Mercury Retrograde: What is it and Why Should You Care?

So. Mercury Retrograde. What is it? And why are some people so freaked out about it while other people just don’t seem to be able to care less? 

To illustrate my point, let me paint you a picture.

“Sounds like Mercury’s in retrograde again,” says the wizened old man as the earth crumbles beneath his feet. The world goes dark as all technology grinds to a halt, and the night sky is set ablaze by a torrent of fire and brimstone. There is screaming and wailing in the streets, but no one understands anything. Worst of all, your Uber is running late, and now you’re not.

While I’m just kidding around here, you might get this kind of nigh-apocalyptic vibe from some of your friends who may be quite enthusiastic about astrology. But what’s the big deal?

Well, the fascination with Mercury and its retrograde phases goes a lot farther back than you think. Since the mid-18th century, people have already been describing and cataloging Mercury retrogrades. 

In fact, you could even find notes about these events in the yearly published farming almanacs of yesteryears. Farmers used to look to these books to learn about the patterns of the skies as well as the stars so that they could properly align their schedule of planting and harvest with key seasonal and astrological events. 

It is noteworthy that these almanacs attribute the Mercury retrogrades to times of higher than average rainfall. Now, around these times, this kind of heavy rain was considered bad luck and a harbinger of misfortune. And it stuck!

Where other spiritualistic practices died out, astrology thrived and managed to stand the test of time. It then spread through the mainstream consciousness and, by the 70s, have become a fixture on mainstream media: most notably in newspapers. 

The writers continuously made references to retrogrades and Mercury’s in particular, so it got a lot of attention. And since the god Mercury was believed to rule over wealth, travel, business, among others, the planet Mercury has assumed these things into its identity as well.

And that leaves us to the present day, with the Mercury retrograde as we know it.

What is Mercury Retrograde?

a night sky with stars, mercury planet and a comet

Stemming from the Latin word “retrogradus” which literally stands for a step backward, a Mercury Retrograde is just that: when the planet seems to be moving back across our night sky instead of forward. the times of the year where 

Interestingly, this is what astrologers and astronomers refer to as an “apparent retrograde.” See, the thing is, Mercury isn’t really moving backward. Like all the other planets in our solar system, Mercury moves in the same direction. 

However, because of how fast Earth travels around its axis compared to Mercury, the difference in speed becomes apparent when both planets are close to each other. This speed gap is what causes the illusion. 

Much like times when you’re rushing somewhere, and you’re overtaking the guy next to you; while you’re both going the same way, from your perspective, the other person seems to be moving backward as you rush ahead.

Now, this is by no means unique to Mercury. Actually, even the other planets in our solar system experience the same phenomenon at their own times. 

But what does this all mean in an astrological sense? And why is Mercury the one that everyone freaks out over? 

Well, that has a lot to do with what Mercury stands for and how it affects our modern life.

When a planet is in retrograde, it is considered to be in a dormant or resting state. This hibernation of sorts means that the planet is not quite in control of the aspects it rules over, and so, a little chaos gets thrown into the mix. 

Mercury, the planet, has jurisdiction over every single thing that has anything do to with communication, travel, thinking, info, and electronics. These are all things that are central to our lives as we know it.

That means that when Mercury goes into retrograde, it’s going to sting. Suddenly, your messages may not be getting through. Your calls may get fuzzy. Your flight may run late. And you may find yourself tripping over every convenience that makes the modern person’s fast-paced lifestyle possible. 

Worse yet, a Mercury retrograde also can disrupt you from within as it also has ties to decision making and business. So if you find yourself making poor decisions you otherwise wouldn’t have or that your plans may have been a little too poorly thought out, the retrograde.

When is the Next Mercury Retrograde, and How Do You Spot It?

a hand writing 2021 with paper cut numbers

Fortunately, or unfortunately for the morbidly curious, all the Mercury retrogrades for 2020 have already passed. 

In 2021, you can see Mercury start on its apparent retrograde motion sometime during these dates:

January 30 to February 21

May 29 to June 22

September 27 to October 23

When it does get started, you can expect this retrograde phase to persist for about three weeks at a time, more or less. At which time, you should expect things to be a bit more unhinged than they usually are.

For those keeping score at home, you might be able to watch Mercury grind to a halt and start moving backward by looking at the night sky. In fact, at certain times of the year, you may even be able to see Mercury without the need for a telescope!

Is Mercury Retrograde Real? 

Well, yes and no. 

