Mercury is the planet that rules communication, logic, information, travel, and commerce, and superstitions about its retrograde are well known. Common warnings include: Don’t start new projects or sign contracts, don’t make big purchases or buy electronics, and don’t expect any travel to go according to schedule. But there's a lot more to Mercury retrograde than frustration and delays. In fact, it can be a wonderfully productive time to review your past and consider your direction in life—and to slow down in general.
People love to blame their problems on Mercury retrograde, but the truth is that the stars don’t force anything into being; astrologers merely use them as a tool for self-examination. That’s why VICE astrologers put together this handy Mercury retrograde guide: Read below to debunk common misconceptions, learn this year’s retrograde schedule, and make the most of this energy!
Is Mercury “in” retrograde?
Let's get this out of the way first: Mercury is never "in" retrograde. This mistake comes up a lot! In fact, one way that astrologers suss out who is a novice is whether or not they say Mercury is “in” retrograde, or simply Mercury retrograde. It would be surprising to find someone using the former invited to speak at an astrology conference or contribute to an astrological anthology, so if you want to fit in among astros (as astrologers commonly call themselves), refer to Mercury retrograde as such. You can say: Mercury is retrograde, Mercury will be retrograde, Mercury begins its retrograde, I was born during Mercury retrograde, I ran into my ex during Mercury retrograde, and so on!
When is Mercury retrograde?
There's a misconception that Mercury retrogrades are surprising, rare, and/or random occurrences. They're not: We know when they will occur, and they take place three, or sometimes four, times a year. Many astrologers consider Mercury retrograde when they plan events for the year!
All Mercury retrogrades in 2022 begin in air signs and end in earth signs, except for the final one which simply stays in earth sign Capricorn. Air signs are the conceptual thinkers of the zodiac, while earth signs rely on material evidence. Retrograding through air and then earth points toward unlearning and decluttering, so that we can achieve more accuracy.
January 13 to February 3
This Mercury retrograde begins in Aquarius and enters Capricorn on January 25, finding us reviewing our visions for the future and revisiting the brass tacks of turning our dreams into reality. It also takes place during a less common Venus retrograde, which has us rethinking how we see our future selves, and how beauty standards stand the test of time. There is a heavy mental atmosphere and determination as Mercury stations retrograde next to Saturn, the planet of duty and limitations. Mercury ends its retrograde on Pluto, the planet of secrets, bringing new understandings of hidden meanings and covert information. We are getting a new perspective on what we actually want and why we want it, and reconfiguring our strategy to make it happen in light of new information.
May 10 to June 2
This Mercury retrograde begins in Gemini and enters Taurus on May 22, finding us reconsidering options and re-examining our values. It occurs in the middle of eclipse season, bringing life-shaping opportunities and milestones. Mercury, the planet of the mind, is Gemini’s planetary ruler, so there will be a lot of tricks and riddles to this retrograde. It ends conjunct the same degree as May 16th’s full moon lunar eclipse in Scorpio, finding us extra hungry for information and seeking suitable answers.There are many different ways things can go, but in the end, we settle on one choice that feels perfect.
September 9 to October 1
This Mercury retrograde begins in Libra and enters Virgo on September 23, finding us renegotiating relationships and rethinking how to organize things. During this retrograde period, Mercury is in love planet Venus’s home sign, and Venus is in Mercury’s home sign, so the two help each other out. This is a useful time to take a critical look at your relationships and desires (not just romantic ones!) and consider whether they live up to your feelings, values, and practical plans. If they don’t, it’s time to talk about it! There can’t be a resolution until the problem is named, which requires some airing out. This retrograde ends with Mercury and Venus back in their home signs and everything falling into place, happy to have had such a good talk and reach a mutual understanding.
December 28 to January 18, 2023
This Mercury retrograde is in industrious earth sign Capricorn and it begins on the same degree as Venus in Capricorn. This begins a new cycle in understanding desires and communicating them—but before that takes off, we do some soul-searching as Mercury goes retrograde. Admitting things to ourselves and finding bold, honest truths is key as Mercury retrograde squares off with Jupiter in Aries and meets the brutally honest sun in Capricorn. If we cannot imagine a future, it cannot be worked toward!
Does Mercury really move backward during a retrograde?
Nope! It's an optical illusion created when Earth and another planet move at different speeds, like when you're on the train and another zooms past—the other train can look like it's moving backward. That optical illusion can be confusing and disorientating, but just like a retrograde, it does give you a moment to pause and consider a new perspective.
What is a planetary station?
When a planet pauses in the zodiac to begin or end its retrograde, that’s called the station. This is an important moment: Astrologers think of it as a time of intensity and focus when planetary themes are amplified (with the slow-moving outer planets Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto.
Do other planets retrograde?
