Mercury Retrograde 2023: What it Means, Key Dates, and its Effects

Mercury retrograde can be frustrating. But with this guide to prepare you, it may run smoothly!
mercury retrogrades 2023
Illustration by Cathryn Virginia

Mercury retrograde returns on August 23, 2023, this time in analytical earth sign Virgo! Details may be reworked and plans could be rearranged.

Mercury retrograde is arguably the most well known of the astrological happenings, aside from perhaps eclipses. Utter the phrase, and many will shudder! People love to blame Mercury retrograde for any miscommunications, delays, or technical difficulties that take place during this period. But, is Mercury retrograde really so bad? Could it perhaps have some benefits? Let’s explore what Mercury retrograde means for us.


What is Mercury retrograde?

Mercury is the planet astrologers regard as the messenger, ruling communication, commerce, commutes, and logistics. Three to four times a year, it appears to pause its forward motion in the sky and turns around, retracing its steps through the degrees of the zodiac. Astrologers call this backward motion a retrograde. Of course, Mercury is not actually moving backward in space: It’s just an optical illusion, one which astrologers track in their charts. 

What does Mercury retrograde mean for us?

The effects of Mercury retrograde are said to be technical errors, miscommunications, and delays. For example, during the Mercury retrograde period, pay close attention to your itinerary when you travel: Don’t miss your train because you were daydreaming! Whether or not you’re traveling, it would be wise to double-check things, too. Items may be lost during this period, but items previously misplaced may be found.

This can be a period of reversals, swaps, or revisitation. It may not be the right time to start something new, but it may be a great time to pick up a project that was on the back burner! Astrologers often advise against signing new contracts during this time as the terms may change later; however, approaching agreements with flexibility may be an advantage. If it’s something that is being re-done, re-worked, or re-considered, it’s retrograde appropriate.


If Mercury is taking a break from its usual hustle, it’s also a time when we have a different approach to our day-to-day activities. Slow down, rest, and give your mind a break. You may run into people from your past; conversations and places may be revisited. Maybe an email thread left to rest will come back to life!

What signs are affected during Mercury retrograde?

It all depends on the retrograde! If Mercury retrograde takes place in your sun sign, It may be a period when you change your perspective on things. For example, April 2023’s Mercury retrograde is in Taurus, so if you have the sun or other placements in Taurus, this might be notable for you. Gemini and Virgo are ruled by the planet Mercury, so Mercury retrogrades could be meaningful periods of reorientation for them too. These two signs are very analytical, and Mercury retrograde could provide them with insight they previously missed. Actually, this could be true for all of us! We have all twelve zodiac signs in our natal charts, because each sign rules a sector of our chart (or co-rules, depending on the house system you're using).

How can we thrive during Mercury retrograde?

Slow down! Mercury retrograde begs us to rest. Mercury is all about being busy and productive, but even Mercury needs to take a break. Mercury is essentially “out of office” during the retrograde, and while we might not be able to take a break from everyday life, we can make a conscious effort not to charge ahead. Focus on projects that had been put on the backburner instead of starting new ones. Edit work you’ve already completed instead of starting something new. Reconnect with old friends. Sleep. Have copies of keys or important documents on hand, double check your plans and your itinerary, get a second opinion, leave time to do things twice, and be patient about delays and miscommunications. Embrace this as a time to slow down and rest!

When will Mercury be retrograde in 2023?

December 29, 2022 to January 18, 2023

This Mercury retrograde takes place in Capricorn, prompting us to reconsider our responsibilities as communicators. It begins with Mercury joining Venus in Capricorn, prompting discussions about values and expectations, as well as possibly inspiring a bit of a flirtatious or friendly atmosphere. Together, Venus and Mercury are cheerful, and this retrograde may find us eager to reconnect with the past in some joyous way.


Capricorn can be quite a traditional zodiac sign, or set in its ways. Remembering the “good old days” may be a theme as this retrograde covers the new year celebration, finding us looking to the future and imagining our resolutions and expectations.

By the time this Mercury retrograde ends on January 18, the sun will be sitting with Pluto in Capricorn, which may find us tapped into a huge well of inner power and resources as we confront the future—and thus, our fears of the unknown. 

April 21, 2023 to May 14, 2023

This Mercury retrograde takes place in Taurus, which may find us misplacing things… and perhaps rediscovering what was once lost! Our values and valuables may be big topics of conversation.

2023 brings radical changes to the sky, astrologically: Pluto will be in Aquarius after being in Capricorn since 2008. Saturn will be in Pisces after being in Aquarius since 2020. It may be a whole new world! Pluto in Aquarius means the shadow of our social relationship to technology may be revealed, Saturn in Pisces may find us confronting limitations or discipline in spirituality.


April’s Mercury retrograde begins with Mercury sitting with the moon in Taurus, signaling a need to understand what is necessary to feel grounded and whole. It ends with Mars in Cancer approaching an opposition to Pluto, which can arouse something deeply ingrained in people’s behaviors! And with Mercury sextile Venus, we’re understanding our feelings and how to express them. Neptune and the moon are also joined at the end of this retrograde, ending this retrograde cycle with a redeeming, forgiving attitude. The moon, the planet of memories, doesn’t forget, but Neptune, the planet of fantasy, helps it spin the story… 

August 23, 2023 to September 15, 2023

This Mercury retrograde takes place in Virgo, encouraging a total reanalysis of details. At its start, Pluto dips back into Capricorn, reinstating extremes in terms of authority, control, and big business. Mercury pulls back from its meeting with Mars: Decisions may be reconsidered after some too-quick assessments. A divisive discussion may be revisited, perhaps a new perspective will be gleaned. The sun approaches an opposition with Saturn, which may find us feeling micromanaged or under a microscope at work or regarding our responsibilities. Rejections or limitations may be set, but sometimes a “no” is a blessing in disguise!


Venus is retrograde in Leo during this period, encouraging us to reevaluate our self-image and reflect on self-esteem. This Mercury retrograde wraps up with the sun opposing Neptune, leaving us with a different vision of reality and Mercury opposing Saturn, pushing us to make a tough, mature decision.  

December 13, 2023 to January 1, 2024

This Mercury retrograde begins in Capricorn and ends in the new year in Sagittarius, calling us to find a middle ground between optimism and apathy. The story can’t be so black and white. We may redirect our goals and aims and rethink the responsibilities we want to take on.

The retrograde begins with Mercury trine (a harmonious astrological alignment) Jupiter in Taurus, encouraging a growth in education and knowledge, and the sun approaching a square to Neptune, challenging our biases. Be careful not to overlook details.

This retrograde wraps up with Mercury nearly square Neptune and the moon, which can have us correcting silly mistakes and protecting ourselves from being misunderstood. 

This article was updated for clarity on August 23, 2023. It was originally published in December 2022.