the information we have, sift through it, and reduce it down to what is most necessary (Virgo). While retrograde, all things Mercurial seem not as normal as usual. Mercury retrograde may likely interfere with how we connect to others.

Mishaps connected to devices that we use to receive and share information are marked when Mercury is retrograde. Mercury not only connects thoughts to people but, also connects people to people, hence its association with travel. Planes, trains, and buses being delayed when Mercury is retrograde is something we’re commonly warned about. As Mercury-themed areas of our life slow or shut down, it’s a good idea for us to use the energy wisely by going back over things, double-checking messages, and backing up electronic devices like cell phones and computers. This is when the universe blesses us with the gift of introspection and review. We are reminded that we must take a pause and reflect.

What Happens During A Mercury Retrograde Cycle?

Many people aren’t aware that Mercury Retrograde itself is a cycle. The retrograde motion of Mercury is only one portion of that cycle. It is important to understand how the entire Mercury Retrograde cycle operates in order to be adequately prepared. Here’s a quick rundown of what actually happens during a Mercury Retrograde Cycle.

Pre-Shadow Phase

When Mercury is in direct or normal motion, it is moving forward through the degrees of the sign it is in until it enters a new sign. Before Mercury is actually retrograde, it will move forward over the degrees it will retrograde over. The period of time when Mercury is moving forward over the degrees it will soon retrograde over is called Mercury’s Pre-Shadow Phase. During this time, we get a preview of the issues that will likely arise when Mercury is in retrograde motion. Pay attention to what pops up during this time because it will definitely be revisited over the entire Mercury Retrograde cycle.

Mercury Retrograde Motion Phase

When Mercury begins the retrograde motion portion of its retrograde cycle, from our vantage point on earth, it appears to move backward over the degrees it moved forward over during the Pre-Shadow Phase. During this three-week period, whatever came up over the preceding weeks of the Pre-Shadow Phase will be accentuated and highlighted. This is the period of Mercury’s retrograde cycle where it is important to understand the theme is revisiting, reexamining, and reflecting.

Shadow Phase

When Mercury stations direct, ending its Retrograde phase, it starts moving forward again. Since Mercury appeared to move backward while it was retrograde, it now has to travel forward over the degrees it moved backward over. It is recovering areas it already visited. Astrologically, this means Mercury is clearing residual “debris” it kicked up while in retrograde motion. This can feel like the final “clean-up” or “walk-through” when it comes to whatever issues came up during the Pre-Shadow and Retrograde phases. By this point of Mercury’s retrograde cycle if we’ve gone made sure to appropriately reflect we’ll gain insight into patterns in our thinking, communication, and abilities to connect with others. You could look at Mercury’s retrograde cycle as a vacuum cleaning a carpet. Mercury’s Pre-Shadow Phase is when you push the vacuum forward over a section of the carpet. Its Retrograde phase would be when you pull the vacuum back over the same section, and its Shadow phase would be pushing the vacuum cleaner forward once again and continuing past the initial area vacuumed. To view an example of Mercury’s Retrograde Cycle, check out this video I did back in 2019 about Mercury’s Retrograde in Scorpio.

How Will Mercury Retrograde Affect You?

While we can speak on Mercury Retrograde in general and how it will affect the collective, it’s important that we look to our individual charts to best understand how we will be impacted personally. Make sure that you get a copy of your birth chart so that you can look for the house(s) where Mercury will retrograde. Even if you don’t have planets or placements in the sign(s) Mercury will retrograde through, the retrograde will still impact your chart. Need help locating where Mercury will retrograde through your chart? Book a mini birth chart reading or a full birth chart reading with me, and I will be glad to help you figure it out! Also, if you’re curious about learning more about how to use astrology practically to navigate everyday life, make sure you sign up for my Astrology Course Wait List. I’ve got some amazing courses coming!

Understanding Mercury Retrograde In Your Birth Chart

This works best when looking at your birth chart as a birth chart wheel, not a Café Astrology grocery list of your placements. No shade to Café Astrology as it’s a great source of astrological information, however, the natal chart grids it provides are not as useful as an actual chart wheel. If you want a better understanding of astrology, you should get comfortable looking at chart wheels.

In my next article, I will cover how to understand how any Mercury retrograde period will affect you based on your chart. I’ll include everything you need to know about Mercury, Mercury retrograde dates, and what it really means based on where it’s transiting your chart. When Mercury enters a retrograde cycle, it is best to be armed with as much information as possible about how it will impact you. Mercury is the planet that governs not only how we communicate and pass along information, it rules our neighborhood, neighbors, siblings, and cousins. Having a heads-up on how you’ll be affected by Mercury Retrograde will give you incredible insight into the undercurrent of energies present, so that when Mercury is retrograde next, you won’t have to look at a general horoscope for guidance. Instead, you’ll be empowered by knowing what this planetary cycle actually means for YOU before Mercury will even go into a new retrograde cycle.

If you’re interested in learning more about what Mercury retrograde means, and more about how to use the practice of astrology in your everyday life, make sure to sign up here on our Course Wait List. You’ll be notified as courses go live and become available. Also, make sure to embrace the energy of the planet of communication by joining the Astro G Ladies Facebook Astrology Learning group, where me and fellow astrologer, Marie Rousseau, and lead a group of fantastic people on their astrological learning journeys.

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