Not counting the sun and the moon, all the other planets in the sky also retrograde. There’s a Mars retrograde coming up this autumn, October 30, 2022 to January 12, 2023, meaning Mars (which normally spends about two months in each sign) will be in Gemini for seven months. Retrogrades add emphasis to a certain area of the sky for astrologers, because a planet lingers in one place. Retrogrades represent a time for reflection and inward action, rather than projecting something out into the world.
Venus is associated with love, beauty, and luxury, so expect these themes to get turned on their head when Venus retrograde kicks in. You may not feel so seductive or your self-esteem may even take a hit, but this is an indispensable chance to review your love life and financial situation. Sometimes we need to wake up feeling gross, without any money for morning coffee, in order to look around and wonder: What am I doing here, with these people, in this city, with this job? Once Venus goes direct again, you’ll find that you not only revamped your wardrobe and hairstyle, but your values and ideals concerning Venusian themes like love and money evolved, too.
Mars is the planet of action, and when Mars is retrograde we may not have the libido or drive to chase after things the way we normally would. While Mars wants nothing more than to divide and conquer, Mars retrograde might not feel up for plonking and bonking, or it has to take a break and think of new ways to make it happen. Generally, it’s a great time for naps, since energy levels are less straightforward. It’s an opportune time for strategizing, planning, and reflecting on the way you do things, rather than just charging head-first into them.
Mercury, Venus, and Mars are more personal planets, changing signs frequently and reflecting individuals rather than larger groups or trends. But Jupiter and planets beyond it are slower and further from earth, so planetary trends become more generational and witnessed on a collective level. The days that outer planets station retrograde and direct are typically more noticeable than the retrograde period itself.
Jupiter is the planet of higher learning, education, and beliefs, so during its retrograde—especially the day that retrogrades begin and end (when the planets station) these themes are amplified! Jupiter, the planet of expansion and abundance, does have an effect of amplification since it is such a massive planet. While Jupiter is retrograde, it can signal an inner look at truth and wisdom, and reconsidering and digesting what has been learned rather than continuing to pursue answers! Sometimes Google doesn’t have all of the answers—Jupiter retrograde is one of those times.
Saturn is the planet of limitations, responsibilities, and time, and its gylph looks like a little sickle, which is used to harvest wheat. When Saturn is retrograde, it can signal a delay to this harvest, usually by no fault but bad timing. When Saturn is retrograde, there can be a relaxation of rules and laws so that something more complete can take its place in the future. Saturn is walls, boundaries, skin—without walls there would be no shelter and everything would fall apart! It’s the glue that holds everything together. Saturn retrograde is a time when people let their hair down.
The modern “outer planets,” Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto, spend almost half of the year retrograde, so their retrograde period might not be noticeable on first glance, but still have notable meaning upon a further look! Plus, the day of the station, retrograde or direct, definitely brings up their planetary themes.
Neptune is the planet of collective beliefs: When Neptune retrograde begins, there can be some embarrassment and reckoning with ways that trends or misconceptions of what’s popular or cool have seeped into your life. There could be a sense of embarrassment having seen how things were misconstrued, regret from hopping on the bandwagon. Neptune is the planet of forgiveness, and it dissolves the veil between dreams and waking life. Its retrograde station makes these themes much more obvious.
Uranus is the planet of invention. Invention often comes from necessity or unforeseen circumstances, which is why this planet is also associated with surprises and the unexpected. When Uranus retrogrades, themes of recklessness, spontaneity, and breaking away from the norm are more prominent.
Pluto is the planet of secrets, power, and undercurrents, and although it is very small, it represents something monumental as a planetary body! That’s why it’s said that Pluto can make big things seem small, and small things seem big. Pluto stations certainly stir the pot, bringing up psychological shadows and skeletons from the closet. Larger political issues and power structures are reckoned with.
What is a shadow period?
Although shadow periods aren’t often discussed, they’re arguably as significant as retrogrades: The shadow period before Mercury retrograde gives astrologers clues about what areas of your life may be revisited during the retrograde, while the shadow period after Mercury retrograde offers you another chance to reconsider the situation, tie up any loose ends, or clarify remaining confusion.
There's an old saying that whatever you lose during Mercury retrograde will be returned to you. The pre-shadow period reveals what that may be, while the post-shadow one resolves the issue. If you and your partner fight a lot during the pre-shadow period, astrologers believe that during the retrograde, you might find those issues popping back up and perhaps resulting in a break-up—only to be reconciled during the post-shadow period!
Will everything be chaotic, late, and/or broken?
Mercury retrograde is a great time to connect with what really matters, to dismiss a sense of urgency and witness how behaving like a robot keeps you from connecting with other people. Maybe you need to reschedule some appointments, accidentally drop your phone in the toilet, or take a break from a bad romance in order to get in touch with the people and things that count. Luckily for us, this opportunity occurs three to four times each year, and there’s a shadow period on either side.