As usual, the answer isn’t exactly as clear cut as we’d all like it to be. The problem is that sometimes people get a little too overzealous when it comes to blaming things on the Mercury retrograde. What happens then is that there might be some misinformation about what it does and does not affect as well as to what extent.

However, while the apparent retrograde itself may be a trick of the eyes, the effects it has on our lives is certainly quite real. And though its effects are subtle, it wouldn’t really hurt to lay low and play safe for a while.

So let’s clear the air here. The effects of the Mercury retrograde are subtle and far-reaching, but it certainly is not the sole reason for any misfortune that occurs to you or anyone around you regarding the aspects it does control. 

Rather, it provides an increased chance for mishap because it is not actively governing the concepts under its area of responsibility. So while things have a chance of going terribly wrong, they could just as easily go exactly as planned. 

Detractors may call this all coincidence and say that the believers are blaming everyday gripes on the retrograde. At the same time, believers assert that there are real consequences and observable patterns to the retrograde.

So is Mercury retrograde real? The phenomenon clearly exists and is visible with the proper tools or at opportune moments. And it certainly has an effect on the people who take notice of its existence, whether they believe or not.

7 Common Signs of Mercury Retrograde 

Marked Loss of Energy

Interestingly, you can most easily be able to feel the effects of the Mercury retrograde in yourself. While the things around you may be going haywire, you can always rely on the changes from the status quo to signify when the retrograde is in effect.

a bright pink ball of energy

One common sign of Mercury retrograde is when your energy levels just tank hard for no good reason. Things that were once effortless might now be a hassle to start, let alone continue. Your average zest for life feels muted if not nonexistent, and things don’t seem to perk you up as much as they usually do. 

You will probably be contending with issues of finding the motivation to do things and this background lethargy may make it difficult for you to feel much of anything else unless it serves to further ruin your mood.

Too Much Restlessness

As if it wasn’t bad enough that you would feel quite sluggish all day. You may also feel like you have a lot of free energy just buzzing around inside of you. It could be making you feel restless and have you pacing the floor for no good reason.

This nervous energy could cost you your peace of mind as it can make your anxieties and worries out to be bigger than they actually are.

Stress and Eating

a woman is eating a cake

This stress may also be manifesting in the way you eat. Depending on how you handle food in times of distress, you may find it hard to eat a lot and you might even accidentally skip meals. 

On the other hand, if you were prone to stress eating before, you’ll certainly notice that you’re reaching for a bag of chips or some other comforting treat more often than you used to.

Also, if you are on a diet, you can probably feel the squeeze when you find your cravings feel stronger than usual. Actually, a lot of the signs you see here can, in fact, factor into this loss of motivation towards keeping your diet.

A Breakdown In Communication

At this time, you might feel like there are times that you just can’t get your message across. You may find that the people you talk to misremember or misunderstand the things you tell them, and vice versa.

It’s not just oral media, but you could find yourself bugged by messages that won’t send, emails that you never quite received until you find them buried under the spam you signed up for, and calls that freeze up and get choppy at the worst moments.

It could be a combination of internal and external factors, but the end result is the same. What you have here may be a failure to communicate.

Delays And Setbacks

These delays and setbacks are the practical culmination of the different aspects of a Mercury retrograde. If you ever had anything planned at all, the chances are that something may go wrong at a moment’s notice. In fact, you may feel like the world is against you when things don’t line up one too many times.

What this section highlights isn’t necessarily the nature of the delays and setbacks but the frequency and to an extent, the severity of these issues when they pop up. If you find yourself wrestling with more problems than anticipated, the retrograde may have a hand in it.

Analysis Paralysis

Another thing that might crop up during this time is brain fog and a lot of it. Along with the lethargy and nervous energy, you may also find it difficult to think through the plans you were making clearly. New ideas are hard to come by, and trying to iron out details for endeavors that you have already started may take more time and effort than you think.

Right now, your disrupted emotional state accumulates with the retrograde energy and can manifest in questionable decision-making. By that logic, you may even find yourself actively coming up with bad ideas of your own. Hopefully, you catch those before you start working on the wrong things.

Travel and Transport Filled With Trials

a bus on a road with a sunset

 Of course, right next to communication woes are the trials and tribulations you are bound to face when it comes to getting from point A to point B. Right now, your travels are liable to be peppered with inconveniences, large and small.

The bus you’re riding could break down. You might leave your flight tickets at home and only find out halfway to the airport. Your baggage may find itself in a different place altogether. Or you could simply just lose your way every now and then.

