What Does Mercury in Retrograde Mean?

Some believe Mercury retrograde means you should be cautious in many aspects of your life, but what do astrologists say?

Boy looking through telescope at night

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Three or four times a year, the planet Mercury is said to go retrograde—that is to say, it moves in an opposite direction to planet Earth. Planets move from east to west around the sun, and when Mercury turns to move from west to east instead, that's when Mercury is in retrograde. Many refer to this time of year as simply Mercury retrograde.

But this backward movement is an illusion, similar to the one you experience when you're in a car on the highway moving faster than a train alongside you. The train appears to be moving backward, but it's just moving more slowly than you are. The same thing happens when our planet passes Mercury in our orbit around the sun. Mercury is just moving more slowly than Earth, causing the illusion that it's moving in retrograde.

Illusion or not, astrologers believe when it happens, Mercury retrograde has an effect on life here on Earth, specifically within the realm of communication and technology. In astrology, Mercury governs communication, travel, and learning.

For this reason, Mercury retrograde is blamed for everything from miscommunication to technological bugs, botched business deals, missed flights, a mechanical issue with your car, or even a broken cellphone. But there is no science to back that up.

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What Should You Do?

Astrologers believe you should take extra care during this time—don't buy a new phone, computer, or car (lest it turns into a lemon), take extra care to protect your electronics (keep your phone in its case, be sure to keep your water bottle far away from your computer), double-check your flight times, don't sign any business deals, and avoid relationship-defining conversations.

It's a good time to pause, reevaluate and hold off on life-altering decisions. Astrologer Anna Payne explains to BuzzFeed some tips to get through Mercury retrograde:

  1. Take a deep breath; this won't last forever.
  2. Slow down, take your time and pay attention to details.
  3. Take care of anything that requires reevaluation and revision; this is a good way to channel this energy positively.
  4. Do you need to heal something from the past or connect to someone from the past? This is a good time to do it. This phase gives us a chance to retrace our steps and go revisit old ground.
  5. Observe, review and release. Remember to breathe!

When Does It Happen?

Mercury goes retrograde three times a year for about three weeks at a time.

The 2022 dates for Mercury retrograde are:

  • January 13 to February 3
  • May 10 to June 2
  • September 9 to October 1
  • December 28 to January 18, 2023

You can't always delay something like signing a contract, so it's important to read and reread the fine print. Of course, many don't believe in Mercury retrograde or astrology, but regardless, it's a good excuse to stop, think and reorganize yourself and your goals for the coming months.

Then again, you can do this anytime! As Nicole Gugliucci, a Ph.D. in astronomy says of Mercury retrograde and its supposed influences on technology: "I think it is fair to say that this particular phenomenon doesn't actually happen. The planetary motions DO have SOME effect on humanity however, at least for those of us who plan our observing sessions around the times when our favorite planets are visible in the night sky. Just don't blame Mercury the next time your telescope drive freezes up."

Or if that new cellphone you just brought goes on the fritz.