It's important to remember that the stars don't hold absolute power over you. You have free will! We look at astrology for what it is: a calendar. Astrologers think you're likely to do certain things during certain planetary transits, and astrology is a great way to watch out for those time periods, but it's never an excuse for bad behavior or lack of organization. Furthermore, it's said that people who are born during a Mercury retrograde thrive during the retrograde period. Could you be one of those people? Ask an astrologer or look up the Mercury retrograde dates for your birth year.
What can we expect during Mercury Retrograde?
Astrologers expect that conversations are revisited, we run into people from the past, or we could be forgetful (so double check that you have your phone, keys, and wallet!)—but we may also find items we previously thought were lost. Things could feel like they’ve been turned upside down or reversed, but Mercury is the planet of logic, so this can be a more fantastical or imaginative time when abstract thinking reigns. We can change our minds about past decisions, or find that Mercury retrograde has delivered a totally new perspective!
What does Mercury Retrograde mean for my love life?
Each Mercury retrograde will be different for every zodiac sign, and every person! But in general, astrologers expect that during Mercury retrograde we revisit conversations with our partners. If you’re looking for love, you might reconnect with an old crush.
Astrologers frequently broadcast that Mercury retrograde is coming up by declaring “Don’t text your ex!” as it’s regarded as a period of revisitation and reconnection—but it can indeed be the time to reach out to someone again, as renegotiations and forgiveness are favored above beginning new endeavors.
What if you meet someone new during Mercury retrograde? You may find that your connection is strong, but that misunderstandings about when or where to meet could pop up! The relationship may have a slower start than usual, or perhaps making plans and communicating will go swimmingly, but you have deep conversations about your pasts, or find that your connection inspires you to deeply reflect on your communication and thinking patterns…this could be quite revealing and even healing!
Astrologers often tell us that if a breakup takes place during Mercury retrograde, it may not stick or it’ll take a longer time to hash out; and if a commitment is made, it may be renegotiated. But that’s also true in all of life! Renegotiations can be helpful in partnerships and provide more dimension and understanding.
If your love life is difficult during Mercury retrograde, consider that it may be about something other than the retrograde: Connect with a qualified counselor for help, speak with trusted friends, and don’t blame the stars for your life!
What does Mercury retrograde mean for my career?
Again, each Mercury retrograde is unique, but astrologers still have general notes on its impact on our careers. The first is that astrologers frequently advise against signing contracts during this period, as renegotiations might take place…but this could work in your favor! Double check paperwork before signing or completing things. Mercury retrograde is a wise moment to ask someone qualified to take a second look before you commit.
Mercury retrograde can also find you revisiting paperwork or re-editing your work: This might make you feel like things have slowed down or like progress in your career has halted, but it can also help you dig deeper into your work, do more research, and consider things from a new perspective. Astrologers also advise against starting a new project during Mercury retrograde, but it may be a fine opportunity to pick up a project that was previously set aside, as Mercury retrograde is all about revisiting things!
If you’re looking for work, astrologers say that the interview process may take longer during Mercury retrograde, that there may be more back-and-forth, or communication complications, but you may also revisit an old gig, reconnect with an old employer or colleague, or reconsider your goals. If your career is difficult during Mercury retrograde, don’t yell at the sky! Connect with a qualified person to help make an action plan.
How do I make Mercury retrograde work for me?
The best piece of advice we can offer you about Mercury retrograde—other than not to worry about it too much—is not to expect commitments to be set in stone. Mercury rules logic, and if a retrograde is hitting you hard, your thinking may not be totally rational. But letting your fear of Mercury retrograde guide your behavior would make life nearly impossible! If you need to sign a new lease or start a new job, you probably won't be able to hold off until Mercury is direct. Do what you have to do when you must—things will work out the way they will, Mercury be damned!
The mythological roots of Mercury retrograde have a lesson for us: A few hours after his birth, Mercury decided, as siblings often do, that it would be fun to steal his brother Apollo's cattle. For some extra kicks, he turned the cattle's hooves backwards (what a trickster!). Apollo was appalled, but daddy Jupiter thought this was pretty funny. We should all take on Jupiter's attitude and simply drop this drama with Mercury retrograde. Taking one's time, reconsidering, reflecting, and generally getting a grip on life is mandatory for happiness—as is having a sense of humor. Laugh at the blunders Mercury retrograde brings your way. Instead of saying, "Oh, it's Mercury retrograde; everyone will be running late," try saying, "Hey, it's Mercury retrograde, take your time!"
Mercury retrograde shouldn't be a disaster, but an excuse to leave work early (or arrive late!), chill out, look at old photo albums, reminisce, reconnect, and reflect. Jupiter cut Mercury some slack; we can, too!
This page was originally published on July 23, 2015. It’s been updated for improved clarity on the topic.