9 Helpful Tips to Deal with Mercury Retrograde 

Take it Slow and Stay Cool

the word cool is written on a chalkboard

As the Mercury retrograde has a propensity to mess with any plans you may try to make, it might actually be a pretty good idea to take it slow for a while. Since plans tend to go awry, feel free to postpone major life decisions at your discretion.

Sure, you can still work on the essentials, and you can still plan towards your long-term goals, but you might want to check on those after the retrograde before committing to anything permanently. That way, you can review your decisions without the burden of background stress and brain fog that comes with the retrograde.

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

So you might be wondering what you can do if you’re not supposed to be getting anything done. 

Of course, being a little more passive doesn’t mean you don’t do anything. With all this time you get, it might be a good idea for you to take stock of your situation and to reflect on your goals and the actions you take to get to them. 

When you adopt a more reflective mindset in place of your more action-oriented thinking and start looking through your situation, you set yourself up for success by mitigating the risks of forgetting or misunderstanding something. You also double-check more freely and are more cautious altogether.

Always Have a Plan B

Whether you like it or not, even the most elaborate and meticulously crafted plans fall flat and fail miserably. How much more during a Mercury retrograde? With that in mind, do not hesitate to cut your losses when things look bad and always have one or more backup plans ready.  Prepare to face setbacks and delays, and have a course of action for issues you think may crop up.

Don’t try to save a course of action that has already long since outlived its usefulness. Trying to fit old plans into new circumstances may make things worse than they already are and will definitely introduce delays and more problems in your endeavors.

But Don’t Neglect Your Plan A’s

the letter A on a wall

While hoping for the best and preparing for the worst is a good rule of thumb for any endeavor, this doesn’t mean you should just leave your initial plans to rot and die out. Your plan A is the first course of action for a good reason. To be honest, if your backup plan is better than your primary plan, then you may have issues with your priorities. 

Of course, it would be a waste of effort to overengineer plans to the point that they fall apart at the slightest setback. So be generous in your risk assessment and give your plans a wide margin of error. Make sure that you keep an eye on any key details, materials, people, etc. that are key to your success and adapt accordingly. 

Read the Fine Print… Twice

While the previous tips were very general, you may need to pay particular attention to contracts and agreements. These cornerstones of collaborative effort are what will guide you and everyone you work with as you move towards a mutually attainable goal.

It goes without saying that any mistake or misunderstanding in your contract or agreement can be disastrous to your plans. With that in mind, you would do well to check every detail in your verbal or written contracts before signing off on anything. 

Take your time with this checking and sleep on it if you have to. Your efforts here will only serve to smoothen operations down the line.

Take Care of Your Tech

While Mercury isn’t going to walk up to you and slap the phone out of your hand, it might be worthwhile to take particularly good care of your gadgets at this time. Make sure that all your important data is backed up so that you aren’t left high and dry when your files start glitching out on you.

You should also double-check to make sure that your essentials like your phone and laptop are charged and in working order, especially on days where you will need them to present information or contact key persons.

Don’t Fret Too Much Over Mercury

In the end, while it does have an effect on a large part of our modern lives, sometimes the more significant issues come from the worry it causes. While it may seem a little counter-intuitive, you really don’t have to worry too much over it. As long as you remain cautious and do your due diligence, then that’s that; anything else is out of your control.  

If you let your anxiety spiral out of control and consume you, you might actually end up making mistakes and forgetting things. Which can lead you right into the errors and issues you were so worried about avoiding.

Take a Break!

a woman in mountains is looking at the view

Sometimes, when things aren’t exactly going your way and especially when your chances for success are even more hampered, this might be a sign to take a break. Maybe this is the universe telling you that you may be due for a vacation. 

The three weeks of Mercury retrograde is bound to lead to more work as issues start to pile up and delays pop out of the woodwork. So if you can afford to take a break at this time, then you may be able to just tune out, chill out, and ride out this time of chaos. After all, if you’re in the position to postpone your decisions, then why not treat yourself while you’re at it. 

Turn It All Around

Of course, there is another way. See, Mercury, even while in retrograde, favors those who are bold and creative in their pursuit of success. If you manage to and follow a lot of the tips above to mitigate a lot of the risks, then you might find yourself with a world of opportunities.

Just make sure to always double-check everything you do, and remember to be flexible. Things are bound to mess up! What separates the winners from the losers here is whether or not you are able to roll with the punches. You’re already swimming upstream here, but there are so many ways to succeed if you’re willing to play fast and loose with your plans.

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