What is Mercury Retrograde?

I keep getting this question again and again. What is Mercury Retrograde? I thought I will write a small article about it describing most of the information I know. 

About one-quarter of us have Mercury retrograde in our natal charts. Check your own birth chart, and look for the Mercury glyph. If you see an Rx next to it, that means you were born in a retrograde time frame. Since Mercury covers perception, getting a handle on how you see things helps you be more effective in the world. If you’ve got Mercury retrograde, you’ve got a very different mercurial make-up than other people. Understanding how you think can lessen the frustrations that go along with this kind of Mercury.

What is Mercury Retrograde?

A common belief is that when Mercury is in retrograde, the planet is moving backwards. That’s not what it is. Mercury rules communication: how we think, how we talk, and therefore, by extension, all of the computers that we use. But, Mercury doesn’t actually move backwards, it’s just that the Earth moves at a different speed, so we’re going faster. As a result, Mercury appears to move backwards. It’s like if you were in a train station, and one train overtakes the other. One is moving forward and the other appears to move backwards.

When Mercury is retrograde, it means that from the Earth’s perspective Mercury appears to be moving backwards. This occurs 3-4 times each year, lasts from 19 -24 days and is the result of an inferior conjunction with the Sun. That is, when Mercury is between the Sun and Earth.

What does MERCURY REPRESENTS in our life?

Mercury,  known as the ‘winged messenger’, was considered in ancient times, to be the messenger of the Gods. If the Gods of old needed a message sent, particularly from the heavens to earth, it was Mercury who was sent for. Of course there was no email or mobile phones back then, so a guy with wings on his feet was the next best thing.


Mercury was the Roman name and he was also known as Hermes (Greek), Nabu (Babylonian), Thoth (Egyptian) and Budha (India) just to name a few. Mercury was unique, in that unlike the other Gods, he could travel freely between all realms, heaven, earth and the underworld. No other being was able to do this. If we recognise the ancient Gods as representations of the psyche of man, this represents the ability of the mind to travel anywhere and experience anything, at least on the mental level.


Back to the discussion of Mercury Retrograde


In the Mercury retrograde time, we pick up dropped threads, which potentially lead to a fuller sense of the picture. Sometimes external events like delays, brings unexpected psychic space to fill — a chance to stew in our own juices, becoming more “seasoned” or authentic in the process. Frustrations can bring up emotional truths that then have a chance to be aired. There’s a sense of slowing down, but with that can come more emotional nuance for our life’s story.


In mythology, Mercury is the messenger of the gods.  Astrologically, the planet Mercury is said to be associated with or to rule all activities that relate to communications, travel, learning such as:

  • Signing agreements
  • Classes and schools
  • Sending correspondence
  • Communications equipment such as computers, radios, and phones
  • Traveling and travel equipment such as cars, bicycles, trains, and planes

 Classically, Mercury retrograde periods are not considered ideal for engaging in Mercury related activities such as:

  • Placing ads
  • Making important decisions
  • Travel
  • Purchasing communications equipment
  • Signing contracts
  • Initiating business deals
  • Sending important correspondence or any type of message
  • Starting school or any important project
  • Beginning any new enterprise (as plans may be reversed later)


A Mercury retrograde period is thought to be excellent for:

  • Reviewing and revising plans
  • Catching up on old business
  • Cleaning out the metaphorical closet
  • Deeply considering issues


 However… like everything else in life, these rules are not steadfast and your experiences may differ from these generalities. Never let the planets rule your life! If you simply must sign a contract or begin a new job when Mercury is retrograde, go for it!


While some of us are very sensitive to Mercury cycles and find that certain activities become difficult during retrograde periods, while others experience no such problems. How you experience Mercury has a lot to do with planetary placements at your birth, as well as with current planetary positions. The best way to understand how Mercury retrograde periods impact you is to track your own experience. Check the dates that Mercury is retrograde to track how sensitive you are to this cycle.


Again, depending on the sign and placement, it may indicate a person who is hesitant to share opinions unless they feel confident that others want to know their thoughts. So if your baby has Mercury retrograde, be sure to encourage him/her to let you know what s/he thinks—and to give him/her time to consider options. So you might say to a young child with this placement, “Do you want milk or orange juice for breakfast? Think about it while I butter your toast and let me know.”

To Summarize

Mercury rules thinking, therefore an individual born with this Mercury retrograde tends to reflect deeply over events and issues throughout their lifetimes. In this case, having this aspect could be a big plus! But it also depends on the placement of other planets how one uses this energy in his or her life. Your astrologer’s Dad was born with Mercury retrograde and he was a CEO for a big public sector company –so relax!

Write a comment

Comments: 0